Perceptions of a Deity and Corresponding Religious Group as Affected by Descriptions of Gender and Personal Characteristics
Both personal and social identities are important to the self-concept, but the values of such identities can come into question when they conflict with one another. The religious group, one such identification, can exert a great deal of influence over one’s thoughts and beliefs. However, religion is often critiqued for being a reflection of the patriarchal context from which a religion often emerges, which potentially elicits and reinforces gender stereotypes and sexism within the religious group. This can be seen in the Abrahamic religions; they maintain that their God does not claim biological sex nor gender, but their texts include predominantly masculine imagery as well as the convention to refer to their God as “He.” The present study aimed to determine whether individuals would be willing to consider broadening their view of their deity to include feminine imagery and the option of referring to their God as “She”. Participants were divided into six conditions and provided with a description of a hypothetical deity and the religious group that worships the deity. Each condition varied in the pronoun used to describe the deity as well as gender stereotyped traits that were provided concerning the deity’s attributes, and participants’ views of the deity and the religious group were examined. Analyses revealed that participants viewed deities described with stereotypically female traits significantly more favorably than deities described with stereotypically male traits over a range of subscales. No effects were found when the pronoun used to describe the deity was manipulated. Implications and directions for further research are discussed.
Jones, Hannah R., "Perceptions of a Deity and Corresponding Religious Group as Affected by Descriptions of Gender and Personal Characteristics" (2011). Honors Projects. 149.