At my talk for the Seattle Atheists on Saturday (which went fabulously, thanks to those who showed up!), an audience member posed a very interesting question. Why are women more likely to be religious if the vast majority of religions are so sexist? It’s a question that’s been posed before, with some of the less satisfactory answers saying women are simply hard-wired to be superstitious (with no real evidence backs that up). I have my own hypothesis::

When you’re part of a sexist, patriarchal religion, often the only source of power you have is in raising a family or helping with social events (cooking, event planning, making sure the Church pot luck runs smoothly). You aren’t supposed to be the bread winner or waste time on other hobbies when you have children to raise. Because of this, leaving your religion makes you lose the only source of power you ever had. You no longer have the social structure of the church, and often times you are alienated from your family.

I don’t claim to be the first person to come up with this idea, but it’s very important that we talk about this. If this is correct, it illustrates the importance of having friendly godless social networks as safety nets for women leaving their religion. Groups based on debates, speakers, and intellectual sparring are awesome, but sometimes what you really just need is a friend.* And while I personally approve of pub nights, they’re not somewhere a women with children can easily visit.

But I’m basically a life long atheist, so I don’t even have personal experience to back up my claims. So I leave it to my readers:

Ladies, how difficult was it for you to leave organized religion? What helped you come out as an atheist? Or if you haven’t come out, attended meetings, etc, what would encourage you to do so? Do you think this hypothesis is the main reason why so many more women are religious, or is it something else?

*Obviously not saying that women are inherently uninterested in intellectual discourse about atheism. The women who don’t need the comfort of a social group are already leaving religion and participating in atheism – this is a step to get the other women more involved.