Individual Differences are Related to People's Belief in God


Around the world the share of people who say they believe in God has decreased over the past several decades. This trend led scientists at the Pew Research Center to question, what, exactly are people rejecting?

They collected data from over 4700 Americans and first asked them if they believed in God. Eighty percent responded in the affirmative. Among that group, 56 percent indicated they believed in God as described in the Bible, while 23 percent expressed belief in some higher power or spiritual force. 

Interestingly, 19 percent of the respondents said they did not believe in God, but among that group, 9 percent held that some sort of higher power existed.

The researchers then asked additional questions about the participants’ belief in God, observing several trends and individual differences. 

In general, people who believe in God as portrayed in the Bible also think God is powerful, knowing all things, able to protect people, and so on. People who believe in a higher power are less likely to make such attributions about that divine force.

The study revealed a number of individual differences. For example, older Americans are more likely than their younger counterparts to indicate they believe in God. They are also more likely to hold that God can direct or change everything, but *less* likely to feel that God has punished them.

Education also plays a role. As people accumulate more formal education, they are less likely to believe in God as described in the Bible. 

Finally, politics seems to influence beliefs, too. About 70 percent of Republicans expressed a belief in God as described in the Bible—a figure far higher than 45 percent of Democrats who did so. 

These findings suggest that although most believe in God or some higher power, there is considerable variation in what that exactly means to them.