Despite the hype surrounding the “New Atheism,” the United States remains one of the world’s most religious nations. In fact, 95% of Americans believe in God—a rare consensus in American life. The nation’s greatest rifts are not between atheists and believers, or between those of different faiths. What divides us, this groundbreaking book shows, is how we conceive of God and the role He plays in our daily lives.
Drawing on the most comprehensive and illuminating survey of Americans’ religious beliefs ever conducted, America’s Four Gods systematically explores how Americans view God. Paul Froese and Christopher Bader argue that many of America’s most intractable social and political divisions arise from religious convictions held deeply but rarely discussed. Working with original survey data from thousands of Americans and a wealth of in-depth interviews, Froese and Bader trace America’s cultural diversity to its ultimate source—differing beliefs about God. They show that regardless of religious tradition (or lack thereof), Americans worship four distinct deities: the Authoritative God, who is both engaged with the world and judgmental; the Benevolent God, who loves and aids us in spite of our failings; the Critical God, who catalogs our sins but does not punish them (at least not in this life); and the Distant God, who stands apart from the world He created. The authors show that these four images of God form the basis of our worldviews and are among the most powerful predictors of our feelings on America’s most contentious issues.
Accessible, insightful, and full of the voices of ordinary Americans, America’s Four Gods provides an invaluable portrait of how we view God and therefore how we view virtually everything else.