Lauren Sandler in DoubleX:
Last week, a new study confirmed something essential about women, something that refuses to budge, even though many say it’s long past time. Professors at Trinity College in Connecticut analyzed the numbers of Americans unaffiliated to any religion. While the number of male nonbelievers was rocketing, the overall totals were slowed by women hitching themselves to the anchor of faith: “Gender difference is a brake on the growth of the No Religion population,” says the study, which found that 19 percent of men were no longer denizens of a religious America, while only 12 percent of women live outside the faithful fold. In the past, one could say that women tended the hearth, and men participated in the marketplace. But today?
These statistics are consistent with a recent Pew Forum summary of religion in America. In fact, a researcher at Pew told me that studies going back as far as he can remember have shown this discrepancy, and reaching back into history, even prehistory, we find the same story. And yet, major religions—put down your crystals and pocket those pentagrams, ladies—have always favored men. Not a single major faith is led by members of its female flock, and the more deeply adherent a religious group becomes, the less freedom it offers its women, not to mention power. It's hard not to compare women sticking with faith to wives confined to bad marriages: They’re so committed to the institution that they'll willingly shrink under mistreatment just to maintain their own status quo.
Researchers have offered many theories about why women are religious in greater numbers than men.