Belief In God Increases As Government Becomes Less Stable, But Not Necessarily In America

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 23: In this photo illustration the phrase 'In God We Trust'  can be seen on an American ten dollar bill on October 23, 2008 in London, England. The British pound has hit it's lowest point against the Dollar in five years as it fell to just above 1.62 US Dollars after fears of a recession were acknowledged by the government and financial experts today.  (Photo by Hugh Pinney/Getty Images)

Which I think is only natural. Humans, by nature, like stability. Though I spend a lot of time bashing government, a degree of it is necessary for a stable society. So when government gets unstable, it’s only natural that people would seek stability in other parts of their lives as well.

What’s interesting is that the United States is actually the exception to this rule:

When faith in external government systems fails, faith in God subsequently increases, according to a recent study published in the November issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Five researchers examined how instability in government order, ranging from economic turmoil to impending elections, affects individual psychological functioning. They based their findings on an analysis of historical trends and past research, as well as four experiments they designed.

The study highlights the psychological importance of personal control of one’s destiny in providing security. When someone feels personal matters are out of control, an external force — either government or God — can ensure things are under control. The order provided by a higher power or karma is thought to be common to almost all religions.

The paper claims belief in God and government serve overlapping functions as providers of structured, nonrandom, orderly worlds. The researchers also write that government and God may be substitutable.

In other words, it’s easier to sleep at night when you know cops are roaming the streets and rescue crews are but a 911 call away. Just as it’s easier to sleep, for believers anyway, when you believe that your god (whichever god that may be) has things under control.

But in America, things are different. We tend to remain a religious country regardless of how we feel about the government:

Interestingly, these findings may not hold true for the United States. The researchers admit that observations in the United States contradict their findings.

In the U.S., religious commitment does not appear to be waning as secular systems develop and stabilize. The paper hypothesizes that the wide disparity between rich and poor, the latter of which have not experienced personal stability, may be responsible.

This last is part of what makes America such a unique place, I think. It’s no secret that I, personally, am an atheist but there is perhaps no other place on earth that has a history of adherence to the doctrine of religious freedom as America has. The religious in America are down right defiant in their religious beliefs. As the President put it (insultingly), they cling to those beliefs.

Now, I don’t adhere to those beliefs myself, but that level of faith and devotion is inspiring in a lot of ways. And Americans have as much faith in their, well, faith as they have in our constitution and system of government.

Not always those running the government, sure, but the system of government absolutely.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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