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Heaven, Hell, religion, and evolution

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Table 17.10 presents the logistic regression equations for belief in Heaven and Hell and attitudes toward religion and evolution. Anglo Evangelicals with some college or a BA were significantly less likely than those with no college exposure to believe in Heaven and Hell. Although higher education strengthened some beliefs, it did not strengthen a belief in heaven and hell. This would be consistent with Berger. Consistent with Warner’s “New Paradigm,” Anglo Evangelicals who had gone beyond high school were stronger believers in heaven and hell than those who ended their education before college. On the other hand, Anglo Evangelicals who had at least some college exposure were more likely to agree that “religion causes more problems than it solves.” Education, then worked in both directions, as Wuthnow posited. Age effects also operated in both directions. Millennials, GenXers and Boomers were less certain of their belief in heaven and hell than were Anglo Evangelicals in the Silent Generation.

Summary and conclusion

I have examined religious diversity at two levels. First, I quantitatively confirmed Don Miller’s and Wade Clark Roof s qualitatively derived argument that the absence of a single dominant religion or denomination has led to greater religious diversity in Los Angeles, Southern California, and California. In addition to the number of different religious affiliations regional diversity was also found in three other dimensions: (1) the concentration of non-denominational megachurches in Southern California, (2) a greater variety of Evangelical denominations in the Central Valley as compared with the South, and (3) higher rates of interfaith marriage.

Second, I examined the impact of religious diversity by applying three theoretical perspectives to religious behaviors, orthodox Christian belief, and social attitudes. Berger’s “Plausibility Structure” predicts that diversity will undermine religious belief and behaviors by exposing adherents to different outlooks and world views. Warner’s “New Paradigm” makes the opposite prediction; religious competition (including competition with no beliefs) strengthens belief and behaviors. Wuthnow posited that both processes can exist simultaneously. I looked only at Anglo Evangelicals for this analysis because in theory they should be the least influenced by external factors. Religious behaviors, religious beliefs, and social attitudes were examined initially using only geography and then by logistic regression analysis to isolate the impact of geography controlling for age, education, and type of county. The bi-variate analysis of geography was consistent with Berger’s “Plausibility Structure.” In the Central Valley and South, where Evangelical Christianity predominates, Anglo Evangelicals were more faithful believers than geographies that were more religiously diverse. The logistic regressions on individual items provided evidence for Wuthnow’s supposition that both processes could be at work simultaneously. Consistent with Warner’s competition-based “New Paradigm,” education increased religious behaviors, reinforced a literal reading of the Bible, failed to diminish certainty about the existence of God, and intensified feelings of threat by “Hollywood values.” Consistent with Berger, residence in Los Angeles County diminished religious behaviors, even controlling for factors such as education that increased them among Anglo Evangelicals. Patterns consistent with both Warner and Berger substantiate Wuthnow’s insight that both processes can exist simultaneously.

In the absence of a single dominant religious tradition in Southern California, and Los Angeles County in particular has led to greater religious diversity. An independent impact of Los Angeles and Southern California was less evident for Anglo Evangelicals, but this should not be a surprise as belief is so much a part of the Evangelical identity. Even when looking only at this strongly religious group and controlling for other explanatory factors, evidence remained for the unique religious influence of residence in Los Angeles County. Other California subregions were also found to have their own unique religious influences. The Bay Area, for example, was the most secular, but many of the beliefs of Anglo

Evangelicals in the Bay Area were strengthened as a result of the secularism surrounding them. The influence of the Dustbowl migration on religion in Central Valley further attests to the long-lasting impact of historical processes. California’s political, economic, social, and cultural distinctiveness from the rest of the United States has been amply documented. The analysis provided here adds religion to that list.

Notes

  • 1 The Religion, Politics and Culture in Southern California Religion Working Group met at USC from 2012-2015 and was the impetus for this chapter.
  • 2 It is worth noting given the focus of this book and this chapter that Focus on the Family was founded and located for many years in Southern California.
  • 3 The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture has presented this visually in an interactive map of California Megachurches: https://crcc.usc.edu/califomia-megachurches/.
 
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