God and the welfare state - Substitutes or complements? An experimental test of the effect of belief in God's control

Gilad Be'ery, Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom

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Belief in God's control of the world is common to many of the world's religions, but there are conflicting predictions regarding its role in shaping attitudes toward the welfare state. While the devout are expected to support pro-social values like helping others, and thus might be supportive of the welfare state, the possibility of taking action is undermined by the belief in God's absolute control over world affairs and in a morally perfect providence, who is responsible for the fates of individuals. As the literature provides mixed results on this question, this study examines the role of belief in God's control on welfare attitudes using three priming experiments and two priming tasks, carried out with a design that is both cross-cultural (US vs. Israel) and cross-religious tradition (Judaism vs. Catholicism). We find evidence that, largely, belief in God's control increases support for income redistribution among Israeli Jews (study 1), American Jews (study 2), and American Catholics (study 3). The findings suggest that the traditional and common political gap between the economic left and the religious, based on the evaluation that religious beliefs lead to conservative economic preferences, may be overstated.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0128858
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - 10 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Be'ery, Ben-Nun Bloom. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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