By Angela Wills
Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, Muhammad and Moses are all relatively familiar names to most, but what do they have in common? Other than being religious figures, they are all men. But as you take a look around the world, most of their followers are primarily women.
It appears that more women identify with a particular religion than men do, pray daily and express the importance of religion in their life as well. This is a reflection of data collected by the Pew Research Center. Globally, 83.4 percent of women claim to identify with a religion, compared with 79.9 percent of men, according to Pew. This means that there are approximately 100 million more religiously affiliated women on the planet than men. But why is this so?
The research conducted by Pew surveys six religious groups, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and the religiously unaffiliated, across the span of 192 countries. The findings reveal that, globally, women are more religious than men, while men make up 55 percent of the world’s religiously unaffiliated people.
The gap in religion is even more widespread in the United States, which happens to be more religious than other advanced economies. Based on research done by Pew, 64 percent of the American women but only 47 percent of American men admit to praying daily. This number is compared to the 30 percent of women and 28 percent of men in Canada, and 15 percent of women and 9 percent in France. The study also reveals that 68 percent of atheists are men.
Past debates have indicated that biology has an effect on the religious gender gap. One theory has been that the higher levels of testosterone in men lead them to display higher modes of risk-taking behavior, which also leads them to taking the risk of missing out on what the afterlife holds.
There are others that attribute the religious differences in the way that men and women are nurtured. The manner in which women are taught to behave and the values that are instilled in them often lead them to a closer religious affiliation with a higher power.
There are several suggestions as to why there is such a marginal gap in the religious association of men and women, such as social existence, careers and personal identities. However, the difference could be because of the character of Christianity, as a religion that exalts the meek and oppressed, according to David Voas, a sociologist that studies religion.