Table of Contents:

Behaviors

Educating at least some college education intensified all the behaviors with the exception of sharing one’s faith at least once a month. For example, Anglo Evangelical college graduates were 1.869 times as likely as those who had a high school education or less to attend a prayer group at least once/week. For non-Evangelical Anglos, by contrast, education either depressed or was not associated with attending a prayer group at least once a week (data not shown). This is consistent with Warner’s “New Paradigm” whereby religious behaviors and beliefs are strengthened by contending with competing belief systems. For non-Evangelical Anglos, by contrast, attending college was associated with less frequent religious behaviors (data not shown). Assuming that Anglo Evangelicals with a college education were exposed to competing ideologies of “secular humanism” in college and have co-workers (and possibly' neighbors) with a similar level of educational attainment, this exposure has strengthened the frequency of their religious behavior as a response to these competitive influences.

Consistent with Berger’s “Plausibility Structure” hypothesis, living in Los Angeles County depressed religious behavior in five of the nine categories as compared with the South. Living in other geographies also depressed some of the individual behaviors, but residing in Los Angles depressed it more. For example, the odds ratio for Los Angeles in column 1 of Table 17.7 was 0.384. This means that Anglo Evangelicals in Los Angeles County were 62% less likely than Anglo Evangelicals in the South (the reference category) to attend a prayer group at least weekly (1-0.384=0.616). Residence in the Northeast also reduced the likelihood of attending a prayer group at least weekly, but the odds ratio here was 0.771. This means that Anglo Evangelicals in the Northeast were 22% less likely than those in the South to attend that often (1-0.771=0.221). Thus, the impact of living in Los Angeles depressed frequent prayer group attendance almost three times as much as living in the Northeast (0.616/0.229=2.69).

God and Bible

The logistic regressions for the four God and Bible items are shown in Table 17.8. As Wuthnow surmised, both “Plausibility Structure” and “New Paradigm” are at work. Education depressed the likelihood of seeing God as a person, but increased the likelihood of reading the Bible literally, which is consistent with Warner’s “New Paradigm,” which predicts that exposure to persons with differing beliefs strengthens the convictions of believers. For Anglo Catholics and Mainline Protestants, education reduced the absolute certainty that God exists (data not shown), but Table 17.8 shows that for Anglo Evangelicals education failed to weaken the certainty that God exists; again this would be consistent with Warner’s “New Paradigm.” For Anglo Catholics and Mainline Protestants, education reduced the propensity to relate to God as a person (data not shown), and this was also true for Anglo Evangelicals. This pattern is consistent with Berger’s “Plausibility Structure.”

Region of residence was only inconsistently associated with the four beliefs about God and Bible presented in Table 17.8. Anglo Evangelicals in most regions were less certain that God exists than their counterparts in the South. This would be consistent with Berger. Anglo Evangelicals in the Central Valley, on the other hand, were as certain as Southern Anglo Evangelicals that God exists. This would appear to reflect the predominance of Evangelical Christianity in this geography, also consistent with Berger’s “Plausibility Structure.” Anglo Evangelicals in the SoCal Ring and the Bay Area were as certain as Southerners about the existence of God; Warner would explain that this is because they have doubled down in an environment of religious skepticism that surrounds them. That there is evidence for both “Plausibility Structure” and “New Paradigm” processes is consistent with Wuthnow’s conjecture that the Berger and Warner models could operate together, offsetting each other’s influence. Indeed, Anglo Evangelicals in the Central

Valley were 2.6 times as likely as Southern Anglo Evangelicals to experience God personally. Evangelicals are especially prevalent in the Central Valley, but it is also more religiously diverse than the South. As a result, Anglo Evangelicals in the Central Valley are even stronger believers because they face more diversity than in the South.

Age was associated with the absolute certainty that God exists in a negative direction; the younger the Anglo Evangelical respondent, the greater the certainty about the existence of God. All three cohorts were more likely than Anglo Evangelicals born before 1946 to be absolutely certain that God exists. They were likewise more likely than the oldest cohort read the Bible literally. This is consistent with Warner’s “New Paradigm.” The proportion of Americans who have no religion increases with each subsequent age cohort, so that Millennials have the highest proportion of adherents to no religion at all (Pew Research Center 2012). Apparently in reaction to their increasingly secular cohort-mates, Anglo Evangelical Millennials were 2.4 times as likely as their grandparents and great grandparents in the Silent Generation to agree that the Bible is to be taken literally.

 
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