Media Releases

Divine intervention? New research looks at beliefs about god’s influence in everyday life.

March 8, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Most Amer­i­cans believe God is con­cerned with their per­son­al well-being and is direct­ly involved in their per­son­al affairs, accord­ing to new research out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. 

Using data from two recent nation­al sur­veys of Amer­i­cans, UofT Soci­ol­o­gy Pro­fes­sor Scott Schie­man exam­ined peo­ples’ beliefs about God’s involve­ment and influ­ence in every­day life. His research dis­cov­ers new pat­terns about these beliefs and the ways they dif­fer across edu­ca­tion and income lev­els. 

Schieman’s study, pub­lished in the March issue of the jour­nal Soci­ol­o­gy of Reli­gion, also high­lights the fol­low­ing find­ings: 

Over­all, most peo­ple believe that God is high­ly influ­en­tial in the events and out­comes in their lives. Specif­i­cal­ly: 

  • 82 per cent say they depend on God for help and guid­ance in mak­ing deci­sions;
  • 71 per cent believe that when good or bad things hap­pen, these occur­rences are sim­ply part of God’s plan for them;
  • 61 per cent believe that God has deter­mined the direc­tion and course of their lives;
  • 32 per cent agree with the state­ment: “There is no sense in plan­ning a lot because ulti­mate­ly my fate is in God’s hands.”
  • Over­all, peo­ple who have more edu­ca­tion and high­er income are less like­ly to report beliefs in divine inter­ven­tion.
  • How­ev­er, among the well-edu­cat­ed and high­er earn­ers, those who are more involved in reli­gious rit­u­als share sim­i­lar lev­els of beliefs about divine inter­ven­tion as their less-edu­cat­ed and less finan­cial­ly well-off peers. 

Accord­ing to Schie­man: “Many of us might assume that peo­ple of high­er social class stand­ing tend to reject beliefs about divine inter­ven­tion. How­ev­er, my find­ings indi­cate that while this is true among those less com­mit­ted to reli­gious life, it is not the case for peo­ple who are more com­mit­ted to reli­gious par­tic­i­pa­tion and rit­u­als.” 

He adds: “This study extends soci­o­log­i­cal inquiry into the ways that peo­ple of dif­fer­ent social stra­ta think about God’s influ­ence in every­day life. Giv­en the fre­quen­cy of God talk in Amer­i­can cul­ture, espe­cial­ly in some areas of polit­i­cal dis­course, this is an increas­ing­ly impor­tant area for researchers to doc­u­ment, describe, and inter­pret.”


For more infor­ma­tion on the study, please con­tact:

Scott Schie­man
Depart­ment of Soci­ol­o­gy

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer