Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2017 Volume 13 :: Article 3
2017 Volume 13, Article 3
Providentiality: A New Measure of Religious Belief

Author: Rebecca A. Glazier (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)

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Research indicates that religious beliefs can have a major impact on human behavior. Despite the explanatory value of religious beliefs, they are not rigorously studied as often as they could be, because such beliefs tend to be complex, denomination-specific, and difficult to measure. Might non-denomination-specific religious beliefs help inform our understanding of religion’s influence on decision-making? Providentiality—or the belief that God has a plan that humans can help bring about—is potentially such a belief. Orthogonal to religious tradition, providentiality can inform and motivate a variety of behaviors that are of interest to scholars—from the choice to marry to the choice to vote. Data from four different sources—two nationally representative surveys, one large online survey through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and one survey of church-attenders in Little Rock—are presented and analyzed to establish a method for validly measuring providentiality and to provide insight into its potential impact. OLS regression models and correlations present a picture of providential religious believers and their demographic, political, and religious characteristics. The results indicate that providential religious beliefs are found across religious traditions and political divisions. Better understanding individual belief motivation through mechanisms like providentiality can provide additional insight into how religion drives human behavior.

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