A McCall's magazine survey of 60,000 women reflects widespread faith in God among American women but growing doubts about the institutions of religion.
The survey by the secular women's magazine focused on religion and morality and drew more reader response than any of McCall's previous surveys of the magazine, according to a summary of the results published in the May issue.
Of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and even agnostic women who responded to the survey, nine of 10 professed faith in God and two of three said they pray every day.
While 59 percent of the women said they attend religious services, at least once a week, only 17 percent said their church or synagogue was the "principal influence" on their moral choices.
The magazine said that "increasing numbers of women find it difficult to base their moral decisions on traditional religious precepts."
Parents were rated by 99 percent of the women as carrying the major responsibility for developing the moral attitudes and behavior of their children. One-fourth of Catholic women said the church had been the most important influence on their own morality, and 74 percent of all respondents named their parents as the main factor in their moral development.
Nearly one-fourth of women who said they had been "born again" cited the Bible as their source about morality. "Significantly, only 3 percent of married women acknowledge their husbands as important influences on the their own moral values," the magazine said.
Half of the Christians and 16 percent of the Jews held the view that premarital sex is "sinful, unethical or immoral." Extramarital sex was condemned by three-fourths of the Christians and half of the Jews. The survey found that "55 percent of all women consider it immoral to bear a child out of wedlock."
Christians who characterize themselves as "born again," McCall's said: "turn out to be more conservative on their beliefs and moral attitudes" on almost every question. Women, with an income of less than $8,000 a year "are considerably stricter in their religious and moral values than those who have a greater share of this world's good," the survey found.
Almost 70 percent "turn to God first for comfort and guidance" in time of trouble, the study found. "Next in order of preference are: husband - 29 percent, a good friend - 21 percent, a close relative - 11 percent." Only 5 percent listed a clergyman.
Women on the lower end of the income scale are "more likely to turn to God (78 percent) and much less likely (7 percent) to rely on their husbands," the survey said.
On the basis of the survey, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Baptists are most devoted in their church attendance. "On the other end of the scale, 59 percent of Unitarian-Unniversalists, 36 percent of Jews, 29 percent of Christian Scientists and 26 percent of Episcopalians say they 'virtually never' attend church," the magazine reported.
Fewer than one-third of the women give as much as $10 a week to church or synagogue, and 27 percent give less than $100 a year.
The prospect of their children marrying someone of another faith was most disturbing to Jewish women, largely because Judaism is basically a family religion and mixed marriages tend to threaten passing the faith to children. Twenty-one percent of the born-again "Christians said a mixed marriage would "distress them very much."
The large majority of the women polled were willing to let their children over 18 make their own religious choices.
Such toleration did not include such controversial religious cults as the Hare Krishnas or the Unification Church, according to the survey.
"Two-thirds of all respondents say they do everything possible to change their minds' if their children joined such a sect, while another 24 percent acknowledge that they would resort to force if necessary" to pull their children out of such groups, the magazine said.