Why are women more likely to join religious cults?

New photos have been released this week of a 66-year old Brazilian man who claims to be the reincarnated Jesus. Inri Christo was born Álvaro Theiss, but changed his name to Inri (the acrynoym of the Latin title ‘Jesus Christ King of the Jews’) when he heard a voice in his head revealing his true divine identity.

The photos of him dressed up in full Jesus regalia, sitting on a throne, surrounded by disciples are at best amusing and at worst disturbing, not least because the line of people looking adoringly up at him are almost exclusively young women. It’s a picture that provides yet more evidence for the worrying fact that women are much more susceptible to being seduced by religious cults than men – research suggests that women make up to 70 per cent of global cult members.

There will be plenty of sociological explanations for this, to do with the fact that in many cultures women are less well educated than men, are less empowered and therefore more attracted to the illusion of security that a cult offers. And yet this can’t be the whole story because the pattern is the same when it comes to well-educated western types who join extreme sects.

This begs the question: do women have a greater need for spiritual fulfilment than men? It’s certainly the case that women trump men when it comes to church attendance by some margin. But if this was truly the reason then we’d see the same pattern in rest of the major religions, when in fact men outnumber women in other places of worship in the UK.

This leaves the rather boringly predictable conclusion that women, even emancipated ones, are more vulnerable to cults because of our history of oppression. We are simply more comfortable being under authority because, even on a subconscious level felt merely as a legacy of the past, we’re used to it. But being in the clutches of someone like Inri Christo is not just a case of submitting to a man as a spiritual guru, it’s worshipping him as a higher being.

But what’s the difference between this guy and any other religious leader? The ‘real Jesus’ was a man too wasn’t he? Yet, as a female Christian, I choose to worship him. And didn’t he set in motion a religion which has systematically oppressed women for centuries? When faced with these facts, combined with these photos of the young female faces gazing up at a fake Christ, my initial reaction is to want to run a million miles and find a spirituality which has nothing less than undiluted oestrogen running through its veins.

There’s even a small part of me that sympathises with the Femen activist who, in protest against the patriarchy of religion, stood on the altar of Cologne Cathedral this Christmas Day with the slogan ‘I am God’ emblazoned across her bare boobs.

But it’s too easy, in fact it’s downright unintelligent, to write off something that’s good and true at its heart just because some of its practitioners have let it down, or even because it’s often been expressed through maleness. This is surely feminism as the bluntest, least subtle instrument it can be. For feminism, much like religion, should not be about asserting the rights of one group over another, but seeking a common humanity in which everyone has equal stake.