Religion in America: Does it matter which God we see? LIFE’S ULTIMATE QUESTIONS. Shoreline photo in public domain, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Does it matter which of America’s Gods you believe in?
Almost all Americans believe in God, but our images of God differ. Americans have four views, as we discussed on Monday: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical, or Distant.
So, does it matter which God you believe in?

One’s image of God influences religious beliefs, religious practices, and attitudes about a range of social issues, according to The Baylor Religion Survey. Americans who see God as engaged in daily life—Authoritarian or Benevolent—are more likely to pray several times a day and more likely to go to church. Mainline Protestants and Catholics are more likely to believe in a Distant God—uninvolved in daily life and meting out rewards or punishment only in the afterlife. But many Mainline Protestants and Catholics also believe in a Benevolent God (engaged and positive force in the world).

Evangelical Protestants and Black Protestants are very likely to believe in an Authoritarian God, as are those who take Bible literally, who believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that God is a “He”.

Overall, those who believe in an Authoritarian or Benevolent God have more conservative attitudes about abortion and marital issues, compared to those who believe in a Critical or Distant God. For example, a large majority (81%) of Americans who believe in an Authoritarian God say gay marriage is always wrong, and a very large majority of this group (93%) says extra-marital sex is always wrong. A majority of those who believe in a Benevolent God feels the same way about these issues, but the proportions are lower. Those who believe in a Distant God—a cosmic clock maker who set the world in motion but is otherwise unengaged—have the most liberal views of these matters.

But in some areas, Americans agree no matter which image of God they have. The majority of each group believes the federal government should regulate businesses more closely. Large majorities in each group feel the federal government should protect the environment better. And, very few of any group believes that divorce is always wrong.

What is your image of God?

How does it influence your views on social issues and economic policy?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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