More Women Are Leaving Behind Religious Identities For Something More Spiritual
- Posted: 02/20/2015 4:29 pm EST Updated: 02/20/2015 4:59 pm EST
- (RNS) Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.
And she finds that among her friends — both guys and gals — many are just as spiritually disconnected.
Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.
What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men — away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.
Michaela Bruzzese, 46, is a Mass-every-week Catholic, just like her mother, but she sees few of her Gen X peers in the pews.
“I have women friends who grew up Catholic who think my choice to stay Catholic is like I choose to keep believing in Santa Claus. They just don’t get what is in the church for me,” said Bruzzese.
“For me, Catholicism is a verb — it is the action of being in the world and trying to live the gospel,” said Bruzzese, who teaches theology at a Catholic high school in Albuquerque, N.M. Many of her students go home to parents who no longer observe the faith.
- In 1974, CARA research found 46 percent of men and 45 percent of women considered themselves to be “strong Catholics.” By 2012, both groups had dropped significantly on that question — men to 24 percent and women to 30 percent.
On the rise: Those who call themselves “not very strong” Catholics. That self-description by men climbed to 67 percent in 2012, up from 44 percent 1974. Among women, 57 percent said their faith was “not very strong,” up from 43 percent 40 years ago.
- …Bulkin was born in Indonesia then moved to Nebraska when she was 11. Today, her mother, a self-proclaimed atheist, attends a Unitarian Universalist congregation. But Bulkin, a consultant in Washington, D.C., is more inclined to use her Sunday morning for a calming yoga class.
- “Sometimes I do say I’m spiritual but not religious, but it depends on your definition,” said Bulkin. “I’m more an agnostic when I think about it. But I spend zero time thinking about it.”
Her male friends who do claim a religious identity are more culturally attached than religious, she said. “I know more girls who are religious Christians who struggle to find a guy who is the same.”
- …Woolever also points to the marriage rate as an influence in religiosity, if not necessarily spirituality. “It’s married women who go to church and they take their kids. Certainly single women go to church, too, but at a much lower rate,” said Woolever.
- Protestant scholar and author Phyllis Tickle, 80, who has observed American spirituality for decades, also cited the changing cultural context of women’s lives.
- “In evangelical and even in some progressive parts of Christianity, women are getting very mixed signals,” said Tickle. “There is a view that a woman should be subordinate on Sunday, equal to men the five workdays of the week and Saturday is up for grabs. She’s told at home and at church the man is to be the ‘servant leader,’ but then she goes to work where she has to be as tough as the guys to succeed.”
- Tickle called it “religiously imposed schizophrenia. My generation didn’t have the pressure to be the perfect wife and the perfect professional. It doesn’t leave you any time for spirituality — or any internal time at all. Whatever the female of the 22nd century is going to be spiritually, we just don’t know,” Tickle said.