(Lack of) religiosity in the LGBT community

I want to point you to a very interesting post by Greta Christina on a recent Gallup poll that finds that members of the LGBT community are less religious than others. A lot less. Almost half of them describe themselves as ‘not religious’.

Not only that, the gender difference disappears as well. Greta draws the following conclusion:

I hope this survey puts the last nail in the coffin of the evo-psych explanations. Because among LGBT Americans, there is almost no gender difference in how religious we are. Among male LGBT Americans, 25% are highly religious; 26% are moderately religious; and 49% are not religious. Among female LGBT Americans, 24% are highly religious; 31% are moderately religious; and 46% are not religious. That’s a tiny, tiny difference. Whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it disappears among LGBT Americans. Unless you’re going to argue that queers are just born this way — that queer women’s brains are born radically different from straight women’s brains, in a way that somehow links sexual orientation and/or gender identity with religiosity — you now have to accept that whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it’s not inborn.

To my mind, the lack of a gender difference should be the default position so the LGBT results do not require an explanation. The question is why there is gender gap in the non-LGBT population where women are more religious than men by about a 10-point margin.

I have no idea why this might be so.


  1. Sea Change says

    My father who died an atheist, he was raised Catholic during the Depression (1920s-1930s). “Going to church” was a gender-identifier to him. A man who was a man went to church -[i]maybe[/]- on Christmas and Easter and that was all. One reason to be married in a day and age when everyone was supposed to have been going to church, you could skip out and your wife could do the “go to church” for you every week, if she wanted.

    He cared so little about his faith at the time, that he married my Lutheran mother by a Methodist minister and their decision to raise us all Lutheran was more that that was the closest church and that you sent your kids to a Sunday School of some kind if you wanted people to think well of you, than any other reason. Plus it got all the kids out of the house at least once a week.

    For this social purpose (everyone does it, so to get along so should you) it was enough then for the studly man to say in any random conversation that required it, that your wife or your kids went.

  2. Ed says

    Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that it’s generally thought, even by not so religious people, that religion is good for children. Teaches them basic morality or whatnot. Women are often the primary caretakers of their children and might be more likely to be the ones to take them to services. This would increase their chances of getting involved in the religious community themselves. Hang around a religious establishment and you’ll be invited to participate in various things.

    Another reason could be that men are, explicitly or implicitly, more likely to be encouraged to assert themselves, trust their own judgement, and demand respect for their personal decisions even when they choose something that others disagree with.

    Women are often socialized to be more accommodating and go with the flow. So in a situation where this kind of sex-specific socialization is going on, men may simply encounter less resistance from their religious family and friends if they decide that religion isn’t for them.

    LGBT people have more experience than average questioning and challenging the majority`s expectations regarding what it means to be a man or woman. Being honest to oneself about one’s identity and coming out of the closet takes courage and the ability to face rejection, and someone able to handle that can usually be assertive about other matters of personal autonomy like the freedom to participate in worship or not.

    Also, let’s not get so enthusiastic about this study as to marginalize the half that are religious. The American LGBT community still sounds more religious than the overall population of most Eoropean countries.

  3. Brian E says

    Just a thought (if that) on why women might be more religious is as protection from men, or misogyny. This might be a long bow drawn, but women in all societies (perhaps less, but it’s a difference of degree, not kind) get the short end of the stick. Now, if a women is part of a religious community, she still gets the short end of the stick, no doubt, but there is a payoff of sorts. A married, or clerical (nun) woman is off limits mostly from depredations of other men. If they play the role, good mother or virginal nun/single women, they’re less likely to be treated as a potential sexual conquest. It’s why a girl will sometimes go out even in secular society with a wedding ring or says she’s married to avoid unwanted male attention.

    Another thought is community. If you’re raising kids, having support that will be there is very handy. Religions do community well, even if the cost is othering and abandoning those who reject the communities particular creed. And even if at first a person doesn’t believe a creed, they often do after a while of immersion….

  4. aashiq says

    Being gay means being an outsider, for at least some part of your life. Outsiders have to think for themselves, they do not have the option of mindless acceptance.

    When you think for yourself, religion is silly.

  5. Chiroptera says

    The question is why there is gender gap in the non-LGBT population where women are more religious than men by about a 10-point margin.

    I have no idea why this might be so.

    I think that question has been partially answered: it’s the opiate of the people. Even when it may blatantly support inequality and oppression, it also helps ease the pain with its promise that eventually injustice will be avenged and that the believer will find happiness. And there is someone who loves you and this is all part of the plan.

    The question is what is the difference between groups that use religion in their struggle for equality and justice and those who end up finding it irrelevant.

  6. says

    Given how so many religions attack LGBT people — often viciously — really, is it any wonder? Yes, there are affirming congregations, and some denominations are markedly better than others, but there is still a vast quantity of anti-gay rhetoric out there, and nearly all of it is wrapped up in holy scripture. People generally want to avoid things that actively seek their destruction.

  7. Mano Singham says


    I don’t think it is a surprise that the LGBT community is less religious, for all the reasons you give. The question is the source of the gender gap in the non-LGBT community, while there is none for them.

  8. says


    Women are often the primary caretakers of their children

    This is a significant factor, although it has little to do with the reasons you mention. In practical terms, churches offer a rudimentary replacement for a social safety net for members who publicly toe their line. For instance, many have associated food banks, and provide networks whereby things like childcare can be arranged. For parents, especially single parents, at or near the poverty line, this is a major, major thing (because social programs in the U.S. are underfunded and deeply dysfunctional, as is the U.S. economy, hence there’s a whole lot of Americans living in poverty). This is known to the churches, and is why they’re prone to saying that liberals want to ‘replace god with government’; they know full well that people who aren’t living lives of quiet desperation won’t swallow their bullshit in exchange for occasional crumbs.

  9. Ed says

    Oh I definitely agree that a lot of religious leaders want churches and religious charities to be the center of any assistance given to people in need. A functioning welfare state would free people from feudal-like ties of dependence on private organizations and people. Assistance in times of crisis would be a public service everyone who meets appropriate criteria would have access to.

    But I’ve also noticed families with kids, regardless of socioeconomic position, drawn to churches as places of supposed wholesome family activities, with mothers being more active in it if that family is one where mothers are seen as having more parenting responsibility.

    But you’re right; poor people, especially with children, are much more dependent on maintaining ties to churches.

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