British Cohort Study Reveals More Women Keep Faith Than Men in the UK

British Cohort Women Keep Faith More than Men

A recent study conducted among middle aged Britons has revealed that women are approximately two thirds more likely to believe in God than men are. While agnosticism and atheism have now emerged as the majority creed among British males, two thirds of British females still believe in the concept of heaven and afterlife.

The study, that is comprised of as many as 9,000 people, now in their 40s, has been carried out for the last 25 years and among its many findings, British Muslims have proven to have the strongest faith, followed by Christians from small, evangelical churches. In contrast, only one in six affiliates of the Church of England or the larger protestant congregations say they believe in God without a doubt. Only one third Roman Catholics say the same as opposed to 88 percent Muslims and 71 percent evangelical Christians.

However, the findings of the study also pointed towards a major confusion. One fourth of those participating in the study changed their minds over time about whether they thought they had a religious upbringing. Over a quarter of those sampled fell into a category called ‘fuzzy believers’ who say they believe in an abstract higher power but not in a particular deity or God or a particular God sometimes.

The study also found that faith in God and the notions of heaven and hell no longer go hand in hand for one fourth of those classified as agnostics that still have hope for life after death and one third of religious believers that completely reject the possibility of an afterlife.

The significant divide between the two sexes on the question of faith draws attention to the decades-long battle within Great Britain’s main churches and other faiths that have been debating over the role of women in leadership posts. This striking divide surfaced in the latest findings of the 1970 British Cohort Study that was first published in a journal called Longitudinal and Life Course Studies. The study has been observing the same group of people from mainland Britain, who were born in 1970 and 16 years of age when first included in the survey.

The study found that 54 percent men can be classified as agnostics or atheists as opposed to only 34 percent women who can be classified as the same. Those figures included 30 percent men surveyed, who claim they did not believe in God and another 24 percent, who say they do not know for sure and have no definite way of finding out. On the other hand, only 15 percent women surveyed say they are sure that there is no God.

On the other end of the spectrum, 15 percent women say they are confident of the existence of a deity compared to 9 percent men who said the same. Overall, when various answers were combined, 38 percent women said they believe in God despite some doubts as opposed to 24 percent men.

When asked about heaven and hell, 61 percent women said they were certain about an afterlife as opposed to 35 percent men.

Professor David Voas of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, who analyzed the data said, “Quite generally we find, across different times and places that women are more religious but exactly why that is the case remains the subject of debate. The two main schools of thought are on the one hand to do with the different social roles and functions of the sexes and on the other more like genetic dispositions, it is a nature: nurture problem.”

Photo Credits: News Oresund [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons & Telegraph UK

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