A survey shows that the way Americans see the Almighty is closely linked to their political beliefs
NINE in ten Americans believe in God but how they vote, or regard the Iraq war, depends on the very different views they have about His personality, according to a detailed survey of religion in the US.
It found that Americans hold four different images of God — Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant — and these views are far more powerful indicators about their political, social and moral attitudes than any of the traditional categories such as Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical.
The study also suggests that America is more religious than previously thought, with only 5.2 per cent of respondents calling themselves atheist and 91.8 per cent saying that they believed in God. In Britain, by contrast, 20 per cent say that they hold no belief in a higher power and only 38 per cent claim to believe in a traditional God, according to a 2005 survey. The American survey, conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God’s personality. Researchers found that Americans hold four distinct views, and these “Four Gods” are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics, abortion, taxation and marriage. “You learn more about people’s moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than almost any other measure,” said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers. Nearly a third of Americans, 31.4 per cent, believe in an Authoritarian God, angry at earthly sin and willing to inflict divine retribution — including tsunamis and hurricanes.