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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Interesting Findings

When the sociologist Peter Berger jokingly remarked that American society was so religious it should be thought of as the India of the West, he was only making a point the new Baylor University study of religion in America underscores.

According to this study, 85 percent of Americans admit to believing there is a God, 82 percent claim to be Christian (Protestant or Catholic), and nearly half attend church at least once a month. Even many Americans who are unaffiliated with organized religion consider themselves religious and sometimes pray.

One in three Americans belongs to a traditionally evangelical church, like the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, though the number of evangelical Protestants is much larger than that. Most African-American Protestant churches are evangelical in fact, if not in name, and many of the so-called mainline churches, like the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, have a substantial number of evangelical members.

Evangelicalism is particularly strong in the South, and Southerners are especially partial to an image of God the study labels the "authoritarian." Southerners who hold this view believe that God is intimately involved in the details of human life as well as active in the guidance of world affairs. They are confident God assists them in solving their problems and guides them in making decisions. At the same time, the authoritarian God is not merely benevolent but is angry with sinners and will punish the unrepentant, either here or hereafter.

Reverberations continue

This view of God as both benevolent and angry was standard for many mainline denominations in the 19th century and dominated Protestant preaching in the South. Before the Civil War, the largest religious group in the South was the revival-minded Methodists, who warned sinners of "the wrath to come." After the Civil War, the Methodists were supplanted by the equally evangelical Baptists, who competed with them for adult converts. In the socially conservative South, the evangelical message of providential care and stern judgment continued to reverberate after it had been softened elsewhere.

Of course, some Southerners are atheists (2.6 percent), while others (21.5 percent) believe in a distant God whose interest in human affairs is minimal. White Southerners tend to be religiously, socially and politically conservative -- though not necessarily on every issue -- while black Southerners tend to be religiously and socially conservative, but politically liberal.

A majority of Southerners who hold to an authoritarian God nevertheless believe the federal government should distribute wealth more evenly (56 percent), regulate business more closely (60.3 percent) and do a better job of protecting the environment(75 percent). Moreover, Southerners are less likely than other Americans to believe a house is haunted, check their horoscopes or claim to have seen UFOs.

African-American evangelicals, who form the backbone of the Democratic Party, join other evangelicals in opposing abortion as a form of birth control (81.3 percent) and are against same-sex marriage under any circumstances (80.6 percent). White evangelicals, who tilt to the Republicans, are almost as keen for stricter environmental controls as members of the Sierra Club.

In short, while there is a positive correlation between religious conservatism and political conservatism, the correlation is not absolute and the exceptions are as instructive as the correlations.

Posted by Ajay :: 6:10 PM :: 0 comments

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