Men are religious fundamentalists

By Razib Khan | April 16, 2008 3:22 pm

The finding that men are more likely to be secular than women is a relatively robust result. You can note this in the Pew Religious Survey, to the point where 70% of self-identified atheists in the United States are male. In places as disparate as East Asia and Latin America women are stereotypically more religiously identified as well (or, religious practice is categorized as a female-identified activity). So what about the patterns within denominations? Men, being more secular in orientation on average, would probably sort into the more liberal and less demanding denominations, right? Not really. See below the fold.

Denomination Tradition Female:Male Ratio
Nondenominational Fundamentalist Evangelical 0.59
Presbyterian Church in America Evangelical 0.75
Anglican Mainline 0.96
Southern Baptist Evangelical 1.04
Episcopal Church Mainline 1.08
Nondenominational Evangelical Evangelical 1.08
Church of God Cleveland Evangelical 1.13
Church of the Nazarene Evangelical 1.13
Free Methodist Evangelical 1.13
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Evangelical 1.13
Independent Baptist Evangelical 1.17
Presbyterian Church USA Mainline 1.17
Church of Christ Evangelical 1.27
Evangelical Lutheran Mainline 1.27
Nondenominational Charismatic Evangelical 1.27
Assemblies of God Evangelical 1.33
United Methodist Mainline 1.33
American Baptist Mainline 1.38
7th-Day Adventist Evangelical 1.50
United Church of Christ Mainline 1.56
Disciples of Christ Mainline 1.70

Breaking down more directly within each denominational family the evangelical-mainline dichotomy confirms the observation. Males are more numerous within evangelical & fundamentalist churches, while women are more well represented within the mainline churches. I can think of many reasons to explain this, but I’ll open up the field to comments….
Note: I don’t know if the Pew data are representative of the population numbers, but 47% of evangelical Protestants in this survey are male (in non-black denominations), vs. 43% male for mainline….
Update: I think I did some calculations wrong for the aggregates. The general question holds though, why aren’t men in more liberal denominations which are more “lax” when they are are skewed more secular?
genderreligion.jpg

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Religion
  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Didn’t you say earlier that nerds are nuts? We all know men are more prone to nerdery.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Didn’t you say earlier that nerds are nuts? We all know men are more prone to nerdery.
    right, but the “nerds are nuts” point was about a small minority on the margins or tail of the distribution. the proportional difference here suggests something going on in the middle of the distribution, the typical tard basically. i guess a difference at the median might explain this, but i doubt that most evangelicals are more theologically sophisticated than mainliners (an exception might be some small calvinist sects).

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    to be clear, some of the skew toward fundamentalism among males may be explained, IMO, by an abnormal fixation on theological rigor which fundamentalism panders to (that is, mainline churches simply don’t offer clear & distinct answers as part of their marketing). but i don’t think that that can explain most of the bias; but who knows? i guess we’d need more detailed psychological data.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/clock/ Coturnix

    Fundamentalist churches are extremely mysogynist, thus, men with issues about their sexuality/masculinity may feel good about themselves in such denominations, while women may feel shunned and discriminated against and will move to more liberal churches where they are more equal.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    i might have done my numbers wrong in terms of the aggregates
    http://religions.pewforum.org/comparisons
    shows a much weaker bias for males being evangelical.
    one point re: mysogyny. 56% of mormons are female, 60% of jehovah’s witnesses are. what’s going on here? (they weren’t in the protestant data set cuz they’re not really protestant).

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    the numbers for buddhists (1/3 of whom are converts i believe) and “other religions” (often new religious movements) suggests that men churn and shift more often….

  • paul01

    i might have done my numbers wrong in terms of the aggregates
    That’s what I thought!
    One question: how many of the high results for males are the result of conversions? Are men more likely to convert to another faith than women? This could perhaps help explain the figures for atheists, agnostics, reform Jews, Unitarians, Buddhists.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    This could perhaps help explain the figures for atheists, agnostics, reform Jews, Unitarians, Buddhists.
    yeah, i was wondering about this. no time to look into the social science data now, but i’ll post if i find something….

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    I had forgotten to link to Caplan’s two laws of fundamentalism:
    1. In any textual dispute between fundamentalists and moderates of the same creed, the fundamentalists are almost always correct.
    2. In any substantive dispute between fundamentalists and moderates of the same creed, the moderates are almost always correct.
    Is there any good data from which religions people convert to and from?

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib
  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    If atheism is in some sense an extreme position (certainly it is treated as extreme in the general culture) then what we have is a general tendency for males to trend towards the extremes.

  • ben

    it may be that the answer here is that many atheists are themselves fundamentalists. just as a religious fundamentalist denies the possibility of any other system of belief being valid, so does an atheist fundamentalist. same horse, different color.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    ben, granting your assertion, how would one explain the sex ratio difference in agnostics, and unaffiliated seculars?

  • Phil

    It’s very simple. The liberal men become atheists or drop out of organized religion thus skewing the curve into a dumbell..or bra shape if you like. Lots of men at both ends. More fundamental on one end, and off the religious believer chart on the other with a dip in the center.

  • Sigmund

    Does the survey take age into consideration (theres more old moderate religious women than men due to lifespan differences)?

  • omar ali

    Religion is not some one single thing. Its a social and cultural phenomenon with many facets, some contradictory. Maybe men are more interested in the social control, raw power, “us vs. them” community organization and economic aspects of religion…all of these being better served (at least in the short term) by “fundamentalist” religions (Orthodox Islam, Evangelical Christianity, Fascist Hindutva and so on). While women are less political and more interested in “spiritual” and personal aspects? In our village (Western Punjab) the standard view used to be that women take care of daily religious practice and teaching of the young (so women prayed more, went to temples and shrines more often, taught the kids, and so on) but it was men who killed other people over religion and it is men who have now adopted jihadi ideology with much greater fervor…i have to sort this out and rewrite this, but lets hear some comments.

  • http://eteraz.wordpress.com Ali Eteraz

    Anecdotal response but worth bringing up:
    Until 2002 women couldn’t vote in Kuwait. Islamists – Muslim fundamentalists – opposed their vote.
    Once women were granted the right to vote, they voted overwhelmingly for Islamists.

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    Theology certainly helps bring in the nerds, but more conservative churches also seem to attract a lot of athletic manly men too. I think a big part of their general appeal to men is that these churches are a lot more comfortable with gender differences and let men be more masculine. They are one of the few places that let men be men.

  • Mike

    Experience suggests that men are more interested in ideological systems. Both fundamentalists and atheists tend to strong (sometimes fanatical) support of a few key ideas.
    Women might be more interested in social and emotional aspects of religion. Methodists, UCC, and black churches, for example, lean a lot more to emotional and societal appeals than to a few simple rules to avoid hellfire. They are not at all similar in tone, but the appeal is social or emotional rather than appealing to a few hard and fast rules of action. In my hometown, the Jehovahs Witnesses had the reputation of being a more ‘charismatic’ emotional church than some others.
    Perhaps the remarks by Omar Ali and TGGP can be interpreted in the same vein?

  • Mike

    I’ll summarize:
    If you’re looking for a fight over ideas, look for a man.
    If you are looking for comfort, emotional commitment and involvement, look for a woman.

  • http://- Rich

    Re:”one point re: mysogyny. 56% of mormons are female”
    Mormons tend to kick out some males (I remember reading about a case last year where they threw out loads of teenage guys) in order to enable the leaders to practice polygamy – this may explain the unequal distribution of males and females within Mormonism at least.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Mormons tend to kick out some males (I remember reading about a case last year where they threw out loads of teenage guys) in order to enable the leaders to practice polygamy – this may explain the unequal distribution of males and females within Mormonism at least.
    no. that’s the tiny breakaway FLDS. not mormons as a whole.

  • Stagyar zil Doggo

    Razib,
    Given the large proportion of Atheists that are converts, and the role played by exposure to scientific ideas in many of these conversions, I suspect that the skewed sex ratio amongst Atheists is a reflection of the similarly skewed sex ratios in Science and Engineering education and practice. Is there any data that speaks on this?

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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