More than 50,000 women a year have deserted their congregations over the past two decades because they feel church is not relevant to their lives, according to a British academic study — and shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" have played a role in the exodus.

The research, published in a new book called "Women and Religion in the West," says TV shows like "Buffy" offer women an appealing message of female empowerment while the old-fashioned attitudes and hierarchies of churches are causing a steep decline in the number of female worshippers.

"In short, women are abandoning the church," writes Kristin Aune, a sociologist at the University of Derby. "Because of its focus on female empowerment, young women are attracted by [the pagan religion] Wicca, popularized by the TV series 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'

"Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church."

Her research cites an English Church census which found that more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989, and that women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men.

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