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Социология религии. Социолого-религиоведческий портал

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Sociology of Religion, Volume 71, Issue 1, 1 March 2010, Pages 25–51,https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srq004
10 February 2010


This study examines the differences in beliefs about God's influence in everyday life across levels of socioeconomic status (SES) and whether that association is contingent upon religious involvement (i.e., frequency of praying, attendance, reading religious texts, and subjective religiosity). I focus specifically on the beliefs in divine involvement and divine control. Using data from two national 2005 surveys of Americans, I observe the following: (1) overall, SES is associated negatively with beliefs in divine involvement and control; (2) with the exception of reading religious texts, each indicator of religious involvement is associated with higher levels of beliefs in divine involvement or divine control; (3) SES interacts with each dimension of religious involvement such that the negative association between SES and divine involvement or control is attenuated at higher levels of religious involvement. I discuss the contributions of this research for theoretical perspectives on the relationship between SES and beliefs about God's influence in everyday life, underscoring the need to assess religious involvement in these processes.

William James ([1902] 1999) defined religion as “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine” (p. 36). For more than a century, critiques of religion have suggested that beliefs about God, including His engagement and involvement in everyday life, represent forms of delusional pathology (Ellis 1988; Freud 1976; Marx and Engels 1964; Watters 1992).1 More recently, a fresh crop of writings from scholars across disciplines has sought to assess and challenge religion in contemporary society, especially in the United States (Dawkins 2006; Dennett 2006; Harris 2004; Hitchens 2007). Despite the increasing popularity of these recent polemics about religion, there is strong evidence that the vast majority of Americans maintain the belief in a personal God (Froese and Bader 2007), and these beliefs remain influential in many aspects of American social and political life (Wills 2007). Less is known, however, about the content of those beliefs. In this paper, therefore, I focus on the extent that individuals believe in a personal God who is involved and influential in people's lives—with a special emphasis on the distribution of these beliefs across SES.

Sociologists have long touted the social causes and consequences associated with beliefs about the divine (Marx and Engels [1878] 1964; Weber [1922] 1963). One area of interest has focused on the patterning of religious precepts and practices across social strata (Davidson 1977; Demerath 1965; Fukuyama 1961; Glock and Stark 1965; Stark 1972). Wilson (1982), for example, underscored “the differential appeal of religion according to the specifics of particular classes or social groups” (p. 23). Recent evidence confirms that stratification-based differences in religious affiliation persist (Pyle 2006; Smith and Faris 2005). In an effort to extend this tradition, I examine the association between SES and beliefs about God independently and in conjunction with other aspects of religious involvement, including the frequency of attending religious services, praying, reading religious texts, and subjective religious identification. Using data from two 2005 national surveys of American adults, I address three questions: (1) Is SES associated with beliefs about divine involvement and divine control? (2) How are different dimensions of religious involvement associated with those beliefs? (3) Does religious involvement modify the association between SES and beliefs about divine involvement and divine control? In supplemental analyses, I also assess whether or not the association between SES and the belief in divine involvement is contingent upon individuals' beliefs about the Bible as the literal word of God.



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