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Most Believe God Gets Involved

March 10, 2010


When the "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell recently predicted the departure of the contestant Jermaine Sellers, the young singer shook his head in disagreement. "I know God," he replied, pointing upward.

Two days later, when Mr. Sellers failed to make the cut, he still had faith. "What God has for me is for me," he said. "In God there is no failure."

Mr. Sellers is not alone in his belief that God pays attention to reality television contests. New research shows that most Americans believe God is directly involved in their personal affairs, and that the good or bad things that happen are "part of God’s plan," according to a report in the March issue of the journal Sociology of Religion.

"Many people describe their relationship with God not in abstract terms but in the way they would describe a real personal friend, but a friend who would never betray you," said Scott Schieman, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. "The interesting thing is that when you press people to start talking about things like speeding tickets or losing weight, a lot of people will weave a divine narrative in, describing God as somehow setting up situations or setting up scenarios for success or failure."

The research relied on data from two national surveys: the Baylor Religion Survey, a nationally representative sample of 1,721 Americans; and the Work, Stress and Health Survey, which collects data from phone interviews with 1,800 people across the United States. In reviewing the data sets, Dr. Schieman studied the influence of people’s religious beliefs on behavior, and how education and income are related to views about God’s involvement in everyday life.

The study found that 82 percent of respondents said they "depend on God for help and guidance in making decisions." And 71 percent believe that good or bad events are "part of God’s plan for them."


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