In describing the dreams and superstitions and fantasies that assailed her when she lost her boy, she confirms something that I have long thought to be true about the apparent conundrum of female religiosity: Why is it women who keep up the congregations in male-dominated places of worship? That’s easy: women do all the childbearing, and they will try anything—anything—to ward off the illness or death of an infant. They will also grieve over and commemorate such a catastrophe long after the menfolk have “moved on.” Elizabeth manages to get a slight laugh out of a sad parishioner at her North Carolina church who says that his unending misery is like the movie Groundhog Day (“I think he must have left before the end of the film”), and she ends up with a sort of deistic compromise whereby she doesn’t demand the right to have an explanation from God but doesn’t believe he intervenes, either. Like a surprising number of people, she fails to see any contradiction in the idea that God “gave” her “free will.” When she goes to texts for illumination, she is more likely to quote Ovid than the Gospels. From the Old Testament she prefers the Book of Job, and no wonder.
Women’s religiosity — it’s because women care most about the kids, says Hitch, and those Mother Bear instincts make them more willing to bet on Pascal’s Wager. It’s an interesting theory; I don’t think it adequately explains why religious organizations are so male-dominated to begin with, or why the Mother Bears wouldn’t begin to take their religious business elsewhere if and when competing, more egalitarian options became available (or why the market wouldn’t provide more such options).