Journal Article

Political Tolerance and God's Wrath in the United States*

Paul Froese, Christopher Bader and Buster Smith

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 69, issue 1, pages 29-44
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2008 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/69.1.29
Political Tolerance and God's Wrath in the United States*

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Ever since Stouffer (1955) began to measure political tolerance a half century ago, multiple studies have shown that church attendance and denominational affiliation play a significant role in influencing whether individuals want to extend civil liberties to fringe groups. However, there is little theoretical understanding of why religion should affect an individual's unwillingness to grant free expression to minority opinions. Drawing upon the theoretical innovations of Greeley (1995) we argue that the key to understanding when religion negatively affects political tolerance is the individual's conception of God. Using data from the General Social Survey we find that a wrathful image of God is significantly related to the denial of civil liberties to unpopular groups, even controlling for attendance, affiliation and view of the Bible. These findings indicate that religious faith and civil liberties are in tension mainly when believers think that God actively punishes sinners.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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