LGBT Americans Are “Significantly Less Religious” – And There’s Almost No Gender Difference

So this is interesting.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, LGBT Americans are less religious than straight Americans. Like, a lot less. Here are the numbers:

gallup poll lgbt americans less religious

If you can’t see that image: 24% of LGBT Americans are highly religious; 29% are moderately religious; and a whopping 47% are not religious.

I’ll say that again: 47% of LGBT Americans are not religious.

Almost half.

Compare that to non LGBT Americans. 41% of non LGBT Americans are highly religious; 29% are moderately religious; and 30% are not religious.

So there’s two things I want to pull out of this data.

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One is the gender breakdown. One of the most consistent patterns in these religiosity polls — for Americans, anyway — is the gender difference, with women consistently polling as more religious than men. (That shows up in this poll as well. Among male non-LGBT Americans, 36% are highly religious; 28% are moderately religious; and 35% are not religious. Among female non-LGBT Americans, 45% are highly religious; 30% are moderately religious; and 25% are not religious.) Many ideas have been floated about why this is, from “women have more pressure on us to be religious” and “religion is one of the few spheres where women have power and influence” to assorted evo-pysch explanations arguing that women are just born that way.

I hope this survey puts the last nail in the coffin of the evo-psych explanations. Because among LGBT Americans, there is almost no gender difference in how religious we are. Among male LGBT Americans, 25% are highly religious; 26% are moderately religious; and 49% are not religious. Among female LGBT Americans, 24% are highly religious; 31% are moderately religious; and 46% are not religious. That’s a tiny, tiny difference. Whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it disappears among LGBT Americans. Unless you’re going to argue that queers are just born this way — that queer women’s brains are born radically different from straight women’s brains, in a way that somehow links sexual orientation and/or gender identity with religiosity — you now have to accept that whatever the reasons are for the gender disparity in religiosity, it’s not inborn.

The other thing I want to pull out of this data: Almost half of LGBT Americans are not religious. So LGBT organizations need to wake the fuck up.

LGBT organizations that present LGBT people as religious in an attempt to make us seem mainstream and nice — and that throw LGBT atheists under the bus — need to wake the fuck up. LGBT organizations that bend over backwards to court interfaith alliances, while ignoring alliance-building with atheist organizations and communities, need to wake the fuck up. Major LGBT conferences that have approximately 764,906 sessions about religion, with three sessions about atheism, need to wake the fuck up.

I don’t know how many of those non-religious LGBT Americans are self-identified atheists, and how many are non-believers under some other name (humanist, agnostic, non-believer, etc.), and how many are “spiritual but not religious,” and how many just don’t think of themselves as religious but don’t give that a name because they don’t consider the issue to be very important. I’d like to see that data. And I don’t know why exactly we would be so much less religious than straight people: David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement, where I saw this data in the first place, has a pretty good analysis, as does Gallup itself. But however that data breaks down, the bottom line is clear, and it’s important: LGBT Americans are much, much less religious than straight Americans. Almost half of LGBT Americans are not religious. So LGBT organizations need to wake the fuck up.

We’re here. We’re queer. We don’t believe in God.

Get used to it.

Coming Out Atheist
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Greta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.

LGBT Americans Are “Significantly Less Religious” – And There’s Almost No Gender Difference

18 thoughts on “LGBT Americans Are “Significantly Less Religious” – And There’s Almost No Gender Difference

  1. 1

    I doubt those who propose evopsych “explanations” for the overall gender disparity will be deterred. QT identities just give ’em waaaaaay too convenient an out for dismissing nonconformity with “otherwise consistent” gender patterns.

  2. 2

    My immedate thought, after seeing the data, was, Of course LGBT people are avoiding an institution whose overwhelmingly common message is, “You guys? You’re broken and evil and wrong. You are abominations, and you’re going to burn forever for something you didn’t want, didn’t ask for, and in fact have no control over whatsoever.” Kind of a no-brainer, that. And, yes, Badash picked up on that himself. [nods] Hard to see how anybody couldn’t pick up on that, unless, for some reason, they were really, really invested in Not Picking It Up.

  3. 3

    The only thing that surprises me is the number of LGBT people who claim they are deeply religious, but I suppose that makes sense, given the amount of effort that goes into getting around the various clobber verses that I’ve seen.

  4. Lea

    [Limiting this to Christianity based on personal experience, but should apply to other religions as well]
    Coming from the point of view of an atheist, my initial reaction was to be surprised when meeting an LGBT person who was religious, using that same line of thought–why would you want to belong to an organization that judges and rejects you? But thinking about it more, why not? That aspect of religion doesn’t stop most women from staying religious. The forces of indoctrination and societal pressure to fit in are that strong. No, there must be something more to it than just that, or else the percentage of non-religious would be even higher. The rejection factor is mitigated by the fact that there are more and more LGBT-accepting churches available to attend (even in the conservative area where I live there are at least two in my small city).

    So I think an additional factor is required to explain the higher percentage of non-religious among LGBT people, which is that when you grow up being different, you already feel like you don’t belong in the herd; you are already questioning the status quo by virtue of being outside it; you are already less susceptible to the mass delusion.

  5. 8

    re Lea 6:

    I think the more salient point to make is that the atheist movement has to – HAS to – grab these people before enough churches become accepting that these babyathiests just go back to sleep, and fall back into a pew.

    As has been noted ad nauseum, churches were one of the main stumbling blocks in the ending of slavery in the United States, but in intervening generations church has become VERY intimately connected with Black Culture in the US. Who here hasn’t heard some apologist claiming the Civil Rights Movement as a triumph of American Protestantism?

    Give it a few decades and half the theists out there will be claiming LGBT Rights was the exclusive work of some pastor in San Francisco. Our movement HAS to get its shit together on intersectionality. A+ was a big step forward, as is FTBCon. But some of the heavy hitters in our movement are still in the 19th Century, and need to be voted OUT.

    For example, the Ron Lindsay Women in Secularism dust-up was bad; apologies were (eventually) offered and accepted, and we carry on… but Ron Lindsay is still president of CFI, and he is still, to many people, a symbol of the Old Guard of straight old white men. As a (mostly) straight (mostly) white, middle-aged man, I have no AVERSION to folks like me standing behind the podium, but as a lifelong member of one outgroup or other,

    I really would like to see intersectionality not just pushed in our recruiting efforts (although we do need that) we also need it pushed more at the upper levels of the movement. When LGBT people with questions become LGBT disbelievers, we really want them to realize that leaving church was part of coming home.

  6. 10

    I work – indirectly – for a very conservative Christian church, two of whose clergy members are on record as having said that homosexuality is a “disorder”. Now, this church is swimming in gay men, but it is never discussed. Many of these men are very friendly with the homophobic clergy members! The church has very elaborate services, and I’ve been told that many gay men are drawn by that. So from MY experience, I AM a bit surprised by these numbers. I would very much like to understand why LGBT folk go to places like this where they are seen as defective.

  7. 12

    I’ve heard/read Greta’s comments on how welcoming the Athei-osphere has been around sexual and gender-minority issues. This seems like a no-brainer, seeing how ghastly the religious message is, just about everywhere. That homophobia etc. is linked in religion is one step, the second is that homophobic attitudes and beliefs are…shall we say, WRONG!

    Therefore, non-religious folks, who value reason and science would be strange NOT to grasp the importance of equality and justice around sex and gender stuff.

    So why the fuck is the ‘movement’ so paralyzed when the issue is WOMEN in general? Are the resident misogynist/stalker/bully/libertarian assholes homophobes as well? Is there any way to poll that factor?

  8. 14

    Well I’ve heard one explanation being that men are generally less risk averse and therefore they may be less deterred from leaving the social sphere of the church. And I’ve also heard people that say LGBT people are more likely to fend off gender roles in general (I have no idea how true that is or how to measure that). Which sounds pretty socially risky to me, I guess. Maybe LGBT are less risk averse than non-LGBT?

    If those count as evo-psych explanations then I don’t necessarily think it would put such arguments to rest. Or are those socialization explanations?

  9. 15

    @12 johnthedrunkard – Yeah, I don’t get it either. It seems to me that most atheists fall into two camps politically: liberal and libertarian. A lot of the anti-woman rhetoric seems to come from the libertarians. And funny how libertarians are disproportionately white, male and straight….

  10. 16

    There’s a lot about religion which is just plain wrong. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that religion has some pretty darn effective selling points.

    For Xtianity, and a lot of other religions, one of the biggest such selling points is that you don’t have to die! Face it, people: Death sucks. Death sucks great green rocks with a Dixie straw. Death sucks so much, that “you don’t have to die” is a message that most. if not all, human beings are predisposed to accept, just because; death sucks so much that most people are willing to put up with one king hell monster lot of bullshit as long as they think said bullshit will ensure that they don’t die.

    Another selling point: The camaraderie. Religion is all about in-group versus out-group—and if you’re part of the in-group, well, you’ve got it made. Being part of the in-group means you’ve got friends, you’ve got a support network, you’ve got all sorts of shiny happy benefits that might as well have been cynically calculated to exploit the crap out of certain innate characteristics of social animals such as Homo sapiens is.
    Just, you know, make damn sure you stay in the in-group. Or else. And who really wants to find out how bad the ‘or else’ can get?

    So yeah, it makes perfect sense that religion is supported by people who are stomped on and marginalized by religion. Because those people want the shinies so much that as long as they get their shinies, they’re willing to tolerate/overlook the stomping-on and marginalization.

  11. 17

    The number of non-believers is actually lower than I would have expected, given how viciously many Christians persecute LGBT people. Yes, there are good people and affirming congregations and even a few denominations that have supported us, but they are just a drop in the bucket when you compare the power, strength and influence of, say, the Catholic Church and the LDS Church and the Southern Baptist Conference.

    People tend to avoid organizations that seek to destroy their lives and strip them of their basic human rights.

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