Not all Americans believe in God, but most do as we discussed yesterday. Intensity of religious belief is one way that America is different from, say, most European nations. Other sources of worldwide data, such as my analyses of the World Values Surveys confirm that Americans are exceptional in their strong beliefs in God.
But what kind of God do Americans believe in?
For that matter, what kind of God do people elsewhere believe in?
To find out, the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) asked people in 30 countries, focusing on the concept of a personal God. Here’s the statement used in the ISSP.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?
“There is a God who concerns himself with every human being personally.”
Here’s what the data show: More than two thirds of Americans believe this statement is true, according to Tom Smith’s compilation of ISSP data. The percentage is higher in only two nations: Chile and the Philippines. Other nations with at least 60% agreeing that there is a personal God include Northern Ireland, Poland, Ireland, and Israel. In most countries, however, fewer than half (often way less than half) believe in a personal God. East Germany, France, and the Czech Republic anchor the low end.
Of course, there are variations in the type of God people believe in, even in the United States. In a Baylor study we discussed last fall, Americans have four conceptions of God. Two—the Authoritarian God and Benevolent God—are personally engaged in our daily lives, though they are different in other ways. The Authoritarian God is an angry, vengeful God who punishes the ungodly. The Benevolent God, in contrast, is mostly a positive influence. The other two types are not engaged in our daily lives. A Critical God is an angry, distant observer who metes out rewards and punishments after death. A Distant God is a cosmic clockmaker who sets the world in motion but is otherwise uninvolved.
What kind of God do you believe in?
Do you think God is concerned with every human being personally?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.