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In August 2010 the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, summarising the results of the World Values 2005 survey, released them under the headline ‘Religion is a women’s issue’. Is atheism and secularity then, by contrast, an issue for men? It is tempting to answer the question positively when one looks at the names of the new atheist bestselling authors, or the names in the index lists in the back pages of books with reference to atheism, as well as the names of the researchers into atheism and secularity: they tend to be male much more often than female. In this paper I will examine the ways in which both religiosity and non-religiosity and atheism are gendered phenomena. I also look at feminists’ views on religion by pointing out in which ways they intersect with the opinions of the new atheist texts. Because both (second wave) feminists and atheists consider religion from a relatively narrow point of view, I’ll bring out the ways in which the contemporary study of religion defines, sees and studies religion and religiousness, while it takes the concept of gender seriously. I also discuss the seemingly indisputable fact which the stat­istics point to; namely that women tend to be more religious than men and men tend to be more often atheist than women (my examples are mostly from the Finnish context). I also present some models of explanation which scholars have applied to these problems.
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
Religion and atheism from a gender perspective*
I A  the Finnish Broadcasting Company
YLE, summarising the results of the World Values
 survey, released them under the headline ‘Re-
ligion is a womens issue. Is atheism and secularity
then, by contrast, an issue for men? It is tempting to
answer the question positively when one looks at the
names of the new atheist bestselling authors, or the
names in the index lists in the back pages of books
with reference to atheism, as well as the names of the
researchers into atheism and secularity: they tend to
be male much more oen than female. In this paper
I will examine the ways in which both religiosity and
non-religiosity and atheism are gendered phenom-
ena. I also look at feminists’ views on religion by
pointing out in which ways they intersect with the
opinions of the new atheist texts.
Because both (sec-
ond wave
) feminists and atheists consider religion
from a relatively narrow point of view, I’ll bring out
the ways in which the contemporary study of reli-
gion denes, sees and studies religion and religious-
ness, while it takes the concept of gender seriously.
* An earlier version of this artice was published in
Finnish: Tiina Mahlamäki . ‘Uskonto, uusateismi
ja sukupuoli’ [Religion, new atheism and gender].
In: Jussi K. Niemelä (ed.), Mitä uusateismi tarkoit-
taa? [What New Atheism Means]. –. Turku:
With the term ‘new atheist’ I refer to well-known and
distinguished writers such as Richard Dawkins, Sam
Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.
I’m aware that they do not think or write identically,
but they join in a common and quite similar under-
standing of the concepts of religion, religious belief
and religiousness.
By this I mean the Womens Liberation Movement
and feminist research up until s. e focus
(concerning religion) was on revealing the patriarchal
structures of the world religions and the multiple
ways in which religions have subordinated women.
I also discuss the seemingly indisputable fact which
the stat istics point to; namely that women tend to be
more religious than men and men tend to be more
oen atheist than women (my examples are most-
ly from the Finnish context). I also present some
models of explanation which scholars have applied to
these problems.
First of all, I’ll clarify my own standpoint regard-
ing the issue. I’m interested in the ways in which the
atheist critique has become a visible part of the pub-
lic discussion of religion. As an ideological statement
and a form of irreligiousness, atheist discourse pro-
vides interesting data for the study of religions. Al-
though atheism and secularity are not institutional-
ised forms of religion, they can be seen as ideologies
because they are not merely describing the world;
they also want to change it (Davie & Woodhead :
). For my part, I do not position myself as an athe-
ist, nor as a member of any religious community.
In Finland, at least, some scholars of religion
are taking atheism as a standpoint for studying and
teaching comparative religion. e critique of re-
ligion, as being the mission of the new atheist dis-
course, is imparted by them as a foundational trait
within comparative religion: the less religion, accord-
ing to this view, the better o the world is. ey hold
that the task of comparative religion is to prove the
arguments of religious traditions to be unreliable,
false and untrue. According to this line of reasoning,
religions are regarded as harmful both for individuals
and societies (see, for example, Visala : ).
I don’t perceive this to be the task of comparative
religion, but rather agree with Teemu Tairas (:
–) proposal that scholars of comparative religion
should examine religions in their social contexts (re-
ligion as it is lived and experienced, at a certain time
and place). e critical study of religion should mean
that we take seriously the concepts of power, class,
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
race, ethnicity, and gender, which in many ways are
connected to the practices of religion. is raises
important questions: who speaks for whom, whose
voices are privileged and whose are silenced? (Beattie
: .)
I’ll start with a short tour of the relationship be-
tween religion and science, as it seems to constitute
an integral part, both of the new atheistic discourse
and the gender problematic.
The war between science and religion – a strong and
durable metaphor
e conict between religion and science can be seen
as an underlying basic principle in the texts of the new
atheists, in which the purpose is very oen to dem-
onstrate how religious beliefs are false and incorrect.
Religion and science are seen as separate and oppos-
ing arenas. Religious beliefs and scientic knowledge
are perceived to be mutually exclusive, and their con-
temporaneous existence is at variance both in society
and in the minds of individuals. is attitude has its
roots in the Age of Enlightenment, but it became vis-
ible and clear cut in the latter part of the nineteenth
century, when science, as we have come to know it,
developed. During that period science emerged as an
independent domain within society, and to work as
a scientist became a real profession. e modern sci-
entist had to build his identity by clearly separating
himself from the area of religion. Formerly, however,
science and religion had not occured in separate do-
mains, but were integrated in the sphere of natural
philosophy. Western science or natural philosophy
was born within Christianity (see e.g. Brooke ).
As Gavin Hyman (: ) puts it, ‘it seemed en-
tirely natural that a scientist should also be a priest’ –
and it seemed even more natural that both scientists
and priests were men. e identity building project
of the scientist was denitely a male project, as it was
not possible for women – with some exceptions –
to enter into academic education or to concentrate
on doing research until the late nineteenth century
(see Beattie ) – at least in Finland, women who
wanted to begin university studies had to request a
special dispensation on the grounds of their gender.
At the same time, at the end of the nineteenth
century, the metaphor of a conict or war between
science and religion rapidly evolved. Religion (the
church) was perceived as the active and aggressive
party in the conict, and was accused of having pre-
vented the development of science in previous cen-
turies. Within the metaphor of conict
events tend to be perceived one-sidedly and simplis-
tically; the history of science and religion shows that
the roots of conicts (or events identied as conicts)
are multidimensional disagreements on, for instance,
power, authority and resources (see e.g. Brooke ,
Ferngren ). Similarly, the concrete conict be-
tween science and religion at the end of nineteenth
century was not born, according to Tina Beattie, from
a struggle between religious and scientic ways of
explanation’ but merely from a struggle of power and
authority between men of science and men of God.
e triumph of science over theology required the
total discrediting of theological knowledge.’ (Beattie
: .) is active discrediting is still being con-
tinued by the new atheists.
When the metaphor of the conict between sci-
ence and religion is used, it does not concern all sci-
entic knowledge and research but, more specically,
the natural sciences (in Finnish there is no linguistic
separation between the natural sciences and other
disciplines: one word, tiede, ts all disciplines from
the arts and humanities to social sciences and the
natural sciences). It is not unproblematic to trans-
fer the contemporary notion of science to history –
there was, for instance, no distinction between the
Cre ator and His creation within natural philosophy;
the scholars of natural philosophy studied both. (See
e.g. Brooke : –; Ferngren : xi–xiv.) Nei-
ther was the other side of the conict, religion, not
just any religion, but historically the church, and for
the most part the Catholic Church. e new atheists
use the word ‘religion’ mostly to refer to the estab-
lished church of their own country, or more oen,
to conservative and fundamentalist forms of Chris-
tianity and Islam. In its modern form the metaphor
of conict has a slightly dierent conguration;
within the new atheist discourse (natural) science is
seen to overpower all religious traditions and beliefs,
because it oers neutral and justiable knowledge,
while religions, even liberal and moderate ones, are
seen as a platform to more fundamentalist views (see,
for example, Pyysiäinen ). e metaphor of war
has thus returned and serves the new atheists on their
historical crusade against religions, ultimately in or-
der to exterminate them.
e origin of this inuential and enduring metaphor
lies mainly in two books: John William Draper’s
History of the Conict between Religion and Science
() and Andrew Dickson Whites A History of
the Warfare of Science with eology in Christendom
(). See also Brooke  and Ferngren .
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
At the core of the conicts of the late nineteenth
century, as well as at the core of the new atheism
today is Charles Darwins theory of natural selec-
tion. e model is conveniently transferred from
biology to other disciplines in order to explain, for
instance, the evolution of societies – but it has also
been used as a justication for eugenics and racism
(see Brooke : –). In the new atheist dis-
course, especi ally in the works of Richard Dawkins,
evolution theory works as a weapon against religions.
Here the counterpart appears to be fundamentalist
Christianity only, with its rm belief in creationism
– which is to say, reading the Genesis as a historic-
al and biologic al textbook. Evolution is, of course, a
biological fact, but for the new atheists it ‘has become
a power ful quasireligious myth by which atheists
such as Daw kins confer meaning on the world’. It has
become ‘a powerful folk-tale about human origins.
(Beattie : , quoting Mary Midgley.)
Religious women – atheist men
Statistics conducted in countries all over the world,
for as long as statistics on religion have been collected ,
conrm that women are more religious than men.
is concerns every dimension of religion. Women
participate in religious ceremonies more oen than
men; women pray more oen than men; they more
likely than men believe in God, a Spirit, or Life Force;
they hold matters of faith and religion more import-
ant than men do. Women are more committed than
men to their religious communities and are less will-
ing to resign from them. Although older women are
more religious than young ones, women of all ages
are more religious than coeval men are. Women are
members of both traditional religious communities
and new religious movements more oen than men.
Young, urban men are the least religious of all groups.
is is equally true also in such religious traditions
that seem to be hostile to women, such as fundamen-
talist traditions (see, for example, Berger et al. :
; Davie ; Freese ; Furseth ; Miller &
Homann ; Niemelä , ).
Non-religiosity and secularity are gendered too.
In Finland, according to dierent data sets,
mately – per cent of Finns identify themselves as
convinced atheists. According to the World Values
 survey,  per cent of Finnish men consider
World Values Surveys –; e Church Moni-
tor ; International Social Survey Programme
(ISSP ).
themselves as religious,  per cent non-religious and
per cent as convinced atheists ( % did not know),
whereas in the whole population the equivalent per-
centages are  per cent (religious),  per cent (non-
religious) and  per cent (convinced atheist) ( % did
not know), thus demonstrating that non-religiosity
and atheism are more common among men. Al-
together per cent of Finnish females consider them-
selves to be atheists, while  per cent of men do the
same. e same survey conrms that  per cent of
Finnish women consider religion to be an import ant
aspect in their lives, whereas only  per cent of Finn-
ish men have this opinion. e International Social
Survey Programme (ISSP ) attests that  per
cent of Finns believe in God without any doubts; 
per cent despite their doubts. Among women  per
cent believe in God without any doubts, but among
men only  per cent. Approximately  per cent of
women and  per cent men have no belief in God,
Spirit, or Life Force. (Monikasvoinen kirkko :
, –; Borg et al. ; Furseth ; Ketola et al.
.) All the surveys examined above point out that
women are more religious than men and that men
are more non-religious and atheistic than women .
Although the number of religious men is smaller
than the number of religious women, there are still
more religious than non-religious men. However, it
is not just the quantity of religiosity that is gendered,
but also the content of religiosity that diers between
men and women.
Men have proved to be more resolute than
women as to religious beliefs. In other words, both
atheists and fundamentalists are more oen men
than women. A tendency among men is to accept
the whole package, which means that they are more
apt to embrace everything pertaining to their (Chris-
tian) belief. Women are more selective; they believe
Via Giordano Bruno in Messina, Sicily. Giordano Bruno
(15481600) was burnt at stake for his heretic views.
Thousands of women who met the same fate have
remained without statues or streets named after them.
Photo by Tomas Mansikka.
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
in a loving God, but not in Hell, the Devil or the Last
Judgment. e world-view of women can even con-
sist of beliefs which contradict each other; a belief
in the resurrection of Jesus does not prevent women
from believing in reincarnation and astrology as well.
According to Kati Niemelä, men are looking for an
explicit pronouncement; they do not commit them-
selves to loose or unclear religiosity (Niemelä ).
Although men are more passive as regards partici-
pating in religious events, more unwilling to believe
in one God and a life aer death, they do wish, almost
as oen as women, to maintain religious practices in
moments of life transitions, such as birth, marriage
and death. Religious rituals thus also occupy an im-
portant place in the lives of men (Niemelä : ).
Why does religion attract women and atheism men?
Contemporary studies of religion seem to prove un-
varyingly that women tend to be more religious than
men. A stronger religiosity is found among women in
all European countries as well as in the whole of the
Western world. ere are several dierent strands and
approaches for explaining this phenomenon. Some
models of explanation have been suggested, but none
of them is unanimously acknowledged as established.
Can the dierent modes of socialisation or dierent
kinds of social obligations projected for women and
men explain the dierence? Or do women and men
simply, in some basic and fundamental way – bio-
logically or socially – dier from each other?
One suggested model of explanation is education.
Historically women have obtained much less educa-
tion than men, and more educated women tend to be
less religious than their less educated sisters. Educa-
tion could be seen to shield individuals from adopting
supernatural beliefs, thus associating a lack of educa-
tion with vulnerability. However, when women have
taken the opportunity to educate themselves, the dis-
parity is maintained, as educated women in compari-
son are also more religious than their male equals.
Another model of explanation has been socialization.
In the same way that women are taught to be more
submissive, passive and obedient than men, they
are also more religious. Womens traditional roles as
caretakers – giving birth and nursing babies, caring
for sick and dying persons – puts them into a more
immediate relationship with the ultimate questions
of life and death. At least historically, womens social
life has been more restricted than mens. is in turn
could be seen to engender more conservative and
traditional value systems for women than for men.
But most oen the stronger religiosity of women is
connected to the fact that women are more involved
in bringing their children up, maintaining the chain
of memory and traditions. In addition, women spend
much more time at home, having more time to prac-
tice religion and consider religious questions (this
explanation must have come from a man who has
never spent time at home with all the responsibili-
ties it involves). But statistics also show that women
working outside the home are as religious as women
who work at home. (Berger et al. : –; Davie
; Freese ; Miller & Homan ; Niemelä
, ; Woodhead .)
Recent studies indicate that gender dierences in
religiousness might be caused by biological and psy-
chological factors – an explanation that is based on
nature not on nurture (Berger et al. : ). What
is it in sex dierence that exposes or shields one from
religion? What models could explain the dierences
of religiosity not only between the sexes, but also
within each sex? Dierent studies show a signicant
relationship between gender orientation and being re-
ligious; masculinity and femininity are identied as
important determinants of both womens and mens
A list of popes, Vatican, Rome, contains no names of
women – at least not yet. Photo by Tomas Mansikka.
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
religiosity. Men with a feminine orientation share a
greater religious involvement than men with a mas-
culine orientation. e results also indicate that femi-
nine women are more religious than women with a
masculine orientation. (Miller & Homan ,
ompson & Rennes , Freese .)
e standards of masculinity within Western cul-
ture encourage men to seek adventure, danger, and
to take risks. In some studies the gender dierence in
religiousness is explained by risk preferences: men are
more likely to commit crimes, they behave violently,
when driving they are oen convicted of speeding,
they hunt large and dangerous animals, and so on.
According to these researches irreligiousness and the
rejection of religious beliefs are part of a typically
masculine risk-taking behaviour (Miller & Homan
, ompson & Rennes , Niemelä ).
ese results can be interpreted in many ways. ey
might lead us to assume that atheists tend to be mas-
culine risk-takers. We should however also remem-
ber – as Abby Day remarked during a conversation
– all of the risks that women are exposed to: giving
birth to children, enduring violent marriages, walk-
ing out in a mini skirt at midnight in parks and so on.
Aren’t they forms of risk-taking, too?
A conflict between religion and women?
Feminism, religion and atheism
Although women tend to be religious, there are, of
course, non-religious women and even non-religious
mothers. Especially women with feminist attitudes
tend to be non-religious. Second wave feminism, in
particular, views religion as highly problematic: as
patriarchal, misogynic and oppressive. Many femi-
nist women have found it hard to remain within their
religious traditions (see, for example, Furseth :
). Feminist texts and (second wave) feminist re-
search join with the discourses of the new atheists in
articulating, quite correctly, that religious traditions
have in many ways legitimated the oppression and
discrimination of women. Within the world religions
both actors and leaders have been, and still are, men.
Also religious beliefs and doctrines have been his-
torically transmitted by men to men, as the contact
and communication with the supernatural has been
the privilege of men. e founders of the great world
religions have also been male, as well as most of those
who have instituted religious communities. And not
only have the sacred texts been written by men, but
nearly all of the great gures, saints, martyrs, teachers
and leaders of religious traditions – at least those we
know by name – have been men. Women have also
been excluded from various religious rituals, and
there has been an extensive debate within religious
traditions in the West as to whether women pos-
sess an immortal soul. e possibility for women to
reach salvation has mostly been spelled out in terms
of suppression and renunciation: to reject sexual-
ity, motherhood and marriage, and to withdraw to
a monastery and wholly give up ones life to God.
Although women have, in some religious traditions
– for instance revival movements – had an import-
ant role as preachers or prophets in the movements
early stages, they have later been removed from lead-
ing positions when the movement has become more
organised (see, for example, King ; Nenola ,
; Woodhead ; Young ).
From the points of view illustrated above – bear-
ing in mind of course that it is not the whole picture,
but a picture second wave feminism and new athe-
ism usually gives – it appears as a miracle that women
have not le their churches and religions en masse
and converted to atheism. e situation is quite to the
contrary, as we have seen: even feminist women tend
to be religious. Some of them have le their churches,
some have tried to reformulate and reinterpret their
tradition in woman-friendly directions. Some of the
religious feminists have founded totally new woman
-centred forms of religion and spirituality. us,
feminists can be atheists, but they are not necessarily
so. As a matter of fact, many feminists who identify
themselves as atheists have experienced the culture
of discussion within atheist circles to be quite mascu-
line and misogynic; they perceive atheism as a pro-
ject belonging to white western men (Beattie ,
Woodhead , Furseth ).
What is signicant here is that the arguments put
forward against religion are quite similar, both of the
new atheists and the (second wave) feminists. ey
resemble each other in many ways. Unfortunately,
very little research has been done on the relation-
ship between atheism and feminism. ere are, how-
ever, exceptions, such as work by Christine Overall
() and Inger Furseth (). Furseth, leaning on
both quantitative and qualitative data sets, illustrates
gendered structures in worldviews. She shows that
both feminist identities and masculine rationality
lead away from religion – but not necessarily from
spirituality. An article by Christine Overall examines
arguments by feminists who are critical of religion –
such as those discussed in the previous paragraph.
When taking the critical arguments at face value,
Overall considers whether these feminists should
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
be atheists as well. However, as Overall and several
other researchers point out, religious traditions do
not exist outside of, or apart from, social and cultural
phenomena, but reect them – this gives one explan-
ation for androcentrism in the religious traditions of
the world. From a historical perspective female ac-
tivities and inuence have been situated outside the
institutions of society, for instance outside scientic
and theological educational institutions. Because of
this, women have not been able to participate in the
construction and formulation of processes within
social institutions, including religious traditions and
rituals. (Overall : ; Nenola , ; Young
Both (second wave) feminists and new atheists
see the practices associated with religious and cultur-
al traditions as being harmful to women. e norms
which restrict womens lives concern rst and fore-
most sexuality: birth control, abortion or divorce may
be prohibited; any forms of sexuality beyond what is
included in a heterosexual marriage may be seen as
illegitimate; womens importance lies most oen in
being a wife or a mother, while the value of infant
girls, as well as older women or widows, are mostly
minimal (Overall : ; Nenola , ).
For these and many other reasons feminism and
religion are oen regarded as opposites. Women
with feminist orientations are alienated from reli-
gious traditions, and feminist research has not been
able to positively evaluate religion or religious tradi-
tions. Religious women are seen as either ignorant or
gripped by an erroneous perception. Both (second
wave) feminist sociological studies of religion and
the writings of the new atheists approach religion and
womens religiosity in a black-and-white way: either a
great deal of space is given to religion, or it is totally
bypassed. Especially when considering women from
remote or unfamiliar cultures, there is a tendency to
dwell on religious points of view alone. Religion be-
comes the only lens through which women are scru-
tinised, as if there were no other dimensions to their
lives. A well-known example is that of the veiled Mus-
lim woman, who has become a metaphor for submis-
sion and ignorance – the sexual and racial ‘other’. e
idea of an educated, independent, professional femi-
nist Muslim woman doesn’t t into the frame. (Vuola
a: –, b: ; Beattie : ; Berger et
al. : .)
e new atheist and feminist scholars who bypass
the multidimensionality of religious traditions share
a common attitude; an inability to discern between
dierent levels and dimensions of religion and re-
ligiosity. ey focus merely on levels of institutions,
interpretations of the elite, and on holy scriptures
and dogmas. As a result, the lived, everyday reli-
gion and interpretations and experiences of ordinary
people are le out. e monotheist religions of the
Near East appear, for sure, to be very patriarchal, if
one is solely concentrating on ocial interpretations
(Vuola a: ). Both traditionally feminist and
new atheist critics of religion tend to focus on theo-
logical questions, in conjunction with interpretations
of religion from biological perspectives. is means
that they oen get caught up in details, as for ex ample
issue of the hymen – was Mary a virgin before, during
and aer giving birth to Jesus? – and do not regard as
meaningful or relevant the actual beliefs held by or-
dinary religious persons, or the appropriate hermen-
eutics usually applied to sacred texts. (Vuola b:
.) Elina Vuola gives examples of interpretations
by Latin American women of the myth of the Virgin
Mary, which dier in many ways from the ocial in-
terpretations of the Catholic Church – which inter-
pretations many of the women were not even aware
of. When focusing on the Mariology of the Catholic
Church, the Virgin Mary is seen as an origin and a
symbol of the subordination of women – the same
eect is happening with the scarf worn by Muslim
women. e symbol can, in both of these cases, be
the vehicle of the subordination, but it cannot be
it without considering the other preconditions,
womens self-understanding and cultural identity,
which is more than religious identity’. (Vuola a:
Elina Vuola (a: ) points out an important
duty of the scholar of religion: to correct the most
stereotypical perceptions on religion and gender in
other disciplines and in public discussions – and
not contributing to their further dissemination. She
also reminds us that the cultural clash is not occur-
ing – at least not in the domain of sexual ethics – be-
tween dierent religious traditions, but within them.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam agree in practice on
sexual ethics and family legislation, at least concern-
ing questions of homosexuality and abortion. It is
the polarisation within religions which is much more
important. (Vuola a: .) Religious communi-
ties usually become divided into opposing camps –
conservatives and liberals – with varying and incom-
patible attitudes towards modernisation, pluralism,
lifestyle, gender and sexuality (Ketola : –).
It is the conservative factions of devotees that be-
come the target of the new atheist (and feminist)
critics, while liberal religiosity is seen as a platform
Approaching Religion Vol. 2, No. 1 June 2012
for potential conservatism (and fundamentalism).
Vuola recommends, for dealing with dierent forms
of religiosity, taking a position which simultaneously
critical and which seeks to understand. A scholar of
religion must distinguish between conceptual and
functional levels of religious traditions; to discern the
dierence between religion in terms of institutions,
doctrines, or religious elites, and the lived religion of
ordinary people. (Vuola a: .) Only then may
one understand in what ways women have found the
space to develop their talents within (the patriarchal)
religious traditions, as well as in what ways the reli-
gions have become resources for women, and have
given support, meaning and substance to women in
their everyday lives (Berger et al. : ; Nenola
, ).
Whose voices are heard?
Altough women do tend to be more religious than
men, there is a growing number of women who are
distancing themselves from religion, or women for
whom religion is not regarded as important in their
lives. Still, very few of these women identify them-
selves as convinced atheists, even when they share a
common attitude with atheists; namely that religions
are harmful to societies, and religious beliefs are false
from a scientic perspective. e forms of non-reli-
giousness amongst these women varies from indier-
ence on religious issues to extreme forms of atheism.
In Finland, atheism has not become popular on
a large scale; a more likely and common standpoint
is to be religiously indierent, even when one is a
member of the Finnish Lutheran Church. ose who
leave the Church are seldom convinced atheists, but
people who feel themselves to have been oended or
disappointed by Church employees, or by some of
the attitudes supported by the Church. ey may also
simply be alienated from the teachings of the Church,
or the doctrines of Christianity, and do not regard
them as important or meaningful for their lives (see
Niemelä ). Finns do not reect overly much on
religious questions in their everyday lives, or weigh
up the scientic evidence pertaining to certain reli-
gious beliefs. Teemu Taira has followed discussions
on atheism, and by atheists, in the leading Finnish
news paper Helsingin Sanomat, and maintains that
although contemporary Finns are not passionate
defenders of religion, this doesnt make them active
supporters of atheism. e most visible and noisy
Finnish atheists focus their criticism on the Finnish
Lutheran Church and its visibility and status within
Finnish society. ere have also been lively debates
on religious education in public schools and its secu-
lar equivalent, the study of the philosophy of life. Of
all the atheist interviewees only two were women.
(Taira : , –.) e same tendency was ex-
plicit in the lively debate on science versus religion
in the leading Swedish-speaking newspaper Huf-
vudstadsbladet during the spring of . e male
counterparts in the discussion – where science and
the theory of evolution was pitted against theism and
the Church – did more or less disregard each other’s
views, with no serious attempts at understanding
each another.
What are still mostly invisible in the public dis-
cussion are the varieties and forms of everyday non-
religiousness, the lived non-religiousness. It would
be important to examine, for instance, the ways in
which non-religious mothers and families raise their
children in everyday life and in times of crisis. How
they organise transition rites or annual festivals, the
contents and forms of which are mostly based on
Christianity. How children of non-religious families
experience the presence of (Christian) religion (fes-
tivals, prayers, hymns) in kindergarten or at school.
What do the worldviews of non-religious people con-
sist of? Or what forms or dimensions of spirituality
are closest to the views of secular people?
Dr and Docent Tiina Mahla mäki
is Lecturer in Comparative Reli-
gion at the University of Turku,
Finland. She is member of the
executive board of the Finnish
Society for the Study of Religion,
and the co-editor-in-chief
of Temenos: Nordic Journal of
Comparative Religion. Her main
research themes are: literature
and religion, gender and religion
(both religiosity and non-
religiosity) and civil religion. She
has recently written on Emanuel
Swedenborg’s influence on Finnish national literature and
on the Anthroposophical themes in the works of the Finn-
ish female author Kersti Bergroth. Email: tituma(at)
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... Are there, then, any notable differences in the gender (for more on gender differences see Chaps. 3 and 9 in this volume) distribution of the non-religious respondents (n = 803)? One of the universally recurring findings in previous research is the positive correlation between religiosity and being female, non-religiosity being predominantly a male phenomenon (Furseth, 2010;Mahlamäki, 2012;Zuckerman et al., 2016;Pew Research Center 2016). Table 8.2 suggests that male respondents identify as non-religious to a somewhat higher extent than female respondents, which is confirmed by a chi-square analysis and the analysis of the means for each gender. ...
... Sekulaareilla sukupuolirooleilla on uskonnollisia vaikutuksia. (Walter ja Davie 1998;Davie 2007b;Niemelä 2010b;Mahlamäki 2012;Trzebiatowska ja Bruce 2012, 112.) Uskontopsykologisesti suuntautuneissa ja biologisiin selitysmalleihin tukeutuvissa tutkimuksissa taas on korostettu sukupuoliorientaation merkitystä. ...
... Are there, then, any notable differences in the gender (for more on gender differences see Chaps. 3 and 9 in this volume) distribution of the non-religious respondents (n = 803)? One of the universally recurring findings in previous research is the positive correlation between religiosity and being female, non-religiosity being predominantly a male phenomenon (Furseth, 2010;Mahlamäki, 2012;Zuckerman et al., 2016;Pew Research Center 2016). Table 8.2 suggests that male respondents identify as non-religious to a somewhat higher extent than female respondents, which is confirmed by a chi-square analysis and the analysis of the means for each gender. ...
Full-text available
How can we make sense of religion and spirituality in a cross-cultural perspective? Is it at all possible to compare what we are used to calling ‘religion’ across different cultures? In this chapter we use findings from Faith Q-studies (FQS) in 12 different countries to investigate variance of religion and spirituality from an international perspective. Our results shed light on themes and variations and show the capacity of the FQS to systematically recognize recurring themes while also remaining sensitive to unique but significant nuances across samples. We further propose that the term family resemblance catches well how to comprehend the complexity of variation and provides a conceptual contribution to the debate on universalism vs. particularism.
... Are there, then, any notable differences in the gender (for more on gender differences see Chaps. 3 and 9 in this volume) distribution of the non-religious respondents (n = 803)? One of the universally recurring findings in previous research is the positive correlation between religiosity and being female, non-religiosity being predominantly a male phenomenon (Furseth, 2010;Mahlamäki, 2012;Zuckerman et al., 2016;Pew Research Center 2016). Table 8.2 suggests that male respondents identify as non-religious to a somewhat higher extent than female respondents, which is confirmed by a chi-square analysis and the analysis of the means for each gender. ...
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In many studies of young adults, prosocial attitudes and behaviors are on the agenda. The often reported decline in civic engagement among young adults is generally presented as a concern. Prosocial attitudes and behaviors have been linked to aspects of well-being; high scores on some prosocial attitude indicators are seen as a sign of positive adjustment. Prosocial attitudes and behaviors are also key in discussions of civic engagement, volunteering, and altruism – aspects, in a sense, of the well-being of a society, and they are also of interest in discussions of religion. Commonly, a link between prosociality and religion has been indicated. In this chapter, we bring together findings from the research project Young Adults and Religion in Global Perspective (YARG) for an overview of prosocial attitudes and behaviors among young adult university students. We focus particularly on civic engagement and volunteering. Based on survey data, we first briefly explore who expresses prosocial attitudes and behaviors and the values connected to prosocial behaviors. This perspective offers only tentative answers. For a more in-depth view, we continue by exploring the data from the Faith Q-Sort. Finally, we zoom in on two examples, Turkey and Sweden, and compare the views on civic engagement and volunteering among young adults in these two contexts.
... Are there, then, any notable differences in the gender (for more on gender differences see Chaps. 3 and 9 in this volume) distribution of the non-religious respondents (n = 803)? One of the universally recurring findings in previous research is the positive correlation between religiosity and being female, non-religiosity being predominantly a male phenomenon (Furseth, 2010;Mahlamäki, 2012;Zuckerman et al., 2016;Pew Research Center 2016). Table 8.2 suggests that male respondents identify as non-religious to a somewhat higher extent than female respondents, which is confirmed by a chi-square analysis and the analysis of the means for each gender. ...
Full-text available
Recent research indicates that global changes in life views, religion, and values are taking place. This study explores reflections of these changes on the religious subjectivities and value profiles of young adult Muslim students in Turkey and in Israel. These cases were chosen based on their similar religious backgrounds on the one hand, and the large differences in their cultural and political contexts on the other. Our findings are based on a mixed-method study, Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective (YARG), which includes the Schwartz’s value survey (PVQ-RR) and the Faith Q-Sort-method (FQS) developed by Prof. David Wulff. Muslim students in Israel reported higher degrees of self- and family religiosity, and involvement in religious practices in private, as compared to Muslim students in Turkey. Furthermore, the analysis of the FQS yielded five different prototypes for each group, and similarities between certain pairs of prototypes were observed. Our results indicate that despite the shared religious affiliation to Islam, the cultural context of each group contributes largely to differences in religious subjectivities and values between young adult Muslim students in Turkey and in Israel. Such a comparison valuably contributes to understanding the socio-psychological factors that shape the results of the interchange between processes of convergence of cultural values with the persistence of traditional values.
This chapter explores how the discourses of thealogy and those of atheism may sometimes converge as well as diverge. Thealogy and atheism both decentre God the Father. However, the most radical forms of atheism, New Atheism for instance, negate the Goddess as well as God. However, a deconstructive reading of the discourses of both atheism and thealogy may problematize the conventional understanding of these terms, as atheism’s critique of the divine as “supernatural” may be juxtaposed against the thealogical discourses that often equate the Goddess not with the supernatural but with the natural. However, while a milder form of atheism might be tolerant to the vision of an immanent divinity that equates the human, the natural and the divine, the Goddess-as-metaphysical-absolute (a notion prevalent in living goddess traditions such as Hindu Shaktism) will definitely be a problem for atheists. However, this chapter’s central emphasis is on a critique of atheism’s universalist approach to the notion of divinity: how can a singular form of atheism negate all modes of the divine without negotiating the radical alterity involved in the plural figurations of the divine across cultures?KeywordsThealogyAtheismGoddessImmanentTranscendentalSupernaturalGaiaEmbodimentExclusionErasureNew AtheismScientistic
Based on representative survey material analysed with the help of Multiple Classification Analysis (MCA), this article examines nonreligious identification in Finland. It focuses on those who positively identify themselves as nonreligious, describes them according to selected social variables, and explores their attitudes. The results demonstrate that nonreligious identity is more prevalent among Millennials and even more so among urban men. An examination of attitudes towards minority religions, church–state interaction, and national pride shows that the nonreligious are relatively liberal and tolerant, but what makes them different from others is their opposition to church–state interaction and their lack of national pride, thus indicating the weakening of ‘cultural religion’. On the basis of these findings, this article argues that in addition to the general process of secularisation, national history and recent social changes offer plausible reasons for the questions of how and why such normalisation is taking place, especially among Millennials.
Resumen: Este artículo analiza la aplicación del principio de igualdad de género a la Iglesia católica en España, en el ámbito de las relaciones asociati-vas no laborales, a propósito de una reciente deci-sión del Tribunal Supremo. La sentencia reconoce el derecho de una asociación católica a mantener una norma estatutaria plurisecular por la que ad-mite exclusivamente a miembros varones. Esta controversia pone sobre la mesa cuestiones discu-tidas, tanto desde el punto de vista de los eventua-les derechos en colisión (igualdad y autonomía or-ganizativa), como en el plano de la opinión pública, en relación a una hipotética discriminación hacia las mujeres en el seno de las instituciones religiosas en general y en la Iglesia católica en particular. El propósito del trabajo es analizar los diversos ele-mentos del problema, tratando de distinguir los conflictos reales, en el plano jurídico, de los falsos conflictos, aportando criterios para valorar estos casos. Palabras clave: Igualdad de género, Autonomía religiosa, Discriminación, Asociaciones católicas. Abstract: This article focuses on the application of the principle of gender equality to the Catholic Church in the field of non-labor associative relationships , in the context of a recent decision of the Spanish Supreme Court. The ruling recognizes the right of a Catholic association to admit only male members. This controversy raises a number of important issues, both from the point of view of possible conflicting rights (equality and organizational autonomy), and from the point of view of public opinion, in relation to a hypothetical discrimination against women in religious institutions in general, and in the Catholic Church in particular. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the various elements of the problem, trying to distinguish real conflicts, at a legal level, from merely apparent contradictions. It also provides some criteria to assess cases of this kind.
This paper aims to understand the reasons why religious freedom and gender equality often appear to be competing values. The clash is observable in OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) countries, which are home to a variety of cultural and religious traditions. No progress toward greater social peace and harmony can be made as long as there are groups who feel under threat because of their sexual or religious identities. If human rights must be understood as a system of interrelated rights and not rights in opposition, then a proper balance between the two aspects should be sought. While legal means may well be necessary, they are probably not the most effective way to bridge the gap in this real—or at least apparent—dilemma.
The last few years have seen a remarkable surge of popular interest in the topic of atheism. Books about atheism by writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have figured prominently in bestseller lists and have attracted widespread discussion in the media. The ubiquity of public debates about atheism, especially in conscious opposition to the perceived social threat posed by faith and religion, has been startling. However, as Gavin Hyman points out, despite their prevalence and popularity, what often characterises these debates is a lack of nuance and sophistication. They can be shrill, ignorant of the historical complexity of debates about belief, and tend to lapse into caricature. What is needed is a clear and well informed presentation of how atheistic ideas originated and developed, in order to illuminate their contemporary relevance and application. That task is what the author undertakes here. Exploring the rise of atheism as an explicit philosophical position (notably in the work of Denis Diderot), Hyman traces its development in the later ideas of Descartes, Locke and Berkeley. Drawing also on the work of contemporary scholars like Amos Funkenstein and Michael J Buckley, the author shows that, since in recent theology the concept of God which atheists negate is changing, the triumph of its advocates may not be quite as unequivocal as Hitchens and Dawkins would have us believe.
Europe is a relatively secular part of the world in global terms. Why is this so? And why is the situation in Europe so different from that in the United States? The first chapter of this book - the theme - articulates this contrast. The remaining chapters - the variations - look in turn at the historical, philosophical, institutional and sociological dimensions of these differences. Key ideas are examined in detail, among them: constitutional issues; the Enlightenment; systems of law, education and welfare; questions of class, ethnicity, gender and generation. In each chapter both the similarities and differences between the European and the American cases are carefully scrutinized. The final chapter explores the ways in which these features translate into policy on both sides of the Atlantic. This book is highly topical and relates very directly to current misunderstandings between Europe and America.
DiversityComplexityRespectabilityCritiquesDarwinismConclusion Works cited
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Gender differences in risk preferences have been proposed to explain a large part of the widespread gender difference in religiousness. Using the same data and models that were used for a recent test of more general claims about the relationship between risk preference and religiousness, this study tests the more specific, but more provocative, idea that risk preferences account for a substantial portion of the gender difference in religiousness. The data are from the 1990-3 World Values Survey for the United States and Italy. Across four indicators of religiousness, analyses reveal no substantially consequential or statistically significant change in the estimated effect of gender on religiousness when risk preferences are added to regression models. In other words, while the data do support the notion that risk preferences are related to religiousness, they give no indication that this relationship accounts for the observed gender difference in religiousness.
Introduction Chapter One. Facts and Figures: a profile of religion in modern Europe Chapter Two. Theoretical Perspectives Chapter Three. Vicarious Memory 1: the churches Chapter Four. Vicarious Memory 2: the church-goers Chapter Five. Precarious Memory: religion in the education systems of Europe Chapter Six. Mediated Memory: religion and the European media Chapter Seven. Alternative Memories 1: pluralism and the law Chapter Eight. Alternative Memories 2: religious innovations Chapter Nine. Aesthetic or Symbolic Memory: the cultural sphere Chapter Ten. Conclusion
Gender differences in religiosity are well known. Past studies have consistently shown that females tend to be more religious than males. We propose that gender differences in risk preferences are related to differences in religiosity. Building on the classic concept of "Pascal's wager," we conceive of religious behavior as risk averse and nonreligious behavior as risk taking. Analysis of data from the Monitoring the Future data set shows that the addition of risk preference strongly attenuates gender differences in religiosity. Risk preference also is a significant predictor of religiosity within each gender. Implications of this study are discussed.
Previous work shows a significant relationship between gender orientation and being religious in samples of college–age and adult men. Before entering later life, men with a feminine orientation have greater religious involvement than other men. In a sample of older men from three Massachusetts counties, this study assessed the bearing of men’sgender orientation and gender ideology on their religious involvement. Gender orientation more than masculinity ideology was found to be a reliable predictor of older men’sreligiousness. Similar to studies of younger men, a feminine orientation was a significant determinant of the older men’s religious participation, commitment, and intrinsic orientation. Older men who define self in very masculine terms, however, engaged in a quest religiosity. When the masculinity ideology contains norms that prescribe the virtues of a traditional masculinity and acquiring status, men’s religious orientation was extrinsic (or means) oriented. These important findings are discussed in terms of how masculinity is at times a barrier to men’s private devotion and at other times can be a trigger to questing.