Sociologists have long known that there are more religious women than men. Professor Rodney Stark thinks we should not ask why women are more religious, but why men are less interested in religion. “When you turn the question around it starts to get us somewhere and the evidence pretty strongly points to physiology, not socialization,” he says. He says some men are shortsighted and don’t think ahead, and so “going to prison or going to hell just doesn’t matter to these men.”
Stark sees the lower rates of male religiousness as form of risk-taking behavior, just like criminality, and it’s known that men are far more likely to commit crimes than women. “Any phenomenon that occurs in many and very different social and cultural settings necessitates explanations that are equally general, which tends to rule out most social and cultural factors,” he says. “Recent studies of biochemistry imply that both male irreligiousness and male lawlessness are rooted in the fact that far more males than females have an underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses, especially those involving immediate gratification and thrills.”
To examine rates of religiosity, Stark used the World Values Surveys, which collected data on the world?s major faiths in 57 nations. Data came from countries like the United States, most European states, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, China, India, South Africa and Turkey. In all 57 countries, a higher percentage of women than men said they were religious. “The gender differences hold up everywhere, even in religions that are very male centered, such as Orthodox Judaism,” says Stark. “This is not some fragile finding, and the fact that it shows up in so many cultures says something. It is true of all ages. It was there in ancient Greece, it was there in the Roman Empire when the early Christians were mostly women and it was there in medieval Europe.
“We looked for an obvious simple explanation, but nothing worked except physiology,” says Stark. “People studying crime also have looked at socialization and they can’t find a reason that explains the gender difference except a physiological one. Not being religious is similar to any other shortsighted, risky and impulsive behavior that some men?primarily young males?engage in, such as assault, robbery, burglary, murder and rape.”
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