Why are women more religious than men? Explanation one – traditional female social roles

Women tend to be more religious than men. Some sociologists have argued that traditional female roles explain why this is and this post examines and evaluates some of these ‘social role theory’ explanations for this trend in gender and religion.

Characteristics of the traditional female gender role (or traditional femininity) include being nurturing, caring, emotional, intuitive, passive and submissive.

Many religions, especially Catholicism and Islam, stress that the ideal woman would take on all of the above characteristics, and willingly take up the role of ‘primary carer’ within the family, supporting husband and children through providing love and support and being a ‘home-maker’.

If women do accept these roles, then religion can act as a source of guidance, comfort and reward, so ‘role theory’ in itself might go some way to explaining the higher level sof religiosity among women.

Three examples:

Women’s traditional role as the main child carers within the family means they are primarily responsible for the primary socialization of children. They might find religion appealing because it offers moral guidance to children ‘from above’, thus making their job as ‘enforcers of behavior’ easier.

The traditional female role also places women as the primary ‘end of life’ carers: caring for the sick and the elderly. This means they experience death more often and more directly than men. Thus they might be more religious because religion offers them a source of comfort or explanation when dealing with death.

Finally, the classical Feminist line on this, as theorized by Simone de Beauvoir, is that religion simply compensates women for their second class status. Women have less status than men, so they turn to religion for comfort (albeit a false comfort which reinforces their second class status).

Limitations of ‘Traditional Gender Role Theory’ in explaining why women are more religious than men

Women’s higher levels of religiosity could be due to different age profiles: women live longer than men, and older people are more religious than younger people.

Also, it doesn’t explain the higher levels of religiosity among women who don’t accept traditional feminine roles. Most members of the New Age Movement are female, and very few accept traditional, hegemonic prescriptions of femininity.

 

 

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Outline and explain two ways in which religion might promote social change

This is a suggested answer to the first type of 10 mark question you’ll find in section A of the AQA’s second sociology paper (paper 2, topics in sociology).

For some general advice on how to answer (both types of) 10 mark questions – please see this post

A 10 mark question (which has no item) will ask students about two elements from one or more of the bullet points on the topic specification. Thus it is here that you might see ‘classic’ questions such as this one.

Outline and explain two ways in which religion might promote social change (10)

The first way in is through helping people to challenge perceived social injustices and helping them fight for a ‘better’ society.

One example of where this has happened is with Liberation Theology. This developed in South America in the 1970s, when certain members of the Catholic Church started to criticize the economic inequality in the region, following witnessing the enormous deprivation suffered by the poorest in society.

Some priests challenged the role of the church in supporting the economic and political elites, taking up the cause of the landless peasants and campaigning for a more equal society.

Maduro actually argued that in such societies, where the church is central, it is the only institution which might bring about social change!

While they were not very successful, the question does say MIGHT! This type of political involvement has a long history in Christianity, and lately the Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticizing the effects of neoliberal economic policies, again standing up to power.

While the above examples may not have been successful, they can be: as with Martin Luther King and the wider Baptist Church – churches not only act as sources of solidarity for those fighting oppression, they can also act as centers which can organise protest marches.

A second way in which religion might promote social change was outlined by Max Weber in his ‘Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism‘.

Weber argued that the values of Calvinism (A very strict version of Protestantism) gave rise, over a couple of centuries, to the economic system of capitalism.

Calvinism taught that working hard was a way to worship God and also to ‘prove’ that you were one of the ‘elect’ (saved). It also taught that having fun was sinful. These two religious beliefs together encouraged the development of societies with cultures which valued hard work and entrepreneurialism, and discouraged frivolous expenditure.

Eventually, this led to any money saved from setting up businesses to be put back into the business (it was a sin to spend on leisure) in order to encourage more ‘work’ and ‘industry’.

These were the exact same set of values which were necessary for Capitalism to work – the work ethic and entrepeneurialism.

Weber developed his theory by doing comparative analysis – he argued that Capitalism emerged first in Holland and England where Calvinist values were strongest (he has been criticised but I don’t any marks for that, so no point saying why).

A further analysis point is that this is religion promoting social change unonciously.

Another further analysis point is that this study shows that religion can promote huge ‘systems level’ socio-economic changes in society.

Outline and explain two ways in which religious organisations have changed in response to globalisation

This is a suggested answer to the first type of 10 mark question you’ll find in section A of the AQA’s second sociology paper (paper 2, topics in sociology).

For some general advice on how to answer (both types of) 10 mark questions – please see this post

This is a brief, bullet pointed answer to give students some ideas of how they might answer this question.

Firstly, some religious organisations have made a conscious effort to be more accepting of diversity, as a response to the increasing intermixing of cultures.

One example of this is ecumenicalism, which seeks to find commonalities across different faiths and stresses that no religion has a monopoly on the truth.

The New Age Movement is also a type of new religion which embraces the diversity of globalization. For example, it draws on many traditions from around the world, such as Buddhism, and it also allows people the freedom to pick and mix different aspects of religions to suit them.

Secondly, some religious organisations have become more fundamentalist, as they perceive globalization as a threat.

Globalization can mean rapid social change and dislocation, and fundamentalist groups are conservative and either want to resist change or take things back to a simpler, ‘golden era’.

Such groups might be appealing to those who feel like they are losing out with the changes globalization brings. They offer a sense of direction and certainty rather than chaos and anomie.

NB: This is a tough question!

Beliefs in society Revision Bundle

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level Sociology Beliefs in Society Revision Bundle which contains the following:

Mind maps in pdf and png format –covering most of the perspectives on beliefs.

Exam practice questions – 9 in total including three 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ questions, three 10 mark ‘analyse using the item’ questions and three 20 mark essay questions.

 

Outline and explain two reasons why some groups are more likely to join World Rejecting New Religious Movements than others (10)

This is a suggested answer to the first type of 10 mark question you’ll find in section A of the AQA’s second sociology paper (paper 2, topics in sociology).

It’s good practice to firstly identify a type of group and then try to link them to a specific world rejecting NRM (or more than one if you can). Then you need to link together different reasons why these type of people might join this type of group.

For some general advice on how to answer (both types of) 10 mark questions – please see this post

Economically disadvantaged ethnic minorities are more likely to join World Rejecting NRMs such as the Nation of Islam.

According to Roy Wallis, such groups suffer higher levels of deprivation and marginalization, meaning they feel pushed to edge of society and not really a part of it.

In the case of ethnic minorities, they may also have experience racism, which compounds the effects of economic deprivation.

World Rejecting NRMs may appeal precisely because they reject mainstream society, which has effectively rejected impoverished ethnic minority groups.

Some of them offer a ‘theodicy of disprivilege’ which explains why the group is experiencing deprivation, and offers spiritual compensation for coping with such deprivations.

Others, such as the Nation of Islam, offer the prospect of social change, and actively challenge the powerful in mainstream society. This can provide a sense of not only hope for a better life, but also solidarity while engaged in the struggle for a better life.

A second type of group which are attracted to World Rejecting New Religious Movements are highly educated young people. This is what Eileen Barker unexpectedly found when she researched the Moonies.

Such people are typically from middle class background and they have witnessed their parents being successful, but not necessarily being happy. They are expected to follow in their parents footsteps but have realised that there is something missing in their lives.. despite being privileged, they feel a little hollow.

NRMs offer something different, something which such people lack – they make up for their spiritual deprivation.

Such movements are especially accessible to young people as they have fewer attachments, and for wealthier kids, it’s less of a risk because they know they can always go back and live off their parents if they have enough of their ‘spiritual phase’.

Reasons why Ethnic Minorities have Higher Levels of Religiosity

Ethnic minorities in Britain tend to see religion as more important than Whites. This post summarizes four theories which seek to explain this trend: cultural transition theory, cultural defense theory, neo-marxism, and Weberianism.

Cultural Transition Theory 

  • Cultural transition theory emphasizes the fact that most ethnic minorities in the UK originate from societies with higher levels of religiosity.
  • When the first waves of immigrants came to Britain from the West-Indies and Asia, religion helped immigrants deal with the stress of adjusting to a new culture.
  • Religious institutions, for example, provided a sense of community, and actually working together to build a ‘religious infrastructure’ promoted a sense of social solidarity.
  • Given that immigration is still a relatively recent phenomenon, it is not surprising that ethnic minorities are still more religious than White Britons.
  • Cultural transition theory holds that once a group has settled into a new culture, commitment to religion will gradually weaken.
  • This later seems to be the case as third and fourth generation immigrants tend to display lower levels of religiosity than first and second generation immigrants.

Cultural Defense Theory 

  • Cultural defense theory suggests that religion helps some ethnic minority groups preserve a sense of unique cultural identity in the face of an unwelcoming and hostile mainstream culture.
  • Religion can be a way to provide emotional support in the midst of racism and intolerance from mainstream society.
  • When Black Africans and Caribbean Christians first came to Britain, they were not generally welcomed by the congregations of mainstream churches. One of the ways they responded to this was to establish their own forms of Pentecostal Christianity.

Weberianism

  • Weberians suggest that there is a relationship between poverty and religiosity.
  • There does seem to be a correlation between religion, ethnicity and poverty…. African-Caribbeans in the UK experience higher levels of poverty and have higher levels of religion.
  • Weber (1920) theorised that certain denominations and sects appeal to the deprived because they can help people cope with their deprivation.
  • Ken Pryce’s (1979) research into the role of Pentacostalism among African-Caribbeans in the UK is a useful application of Weberianism. Pentecostalism emphasizes the importance of family and community, and values hard-work and thrift, all of which offer practical support for helping to cope with poverty as well as a sense of spiritual status.

Neo-Marxism

  • Neo-Marxist theory holds that religion has some degree of autonomy from the economic base, and that religious institutions can act as agents of revolutionary change for the oppressed.
  • Ethnic minority groups tend to suffer from higher levels of exploitation, especially when they are used as scapegoats for some of society’s problems (as Stuart Hall argues in ‘Policing the Crisis‘), and resistance has sometimes centered around religious institutions.
  • The Nation of Islam in America is probably the most obvious example of this.

Evaluating neo-marxism

  • This probably applies more to America than it does to the United Kingdom.
  • In the UK, this certainly does not explain the experience of every ethnic minority group… Sikhs and Hindus (mainly of Indian origin) for example, experience lower levels of deprivation than whites.

 

The relationship between ethnicity and religion in the UK

According to the 2011 UK census, the religious breakdown of England and Wales was as follows:

  • Christian – 59%
  • No religion – 25%
  • Muslim – 5%
  • Hindu – 1.5%
  • Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, all <1%

The relationship between ethnicity and religion

  • Christianity is a predominately White religion, especially the Anglican church
  • African forms of Christian spirituality have increased dramatically in the last two decades. Pentecostal Churches are predominately attended by British Africans and African-Caribbeans.
  • Sikhs and Hindus are predominantly of Indian Heritage
  • British Muslims are predominately of Pakistani Heritage, although there is considerable ethnic diversity within British Islam
  • There is some evidence that African-Caribbeans are more likely to be involved in sects such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Ethnic minorities tend to be more religious than White Britons 

  • Only 32% of adults who reported being Christian said they practiced their religion regularly. This compares to 80% of Muslims and 2/3rds of Hindus, Sikhs and Jews
  • Black Christians are 3 times more likely to attend church than White Christians (English Church Census, 2005)
  • Muslims, Hindus and Black Christians see religion as more central to their identity than White Christians. O’Beirne 2004 found that:
    • Asians, especially Muslims ranked religion and family equally as markers of identity
    • African-Caribbeans and Black-Africans ranked religion as the third most important factor in their lives.
    • White Christians rarely ranked religion as central to their identity.

The relationship between religion and social class

The relationship between social class and religion is not straightforward: the middle classes are, in general, more likely to attend church, but they are also less likely to believe in God and more likely to be atheists and join both world affirming and world rejecting NRMs.

The working classes are less likely to attend church, yet more likely to believe in God than the middle classes. There are also certain denominations and even sects which might appeal specifically to the working classes: such as Methodism, for example.

Church attendance and social class

The ‘middle classes’ have higher rates of church attendance than the ‘working classes’

  • A 2015 YouGov survey of 7000 adults found that 62% of regular church goers were middle class and 38% working class.
  • The same 2015 survey found that twice as many married working class men had never attended church compared to middle class men (17% compared to 9%).
  • Voas and Watt (2014) conducted research on behalf of the Church of England and made three observations not directly about social class, but relevant to it. Firstly, church attendance is higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Secondly, church attendance is higher in the South of England compared to the North. Thirdly, they noted growth in church attendance in areas which had high performing church primary and secondary schools. All of these indicators suggest higher church attendance in middle class compared to working class areas.
  • Ashworth and Farthing (2007) found that, for both sexes, those in middle class jobs had above average levels of church attendance. Conversely, those in skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled working class jobs had below average church attendance. Welfare recipients had the lowest levels of church attendance.

Religious belief and social class

  • A 2016 YouGov Survey revealed that 48% of those in social grades ABC1 described themselves as ‘Atheist’ compared to 42% of those in social grades C2ED.

  • A 2013 review of >60 research studies on the relationship between IQ and religiosity found that people with higher IQs are more likely to be atheists. (High IQs are correlated with higher levels of education and higher social class).
  • Lawes (2009) found that ‘lifelong theists’ disproportionately come from unskilled and semi-skilled manual backgrounds, and were less likely to have academic qualifications. Conversely, lifelong atheists disproportionately come from higher professional and managerial backgrounds, and are more likely to have experienced higher education.

NB – It’s worth noting how this contradicts what’s above in terms of church attendance

Social class, religion and deprivation 

There is some evidence that those suffering deprivation (the lower social classes) are more likely to turn to religion…..

  • Churches in deprived inner city areas tend to have higher rates of attendance.
  • Methodist, Pentacostal and Baptist denominations  tend to be more working class.
  • Catholic Churches are more likely to attract Irish, Polish and African immigrants who have typically experienced higher levels of deprivation.

New Religious Movements and social class

As a general rule, the middle classes are more attracted to both World Affirming NRMs (and the New Age Movement), and World Rejecting NRMs, at least according to Eileen Barker’s classic study of ‘The Moonies’.

Problems with identifying the relationship between religion and social class

  1. Andrew Mckinnon notes that there has been a ‘dearth’ of research on the relationship between religion and social class, meaning there is something of a data gap.
  2. Because of the above, we are often stuck with relying on indicators which might not actually measure social class.
  3. Even if the data suggests that church attendance and belief are higher among the middle classes, this doesn’t necessarily mean the middle classes are actually more religious. They may just be attending church to keep up appearances or to get their children into the local church school (which tend to have high academic performance); or they  may feel under more social pressure to state they are religious than the working classes

Sources: 

Chapman et al, as well as the good ole’ t’internet.

Posmodernity and the New Age

Paul Heelas (1996) points out that the New Age Movement seems to have much in common with postmodernism:

  1. It seems to involve de-differentiation and de-traditionalisation. De-differentiation involves a breakdown of traditional categories, such as that between high and low culture. The New Age movement seems to be doing something similar with its fusion of traditional and popular religious beliefs. The New Age Movement also rejects the authority of the established church, with its belief that spirituality is within, and that it is up to each individual to find their own path to inner truth.
  2. The New Age Movement accepts relativism – there are diverse paths to spiritual fulfillment, and no one authority has a monopoly on truth, which fits in with postmodernism’s rejection of metanarratives.
  3. The spiritual shopping approach of the New Age seems to correspond with the centrality of consumer culture to postmodern societies.
  4. Like postmodernism, The New Age movement is, at least to an extent, about individuality and identity, focused on individual experience.
  5. Finally, there is the simple fact that both postmodernism and the New Age Movement emphasise the onset of a ‘new era’.

Why the New Age is not Postmodern

Despite the above apparent similarities, Heelas argues that the New Age Movement is, in fact, not postmodern:

Heelas argues that while the New Age Movement rejects ‘cultural metanarratives’ (about changing society) it still has a strong ‘experiential meta narrative  at its core. New agers are united by a self-spirituality metanarrative which claims that if people just strive deeply enough, they will realise absolute truths which will will help them to improve their lives. Their metanarrative is ultimately one of a faith in a radical individualism.

Although there might be different paths to inner-wisdom, New Agers still feel themselves in a position to make value judgments about themselves and others based on these beliefs. They tend take their spiritual beliefs and practices very seriously, and distinguish them as sacred, apart form other areas of their lives. This is far from the frivolous play like attitude normally associated with postmodernism.

Finally, many New Age practices are actually quite old, rooted in ancient traditions. For example, astrology, tarot and even Buddhism and Taoism, while most psycho-therapeutic practices are rooted in modernity.

Ultimately Heelas argues that the New Age movement does not represent a clear break with the past.

 

Explaining the Growth of the New Age Movement…

Steve Bruce points out that the New Age mostly appeals to successful, highly educated, middle class individuals, especially those working in the creative and expressive professions. The kind of individualist beliefs espoused by the New Age Movement fit in well with the world view of such individuals. The doctrine of self-generated success fits their experience of life so far, as they believe they have driven their own success through their own efforts, and New Age practices are a means of achieving even further success.

Bruce further points out that most New Age practices have been stripped of the need for any significant level of self-discipline – all that is required to develop one’s potential is to attend a weekly class, or engage in 20 minutes of yoga or meditation every day. There is no requirement to make any drastic life-changes (like many of the World Rejecting NRMs) and so this fits in well with the busy life styles which most people lead.

In short, Bruce argues that the New Age Movement fits the extremely individualistic nature of late modern societies.

Paul Heelas suggest four reasons why the the New Age Movement has grown in popularity in the Late Modern era:

  1. Modernity has given people a multiplicity of roles, many of which contradict each other, and many people as a result have fragmented identities. The New Age Movement offers people a chance to construct a coherent identity
  2. Consumer culture has created a ‘culture of discontent’ as people fail to find satisfaction in the products and services they consume – the New Age Movement offers an alternative way of seeking perfection, but still offering a choice.
  3. Rapid social changes associated with modernity lead people to seeking security.
  4. The decline of traditional religion has meant people have little alternative.

Ultimately the New Age offers a balance of solutions to those who both experience modernity as an iron cage and a crumbling cage – it offers people freedom, but within a structure they themselves construct.

It also offers people the chance to pursue both ‘utilitarian individualism’ and ‘expressive individualism’, just in different and potentially more satisfying ways than those options offered through consumer culture.

 

Religion and Conflict: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Crusade Against Neoliberalism….

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, seems to be firmly against corporate greed and Tory neoliberal policies which allow Corporations the freedom to exploit workers.

religion social change archbishop.png

His explicitly political stance against mainstream political and economic institutions seems to be a good example of a religious leader getting involved in political conflict.

At the Trade’s Union conference Just last week Welby described zero hours contracts as ‘the reincarnation of an ancient evil’ and accused Amazon of avoiding tax and ‘leaching’ off the public.

The Archbishop seems to be firmly in the ‘Jeremy Corbyn camp’: he has been speaking out against Tory austerity policies since he took up office in 2013. He has consistently criticized modern capitalism and tory welfare cuts; and has previously stated that he wanted to see the payday loan company Wonga put out of business (so at least he’s got something to be happy about!).

Welby probably has a lot of direct experience to draw on: all over the country Church of England churches have been setting up food banks and acting as night shelters for the homeless, effectively playing a role in filling the Tory’s welfare gap.

Relevance to A-level sociology…

This seems to be a great example of a major religious leader standing up for the poor, in the tradition of Liberation Theology.

Potentially this is religion acting as a source of conflict… here Welby is railing explicitly against mainstream political and economic institutions.

This is most definitely NOT an example of religion acting as a conservative force: this is a religious leader demanding radical change.

Final thoughts…. 

There is possibly an element of hypocrisy to Welby’s views: The Church of England itself has shares in Amazon, and even uses zero hours contracts.

This further suggests that Welby’s views might be out of step with the rest of the Church of England. Maybe the views of this one individual are genuine, but maybe he actually has any real power to really bring about any kind of far reaching, radical social change?