In Brief

Women 'more likely' to believe in god and an afterlife than men

Study highlights a religious gender divide and reveals that Muslims have the 'strongest' faith in the UK

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Women are almost two-thirds more likely to believe in God and the afterlife than men, a study of British adults has found.

When asked if they believed in heaven or hell, 61 per cent of women said there was definitely or probably an afterlife compared with just 35 per cent of men.

Fifteen per cent of female respondents said they were sure that God existed, compared to just nine per cent of men. More than half of all men classed themselves as either atheist or agnostic.

"Quite generally we find, across different times and places that women are more religious, but exactly why that is the case remains the subject of debate," Professor David Voas from the University of Essex, who analysed the data, told Daily Telegraph.

He said there were two main schools of thought, "on the one hand to do with the different social roles and functions of the sexes and on the other more like genetic dispositions, it is a nature: nurture problem".

Among those who believe in god, women were much more likely to be sure of their beliefs than men, and among non-believers, men were much more likely to be definite than women.

More than a quarter of all of those surveyed fell into the category of "fuzzy believers"; people who believe in a vague and unnamed "higher power" or those who believed in God "for some of the time".

The study also revealed that Muslims have the "strongest" faith in Britain, with the fewest doubts about the existence of God and the afterlife.

The research, published by the UCL Institute of Education, is part of an extensive study which has been monitoring 9,000 people born in 1970 for more than 25 years.

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