The Baylor Survey of Religion study (What Americans Really Believe
) examined the correlation between one’s view of God and one’s commitment to religious practices. It measured American religious commitment by prayer, church attendance, religious experience, Bible reading, identification as a religious person and witnessing to strangers.
It asked questions, to begin with, to discover whether or not one’s view of God was more benevolent and engaging vs. a God who is more judging and severe. To do this, it asked questions about God’s concern with the world’s well-being, one’s own personal well-being, direct involvement in the world’s affairs, angered by human sin and angered by my sins. Here’s how I would read his conclusions:
God as distant (17%) and ever-present (85%). God as critical (26%) and punishing (38%). God as severe (26%) and wrathful (30%).
The big issue here is how one’s view of God impacts one’s religious practices. Are people, in other words, more religious out of fear or gratitude?
The answer… after the jump:
“It isn’t even close. Conceiving of God as benevolent and engaged is very highly correlated with a variety of aspects of commitment… seeing God as judgmental is only very weakly related to these aspects of commitment” (78).
Here are some correlation numbers: prayer (.647 vs. .185), church attendance (.588 vs. .211), religious experiences (.646 vs. .176) …
“people respond far more strongly religiously to a carrot than to a stick” (78).
Here’s the big download pastorally: One’s view of God is perhaps the most significant dimension of one’s religious practices. Get a good biblical grasp of God …