Religiosity and Social Groups

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Gender and Religiosity

  • More women than men participate in religious activity and have religious beliefs.
    • e.g. 1.8 mil female vs. 1.36 mil male churchgoers in England, 2005.


  • Women express greater interest in religion and have stronger personal committment.
  • True for all ages and religious organisations.


  • Twice as many women than man involved in sects.


  • 80% of holistic milieu participants in Kendal were female.
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Socialisation and Gender Role


  • Women socialised to be more passive, obedient and caring.
  • These qualities are valued by most religions.
  • Men with these qualities are also more likely to be religious.
  • Women more likely to work part-time so have more scope to organise time around religion.
  • Women more likely to be attracted to church as source of gender identity.


  • Taking care of family members increases women's religiosity.
  • Involves responsibility for thier ultimate welfare.


  • Women's close proximity to birth and death brings them closer to ultimate questions about the meaning of life
    • e.g. through child-bearing, caring for elderly, sick and dying relatives.
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Women and the New Age

  • Women are often associated with nature and a healing role.
  • May explain their attraction to the new age.
    • e.g. Kendal project.
  • NAMs often celebrate the natural giving women higher status and sense of self-worth.


  • Womens experience of child-rearing makes them less agressive and goal-oriented and more cooperative and caring.
  • While men wish to achieve, women wish to feel.


  • New Age emphasises importance of being authentic rather than conforming to roles.
  • Women more likely to be attracted to this as their role are more restrictive.
  • New Age religions emphasis subjective experience rather than external authority.
  • Appeals to women's wish for autonomy.
  • Alternatively fundamentalism is attractive to some women bc of certainty of gender roles.
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Compensation for Deprivation


  • People participate in religion bc of the compensators for deprivation.
  • Deprivation is more common amongst women explaining high sect membership.
    • Organismic Deprivation
      • women more likely to suffer ill health and turn to religion for healing.
    • Ethical Deprivation
      • women more morally conservative and thus view the world as in moral decline.
    • Social Deprivation
      • women are more likely to be poor.
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Ethnicity and Religiosity

  • UK today is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society.
  • Biggest group Christians (59%) followed by Muslims (5%).
  • Muslims (74%) and black Christians (81%) are considerably more likely to see religion as important than white Catholics (32%).
  • Minorities have higher participation rates.


  • Found some decline in the importance of religion amongst minorities.
  • Fewer were observant.
  • Especially among second generation.
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Cultural Defence

  • Most ethnic minorities originate from poorer countries with traditional cultures.
  • Produce higher levels of religious belief and practice.
  • On arrival in the UK their experience as immigrants and minorities gives religion a new role as cultural defence and cultural transition.


  • Religion provides support and a sense of community in uncertain/hostile environments.


  • Religion among minorities can be a basis for community solidarity.
  • Acts as a means of preservng their culture and language.
  • A way of coping with oppression in a racist society.
    • e.g. Black African and Caribbean Christians in UK found that white churchs did not openly accept them.
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Cultural Transition


  • High levels of religious participation among 1st generation immigrants in USA.


  • Sees similar pattern in history of immigration into the UK.
    • Provided a focal point for Irish, African Caribbean, Muslim and other communities.
  • Once a group has made its transition into wider society religion may decline.


  • African Caribbean community in Bristol.
  • Pentecostalism highly adaptive religion of the oppressed.
    • Helped members to adapt to British society by encouraging self-reliance.
  • Rastafarianism represented a different response.
    • Radically rejected wider society as racist and exploitative.
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Age and Religious Participation

  • The older a person is the more likely they are to participate in religious services.
  • There are two exceptions:
    • Under 15s
      • more likely to be made to go to chuch by their parents.
    • Over 65s
      • more likely to be sick or disabled and therefore unable to attend.
      • higher death rates makes them a smaller group.
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Reasons for Age Differences


  • The ageing effect
    • People turn to religion as they get older.
      • e.g. Kendal Project.
    • As we approach death we become more concerned about spiritual matters.
    • More concerned about the afterlife, repentance.
  • The generational effect
    • As society becomes more secular each new generation is less religious than the last.
    • Leads to more of old people in church than young people.
    • Claim that each generation is half as religious as their parents.
    • Children are no longer recieving religious socialisation.
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