Hartford Institute Logo
Hartford Institute Site Map Hartford Seminary

Hartford Seminary
The Web

A Quick Question 

How religiously active are gay men?

The quick answer:   More active than heterosexual men, according to a recent study.

The longer answer:   A study by Darren E. Sherkat, Professor of Sociology at Southern Illinois University, published in the latest issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that gay men were significantly more active in religious organizations when compared to heterosexual men.  Gay men were also more active in religious groups when compared to lesbians and male and female bisexuals. 

The study examined data from the General Social Survey’s between 1991 and 2000, comparing the rates of religious activity of 4713 heterosexual men and 5620 women to that found among the 149 men who reported exclusively homosexual activity.  Additionally the GSS data set had information from 99 persons identified as lesbian, 73 bisexual males and 102 bisexual women.   In total, Sherkat found that 4.3% of men and 3.1% of women report same-sex sexual partners in the five years preceding being interviewed. 

Sherkat argues that while most religious pundits have asserted that sexual experimentation is linked to female spirituality, he found in the GSS data that lesbians and female bisexuals have very low rates of religious activity.  In contrast, he argues, gay men attend church "without having to be dragged to services by female partners—as is the case for heterosexual men." 

Sherkat speculates that the differences found in the study suggest that "religious activity is a function of sex-based aversion to risky behaviors that may well be biological. Gay men may avoid the risk of eternal punishment by gravitating towards religious consumption—much like heterosexual women do." In contrast, lesbians appear more like heterosexual men in their religious activity.  The study contends that lesbians are more like men in their acceptance of risks of divine eternal sanctions. 

Several other explanations are also entertained in the article, including the suggestion that gay men may find succor in a male oriented religion where salvation is attained through devotion to a male god (Jesus).  

Persons interested in further findings from the study should contact the author directly.

Contact Information:

Professor Darren E. Sherkat


Interested persons might want to check out the section of this site dedicated to the topic of homosexuality and religion


Return to the Quick Question archive


Hartford Seminary
77 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
© 2000 - 2006 Hartford Seminary, Hartford Institute for Religion Research