Critically examine the relationship between gender, religious participation and religious organisations.

Essay by Franual December 2004

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While it is difficult to know precisely whether or not religious beliefs differ in relation to males and females, it is evident that religious practice and participation does show relatively clear gender differences. This is true across all forms of religious organisation. Almost two-thirds of churchgoers are women. However, as with social factors like class and age, it is clear that there is no overall pattern of male / female religious attendance, since there are evident differences between denominations. For example: For the Anglican Church, the male to female ratio is approximately half and half. For all Christian churches the male female ratio is approximately twenty to eighty percent.

While women are more likely than men to be involved in religious organisations, it is relatively clear that, in hierarchical terms, men tend to dominate the most significant positions in any religious organisation. This tends to hold true across the majority of the world's major religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

In most religions, women tend to be portrayed in terms of their "traditional" social characteristics. The "Virgin Mary" in Christian religion is a good example here. Although a powerful figure as the Mother of Christ, her power, is ideological rather than political, the virtues of purity, chastity, motherhood and so forth are personified through her as ideals for womanhood.

In relation to non-Christian religions, Giddens "Sociology" notes:

"Females appear as important figures in the teachings of some Buddhist orders...but on the whole Buddhism, like Christianity, is an overwhelmingly male-created institution dominated by a patriarchal power structure in which the feminine is most closely associated with the secular, powerless, profane and imperfect.".

An obvious example drawn from Christianity might be Mankind's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the result of female duplicity.

"According to the book of Genesis,