The Future of Religion: Female Dominated and Private?

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A couple recent news items gives us a glance into what a multi-religious and post-Christian America could look like. First, in honor of Women’s History Month, the Pew Forum re-analyzes data from their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and came up with some interesting results.

“March is Women’s History Month. A new analysis of data from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that women are more religious than men on a variety of measures.”

What does that mean? It could potentially mean a couple things. First, leadership and support roles across the spectrum of belief will be slowly turned over to women out of necessity, secondly, religions that continue to alienate women may find themselves in the same fix as Christian churches in Britain (which are losing 50,000 female members per year).

“…while old men argue about whether women can be bishops, or if gays should be treated like human beings, the women have been leaving in droves to faiths that are more relevant to their lives. You can all do the reproductive math and figure out what happens to a religious tradition with a shortage of women.”

The second news item comes from the New York Times who looks at the work of sociologist Phil Zuckerman. Zuckerman, author of  “Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment” spent 14 months in Scandinavia exploring their overwhelmingly secular and irreligious nature and had some surprising news for those who believe that a (Judeo-Christian) God is necessary for a moral and good society.

Well documented though they may be, these two sets of facts run up against the assumption of many Americans that a society where religion is minimal would be, in Mr. Zuckerman’s words, “rampant with immorality, full of evil and teeming with depravity.” Which is why he insists at some length that what he and his wife and children experienced was quite the opposite: “a society — a markedly irreligious society — that was, above all, moral, stable, humane and deeply good.”… Zuckerman found what he terms “benign indifference” and even “utter obliviousness.” The key word in his description of their benign indifference is “nice.” Religion, in their view, is “nice.” Jesus “was a nice man who taught some nice things.” The Bible “is full of nice stories and good morals, isn’t it?”

So what do these two stories mean? How do they fit together? Well, if women become the power structure and lifeblood of religion in America, and if we do indeed become (slowly) more secular to accomodate an increasingly multi-religious society, it could create an atmosphere that greatly benefits faiths that are comfortable with these developments (and hurt faiths that aren’t). Faiths like the modern Pagan faiths. I’m not saying these changes will create some sort of Pagan utopia, if certain extremist elements feel too threatened it will be far from it, but these trends do seem to be a harbinger of continued growth for our family of faiths (and other religions flexible enough to change with the prevailing winds). I for one welcome our new secular female overlords!