The religiosity gender gap in 14 diverse societies

Tom Vardy, Cristina Moya, Caitlyn D. Placek, Coren L. Apicella, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Sarah A. McNamara, Benjamin G. Purzycki, Montserrat Soler, Jonathan L. Weigel, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang, Quentin D. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Scholars of religion have long sought to explain the persistent finding that women tend to report greater religiosity than men. However, the size of this “gender gap” may depend on the measure of religiosity employed, the religious tradition being sampled, and socio-demographic factors. Here, we conduct a systematic cross-cultural investigation into the prevalence of, and explanations for, the religiosity gender gap in 2,002 individuals from 14 diverse societies. While variation exists across societies, women in general indicate greater mental commitment (i.e., thinking and worrying more about) to their community’s moralistic god, more frequent participation in rituals for their community’s moralistic god, and more frequent prayer. While we find that the gender gap extends beyond the Christian world, no such difference was seen in religious commitment towards more local gods, to which men tend to show greater commitment. Tentative support is provided for explanations relating gender differences in religiosity to lower formal education and greater mentalizing among women, however an explanation for greater religious commitment to local gods among men remains elusive. Nevertheless, our data suggest that the moralizing gods of some contemporary world religions, unlike local deities and traditions, have evolved in ways that make them more appealing to women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-37
Number of pages20
JournalReligion, Brain and Behavior
Volume12
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • cross-cultural research
  • Cultural evolution
  • moralistic gods
  • risk
  • secularization
  • supernatural punishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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