A new study explains why women are more likely to believe the Bible is literally true. The study, published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, also found that it is more than just gender that affects a person’s interpretation of the Bible.
According to the research of Baylor University, both men and women who report high levels of closeness to God take the Bible more literally.
Women are more often socialized to experience deep emotional energy when engaging intimately with God, so taking the Bible more literally makes sense because that way God is more like a person, someone you can talk to and who also talks back. —Christopher M. Pieper, Ph.D., co-author
“While previous research has shown that U.S. women are more likely to report biblical literalism than men, our study provides an explanation as to why those gender differences may exist,” said study co-author Christopher M. Pieper, Ph.D.
The study analyzed data from 1,394 respondents in the U.S. on their religious attitudes, behaviors and beliefs. Several questions were given asking about their personal beliefs on the Bible, attachment to God, and their religious proximity-seeking behaviors.
Researchers found that “men are not inherently less capable of intimacy.” The difference between how men and women were socialized when they were young children affected how they see intimacy in relationships. Boys were often taught to be tough and strong, and to hide feelings of vulnerability. On the other hand, girls are raised to embrace their emotions.
“Women are more often socialized to experience deep emotional energy when engaging intimately with God, so taking the Bible more literally makes sense because that way God is more like a person, someone you can talk to and who also talks back,” explains Pieper.
In an interview with PsyPost, study co-author Blake Victor Kent, a research fellow at the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities, said, “We found that while it’s true women take the Bible more literally than men, once attachment to God is accounted for that relationship disappears. So it’s really intimacy with God driving this difference, not gender per se.”