Perception of God shapes political views
From USA TODAY. If you pray to God, to whom — or what — are you praying?
When you sing God Bless America, whose blessing are you seeking?
In the USA, God — or the idea of a God — permeates daily life. Our views of God have been fundamental to the nation's past, help explain many of the conflicts in our society and worldwide, and could offer a hint of what the future holds. Is God by our side, or beyond the stars? Wrathful or forgiving? Judging us every moment, someday or never?
Surveys say about nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, but the way we picture that God reveals our attitudes on economics, justice, social morality, war, natural disasters, science, politics, love and more, say Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, sociologists at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Their new book, America's Four Gods: What We Say About God — And What That Says About Us, examines our diverse visions of the Almighty and why they matter.
Based primarily on national telephone surveys of 1,648 U.S. adults in 2008 and 1,721 in 2006, the book also draws from more than 200 in-depth interviews that, among other things, asked people to respond to a dozen evocative images, such as a wrathful old man slamming the Earth, a loving father's embrace, an accusatory face or a starry universe.
Researchers from the USA to Malawi are picking up on the unique Baylor questionnaire, and its implications. When the Gallup World Poll used several of the God-view questions, Bader says, "one clear finding is that the USA — where images of a personal God engaged in our lives dominate — is an outlier in the world of technologically advanced nations such as (those in) Europe." There, the view is almost entirely one of a Big Bang sort of God who launched creation and left it spinning rather than a God who has a direct influence on daily events.
Froese points out: "You can't really ask people directly about their moral and philosophical worldview. But if you know their image of God, it could give you insight into why they get upset when you break the rules, or you stand up for a certain politician. Or, how they will react when bad things happen or whether they see personal morality or foreign policy in stark right-or-wrong terms."