The traditional Jewish teaching that communal daily prayer is a male responsibility turns out to be statistically significant. According to a new study by the Pew Research Foundation, Israeli men are more likely to report engaging in daily prayer than are Israeli women — and Israel is the only country where men are the daily prayer champions.
The Pew study draws on data from more than 2,500 censuses and surveys taken over the last few years in 192 countries. It found that women generally are more religious than men. An estimated 83.4 percent of women worldwide identify with a faith group, compared to 79.9 percent of men, according to the study released last week and titled “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World.”
Women in Christian countries report that they go to weekly religious services more often than men do, but the opposite is true in majority Muslim countries and in Israel. This is due in large part to religious norms that prioritize male worship participation in Muslim and Orthodox Jewish societies, the study found.
In the 84 countries for which data were available, on average women reported praying every day at a rate 8 percentage points higher than men did. In 43 of these countries, more women than men pray every day. In all the other countries except Israel, roughly equal numbers of men and women pray every day.
Israel also is an outlier in the gender gap on the question of whether respondents considered religion very important to them personally. In 36 of 84 countries, more women than men said religion was very important to them, and in 46 countries roughly equal proportions of each sex said religion was very important, the study found. Only in Israel and Mozambique did more men than women say religion is very important to them.
Among Christians around the world, women are 7 percentage points more likely than men to attend religious services weekly. They are also more likely to consider religion important, 10 percent more likely to pray daily, and slightly more likely to believe in angels, heaven, or hell.
Among Muslims around the world, men are 28 percentage points more likely than women to attend religious services weekly, but women are 2 percent more likely to engage in daily prayer. Among Muslims, women and men are about equal in their beliefs about angels, heaven, hell, and the importance of religion.
In Israel, men say they attend religious services weekly at a rate 19 percentage points higher than women. Among American Jews, men say they attend religious services weekly at a rate 3 percent higher than women, the study found.
The Pew study found some other key differences between Israeli and American Jews. In America, women are 8 percentage points more likely than men to say that religion is very important to them. In Israel, Jewish men are 9 percent more likely than women to make that assertion.
The report did not state which groups’ prayers were more likely to be answered.
JTA Wire Service/Larry Yudelson