According to a detailed survey performed by Baylor University researchers, the type of god people believe in can predict their political and moral attitudes more so than just looking at their religious tradition.
Researchers found that none of the "four gods" dominated among believers. The data showed:
• 31.4 percent believe in an Authoritarian God, who is very judgmental and engaged
• 25 percent believe in a Benevolent God, who is not judgmental but engaged
• 23 percent believe in a Distant God, who is completely removed
• 16 percent believe in a Critical God, who is judgmental but not engaged
Source: Baylor University
USA Today breaks down more information about those political and moral attitudes which are associated with each of the four types of God:
The Authoritarian God (31.4% of Americans overall, 43.3% in the South) is angry at humanity's sins and engaged in every creature's life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on "the unfaithful or ungodly," Bader says.
Those who envision God this way "are religiously and politically conservative people, more often black Protestants and white evangelicals," Bader says. "(They) want an active, Christian-values-based government with federal funding for faith-based social services and prayer in the schools."
They're also the most inclined to say God favors the USA in world affairs (32.1% vs. 18.6% overall).
The Benevolent God (23% overall, 28.7% in the Midwest) still sets absolute standards for mankind in the Bible. More than half (54.8%) want the government to advocate Christian values.
But this group, which draws more from mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews, sees primarily a forgiving God, more like the father who embraces his repentant prodigal son in the Bible, Froese says. They're inclined (68.1%) to say caring for the sick and needy ranks highest on the list of what it means to be a good person.
The Distant God (24.4% overall, 30.3% in the West) is "no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us," Bader says. Followers of this God see a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own.
This has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews. It's also strong among "moral relativists," those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don't attend church, Bader says. Only 3.8% of this group say embryonic stem cell research is always wrong, compared with 38.5% of those who see an authoritarian God, 22.7% for those who see God as benevolent and 13.2% who see God as critical but disengaged.