Gender, Fear-Inspiring Beliefs and Church Attendance
Social Values and the Profiles of Religiosity

Alan Webster, Psychologist and Presbyter, and Paul Perry, Sociologist Values Researchers



Working through the NZ Values Study data we noticed that gender and fear-inspiring beliefs were linked to markedly different patterns of social values and beliefs. A little research showed that remarkably little was written or known about either gender effects on church-based religiosity or fearful beliefs, and still less about the various combinations of them. Interest in gender generally and in the nature of religiosity led to a decision to search out our social values data to see if there were useful patterns for understanding contemporary religious experience in New Zealand.
The significance of the question of social values and religion is underlined by a recent statement by David Martin, UK, leading sociologist of religion:
Evangelicalism restricts religion to the private, personal sector, and lacks an overall social vision for the public arena.
(Quoted from John Thornley, Touchstone, February 2003, reporting on the international conference The Future of Christianity in the West, Otago University, December, 2002.)
In world terms, there has never been a time when conflict around religion has been more dangerous and critical. In that context, it behoves us to think about the place that religion plays in the dynamics of our own society.
It will appear in this article that the basic faith of a clear majority of church attenders is evangelical conservative. Does that mean, in Martin's terms, that there is little foundation in orthodox Christianity in New Zealand for a social vision? Does the answer have to confront the dominant faith of New Zealanders? Could the insistence of many on a social vision turn out, as many evangelicals fear, to be a contradiction to the essential interventionist-God of theistic Christianity itself?Addressing as it does the impact of gender and fear-inspiring belief on social values - or visions - , this article shows that social values cut across both the secular and the religious world. This makes religion inherently political, both in itself and in its impact.
The basic approach of this article is to define gender, fear-inspiring beliefs and social values within the data of the 1990s wave of the New Zealand Study of Values, a survey of a scientific sample of 1201 New Zealand residents.
Gender is easily defined simply as self-designation as male or female sex. This in itself has varied social expressions arising from both biology and culture.
Fearful beliefs are, for purposes of this article, defined as stated belief in hell.
Attendance is defined as self-professed frequency of attendance at religious worship or other religious activity. Two categories - high attendance (at least once a week) and low attendance are used. The break at weekly attendance defines religiosity better than monthly.Social values are defined as the values-responses of a scientific sample of New Zealand adults to the more than 300 items of the New Zealand Study of Values.
The article is two-edged: it portrays New Zealand adults in terms of religious belief and practice and the patterns of values associated with those beliefs; it also addresses the predicament of the church as it tries to cope with falling numbers and the implications of minority status for mission and ministry.
The already existent data suggested the church's need to know its market. It was also a question of how well or not the church was fitting its message and ministry to the people it professed to be serving. The practical theology question was whether there were systematic matches and/or mismatches between church message and intended recipients and what the implications might be for church strategy. Though that question requires further research, it was felt that this study might be a useful first step. A caveat is in order: the fact that a church might not match its message to the thinking and wishes of its members ought not to be taken to suggest that such a match is necessarily appropriate. Church strategy cannot be simply a matching process.
Gender effects
The gender-effects question recalls the historical events in Judaism-Christianity involving subordination of women in patriarchal society. No attempt is made here to rehearse that vast historical literature. Patriarchy is regularly portrayed as the villain and cultural history is replete with examples of it. Jungian thought might suggest the broad assumption that males and females carry in their archaic memory the message of male superiority and female inferiority. How that might have affected church roles is unclear, but in the `mainstream' churches, parallel roles of male priestly authority and subordinate female serving-helping roles such as a female, non-sacramental diaconate are within recent history - and are the norm within the Catholic tradition. The present study might well have addressed the hypothesis that women's roles in the church remain predominantly those of secondary service.
All such role-definitions are politically charged. Warren Wagar, Emeritus Professor of History and eminent futurist in the State University of New York, refers, in a post to the World Systems Network, to the "intrinsically political" nature of religion. In a current debate on the threatened war in Iraq, Wagar writes
(religion) is not just about individuals. It propagates visions of the properly ordered and strives to bring every community it infests into line with these visions. Nine times outof ten, it preaches hierarchy, obedience to authority, intolerance, and repression of basic liberties.
Whether that figure is quite correct may be questioned, but Wagar speaks for many thousands of Americans and others in the world when he continues
The fundamentalist President of the United States in his State of the Union address just last night told us that God is on our side and that he (Bush) knows exactly what constitutes "evil".
"So", adds Wagar, "does Mullah Omar". ( )
These strictures about religion's support for the ruling sectors of society should not deny the contribution of religion to social cohesion, but religion nevertheless has perpetuated systems of subordination by reconciling classes, castes and secondary sectors to their lot. The proof of that is that, despite their historical subordination, women have felt fulfilled in religion, ie they have been reconciled to their role.
Women have supplied a disproportionate part of the `human cohesion' upon which survival of society and the church depends. In today's more equal society, caring and supportive roles carried out still disproportionately by women but much more valued than before, bring greater fulfilment, thus strengthening the satisfaction of women in the church. This despite the fact of denial of the ordination of women in large sectors of the church, even as close as Australian Anglicanism. So long as men have preserved their traditional hierarchical prerogatives in the church, they have not been too concerned that women predominate in the day-to-day work of people-ministry of the church. To the outside view this still defines church as women's business. The visible image of the church is of a women's interest.
Some of the numerical superiority of women in the church is explainable by differential mortality of the sexes. It is apparent, however, that the church is seen by dominant male culture as a soft, female concern. The contrast is that of a male culture of toughness, independence, business know-how, practical commonsense and self-reliance with an image of the church as being critical or uninformed in the world of power, capital and acquisition and as being on the side of the weak, the sick and the poor, a woman's perspective in stereotypic terms. In other words, it's not necessarily just a greater congeniality of religion for women but also an incongeniality of religion for men as the `residual legatees of tough-minded colonialism' that brings about today's clear imbalance.
The manly Englishman
In this argument, religion does not reinforce male social images. World scholars are beginning to write about "colonial masculinity" and the "manly Englishman" as the cultural factor behind the construction of British Colonies. Without the image of the colonial male, the delusion of benefitting the `natives' by imposing Western culture would have been less likely. It is out of this background that the incongeniality of women's call for compassion and caring may be understood. Colonial man's keywords have more to do with power, acquisition and competition than with people's equality of worth. Subjugated males in the colonised countries have all too often imitated the worst attitudes of the colonists.To ape the white man, preferably in a uniform or a dark suit, has been for many the height of enhanced self-importance.
Females and verbal facility
Hidden within the persona of male disregard for religious talk is also a possible effect of language facility. Females are generally more at home with verbal interaction and more skilful in use of language. Their school achievements and interests place them ahead of males in the language and verbal agility area - and currently in virtually all academic subjects. In New Zealand, with the poorer accomplishment of males in verbal expression and communication, and a preference for practical problem-solving, it is to be expected that men will have limited patience with such inactive, verbal and abstract interests as are found in a church tradition that emphasises talk and concepts.Before the Protestant reformation with its focus on intellectual grasp of a credal faith, use of symbols and images provided a way of communicating that met all classes and both sexes more equally.
Biological roots of gender differences?
There are those who hold that women's traditional roles in society come from evolutionary biological roots. This argument is angrily criticised by others as conceding some `naturalness' to what has been constructed by millennia of oppression. However that may be, it may be recognised that a lot that churches are engaged with calls for `feminine' values or sensitivities. The theoretical debate over environmental vs `natural' sources of women's nurturing and service roles may never be resolved but the more serious question is about the compatibility of church activities with the culture of men.
Fear-inspiring beliefs
With gender still a powerful cultural presence in the church, the additional effect of fear-inspiring beliefs could be expected to be specific to the sexes.`Belief in hell' may be expected to have different cogency for men and women. Many women who confess their unworthiness in credalistic liturgies may be little aware of the fact that credal religion, with its elaboration of correct postures before a majestic male God, is largely a male invention. Belief in hell is interpretable as just one piece of the male-contrived web of entrapment based upon the dogma of a diseased humanity.
The question arises of course as to whether belief in hell and punishment is right, desirable or in any way well-designed for either men or women. It is arguably the original source of the politicization of religion - fear as a powerful instrument of self-denigration and control. Feminist theologian Grace Jantzen (1995) argues forcibly that the originally male pattern of dogmas about salvation, initially part of patriarchal control, overlooks major alternative biblical themes of growth and flourishing, indeed of original blessing as a garden. She calls for attention to the powerful place of contemporary environmental rather than historical conditions of individual spiritual development, necessitating a radical re-thinking of the meaning of salvation as a generative process. Jantzen decries the traditional self-deprecation imposed by male authority in the orthodox liturgies as quite unsuitable to the nature of women.
A suitable doctrine?
The present article favours the position that such self-deprecation is unsuitable not only to women but to the modern mind and as a worldview for men. There is increasing evidence around the world of the harm done to human relations through men assuming divinely endowed hierarchical power over women and children. To be a vicar of such a God would be unimaginable to many. The fact of women aspiring to the power of vicars or their equivalent may itself in specific instances be little more than the oppressed aspiring to the unequal power of the oppressor. In a time when images of violence flood the media and the human mind, the use by either sex of religious symbols intermixed with dogma of power and punishment, could be thought to reinforce fearful worldviews rather than to offer any vision of hope.
Taking all of this into account, the purpose of this study is to tease out the comparative profiles of beliefs and social values of the genders in the context of fear-inspiring beliefs. We have found, and will show, that both gender and fearful beliefs, taken separately, identify a substantial range of differences, both in social values and in religiosity. What the combined patterns of attendance, gender and fearful belief will reveal, within the limits of the Values Study data, is patterns of values and beliefs stemming from the interaction of fear, gender and religious attendance.
This procedure cannot be pretended to produce a complete taxonomy of New Zealand religiosity, as it confines its indicators to certain beliefs and social values. It does not attempt to explore religious practices of the sexes, nor the psychology of religious experience. It explores differences between patterns in terms of a selection from over 300 value questions. The result is a New Zealand profiling of social values in a framework of religion-secularity and individualism-communalism.
The Churchgoers and Belief in Hell
Of course, most modern people, it is widely assumed, have long ago discarded medieval dogma like hell. With it, it is thought, has gone a whole pile of supernaturalistic beliefs, such as Life after Death, the Second Coming, and the Final Judgement. The question about the church is, What place does the worldview involving a hell have in modern society?
Out of the 1201 people who responded to our New Zealand Study of Values, 316, or 26%, said they believed in hell.
That belief, on the part of a good one in four of the adult population, not only supposes a medieval universe but it means accepting at some level a vengeful God, who has to have blood-sacrifice and a death-payment to satisfy his holy anger and who, without some claim being made upon that redeeming act, punishes people for ever for their sins, consigning them to a place in the universe which cosmologists cannot locate. An elaborate set of metaphysical mysteries enables people to escape this fate - such things as making sacrifices, saying the right words about Jesus, and having a holy person sprinkle water on you. Most of these things entail enormous power in the hands of a priesthood.
The view of God entailed in belief in hell and the rest of the medieval nightmare is itself perhaps sufficient explanation for the increasing failure of the church to attract modern minds. It may also help explain why more than half of those who feel they are religious don't attend worship.
But the force of the average of 26% of our national sample believing in hell shrinks dramatically against the 63% of weekly attenders and 73% of more-than-once-a-week attenders who believe in hell. (A significantly lesser 34% of monthly attenders believe in hell. This fact justifies our making weekly attendance the cutting point for this analysis.)
What causes devoted church attenders to hold these beliefs to a degree far out of kilter with the general population? Reasons asserted by some radical critics include that clergy are often afraid or unable to present alternative beliefs. And some, so it is said, deliberately maintain these beliefs as necessary lies to ensure their jobs! Putting such outrage aside, it has to be recalled that those who attend church regularly are exposed to a constant diet of self-denigration - yes, even within the ever-so-polite Anglican liturgy, if taken literally.
This remarkable association of belief in hell with attendance suggests a powerful motivation for religious participation. The underlying view of God is presumably that `He' is pleased to have people denigrate themselves before `Him', not just once, but daily or weekly. The God they worship has nothing better to do than to hear his dearest beings obsessing on their failures.These mental postures are presumably seen to satisfy some God-hunger for our prostration and for being told repeatedly (do we think `He' has a bad memory?) that we are abjectly grateful not to have been accorded the punishment we so richly deserve.
That being so, we will, it seems, be eager to placate this desire on God's part and will as a result feel sure, till next time, that we have restored our image as acceptable or at least as duly self-hating persons in the eyes of God. In other words, we will feel justified. (We put aside the thought that this use of time and energy for confession of unworthiness and repetitive orations to God could be a priestly trick designed to make it unlikely that we will have time or wit to ask what else God might be interested in having us do. Notice also that this self-denunciation can manage without an ethic.)
Repetition of that feeling of relief will thus be self-reinforcing, even addictive. In other words, the resultant self-approval as a properly penitent person makes the process self-perpetuating. Nevertheless, the numbers who are so habituated are decreasing. Men, especially, though conceivably bigger sinners, and thus more due for some prostration, seem to have limited patience with the `mumbo-jumbo'.The power of the ritual clearly depends on initial indoctrination with the dogma, an indoctrination which is now experienced by fewer and fewer members of our society. But belief in hell seems to be its residual psychological mechanism - one which appears able to survive vestigeally long after religious habits have reached extinction.
To put it in terms of primordial human drives, as understood by Nietsche (1990), the unknown is frightening; it brings a sense of danger; we instinctively grasp for explanations so that the unknown will be explained and the stress be alleviated. Any explanation will do. In the present case, hell is the concept of the fearful unknown; an angry God is its explanation and religion is its resolution. Non-religious solutions such as social mission and activism are adopted for the same reasons: they simply offer more down-to-earth explanations and relieve distress in more practical ways.
What does the Values Research Say?
Research discussed in Webster (2001a) in a chapter on religion in New Zealand shows that fear-inspiring beliefs are powerful enough to be reflected in national differences and are related, across nations, to differences in political systems, governance, and such personal qualities as authoritarian leadership. (See also Webster 2001b, for a briefer version)
What Procedure is Now Proposed?
We here develop more fully the question as to the effects of gender and fear of hell, in combination with attendance, upon religious beliefs, values and social attitudes.
Four steps are taken:
  • First, we check the stability of data on religious commitment and experience across the years of the Values Study, 1985, 1989, and 1998.
  • Second, we list the effects of gender upon beliefs, values and social patterns.
  • Third, we list the effects of fearful beliefs upon beliefs, values and social patterns.
  • Finally, we examine the combined effects of attendance, gender and fearful belief. To do so, we sort the respondents into eight combinations of attendance, belief in hell, and gender and compare their beliefs and values.
This gives us eight categories:percentages of
the national sample
M1. Male, high attendance, hell-believing
M2. Male, high attendance, hell-disbelieving
M3. Male, low attendance, hell-believing
M4. Male, low attendance, hell-disbelieving
F1. Female, high attendance, hell-believing
F2. Female, high attendance, hell-disbelieving
F3. Female, low attendance, hell-believing
F4. Female, low attendance, hell-disbelieving
With the groups formed by these eight categories, we were in a position to look for differences in beliefs and values.To do this, the frequency of any selected value or belief for a group was compared with all seven other groups taken as a whole. In other words, how does this group compare with the rest? For the statistically inclined, the differences were tested for significance and only significant differences or those beyond 20% were adopted for the resultant profiles.
[We point out that so far as we know, this is a unique analysis of fear, gender and religiosity.This makes it relevant to sociology.The hope is that it will signal important issues for a modern church mission.]

1. A Comparison of Religious Variables in the 1985, 1989 and 1998 Surveys

Denomination Chosen:
Anglican: declined from 28% to 22% of total
Presbyterian: declined from 19% to 16%
Roman Catholic: remained steady at 14%
Methodist: remained steady at 4%
Baptist: remained steady at nearly 3%
Brethren: increased from 0.72% to 2.2%
Ratana: increased from 0.72% to 8.7% (reflecting better Maori sampling and possibly an increasing identification of Maori with a Maori faith)
Other Christian: remained steady at 7%
Other: increased from 2% to 4%
Church Attendance: (defined as at least once a month)
Decreased slightly from 24% to 22% over the 15 years
Belief about God:
There is a personal God: steady at 35% to 36%
There is some sort of spirit or life-force: up from 36% in 1985, to 41% in 1998
How important is God in your life?
Very important: 1985,42% 1998, 45%
Oflittle or no importance: 38% 37%
How often do you think about the meaning and purpose of life?
Often: 1985 81%, 1989 86%, 1998 85%
The data show a credible stability of religious views in New Zealand, but also variations that can be seen as real social change. The main change is in the decline of the mainline, non-Catholic churches. Figures overall are relatively low, including the `Other Christian' which embraces both sects and Pentecostalist/Fundamentalist. The latter are thought by experts to have `plateaued'.
Replacements for the aging mainstream congregations are not easily seen. But the continued numbers experiencing great importance of God in life suggest a greater vitality than some would credit. The church may not be quite the helpless victim of implacable demographics that we sometimes proclaim. (However, see Ian Harris, 2002, in References).

2. Gender Differences in Selected Beliefs and Values

This is the first of the two major single-item comparisons. It was decided to base the comparison on males, not for reasons of bias but men represent more of a `problem' for evangelism. In other words, a market problem.
This list then is of the main values and beliefs in the Values Study on which males differ significantly from females. The list is in order of strength of significance of differences between the genders.
Males, compared with females, were more likely to:
  • Express greater dislike of homosexuals as neighbours
  • Express greater dislike of people with a criminal record as neighbours
  • Emphasise increased technological development rather than greater emphasis on family life as a good thing for the future of our society
  • Believe that in the home, children should learn to work hard
  • Belong to a sports or recreational organisation
  • Believe that a democratic political system is better
Males were less likely to:
  • Believe in a life after death
  • Believe that people have a soul
  • Believe in heaven
  • Believe that a child should learn independence in the home
  • Have confidence in the women's movement
  • Believe a lesser emphasis on money in the future would be a good thing
  • To see themselves as `a religious person'
  • Believe in a personal God
  • See being a housewife as fulfilling
  • Be an active member of a church
  • Strongly favour increase in police powers
Summary Male Profile as Compared with Female:
The religious belief items show consistently less presence of supernaturalistic belief on the part of males.There is a traditionalism in moral viewpoints and a relative intolerance toward deviation from traditional male identity. Accordingly there is less tolerance of the challenge toward male tradition on the part of the women's movement.
In the same vein, children are viewed in a more disciplinary way in the family but paradoxically are not so much to be encouraged to be respectful and tolerant of other people. Children are, however, to be obedient and hardworking, rather than divergent or independent. A recognizably practical approach of males to life as seen in technological development, money, consumption and sporting activities sits alongside an aversion to too much police surveillance.

3. Effects of Fear-Inspiring Beliefs: beliefs and values in which hell-believers differ significantly from the rest

(The items listed are at least 20% more likely in the hell-believers than the rest. The top seven in the list are more than 40% more likely in the hell-believers)
Hell-believers exceeded the rest in these beliefs and social values:
  • Life after death
  • Thepersonal nature ofGod
  • Sin
  • Finding comfort and strength in religion
  • Believing in God
  • Feeling God is important in life
  • Believing people have a soul
  • Believing the child should learn religious faith in the home as an important quality of upbringing
  • Abortion is never justifiable
  • There are absolutely clear guidelines to right and wrong
  • Euthanasia is never justifiable
  • Prostitution is never justifiable
  • Often think of the meaning and purpose of life
  • Raised religious
This is a highly otherworldly creed, as would be expected in a group who all believed in hell. Belief in hell is clearly, as suggested above, a strong indicator of a fundamentalist creed. What is somewhat surprising, given the high percentages of belief in hell among regular church-attenders, is the implication that `fundamental Christian beliefs' are predominant among attenders.
The essence of this creed is supernatural theism. With its code of morality, it is based upon the inborn-ness ofthe life after death and the immortality of the soul. Thus the euthanasia, abortion, prostitution proscriptions, which are seen as violating the principle of the sacredness of human life. The soul `exists' as a quasi-biological attribute on the same basis as any other "natural' attributes, independent of quality of life. People `have' a soul. Unlike other attributes, however, the soul is by nature immortal and thus is the guarantor of eternal value of the individual life. This quite logically makes preparation for eternity of paramount importance.
In the final analysis, for hell-believers, matters of earthly wellbeing or social values are secondary, expressing more the obligations en passage of those destined for higher things.An ultimate ethic for the world does not follow from this worldview. It is not surprising, therefore, that the world itself does not emerge in the responses listed above as having special significance for the hell-believers. This is not to say that the hell-believers do not share more common social values with other Christians. But those listed are the ones that differentiated.
Hell-belief is not necessarily accompanied by religion in the ordinary sense. Rather, the fact of believing in hell seems to lead to a near-fanaticism in all of life. This is logical if the object is the relief of distress about the unknown. Thus a person pursues an activity `religiously' as though hell awaited imperfection. The F3 female pattern discussed below is an example. The true fanatic is driven by religious rules every minute of the day.

4. Patterns of Religiosity and Non-Religiosity: Combined effects of attendance, gender, and fear-inspiring beliefs upon religiosity and values.

The eight categories defined by gender, attendance and belief in hell are exhaustive, ie everyone in this New Zealand sample belongs in one of the categories.These allocations were easily determined from the data. An advantage of the data and the sample is that they are not confined to either religion per se or to a religious sample. The patterns are composed of New Zealand values and thus reflect religion-relevant value priorities of the eight groups within the NZ context. A texture of life emerges from within each style of religiosity.
The actual numbers in the eight categories were respectively 63, 10, 75, 258, 88, 43, 87, and 272. The 10 in the Pattern M2group is smaller than desired but not unusable.
Titles are offered for the patterns. The titles are interpretative but are not part of the data.
The following are descriptions of the original eight, re-ordered for gender, attendance and hell-belief. They are set out in pairs of male then female of the same pattern. Thus, Pattern M1 is Male, High-Attending, Hell-believer; Pattern F1 is the female equivalent. We start with the strong responses of the group to the survey questions.

Pattern M1. Male, High Attendance, Hell-Believer. ( 7%) of total)

  • Agree woman needs a child to be fulfilled
  • Low effort to conserve water
  • Feel greater emphasis on family life in future society would be a good thing
  • Relatively less likely to feel emotionally close to the neighbourhood
  • Relatively less likely to feel emotionally close to nearest town or city
  • More likely to believe the child needs parents to be happy
  • Extremely high belief in heaven
  • Extremely high belief in the soul
  • Extremely high belief in life after death
  • Low percent reflect on the meaning of life
  • Extremely high percent find comfort in religion
  • High percent claim to be `a religious person'
Summary: In one hundred randomly selected New Zealanders, seven will be males of the Pilgrims to a Better World pattern. This is a classical profile of supernaturalistic theism. It describes males absorbed by religion, defined as an all-embracing heavenly drama enacted by an all-powerful God, in which the metaphysical dimension dominates all `earthly life'. It depicts males relatively isolated within their family from the concerns of the environment and from their neighbourhood andsociety. Their faith appears to be about rescue from a world which God has rejected and will discard. More moderately, it identifies the `true believer'.
The Pilgrim Believer is individualistic in social relations, in the sense quoted from Wagar above: in a privatised religiosity with no necessary social vision - despite being strongly affiliated with the local congregation. This might seem to becontradicted by their high desire for a future society that places greater emphasis on family life, but this is not so much a concept of society as a desire for the family to be protected from surrounding society.
This group also, according to the data listed above, reports little reflection on the meaning of life, conceivably because the pilgrim pathway is more prescriptive than exploratory or intellectual.Women's roles are traditionally defined; the child's need for parents is dogma. It is also known from the data that this group sees instructing the child in religious faith as a prior responsibility of the family.In a world which is at best a place of preparation for the life to come, the family is the safe place for these males. It follows that the family will be highly protected; traditional family roles will be stressed and family life will be the certain provision for a better society.
Pattern M1 attracted more or less than sample proportions of the following demographic groups:
  • more Conservative Evangelical affiliates
  • fewer Anglican, Methodist or Ratana affiliates
  • more voting preference for Christian Coalition, NZ First
  • more Pacific Islanders
  • more of above average respondent income level
  • more of 30-39 years age.
The demographics show that the Pilgrim pattern is Conservative-Evangelical by church affiliation, less `mainstream', more of marginal political preference, attractive to Pacific Islanders, of secure income level, and of parental age.

Pattern F1. Female, High Attendance, Hell-Believer. (10% of total)

  • Agree woman needs a child to be fulfilled
  • Feel greater emphasis on family life in future society would be a good thing
  • Agree Central Government should be responsible to control prices
  • Agree less emphasis on money in future society would be a good thing
  • Lowest approval of unrestricted importation of overseas goods to sell in New Zealand
  • Highest agreement with stricter control of pornographic materials
  • Lowest agreement that respect for freedom of the individual rather than maintaining order in society is the highest responsibility of Government
  • Extremely high percent belief in heaven
  • Extremely high percent belief in the soul
  • Extremely high belief in life after death
  • Very high percent find comfort and strength in religion
  • Very high percent see themselves as `a religious person'
Summary: he formal belief position of the Pattern F1 Females, God's Social Hygienists, is the same as that of the M1 males. They are the largest group of religious females. Within a high congregational affiliation there is strong experiential comfort and religious identity. As with the males, there is limited reflection on the meaning of life. Again, there is agreement with the males on the centrality of the family and on a traditional woman's role.
The title God's Social Hygienists is suggested because this female group, while equally religious, is more concerned to clean up the whole of society. This is a clear gender effect. Though, in our opinion, individualistic, this conservative women's group seems strongly bound to an action role - much more so than the males. There is a strong moral purity emphasis, especially in anti-pornography, but also a greater `out-there' mission to put things right, eg with governmental price-controls, a de-emphasis on money in a future society and a resistance to unrestricted importation of overseas products to sell in New Zealand . These practical, political values appear along with a view that government's main responsibility is to maintain order in society rather than to respect the freedom of the individual. The familiar conservative distrust of individual human nature appears here. So their individualistic style embraces individual responsibility rather than individuality. It is responsibility, not rights that is stressed here.
As compared with the males of the same pattern, these women, by virtue of their gender, are active and micro-political, albeit generally conservative. The scenario that would follow would seem to be that of highly positive leadership at the congregational level by women, with clear ideas on how to order society better, while the men of equivalent religiosity are safeguarding their truth and their families.Both M1 and F1 will be energetic in opposition to all aspects of moral laxity.
Pattern F1 attracted more or less than sample proportions of the following demographic groups:
  • more of Lower Social Class
  • more of low respondent income and fewer of above average and higher income
  • more of low household income and fewer of high household income
  • more of Evangelical Conservative affiliation
  • fewer of Presbyterian or Anglican affiliation
  • more of Pacific Islander and Asian identity
  • more younger adults.
It is to be noted that women generally are more likely to be lower class and so these tend to be. In these demographics, these religiously conservative women are of somewhat more modest income level than the males; they are less affiliated to mainstream churches; the pattern is more attractive to younger adults and to Pacific Islanders and Asians.

Pattern M2. Male, High Attendance, Hell-Disbeliever. ( 2% of total)

  • Central Government definitely responsible to ensure a decent standard of living for all
  • Feel emotionally close to their province or region
  • More likely to believe a child needs parents to be happy
  • More likely to have participated in a community event in past six months
  • Agrees highly that respecting the freedom of the individual rather than maintaining order in society is the most important responsibility of Government
  • Very high percent think often of meaning of life
  • Very high percent find comfort and strength in religion
Summary: This little group is one of two male patterns that fall into the Religious camp. The difference between the two is belief in hell. For these participatory males, hell is not a motivator; they affirm life; as non-believers in hell - and what goes with it - they are not biblical literalists. Nor are particular beliefs a prominent feature. Not preoccupied with otherworldly ideas nor with religion for its own sake, they are nevertheless strongly affiliated in attendance terms with the local church, though a thinking minority rather than a vocal proponent of causes. Rejecting hell as a worldview, they are participative in community. They have a contemplative rather than a doctrinal stance. They think often about the meaning of life and gain comfort and identity from their religion. Their concern is not with themselves but with appropriate conditions of existence for children and communities. Their thoughtfulness comes from a sense of being.
The main difference in values of the M2s compared with the F2 females (see below) lies in the concept of individual integrity. Whereas the M2 males assert respect for the freedom of the individual rather than maintaining order in society as the most important responsibility of society, the F2 females are more likely to assert the opposite: maintaining order in society is government's primary responsibility. Here the only difference is gender. It would suggest that the M2 males will be less assertive about cleaning up abuses by ill-controlled individuals, more likely to try to understand those being criticised or condemned, more forgiving of the wrongdoer.
The areas in which distinctive M2 viewpoints are to be seen seem to be those of children's right to parental care, community participation, and respect for free human self-expression.They seem to be organicists, respecting life in its complexity. Their world is closer to a garden than an empire. A war to force people to do right would be far from their way. Far from being isolated religionists, they feel emotionally close to their region. It is not, however, a thickly populated path.
Pattern M2 attracted more or less than sample proportions of the following demographic groups:
  • more Green and NZ First voting preference, fewer Labour
  • more of low income
  • more of 60 plus age level
The M2s are older males, of modest means and committed to natural rights, be they communal, family or citizens'. They are politically marginal. Their demography does not explain their individuality other than to show that they are not part of the dominant power structure.

Pattern F2. Female, High Attender, Hell-Disbeliever. (5% of total)

  • Has tried to reduce water consumption in last six months out of concern for the environment
  • More likely to have chosen household products thought to be better for the environment
  • More likely to believe Central Government is responsible to maintain decent living stadards for all
  • Fairly high percent feel emotionally very close to the neighbourhood and the nearest town
  • More likely to have attended a community event in the last six months
  • More likely to be strongly in favour of stricter controls on pornographic materials
  • More likely to think maintaining order in society rather than respecting freedom of the individual is the highest responsibility of Government
  • More in favour of increased Government spending on pensions
  • Moderate percent belief in life after death
  • Very high percent find comfort and strength in religion
Summary: The seemingly unlikely combination of high church attendance and disbelief in hell, seen in Pattern M2 males above, when seen in females, takes on a somewhat different flavour, even while basically similar. To reject hell is to embrace life. Like the males, they are not literalists. Again, like the males, they value decent living standards for all, and are close to their social world. Also like the males is their community participation.
These women are additionally notable for their strengths as practical social and environmental problem-solvers. They emphasise protection of the environment, and greater government care for people-needs, as in pensions increases. However, as noted, they differ from their male counterparts in resisting respect for individual freedoms as a preferred government major responsibility over maintaining order in society. As if to reinforce this position, they demand more strict control of pornographic materials. Female gender expresses itself in a greater insistence on society `cleaning up its act' and less trust in individual freedoms.
There is, in this sense, a more controlling approach than in the M2 pattern, a belief you can clean up visible social sins. In gender terms, there is a more down-to-earth style that is emerging as characteristic of the women throughout this study. It's the economy of God in their view. It follows that the F2 group selects more projects than the M2 males: clean water, pollution, living standards, community activities. There might even be a female instinct for life here which reflects itself in a significantly greater, though not high, percent belief in life after death.
They feel strongly for their neighbourhood and town - perhaps not so widely as the Pattern 2 males. This caring is at the heart of their religion and imparts comfort, strength and identity. They are by no means affluent.
Pattern F2 attracted more or less than the sample proportions of the following demographic groups:
  • more of low household income
  • fewer of above-average income
  • more Mormon, more Pacific Islanders
  • more of 60 plus years
F2 females are of below-average means, more Mormon , more Pacific Islanders, and more of 60-plus years. Thus, compared with the M2 pattern, they do not display marked concern for individual human rights.

Pattern M3. Male, Low attendance, Hell-Believer. (4% of total)

  • Less likely to have tried to reduce water consumption in last six months out of concern for the environment
  • Less likely to feel emotionally close to their neighbourhood
  • More in agreement with importation of overseas goods to sell in New Zealand if people want to buy them
  • Lowest support for imposing stricter controls on pornographic materials
  • Lowest belief that a woman needs a child to be fulfilled
  • Extremely high belief in heaven
  • High percent belief in the soul
  • High percent belief in life after death
Summary: The non-attending, hell-believing male is dismissive of restrictions and is outwardly the egoic individual. The image, however, could be of one whose conscience is uneasy and who hopes for some after-life, limbo-type opportunity to face the music.There is little apparent sense of ultimate answerability or ethical principle.
The values which set them apart are those which support a self-indulgent individualism: resistance to resource regulations, to import controls and to controls over pornographic materials. That human relations are poorly practised is strongly suggested by lack of emotional closeness to the neighbourhood and dismissal of the importance of a child to a woman's fulfilment. Thus all dimensions of life are stressed by an insistence on an unhampered male right to exercise of initiative.
Despite these egoistic and consumerist values, the M3 male holds strongly to the fundamental belief that this life is not the end: heaven, the soul, and an after-life are strongly affirmed. So presumably, hell is just part of the package of a firm belief in the after-life.The contradiction is self-evident: if there is a hell and the possibility of heaven it would seem reasonable to judge one's life accordingly. If you believe in the soul, heaven and the life hereafter, the logical corollary would be a belief in hell. But mere belief in hell is not `salvific' as the theologian would say. The values expressed do little to indicate an impact of fear of hell. The conviction of judgement that goes with belief in hell is not evident. Presumably, there is a sort of indefinite postponement of reckoning. In the modern era, hell is a weak moral deterent.
Pattern M3 attracted more or less than the sample average of the following demographic groups:
  • more of Working Class
  • more vote Alliance
  • more of higher income
  • fewer of low income
  • more Roman Catholic, Mormon, Ratana, Salvation Army, Other Christian
  • more Asian
  • more 35-44 years of age
Pattern M3 are ambitious working class, of Catholic and sect religious affiliation, socially marginalised and of parental age.

Pattern F3. Female, Low Attendance, Hell-Believer. (10% of total)

  • Highest percent agreement that Central Government is responsible to control prices
  • Highest percent belief that Central Government is responsible to ensure decent living standards for all
  • Lowest percent belief that a child needs parents in order to be happy
  • Lowest percent approval of unrestricted importation of overseas goods for sale in New Zealand
  • Relatively lower percent belief that democracy is a better system of government
  • Extremely high percent belief in heaven
Summary: The F3 female group, low on religiosity but high on belief in hell, presents a protectionist stance, rejecting free importation of overseas goods for sale in New Zealand, and relatedly pushing for government controls on prices and for government responsibility for decent standards of living.There is a sense of deficit, driven by real material difficulty. Their attitude is somewhat arbitrary, as indicated by a lower than normal support for a democratic system of government. The position is that of New Zealand for real New Zealanders, with economic controls to ensure justice defined in those terms.
There is agreement with the dominant female F4 group on a pragmatic approach to the child's need for a parent, on importation restrictions, and on the relatively lower support for a democratic system of government. The F3 group lacks the strong environmental emphasis of the F4 group and also the active community participation.
It would seem that the F3 group is strong on demands for government provision for them and their kind but not equalitarian or fully inclusive. To return to the concept of distress about dangers of the unknown, it would seem that this group is threatened by the dominant power system and by inequality and wants guarantees of protection of its rights. Belief in hell is matched by extremely high belief in heaven, suggesting that it is a precarious group which needs alleviation of its fears, and assurances of providence, both here and hereafter. The whole picture suggests that fear of hell goes with hell on earth.
Whilst the male of the M3 low-religion/hell-belief group is a self-indulgent individualist, stressed by immature demands for power and gratification, the F3 female group is stressed by real and present threats to security, which it wants assured without necessarily obtaining equal citizen agreement.
Pattern F3 attracted more or less than the sample proportion on the following demographic groups:
  • more Lower Social Class
  • more Act, Green, NZ First and less Alliance voting preference
  • more at lower respondent income level
  • fewer at higher income levels either respondent or household
  • more affiliated with Roman Catholic, Mormon and Pentecostal/Apostolic
  • more Maori, more Pacific Islander
  • more young adult (18-44); fewer older adult (45-60+)
The F3 pattern is a step lower social class than the M3 males, of lesser income levels, similarly sect-drawn, more clearly Maori and Pacific Islander, and similarly of parental age. Whilst the economic protectionism of the M3 males serves material aspirations, that of the F3 females serves needs for security.

Pattern M4. Male, Low Attendance, Hell-Disbeliever. (30% of total)

  • Lowest percent agreement that greater emphasis on the family in future society would be a good thing
  • Least percent likelihood of choosing to buy household products thought better for the environment
  • Least likely to support Government responsibility for controlling prices
  • Higher feeling of emotional closeness to the neighbourhood
  • Moderately high feeling of emotional closeness to nearest town or city
  • Moderately high feeling of emotional closeness to one's province or region
  • Lowest agreement that less emphasis on money in future society would be a good thing
  • Very low percent belief in heaven
  • Very low percent belief in life after death
  • Low percent often think about the meaning and purpose of life
  • Very low percent find comfort and strength in religion
  • Low percent claim to be `a religious person'.
Summary: As the dominant male profile, with verging on 30% of the national sample, this group represents the secular individualist half of the dual, male-female dominant national values-belief profile. The dominant male ideology is suggested by high agreement on two points: opposition to government price-controls, and decreased emphasis on money in future society. In other words, the dominant male pattern gives priority to wealth and growth.
As with each of the paired male-female patterns, the gender difference in the effect of M4 and F4 is apparent. The female F4 pattern appears as the economic and environmental guardians of the country. Both the male and female dominant patterns, together totalling 60% of the total, give low value to religious belief and religiosity. But the two patterns are not identical; they are complementary, a social equilibrium of male secular individualists and female secular communalists.
The male, M4 profile is that of a secular community of wealth-seekers and consumers. As true Post-Colonials, they have a shared religio-commercial belief system. They see a world of opportunity and minimal restraint. There is limited concern for the environment for its own sake. It is there to be exploited. Continuation of normal consumption is their idea of sustainability. A free-market philosophy prevails, eg no price-control interventions by government. There is a clear resistance to any de-emphasis on money-making as the raison d'etre of a society.
Religion, or reflection on meaning, plays little part in this dominant value-profile. The commission given to the early British missionaries to New Zealand was to advance good religion and the commercial advantage of Britain.Whilst there is now low belief in any life beyond this one and little apparent need for comfort from religion in day-to-day life, nevertheless the comfortable assumption of heritage and a commercial mission blessed by higher powers seems to hold. Our post-Colonial New Zealander is lord of all he surveys.
The male secular community, as epitomized in the recently-challenged `Men's Clubs', is complete in its secularity. It has its `theology' of true economic belief; it requires no outside authority to resolve its internal differences; it has its fellowship - the fellowship of profit in a sustainable society. That fellowship ordains the priorities that control life for the people. The power of organised business permeates education and society. It has a benign relationship with its surrounding area. Religion has been replaced by a system of practical beliefs and practices, the legitimacy of which is maintained by creating the myth that business is there for the good of the people - and that good people will conform to its requirements.
Belief in continued growth is so little debated that those who question it it are relegated to the ranks of political cranks, unrealistic academics or Luddites. This despite increasing disparities of wealth and the damage done by rampant economic growth to the natural environment. (See Webster, 2001a, pp35ff for Korten's devastating critique of `liberal right' economics. See especially the argument that orthodox economics is a form of slavery under the guise of liberation: behind the appearance of individual freedom in capitalist society, the individual is enslaved by the very system that promises freedom).
In classifying the dominant male pattern as the Post-Colonial Male, we are simply stating the obvious: making money and consuming goods have been and remain the prime national values (and are therefore the substitute for religion). Its temples are guarded by those who are devoted to belief in everlasting growth.
Sustainable community in the sense of social capital and social cohesion is a side-show of the real game of winning. It is in this sense that it is Post-Colonial: whereas in the original colonies, rational-technical decision-making was the sole ruling principle, decision-making now includes the `cultural factor' ie the changing values of diverse and shifting cultures. Culture, especially ethnic culture, is an unfortunate obstacle to sensible economics and the sooner people realise we are all in the same ball-game, the better for all concerned. <>This seems, according to our data, to be the traditional male-dominated society. But as has been suggested above, to argue that the male pattern is the New Zealand pattern is to overlook the female half and to fail to represent the complete modern reality. For it is not just ethnic culture which now questions the economic faith of our fathers: women are increasingly the carriers of a different voice. If equilibrium is the dynamic of the contrasting patterns, then the dominant female pattern becomes crucial.
  • fewer of Lower Social Class
  • more ACT but fewer NZ First or Other Party
  • fewer low respondent income
  • more above average and higher respondent income
  • fewer low household income
  • fewer Baptist, Roman Catholic, Brethren, Other Christian
  • more Ratana, more of no religion
  • fewer Maori, Pacific Islander, Asian
The M4 male pattern is demographically middle class, tending political right, more financially secure than the rest, not of the religions that demand high commitment, and less likely to be non-European.

Pattern F4. Female, Low Attendance, Hell-Disbeliever. (30% of total)

  • More likely to have tried to use less water in last 12 months out of concern for the environment
  • More likely to have bought household products thought better for the environment
  • Less likely to agree that a child needs a parent to be happy
  • Attended a community event in last 6 months
  • Disagrees with unrestricted importation of overseas goods for sale in New Zealand
  • Relatively lower percent belief that democracy is a better system of government
  • Low belief in heaven
  • Moderately low percent belief in life after death
  • Low percent think often of meaning and purpose of life
  • Low percent find comfort and strength in religion
  • Very low percent claim to be a `religious person'.
Pattern F4 attracted more or less than the sample proportions of the following demographic groups:
  • low ACT, low Greens voting preference more low respondent income; fewer higher respondent income; no effect on household income fewer Baptist, Brethren, Other Christian; more Ratana fewer Maori, Asian fewer older adult (65+years)
The F4 pattern is not attracted to minor political parties, nor to Conservative Evangelical churches. Few are on higher incomes, and are clearly lower than the F4 males. The group contains fewer Maori, Asians or older adults. Thus they are a secure set of mainly European women
Summary of F4: If the M4 world is Post-Colonial, the F4 world isthat of Guardianship, standing to one side of the male pattern, asking the qualitative questions that unmitigated materialism ignores. So the female presents a major cultural factor. The dominant female group, at 30%, the Political-Environmental Guardians, stands in considerable contrast to the dominant male profile. At best it is the balancing factor. It is to be noted that the F4 group has lower wealth than the equivalent M4, which follows from the fact that F4 is the dominant female pattern in a still male-dominant society.
The most obvious qualitative gender differences were with the females' active environmental concern, their guardianship - in importation terms - of the economy as a resource for the people, their greater participation in community, and their independent spirit vis-à-vis democratic government. Their clear rejection of unrestricted importation of overseas goods onto the NZ market is a direct challenge to the male position on making money. While equally as secular as the male group, the females exhibit the cultural power of gender as an economic, environmental and community force. A secular spirituality, some might call it - but there is no basis in the data for that assertion..
The women evince a critical viewpoint in questioning the superiority of the democratic system of government. Democracy is not an absolute, it would seem. This female capacity for relativistic thought, as seen in their independence of male ideology, is a gender difference. It is widely recognised as a feature of female thought, as for example in moral judgement. Females are more flexible in the interests of humane solutions than are males, who stick more rigidly to the logic of what they believe to be universal truth - with disastrous consequences. So while males (even if not Americans!), are inclined to make `democracy' an automatic endorsement of private opinion, women know that democracy can be hollow. The phenomenon of fanatical belief in the hands of terrorists is not logically different from rigid political and economic orthodoxy wielded by powerful males in the West. It is to be noted that, at time of writing, women in trhe USA and in Britain and elsewhere are raising protest at the cruelty and power-obsession of men on all sides of the US-UN-Iraq-Islam imbroglio.
With these thoughts in mind, new attention may well be due to this dominant women's pattern of Political-Environmental Guardianship. Independent of religious dogma, and flexible in problem-solving, they arguably stand as a growing force in the future of New Zealand. Balance, or equilibrium in New Zealand life, could arise from increasing recognition of the complementarity of female and male voices and the greater involvement of women in the environment and the community. Petticoat government was once a term of disrespect. It is now being visibly reinstated, not as an inferior form but as a mature and essential corrective to destructive male gender monomania.
PLOTTING THE PATTERNS: the Individual-Community and Secular-Religious Nexus of the Combined Gender/Fear/Attendance Effects on Social Values
If the patterns that have emerged have integrity, they should be capable of broader interpretation. One way to attempt this is to plot the patterns against major lines of social differentiation. Two important continua on which social values fall are the individualistic-communalistic and the secular-religious. Using these as a two-dimensional plot looked like a good way to find some order among the eight patterns spelled out. To do so, the patterns must be able to be placed at one end or the other of the two continua. So a given pattern might be religious and individualistic. This is a simple approach. The more rigorous method is to measure each pattern on the respective dimensions and thus to have an exact position for it simultaneously on two dimensions. We chose the simple approach: each pattern was either religious or secular and either individualistic or communalistic.
Table 1 presents an attempt at an interpretative map of the territory of the patterns, intersecting the Secular-Religious dimension based on attendance with the Individualistic-Communalistic distinction that emerges from the descriptions of the social values of the eight patterns. These two dimensions provide the resultant plot of the eight patterns.
It emerges immediately that three of the four female patterns are in one way or another communally oriented, while only one male pattern is so. Countering this, three out of four male patterns are individualistic while only one is communalistic. Male and female patterns each fall two into religious and two into secular quadrants.
As would be expected from known attendance data, the largest patterns numerically for both sexes are secular. Indeed the total percentages in the two secular quadrants make up 74% of the total. Again, it is more important that the major male pattern is Secular-Individualistic, while that of the female patterns is Secular-Communalistic.
If the position were taken that the mission of the church must be to the Secular, then it is clearly a daunting task - not unlike sending missionaries to Baghdad! More seriously, it might be recognised that even though the great blocs of secular value-patterns demand their own mission, it remains the case, as in political vote-getting, that the most volatile groups are around the edges. What has been achieved in this study is to identify the major gender-based blocs and to differentiate the marginal patterns, both religious and secular.
The marginal patterns (religious) are:
  • Pilgrims to a Better World (male)
  • God's Social Hygienists (female)
  • Caring Male Participants (male)
  • Religious Social Renewers (female)
The marginal patterns (secular) are:
  • Free-Market Opportunists (male)
  • Deficit-Driven Protectionists (female)
These patterns, along with the two major blocs,
  • Post-Colonial Males
  • Political-Environmental Guardians (female)
distinguish the `world' or worlds addressed by the church.
The six marginal patterns represent the volatile challenge to church mission. The two great secular blocs conceivably represent the call for a prophetic ministry.
The earlier differentiations, based on single effects of attendance, gender and fear-inspiring belief are important information by which to flesh out the meaning of the patterns and the details by which church mission may be informed. An example of its importance is in the variety of ways in which dogma about hell underlie a number of the patterns and help re-emphasise the lesser social vision in the public arena among conservative evangelicals noted from David Martin.(rf p1)
In broader sociological terms, there is ample evidence that the two religious factors, attendance and fear, taken in combination with each other and with gender, identify differences between patterns of social values and beliefs. The values data make a significant contribution to understanding of the effects of gender and of fear-inspiring beliefs, just as the existential factors of real conditions of life bear upon and help explain the variety of human values.


An interpretive map of gender- and fear-based patterns of religioisity and secularity in the New Zealand Study of Values
(percentages are rounded and may not add up to 100%)
M3: Male, Low-Attending, Hell-Believing (4%)
M4: Male Low-Attending, Hell-Disbelieving (30%)
POST-COLONIAL MALES (Market Achievers)
M1: Male, High-Attending, Hell-Believing (7%)
F1: Female, High-Attending, Hell-Believing (10%)
M3: Male, Low-Attending, Hell-Believing (4%)
M4: Male Low-Attending, Hell-Disbelieving (30%)
POST-COLONIAL MALES (Market Achievers)
M1: Male, High-Attending, Hell-Believing (7%)
F1: Female, High-Attending, Hell-Believing (10%)

List of References

Ian Harris, "Beware the invasion of the no religionists", ReSEARCH, Bulletin of Christian Research Association (Aotearoa New Zealand). Bulletin No 38, Summer Issue, 2002-12-29
Grace Jantzen, "Feminism and flourishing", Feminist Theology, No 10, 1995
Nietsche, Friedrich, Twilight of the Idols, p62, (Penguin, 1990).
Quoted in Mark Buchanan, Ubiquity: the science of history.or why the world is simpler than we think. London: Phoenix, 2000.
Alan Webster and Paul Perry (1992), What difference does it make? Values and faith in a changing society. Palmerston North, Alpha Publications
Alan Webster, (2001a) Spiral of values: the flow from survival values to global consciousness in New Zealand. Alpha, Auckland. Distributed by David Bateman, Publishers, Auckland, North Shore.
Alan Webster (2001b), Fear-inspiring beliefs and personal religion, reSEARCH, Bulletin of the Christian Research Association (Aotearoa New Zealand). Bulletin No 33, Winter Issue, 2001



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