Earlier this month Baylor University unveiled the third wave of its ongoing religion survey. They had some interesting findings, though they aren’t really all that surprising. For instance, entrepreneurs pray more, worriers are less likely to attend a religious services, liberals are less likely to believe in the afterlife, and so on.
F. Carson Mencken, director of the Baylor Religion Survey, explained that the past few years have been unsettling for most Americans. Financial crisis, unemployment, political turmoil and hot topic issues like same-sex marriage, immigration and gun control have weighed on many of us. Wave III of the survey, he said, was designed to assess how Americans feel about their “lives in these tumultuous times.”
Here are some highlights from the study. First, most Americans believe God has a plan for them. However, those who strongly believe this, make less money, are less educated, tend to believe that the United State’s economic system is fair, that healthy people should not receive unemployment benefits and almost 15 percent of those who strongly agree feel that some people are just meant to be rich, and others are meant to be poor.
The study also revealed that liberals are more skeptical about society than conservatives are. Liberals are more likely to believe that some people are born lucky (70 percent), that the world is controlled by few elites (66.9 percent), that it doesn’t really matter which political party is in power (33.5 percent), and that it’s useless to search for purpose in life (22.4 percent). Kind of depressing isn’t it?
Baylor researchers also examined the relationship between religion and mental health. Turns out prayer, religious affiliation and worship attendance don’t have an impact on one’s mental health. But a personal relationship with God does. Those who believe they have a strong relationship with an active God who loves them and is responsive to their needs had fewer mental health issues. These folks reported 31 percent fewer mental health issues.
The story doesn’t change much when it comes to worrying. Seventeen percent of Americans are chronic worriers and those who don’t attend a place of worship and don’t read spiritual texts are more likely to fit into this category.
Also noticeable in the report, was the relationship between worship and work. A quarter of working Americans said they view their work as a mission from God, and 36 percent pursue excellence in work because of their faith.
Some other interesting findings are that 62 percent of Americans believe in Heaven, and only 51 percent believe in Hell. Forty-one percent of Americans believe homosexuality is a choice, 57 percent believe it’s genetic. These are for a whole other post, so we’ll come back to that later.
You can read the entire study online at www.baylor.edu/2011religionsurvey.