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Why women are more religious than men

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By Mark Azzara

This question of why women tend to be more religious is one I couldn’t resist answering.

In the Jewish faith, women are considered more important to the continuation of the faith than are men. As I understand it, it’s much worse for a Jewish woman to leave the faith than for a man to do so because, while the man can teach about God, the woman, through her nurturing and protective behaviors, is the one who actually exhibits who God is.

In the Christian faith, this revelation is not news to me. Three-quarters of the people in my church are women. I think there are several reasons for this.

First, sociological studies have shown that women are more group-oriented whereas men are encouraged to believe that everyone can (and must) succeed on his own. Men consider reliance on others to be a weakness but women see it as a strength. Collaboration in the learning process is a critical factor in the success of all-girls’ prep schools.

Second, men consider God to be a competitor for the loyalties of those around them. That is, they want women and children to rely on them.

Third, women are more Christ-centered because they see the weaknesses and immaturity in their male partners and want someone who is unthreatening and unlike the typical male.

Fourth, because of our predominantly heterosexual nature, women are not offended by getting emotionally close to a male, but men can be grossed out by the thought of becoming emotionally close to another man, thinking it smacks of homosexuality.

Fifth, the image of God as father is offensive to men who were treated badly by their fathers. In many cases fathers are perceived as rule-givers and/or being distant from their sons and/or as communicators of the view that a man must be independent, self-reliant and strong. Weakness, confusion and being in touch with one’s emotions are considered grave weaknesses among men. Men therefore don’t perceive their fathers to be loving, tender, forgiving, etc. Studies have shown that we perceive God in the way we perceive our human fathers, and most dads today don’t know how to be loving, tender, etc., because they didn’t learn those behaviors from their dads. We are talking about “generational woundedness,” about which I wrote last year.

Sixth, men are more likely to be evaluated by what they produce, especially since they are expected to be the breadwinner. It is offensive among men to see God as the provider because it undercuts the one role they think they are meant to fulfill, whereas women are OK with God being the provider. Men and women have different views on what it means for God to be provider. It revolves around the question: Provider of what? Women look to God to receive love, nurturing, encouragement, solace, etc., rather than from their male partners because of the inability of men to provide these things. Men consider themselves to not be in need of such things, which they deem irrelevant or naive.

So, for men, the question often is: Why go to church and worship a God who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a man, who doesn’t give a man what he really needs, and who is likely to be supercritical of failure, just like their human fathers were?

And that’s just off the top of my head!

All God’s blessings
Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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28 comments

  1. “In the Jewish faith, women are considered more important to the continuation of the faith than are men. As I understand it, it’s much worse for a Jewish woman to leave the faith than for a man to do so because, while the man can teach about God, the woman, through her nurturing and protective behaviors, is the one who actually exhibits who God is.”

    One could argue that it’s more important that women stay Jewish because babies born to Jewish women are Jewish, while babies born to a Jewish man and a non-Jewish women (i.e., my family) aren’t Jewish and must convert if they are to become Jewish. That is the logic of Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism deem someone Jewish regardless of which of their parents is Jewish.

    Regarding this: “the man can teach about God, the woman, through her nurturing and protective behaviors, is the one who actually exhibits who God is.” I attended Hebrew school for years, had bar mitzvah training, was a resident in a Jewish intentional community, and am involved with Spokane’s Jewish community, professionally and otherwise, and I have never heard this articulated in Jewish circles. Where did you read or hear this?

    • From a rabbi, many years ago. – Mark

      • So, obviously it’s true in all circumstances and can be stated as a fact of the entire Jewish faith without stating that you may have heard it from a third-party many years ago.

        • You are making an unwarranted generalization. I began the sentence you refer to by saying “As I understand it …” which implies that I am not stating an absolute fact of the Jewish faith and that I am open to correction. Such was the case in the conversation earlier in this thread with Liv Larson Andrews, during which I acknowledged making a mistake in what I had said. I am more than willing to admit mistakes if, in doing so, truth is made clearer. I don’t presume to be a font of truth but I write on this site in the hope that, through my words AND the reactions to them, truth can be made clearer. We must all acknowledge that our beliefs, no matter how deeply held, are not perfect because we are imperfect human beings. Are you willing to do so?

          • Neal Schindler

            I wasn’t trying to jump down Mark’s throat. Just curious about his source and wanted to share my experience as a Jew. No need to attack when merely questioning is warranted.

  2. This is the main gist of what I got from each of your points:

    #1 – Women tend to be group-oriented while men are trained to be independent. I think this is a pretty good argument.

    #2 – Men are less religious because they are jealous.

    #3 – The typical male is weak and immature, women want a perfect “man” so they turn to a male deity.

    #4 – Men are more likely to be non-religious because they are homophobic.

    #5 – Men are less religious because they are “wounded” by a bad relationship with their fathers.

    #6 – Men can’t stomach a deity who provides emotional support to women who can’t get it from them.

    This paints a view of non-religious men as petty, arrogant, emotionally stunted, broken, and homophobic (despite the non-religious being much more supportive of gay rights than the religious). It paints religious women as yearning for the perfect man, and when they are unable to find him on Earth, turn toward religion. The only ones who come out unscathed from this article are religious men.

    • The brief answer is that you are correct – in one sense. ALL men are messed up – including religious men. ALL women are messed up. We are all “petty, arrogant, emotionally stunted, broken and (most are) homophobic.” That’s the reason we need a Savior. If we weren’t messed up, or if we could fix ourselves through behavior modification, laws that prohibit inappropriate behavior, etc., “then Christ died for nothing,” as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21. The reason so many people reject the Christian faith is that they don’t want to acknowledge they are messed up. They consider it insulting that God loves us enough to lead us out of self-delusion by telling us we’re nowhere near perfect. I am not insulted because I prefer to live in the truth. Many also consider it humiliating that they have been outed as imperfect. I don’t feel humiliated because the same truth applies equally to all 7 billion of us. All I must do is own my imperfections and ask God to perfect me daily, even while knowing that I will never attain true perfection in this life. If you are insulted and/or humiliated by what I wrote I am encouraged because it means you have heard something from God. The question is: What will you do with what you have heard?

      • The reason most people reject the Christian faith is because it’s illogical.

        If you’re arrogant, petty, emotionally stunted, or homophobic, there are ways to fix that. Grow up, be more empathetic, etc. If your saviour truly worked then you wouldn’t have those problems after you were saved. Christians wouldn’t have to struggle with it or “be perfected daily”.

        • The Christian faith is not illogical. Christians are. There isn’t a single Christian in the world who understands Jesus fully. Only Jesus understands Himself. Your statement is sadly indicative of the great mistake so many make – they blame God for the sins that people commit. As for whether our Saviour truly worked, Paul notes in his letters that we have been saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. Salvation is not a one-moment, one-shot deal. Just because we accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord doesn’t mean we cease to be human. We all are called to deny ourselves every day, take up our cross every day and follow Jesus every day. It is in doing this day after day, week after week, year after year, that we are slowly, patiently perfected by God. And that would seem to contradict your assertion that Christianity is illogical. On the contrary, it is illogical to think that we can be thoroughly perfected in one moment. As for those who don’t believe in Jesus, I argue that they (nor even just a handful among them) are any more perfect than the Christians you complain about, nor will they ever be.

          • God creates man, presents the method of man’s downfall. Why did God put the tree in such easy access to man if he did not want man to eat of it? Illogical.

            God casts Satan out of heaven. Satan creates hell, and temps man into eating the fruit of the tree that will separate them from god. Why didn’t God just annihilate Satan? He’s going to flood the world and destroy the wicked of man in just a few short chapters, so he’s obviously not above killing in order to set things right. Illogical.

            Once man is forced from the garden, god curses him. He doesn’t forgive them, or let them take a Mulligan. Nope. Straight out of the gate he throws a hissy fit and condems man to forever bear the guilt and sin of that first dude and his wife. Some all-powerful being. Illogical.

            God, in his “infinite” love (which apparently doesn’t spread out far enough to forgive man the first time like I just said) sacrifices himself, to himself, on a tree, so that man can NOT be fully saved until he comes back to save man. Illogical.

            Not only is the Christan faith illogical, it’s not even original. There are hundreds of saviours, most of whom are even born of virgins, throughout history. Yet, not one of them seemingly has the power to do anything about man’s current sin, starving children, abused women, innocent families getting blown apart by errant missles, and the list of attrocities your god cannot or will not help goes on.

            I don’t complain about Christians, I complain about people believing in fairy tales and asking that I believe the same thing (which I did for many years until I learned what logical fallacies and rational thinking was). And how can I possibly blame God for my sins when I neither believe any god, nor the concept of sin even exists? What do you blame the Tooth Fairy for? Do you write letters to Santa complaining about your lack of gifts every Christmas? Are you grateful that Odin defeated all the ice monsters so you would no longer have to fight them? When was the last time you saw an ice monster? I guess Odin is more effective than whatever half-ass deity you believe in.

            If Jesus only understands himself, then what kind of revelation was he to humans? What good is he if his salvation has to take forever to work? What is the difference between an all-powerful god saving you by bits and pieces, when he apparently can create entire ecosystems in a single day, and you just doing it by yourself? There isn’t one. YOU are in control of your destiny. YOU are the one working on and fixing yourself. YOU are not held accountable to me, or god, or anyone else.

            The only saviour you have, or need, is YOU.

          • I don’t have time to write a book in reply to your latest post. But let me try to address your points as best I can.
            1. God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so that mankind could freely decide whether to obey God or not. Without the ability to choose, mankind lacks free will. God wants us to love, obey and worship him because we choose to do so, not because we have no option. Perfectly logical.
            2. God didn’t obliterate Satan because that would remove man’s ability to choose. God flooded the world and nearly destroyed the human race to show that our desire to rid the world of all those who are evil is faulted. Even when only a handful of people who seemed to be “good” remained on Earth they sinned as soon as they got off the boat. So God’s proof is perfectly logical.
            3. God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden to emphasize the power they have to do good or evil and to own the consequences of their actions. Everybody wants to “take a Mulligan” but there is no end to the times when we fail to live up to God’s standards, which apply equally to everyone. We constantly want/expect to be let off the hook for our transgressions without taking responsibility for them. THAT is illogical. You also fail to note that when Adam and Eve left Eden, God went with them to constantly remind them of his better thoughts and ways, in the hope they would recognize their capacity for sin, then repent (i.e., rethink their behavior in a way that leads to a change of conduct) and seek God’s help in doing so. Perfectly logical.
            4. You say that not one of the hundreds of “saviors” can do anything to correct human frailty, injury, etc. But Jesus differs because He offers us the Spirit, who CAN get us to repent (see definition above) and thus choose to emulate God by accepting responsibility for all our actions – including actions that bring healing. But doing so requires that we deny ourselves, take up our cross (of responsible living) and follow Jesus. No Christian is perfect at doing so, and many give up when they realize this must be their life’s work. Truly being Christian is the hardest thing there is to do in the world, considering that it will cost us our free will to do whatever pleases us, because it demands that we surrender our free will so we live to please God. Only God can do God’s will, so He offers to share His life with us so that we can live as He does in this life and share in it fully in the life to come. This may sound insulting to you, but you’ve already confessed that mankind cannot solve the very problems that men and women create through their abuses of others and our planet. So either you throw in the towel and do whatever pleases you, even at the expense of others, or you ask God to do for you what you cannot do on your own. Perfectly logical.
            5. You said, “What good is he if his salvation has to take forever to work?” The answer: Because all mankind must face the same choices that are born of free will. Even if we could somehow create a “perfect” world today, it would be imperfect within minutes because new imperfect human beings would be added to the population. So God must always be at work perfecting us. Perfectly logical.
            6. Here’s what I wrote: “Only Jesus understands himself.” You warped that into “Jesus only understands himself.” Jesus understands us better than we know ourselves, and He is more than willing to share His knowledge with us. The only problem is that we don’t want His input because – well, because we don’t want it, plain and simple. We want to do whatever it is that pleases us in the moment. Our human motto should be “I want mine; to hell with you.” And, in the end, those who have that attitude will have no one else to blame if that’s where they wind up.

          • 1. “God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so that mankind could freely decide whether to obey God or not.” You do not want your children to burn the house down, so you leave a box of matches next to a jug of gasoline, right? Sounds legit.

            2. In order to prove a point, God had to massacre the entire world. He couldn’t have thought of any other way to do it? There wasn’t a moment’s reflection that maybe, just maybe, he could have built a PowerPoint, or beamed knowledge directly into the heads of people? So, the next time you want to prove a point to one child, you’re going to murder the other one. Cool.

            And if Satan is necessary for our ability to choose, who was responsible for Satan’s ability to choose not to live in Heaven and obey god? Is there another evil afoot? And god couldn’t just make people have the ability to choose, huh? He absolutely has to have someone in the background? He’s bad at designing stuff I guess. I mean, we’ve built computers that can make choices, but we don’t have to build an evil computer to make them choose.

            3. “God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden to emphasize the power they
            have to do good or evil and to own the consequences of their actions.” My point was that they didn’t know, according to the fairy tale, they were going to have that responsibility until after they ate from the mythical tree. So, god sent them away for doing something they didn’t fully comprehend they were doing because they couldn’t have had the knowledge of what they were doing until they did what they shouldn’t have done, not knowing that what they shouldn’t have done would be bad, since they didn’t have the knowledge. It’s circular, as in bad, reasoning. Let’s say you go to a museum with a little kid, and that kid touches a painting. He shouldn’t, but nobody explained that to him, so you cut off his [edited] hands. [edited].

            4. Here’s the difference between man solving the problems man creates and god doing it. According to the myth GOD IS ALL POWERFUL. Why, in all of that power, in all that universe building power, does he expect us to do what we can already do without him? I can wake up every day and work to be a better person than I was the day before, and I don’t need god to do it. Neither do you. Nor do I ‘do whatever pleases me’. That’s ridiculous. Why do you think that if someone doesn’t believe in god they automatically become hedonists?

            5. We already face the problems born of free will, but we also face the solutions. And it has nothing to do with some invisible genie.

            6. You have a very cynical view of humanity. Why do you think we can’t deny our impulse to have ‘whatever pleases us in the moment’? I’m sorry that the church has done that to you. And Jesus doesn’t know me better than I know myself, because he isn’t real, and I am. And so are you. Again, you can do anything and everything you think god is doing for you without god.

            Try it. For one day, don’t think about god. Don’t pray, don’t consider his existence. You already do it more often than you think you do. There won’t be a single difference, except you’ll have more time on the weekends, and you’ll find more interesting books to read.

          • I am saddened that your latest comment is so vituperative. In my experience this often is the voice of someone who has been severely
            mistreated by people of faith. If that is the case I sincerely apologize. God did not intend for you to endure that.

            I am not cynical about mankind, merely realistic. The news offers more than enough proof that I’m correct. I cannot believe that you or
            anyone else can consistently resist the temptation to do whatever is
            pleasing. All humanity is like Oscar Wilde, who once confessed, “I
            can resist anything except temptation.”

            One of the great values of Scripture is that it contains abundant
            evidence of mankind’s failures – our ineptitude, greed and violence
            – that always results from our attempts to ignore or deny God. God
            did not set up Adam and Eve to fail. He clearly warned them of the
            consequences of disobedience, but the best way (and sometimes the
            only way) to understand that concept is to experience those
            consequences.

            When God flooded the earth He simply showed people what it would be like to remedy the problem of evil in the way they would suggest – by getting rid of all the bad guys and keeping only those who are “good” (a belief that motivates ISIS, al Qaeda, etc). But things don’t work that way. The people on the ark sinned as soon as their boat hit dry land.

            Psalm 118 repeats the idea that God’s steadfast love (His mercy) endures forever. That’s why He accompanied Adam and Eve when they departed the garden and why He continues, to this day, to put up with all our nonsense, stupidity and willfulness. That is the God I believe in.

            You say you can become a better person on your own but I can’t. I cannot possibly clean up all the messes I’ve created in my life, which seems like a reasonable starting point for self-improvement. So I must rely on God to do that for me and with me. He heals those I’ve injured when I cannot do so and, by the Holy Spirit who dwells within me, He changes me daily into the better person I long to be – someone who is constantly more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, gentle, faithful and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22).

            And I am deeply grateful that He is willing to shoulder the bulk of this
            burden rather than demanding that I make myself a better person on my own, which you believe can be done. If you are correct, the first
            logical step would be to acknowledge your own culpability for the
            mess our world is in. Are you willing to do so? Are you willing to
            apologize to everyone for every hurtful thing you’ve ever done,
            intentional or not? Acknowledging past failures is essential,
            according to philosopher George Santayana (an atheist), who once
            said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

            As for trying not to pray, I did that for a long time and learned that
            my efforts to do good, not evil – to do what’s right, not wrong –
            no matter how well intentioned, were based on my definitions of those words, which differed substantially from those of others. You say you don’t need God to make yourself a better person. I do need Him because my idea of “good” isn’t good enough for others; my idea
            of “better” doesn’t necessary make things better for others. Only
            by observing how God treats us can we learn how He defines key words such as good, right, love, humility, etc. – definitions that apply
            equally to everyone.

            Yes, computers can make choices but they cannot consider human need, frailty, fear, anger, greed or other motivations. In that sense I’m
            like a computer. I don’t know everything that’s going on inside
            someone who will be affected by my decisions. We all are profoundly
            unaware of how others will be affected by our decisions; in fact, we
            don’t even know who will be affected by them. I need God because He DOES know, in advance, the negative consequences (for myself and others) of willful, independent decision-making and wants to save all of us from those consequences.

            I give you credit for asking who was responsible “for Satan’s ability
            to choose not to live in Heaven …?” The origin of evil is one of
            the great mysteries of faith that will challenge philosophers and
            theologians until the end of time. I would guess that any notion of
            mystery is nonsense to you because you believe everything is, and
            must be, clear-cut. But rather than persist in the notion that you
            have it entirely right, while those of faith are all wrong, I urge you to consider the possibility that you don’t have all the answers, and that there is a lot more to learn.

            I have done my best to convey my faith to you via these responses to
            your comments. Before you immediately reject what I’ve written I hope you will take time to see whether any of it applies to you. If, on
            the other hand, you simply insist on having the last word, feel free.

          • GRB1 we’d like to remind you of our comment policy: http://spokanefavs.com/about/comment-policy/

            If you’d like to continue commenting here, please follow the rules and don’t use foul language and please try to advance the conversation.

          • Maybe if your writers put forth some actual effort in forming logical arguments, there would be a conversation to advance. As it sits, you have a bunch of lazy thinkers polluting humanity with Bronze Age mythology and threats of eternal punishment for not believing in a magic fairy man.

            And you can remind me of fuck all.

  3. I love how both discussions of women and religion (although the other one regarding women and minorities being less likely to acknowledge secular leanings due to a lack of privilege was incredibly insightful) were written by men.

    • I wrote my column in response to a question from the SpokaneFAVS editor (a woman, I must point out) about why more women than men are religious. You also have the freedom and right to address this issue. This site welcomes input on a one-time basis or by regular contributors. If you want your voice to be heard all you have to do is start speaking. And if you refuse to do so then don’t complain about men who take advantage of the opportunity.

    • That irony wasn’t lost on me when reading these responses or writing my own. I made sure to ask several secular women I know before formulating my article.

      • If women don’t write, it’s not the fault of men in the writing group. This is a common complaint around here. If people want more insights from women, than put the pressure on them to actually write about the stuff going on.

        • Maybe if the majority religion on here (and in the US) didn’t have teachings explicitly forbidding women to speak, they might not have to be “pressured” into speaking.

          And have you ever seen the comments women get on articles they write? Do you honestly think it would be better on here, with dudebros like you floating around saying that the only way to get an opinion out of them is to apply pressure?

  4. Liv Larson Andrews

    I’m late to this discussion but need to voice an opinion. The poll reports a mere 3ish% difference in religious affiliation (I’d be fascinated to see how they ask that) between men and women. This is hardly justified ground upon which to make broad judgments about the characteristics of women and men, and then apply those judgments to the question of why we have faith. Is 3 percent really that significant?
    I am the mother of sons, and I find the Azzara article a string of negative assumptions that bears little resemblance to the lives of males I know. I believe all people were created in God’s image with an equal capacity to be in relationship with their creator, despite the way gender is assigned by culture and traits associated with gender are learned.
    I think stewing over 3% leads us into exaggerated pictures of our differences and distracts us from the abiding presence of God within and without of religion.

    • I was a journalist for 45 years, the last 10 of which focused on covering religion, and I heard many times from pastors, and read in various news articles, that women outnumber men in formal worship settings. In my church easily two-thirds of the Sunday attendees are women. I have not written “a string of negative assumptions” about males. I have the “advantage” of 45 years of being paid to watch supposedly intelligent people make fools out of themselves, plus more than 70 years of memories of the times when I made a fool out of myself. I agree we are all created with an equal capacity to be in relationship with our Creator. But I also believe we have failed to take advantage of that capacity. I now reflect regularly on Isaiah 55:8-9 because of what it says about all humanity, and the more I do so the more obvious our human failings become. I suggest you read that passage and think about it deeply. If you were to ask God intentionally and honestly every day for, let’s say a month, to teach you why those words are true I think you would begin to see that the males you know – and, for that matter, all men and women – are not quite as noble, charitable, intelligent and/or egalitarian as we all like to think we are. As long as we delude ourselves by thinking we can recognize and do the right thing on our own we remain blind – unable to see, much less live by, God’s much higher standard. And when the blind lead the blind they both fall into the pit (Luke 6:39). I don’t mean to insult you, the males you know, or anyone else, but each of us much choose whether to believe we are (or can become) good by our own efforts, or to confess that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that we must thus ask God, who alone is perfect, to perfect us.

      • Liv Larson Andrews

        Hi Mark. I’m missing how Romans 3 or Isaiah 55 addresses gender difference. Your original piece claims women are more Christ centered than men. That doesn’t seem to match the teaching of these texts that everyone is equally in need of grace.
        You’re also talkin’ to a Lutheran, who has been taught from day one that all humans are fully saint and fully sinner at all times. I just don’t buy the notion that men and women differ in that department.

        • Hi, Liv – You are correct to criticize me for writing that women are
          more Christ-centered than men. In my own defense, remember that what I wrote was off the top of my head. I SHOULD have said, “Women are more church-centered.” I did not mean to imply that women, merely as a result of attending church, are holier or less sinful than men. Women (men, too) can attend church for all sorts of reasons having nothing to do with intentional worship. I’ve seen this in my church, where I’ve observed some women using the time before and after worship to gossip, complain or commiserate, with no awareness that God wants to be a part of all that stuff (and, in many cases, eliminate it).

          • Liv Larson Andrews

            Oh, thanks for the point of clarification. I think we agree on the equality between males and females with regard to sin and grace. I may still disagree with some of your descriptions of men and women, but I do observe a small hole in the life of my own church presently. We have a great record of holding on to women who have lost husbands, but little in place for caring for men who have lost wives. I have one such widower in my flock that I’m continually praying about and hoping to find a niche for him to remain connected. He’s not exactly keen on joining the quilters group, y’know?
            So I think you do help us see an empty spot in the life of the church. Thanks for that!

  5. Mark, thanks for your thoughts, grace and willingness to engage us here at SpokaneFAVS. I appreciate your thoughts and participation.

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