NPR logo In What God Do We Trust?

In What God Do We Trust?

Do you believe in an authoritarian God, a benevolent God, a critical God or a distant God? That's what a group of Baylor University sociologists asked 1,721 randomly selected subjects in the most comprehensive national survey of religion ever. That wasn't the only question, though; the subjects filled out a 16-page questionnaire on their religious beliefs.

But it turns out the answer to the above question was a great predictor of people's moral and political behavior according to the Baylor team that conducted the survey at the university's Institute for Studies of Religion. In fact, the answer was a better predictor than traditional labels like Protestant, Catholic or Jew.

For instance, while about 12% of all Americans think abortion is wrong in all circumstances, 23.4% of believers in an authoritarian God agree with that conclusion. On the other hand, only 1.5% of believers in a distant God agree.

Believers in a critical God are most likely to favor the equal distribution of wealth (58.7%), and closer regulation of business (70.6%). Believers in a benevolent God are most likely to believe that it's important to take care of the sick and the needy. In fact, 68% take that view.

According to the study, 91.8% of Americans believe in God or a higher power, or cosmic force.

The complete results are available here (PDF format).