Deutsch Intern
    Chair of Religious Education

    An empirical-theological study on the impact of gender on adolescents' representations of God


    Dr. Ulrich Riegel, Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Ziebertz


    Due to Feminist Theology the representations of God, that dominate Christian tradition, are andro­cen­tric. Although the bible speaks of God also in feminine metaphors and although within Christian tradition it is common sense, that God itself transcends gender, the Christian God appears to be male. This affects the gender of individual identities (as well as the gendered structure of societies). On the other hand actual research identifies a change in religiosity, that is characterized by religious individualization. Particularly adolescents show a great variety of religious styles containing only few explicit Christian elements. That raises the question if the adolescents‘ representations of God are gendered, and if there is a relation between the gendered self-image and the image of God. This study investigates the „gender-load“ of adolescents‘ representations of God by using a two-dimensional concept of gender that is based on a social constructionist framework.


    What type of metaphors and qualities do adolescents use to desribe their representations of God and what do they tell us about the impact of gender on these representations?
    Are there contextual settings that influence the „genderedness“ of the representations of God?
    Do the gendered self-images interfere in the construction of the „gender-load“?

    Goals of research

    A first goal aims at theological research and reflection. In the last years gender has become a major item within theology. Up to now research and reflection are dominated by a bipolar concept of gender. This study tests the hermeneutical and empirical power of a two-dimensional concept. Particularly it is a contribution to the implementation of social constructionist concepts in quantitative research.

    A second goal aims at religious education. The study provides an empirically based insight in the processes of gendering within the religious reflection of adolescents, especially referring to their representation of God. This knowledge enables teachers at school to conceptualize their educational programs in a gender-sensitive way. It also enables teachers at university to examine their curricula in religious education, if and how they reflect on the processes of gendering in religion.


    Quantitative-empirical research (questionnaire) – sample: 1938 german students (14- to 16-year old)


    This project was part of the Graduiertenkolleg „Geschlechterdifferenz in religiösen Symbolsystemen“ for two years (1998-2000) at the University of Würzburg, that was sponsored by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).


    Riegel U. (2004). Gott und Gender. Eine empirisch-religionspädagogische Untersuchung zu Geschlechtsvorstellungen in Gottesbildern Jugendlicher, Münster
    Riegel U., Ziebertz H.-G. (2001), Images of God in a Gender Perspective. An empirical typology, in: Ziebertz H.-G. (ed.), Imagining God. Empirical Explorations from an international Perspective, Münster, 229-244.