Using data from two recent national surveys, University of Toronto sociologist Scott Schieman has found that most Americans believe God is concerned with their well-being and is directly involved in their personal affairs.
The research, he says, uncovered the ways these beliefs about divine intervention differ across education and income levels. The results are published in Sociology of Religion.
Overall, the study found that most people believe that God is highly influential in the events and outcomes in their lives. 82 per cent say they depend on God for help and guidance in making decisions; 71 per cent believe that when good or bad things happen, these occurrences are simply part of God's plan for them; 61 per cent believe that God has determined the direction and course of their lives; 32 per cent agree with the statement: "There is no sense in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God's hands."
People who have more education and higher income are less likely to report beliefs in divine intervention. However, among the well-educated and higher earners, those who are more involved in religious rituals share similar levels of beliefs about divine intervention as their less-educated and less financially well-off peers.
"Many of us might assume that people of higher social class standing tend to reject beliefs about divine intervention. However, my findings indicate that while this is true among those less committed to religious life, it is not the case for people who are more committed to religious participation and rituals," Schieman says
He adds: "This study extends sociological inquiry into the ways that people of different social strata think about God's influence in everyday life. Given the frequency of God talk in American culture, especially in some areas of political discourse, this is an increasingly important area for researchers to document, describe, and interpret."
Citation: Scott Schieman, 'Socioeconomic Status and Beliefs about God's Influence in Everyday Life', Sociology of Religion, February 2010; doi:10.1093/socrel/srq004
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