Religiosity and Social Groups


Gender and religiosity

  • Davie - There are gender differences in terms of religious practice, belief, self-identification, private prayer etc...
  • Brierley - Most regular churchgoers are female & outnumber men by almost half a million.
  • British Social Attitudes Survey - 55% of women vs 44% of men say they have a religion.
  • 38% of women vs 26% of men say religion is important to them, and 40% vs 28% describe themselves as spiritual. 
  • 34% of women vs 54% of men are atheists or agnostics & men in general are 2x more likely to say they don't believe in life after death. 
  • Voas - In all major religions except Sikhism, women are more likely to practice their religion than men. 
  • Miller & Hoffman - Women express greater interest in religion and have a personal commitment to it.

Recent trends

  • There has been a decline in female participation in religion activities in the UK beause of the movement of women into paid work & rejection of traditional subordinate gender roles.
  • Women reject traditional religions because of their traditional role encouragement and although few, are now becoming attracted to New Age beliefs & practices.
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Reasons for gender differences

Risk, socialisation & roles

  • Miller & Hoffman - Men are more likely to risk-take than women, therefore they will risk going to hell if religion is right.
  • Davie - As the dangers of childbirth go down, women in Western societies become less religious because they face fewer risks.
  • Miller & Hoffman - Women are socialised to be more passive, obedient and caring, qualities that are valued by most religions. Men who have these qualities are also more likely to be religious. 
  • Miller & Hoffman - Women's gender roles mean they're more likely to work part-time or be full-time carers, they have more opportunity to organise time & participate in religious activities.
  • Greeley - Women's familial care-taking role increases their religiosity because it involves a responsibility for their 'ultimate' welfare as well as everyday needs. 
  • Davie - Women are closer to birth & death through child-bearing and caring for sick/dying relatives, bringing them closer to 'ultimate' questions about the meaning of life that religion is concerned with. Women are more likely to see a God of love & forgiveness than men who see one of power & control. 
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Reasons for gender differences pt 2

Paid work

  • Bruce - Women's religiosity is a result of their lower levels of involvement in paid work. The rationalisation aspect of secularisation meant that religion moved from the male-dominated public sphere of work, to the female concerned private sphere of family & personal life. 
  • Callum Brown - By the 1960's women had taken on secular, masculinated roles in the public sphere of paid work leading to 'the decline of female piety'.
  • Religion is still more attractive to women because of it's strong affinity with values such as caring for others, & women care for the young & old at home and also at work.
  • Woodhead - Men's withdrawal from religion in the last two centuries meant churches became feminised spaces that emphasise female concerns of caring and relationships. Introducing women priests & bishops in the COFE may have reinforced this. 
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Reasons for gender differences pt 3

  • Women are more associated with 'nature' through child-birth or their healing role, making them more attracted to New Age movements and ideas.
  • Bruce - Women's experience of child-rearing makes them less aggressive & goal oriented, and more co-operative & caring. Men wish to achieve and women to feel; which fits the expressive emphasis of the New Age. 
  • Women are attracted to the New Age because it emphasises the importance of being 'authentic' rather than acting out gender roles, and women often seeing roles as restrictive.
  • The individual sphere - Women in paid work experience role conflict between their masculinised instrumental work role & their traditional expressive feminine role.
  • Woodhead - New Age beliefs are attractive because they appeal to the individual, third sphere, concerned with personal growth rather than role performance. No role conflict because they are a source of an 'inner self' for women rather than contradictory social roles.
  • Callum Brown - Fundamentalist religions are also attractive due to the certainty of the traditional gender roles prescribed for them, reducing role conflict. 
  • Class differences - Bruce believes that whilst New Age beliefs & practices appeal to m/c women, w/c women are attracted to religions with all-powerful Gods, fatalistic ideas of superstition that give them a passive role.
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Reasons for gender differences pt 4

  • Bruce - 2x as many women as men are involved in sects.
  • Stark & Bainbridge - Sects compensate:
  • Organismic deprivation - Stems from physical & mental health problems which women suffer more from, therefore they seek healing through sects. 
  • Ethical deprivation - Women are more morally conservative, so they regard the world as being in moral decline which sects agree with. 
  • Social deprivation - Sects attract poorer groups and women are more likely to be poor.
  • Bernice Martin - Although Pentecostalism is regarded as a patriarchal religion with men seen as head of household & church, women are still attracted to it (pentacostal gender paradox).
  • Elizabeth Brusco - Studied Pentacostals in Colombia, found that it demands it's followers to follow an asetic (denying self-indulgence) lifestyle much like the Calvinists, and insists on traditional gender division of labour where men provide for the family.  
  • Pentacostal women use these ideas to stop machismo culture in Latin America where men spend 20-40% of household income on alcohol & tabacco etc...Improving women & childrens standard of living whilst critiquing sexual irresponsibility & wastefulness.
  • Carol Ann Drogus - Although the official pentacostal doctrine is that men should have authority over women, church/educational materials encourage equal marriage relations. 
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Ethnicity and religiosity

  • The biggest religious group in the UK is Christian (72%) yet there are significant number of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs that are ethnic minorities originating in the Indian sub-continent, as well as a large number of Christians having black African and Caribbean origin. 
  • Brierley - In London black people are 2x more likely to attend church as whites.
  • Davie - Muslims, Hindus and black Christians are more likely to see religion as important and attend a place of worship every week. 
  • 40% of Pentecostal churches are made up of black people.
  • Modood et al - There is still some decline in the importance of religion, particularly with the second generation. 
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Reasons for ethnic differences

  • Ethnic minorities originate from poorer countries with traditional cultures, which produce higher levels of belief and practice. Families maintain the pattern they brought with them from their country of origin. 
  • Brierley - There has been a significant growth in new churches in London that cater for specific languages and nationalities as a result of recent immigration. 
  • Cultural defence - Bruce believes religion offers support and a sense of cultural identity, in an environment where their culture is under threat from assimilation of the dominant culture or racism. 
  • Bird - Religion among minorities is a basis for community solidarity; preserving culture,  language, and coping with opression in a racist society. Black African and Caribbean Christians previously found that white Christian churches did not actively welcome them so they turned to founding & joining black-led (mostly Pentecostal) churches. 
  • Davie - Religion is a means of maintaining tradition, group cohesion & community solidarity through art, marriage, cooking, diet, dress and language. Mosques and Sikh temples are often also community centres & focus on social life whilst promoting & protecting cultural values and traditions away from the threat of dominant white culture. 
  • Modood et al - An important source of socialisation, means of maintaining traditional morality; mutual responsibilty, trust and right from wrong & coping with pressures of life.
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Reasons for ethnic differences pt2

  • Cultural transition - Will Herberg notes that religion eases transition into a new culture by providing support and a sense of community for minority groups in a new environment. Explaining why there are high levels of religious participation among first-generation immigrants in the USA.
  • Bruce - Similarly in the UK religion was a focal point for Irish, African, Caribbean, Muslim, Hindu immigrants. However once a group such as; Irish Catholics has fully transitioned into wider society, religion declines in role & importance, because the threat to their culture & difficulty adjusting has declined.
  • Social depriviation, marginality & status frustration - Older Asian women may have been marginalised by mainstream society, particularly if they have a poor grasp of English so turn to religion as a source of identity, status and community that is lacking is mainstream society.
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi households are the poorest in Britain & Afro-Caribbeans face higher levels of unemployment. Marx's theory of religion as an opiate would answer why MEG'S who are more likely to face poverty/racism are more religious.
  • Weber - Religion provides a 'theodicy of disprivilege' (salvation granted for Earthly poverty) & compensators for depriviation. Which explains Pentacostalism among Afro-Caribbeans & Rastafarianism among alienated young black men. 
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Reasons for ethnic differences pt3

  • Social identity - Religion provides MEG'S with identity through customs, dress, food, rituals and festivals such as; Divali (Hindus & Sikhs) or Ramadan, individuals thus avoid the denial of status & devaluing of their own culture by racism.
  • Johal - Younger British Asians blend both British and Asian culture together by adopting selected elements of their parents religion, with added personal choice. For example; expecting to marry whoever they want, not following traditional constraints over alcohol or dress.
  • Butler - Interviewed Muslim women and found that they had some attachment to religious values of their culture, and found it important in shaping their identities they challenged some restrictions for more choice & independence in their lives. 
  • Jacobson - Among young British-born Pakistans in the East End of London she found that a Muslim identity rather than being just Asian or Pakistani appealed to young people, providing them with stability, security and certainties when faced with uncertainty in other aspects of life.
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Age and religious participation

  • The older a person is the more likely they are to attend religious services, however under 15's attend church more than any of the age groups above them because they have less choice & are made to go by parents.
  • Apart from aged 65 & over there is a decline in religiosity in all age groups, particularly among the young.The number of 15-19 year olds attending church will fall by half between 2015 & 2025, from 126,000 to 63,000.
  • Older women are more likely to be found in religious organisations because there are more than double the amount of women than men over 80, due to an ageing population. 
  • Brierley - By 2025, 15-19 year olds will be only 2.5% of all churchgoers, half of all English churches have no-one under 20 attending.  
  • South Hampton University - However found that many elderly people been  'turned off' religion and believe they can live good and responsible lives without it. Also because traditional religions had been watered down in order to attract young people. 
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Reasons for age differences

Voas and Crocket

  • The ageing effect - (Kendal Project, Heelas) People become more interested in spirituality as they age, approaching death makes people 'naturally' become more conerned about the afterlife, spiritual matters & repentance of past misdeeds. 
  • The period or cohort effect - People born during a particular period of time are more or less likely to be religious due to events that they lived through, e.g, war or rapid social change. 
  • Secularisation - Religion declines in importance and each generation becomes less religious than the one before it. They believe that secularisation is the main reason that young people are less religious than older people, with each generation only half the people are as religious as the generation before it.
  • Arweck and Beckford - 'The virtual collapse of religious socialisation' after the 1960's, sunday schools that enrolled 1/3 of all 14 year olds have disappeared. 
  • Voas - Even parents who share the same faith have a 50/50 chance of raising their child to be a churchgoer as an adult. When they're of different faiths the chances fall to 1/4
  • We are likely to see a steadily ageing population of churchgoers, in 2015 1/3 were aged 65 & over, by 2025 this will be over 4/10 without many young people joining.
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