Why more young women than ever before are skipping church (article from Wash Post)
I wish articles would stop focusing on “young” women. Women over the age of 30, 40, 50 and older are also dropping out of church in droves, and one reason among many are the restrictive gender roles a lot of conservative churches continue to uphold as being “God’s design” or as being “biblical” (but which are not biblical).
Here are excerpts:
- Growing up in southeastern Indiana, Hannah Hunt questioned religion: Why did church lessons contradict what she learned in public school?
She attended services once each Wednesday and twice each Sunday. She saw no female leaders in the nondenominational Church of Christ, the centerpiece of her upbringing. The Bible, she said, called for her to be submissive to men.
Her textbooks introduced her to Gloria Steinem.
- “At church, the woman would be the person in the background,” said Hunt, 24. “As long as I can remember, I would think: This is ridiculous. I’m not that person.”
Of course, many young women still embrace religion. But Hunt is far from a generational anomaly.
- … Teenage girls appear to be disproportionately driving the attitude shift.
- …Today’s young adults, they found, aren’t as pious as their generational precursors. They’re less likely, on average, to pray or attend religious services. They’re more likely to value individualism and ditch societal expectations.
- Twice as many high school seniors in 2010, for example, reported “never” attending religious services than those in 1976 — 21 percent, up from about 10 percent…
- A recent Pew survey found that millennials, born between roughly 1980 and 1996, are more likely than any previous generation to say they’re unaffiliated with religion:…
- …The majority, however, still practice some form of religion. They’re just “significantly less religiously oriented” than their parents and grandparents, the study said.
The trend is especially pronounced among girls and young women. They are still more likely to say they go to church or pray than boys and young men. But the gender gap in religious participation has in recent years significantly shrunk.
- …“Given shifts away from traditional female roles, females may have been affected more than males,” the study team wrote.
- …“Many religions have a very patriarchal tradition,” Twenge said. “Even for those with female clergy it’s often a recent development. That’s still very much in the minority.”
Beyond anecdotal evidence, it’s tough to explain the trends. Religion can provide social support and a sense of community. Followers may find purpose and peace in the world’s exalted texts. However, the authors theorize, “if religion is perceived as a dominating force that restricts freedom and enforces social rules, this will be linked with a decline in religious involvement.”
Before she could articulate why, Hunt sensed she did not fit into the gender roles prescribed by her religion. She thought women should be able to use birth control without judgment. She wasn’t in any rush to get married. She wanted to decide the terms of her life.