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Baylor Religion Survey Examines Faith's Impact On Economics, Work, and Beyond

Sept. 22, 2011

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That's Dr. Kevin Dougherty, a sociology professor, and one member of the research team for the 2011 Baylor Religion Survey. The survey is the 3rd wave in a series examing the role of religion on the beliefs of individuals on topics such as how they view God, Heaven and Hell, social issues, and more.

Sociology professor Paul Froese examined the relationship between faith and American economics in the study. While it's well-known that many evangelical Christians espouse political conservatism, Dr. Froese said the survey revealed to them a deeper interplay than could be shown by a mere political label.

Yet the study shows that these Americans with less wealth are more likely to believe that the American economic system is fair. Dr. Froese explains one possible reason.

Froese called this a "religious economic idealism," best represented on the national stage by Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Many of these individuals are more likely to see the economic downturn as a symbol of an engaged God's judgement on the country. These people, many of whom believe that God has a plan for their lives and for the life of the nation, tend to worry less than the population as a whole.

Dr. Dougherty said that a sizable minority of Americans say they pursue excellence at work because of their faith, with 25 percent of working adults saying they view their vocation as a mission from God. Entrepreneurs take on risk in a good economy, and that is even more true in a down economy. Dougherty said they discovered something interesting about entrepreneurs in the survey.

The survey also asked questions about gay rights and the origins of homosexuality, finding the religiously affiliated attribute homosexual behavior to individual choice moreso than the unaffiliated population, which overwhelmingly attributes it to genetics. Just fifteen percent of the religiously unaffiliated population believes homosexuality is a choice, as opposed to forty-five percent of the religiously affiliated, and are therefore more likely to support same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay couples. The Baylor Religion Survey has released its findings in waves on a bi-annual basis since it began in the fall of 2005. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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