The Common Good
July 2007

America's Four Views of God

by Rose Marie Berger, Jonathan Mendez | July 2007

American theists perceive God in four general ways, according to findings from the Baylor Religion Survey.

American theists perceive God in four general ways, according to findings from the Baylor Religion Survey. The four views of God—which the authors label "authoritarian," "benevolent," "critical," and "distant"—come from measuring beliefs about God's level of engagement in the world and about God's level of anger. Authoritarians (31.4 percent of respondents) believe God is both very engaged and very angry. Benevolents (23 percent) believe God is very engaged and not so angry. Criticals (16 percent) believe God is not that engaged but very angry, and distants (24.4 percent) believe that God is neither very engaged nor very angry. The survey also indicates that:

  • 87.2 percent of those who believe in a distant God believe the federal government should protect the environment better, compared to 75.9 percent of the authoritarians.

  • 38 percent of those who believe in a benevolent God believe that "good people" should actively seek social and economic justice.

  • 62.7 percent of the authoritarians want more military spending, compared to 33.8 percent of the distants.

  • 27.3 percentof the distants would abolish capital punishment, compared to 12.1 percent of the authoritarians.

Source: "American Piety in the 21st Century" (Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, September 2006).

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