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Women are closer to God. Should we blame it on their gender?

Lamat R Hasan | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The world's most influential religious leaders have always been men: Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad and Gautam Buddha. And the world's most ardent followers - women.

A new study by US-based think tank Pew Research Centre says even though some churches in the US have changed the music and worship styles to try to bring more men into their congregations, the ranks of the faithful are dominated by women.

Whatever the reasons - financial, psychological, biological or sociological - the level of commitment among women is far higher across the world.In the United States alone women are more likely than men to say religion is "very important" in their lives (60% vs 47%), according to the survey.

American women are also more likely than American men to say they pray daily (64% vs 47%) and attend religious services at least once a week (40% vs 32%).

Of Gods & Goddesses

Church in Karachi during Easter (PTI)

Reams have been written about what makes women more religious than men.

Pew studied available data on the role of gender and religion amongst Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated across 84 countries, including many with non-Christian majorities between 2008 and 2015.

Based on this data it concluded that globally women are more devout than men by several standard measures of religious commitment.

However, the relationship between gender and religion is not simplistic. While women outnumber men as faithful, men show higher levels of religious commitment.

Christian women are more religious than Christian men, but Muslim women and Muslim men show similar levels of religiousness.

However, Muslim women do not frequent the mosques because Islam has allowed them the advantage of praying at home.

An estimated 83.4% of women around the world identify with a faith group, compared to 79.9% men.

Heaven or Hell?

Pew asked people in 84 countries how often they pray. In about half of those countries (43), substantially more women than men said they pray on a daily basis.

Only in Israel, where roughly 22% of all Jewish adults self-identify as Orthodox, does a higher percentage of men than women report engaging in daily prayer.

In the remaining countries, women and men are about equally likely to say they pray daily.

Women and men are also about equally likely to believe in heaven, hell and angels.

Survey data from 63 countries regarding beliefs in heaven, hell and angels indicated that men and women usually display similar levels of belief in these concepts.

There are a few exceptions to the rule though. Men are more likely than women to believe in heaven and hell in Lebanon and to believe in angels in Pakistan.

Muslim men and women are more alike in their levels of religiousness than are Christian men and women.

For example, in the 40 countries where data were collected on Muslims' prayer habits, Muslim women report praying daily more often than Muslim men by an average difference of only 2 percentage points.

A similar pattern occurs in religion's importance. There is virtually no difference between the shares of Muslim women and Muslim men who say religion is "very important" to them in the 40 countries with data on this topic.

Scholars of religion have been examining possible reasons for the gender gaps in religious commitment.

"They have advanced many different theories, which cover a wide range of sources: biology, psychology, genetics, family environment, social status, workforce participation and a lack of existential security felt by many women because they generally are more afflicted than men by poverty, illness, old age and violence," says the Pew report.

First published: 27 May 2016, 11:14 IST
Lamat R Hasan @LamatAyub

Bats for the four-legged, can't stand most on two. Forced to venture into the world of homo sapiens to manage uninterrupted companionship of 16 cats, 2 dogs and counting... Can read books and paint pots and pay bills by being journalist.