Baylor U might be the ugly stepsister when it comes to college sports' game of musical conference chairs, but they seem to live up to their goal of blending faith and serious research here. Their 2011 Baylor Religious Survey's third volume was just released, and had an interesting set of findings on faith and economics.
Economic conservatives tend to think God helps guide the economy, while economic liberals tend not to see such a hands-on God and trust more in government to help them out. Here's a few key passages from a USA Today piece on the report-
About one in five Americans combine a view of God as actively engaged in daily workings of the world with an economic conservative view that opposes government regulation and champions the free market as a matter of faith.
"They say the invisible hand of the free market is really God at work," says sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey, released today by Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
At the opposite pole, another one in five Americans don't see God stepping in to their daily lives and favor reducing wealth and inequality through taxation.
"So they're less likely to see God controlling the economy. Liberal economic perspectives are synonymous with the belief that there is no one 'ultimate truth,'" Froese says.
One wag has the first group down as "worshiping Milton Friedman and calling him Jesus." At least he used Friedman, who at least was a secular Jew, rather than the athiest Ayn Rand, as the faux-Messiah. Rand has been the whipping girl for the religious left as they try and counter the nexus of economic and religous conservatism in modern political thought.
The second group seems to need something to have hope in, and in the absense of a hand-on God, government becomes the benefactor to turn to. If the folks on the right are doing a Gospel of Milton Friedman, the left comes close to having a Gospel of Thomas Friedman along side their shrine to FDR.
The scary part is that the two factions almost add up to a majority. The right 20% is essentially the religious part of the Tea Party; a large secular-libertarian faction is in play there as well. When you have 1/5th of the population wanting smaller government and letting God handle the details and 1/5 wanting government to handle those details, we're close to an impass.
Looking at the Real Clear Politics page this week, you saw a slew of conservative commentators raining scorn on the Obama tax increase proposals, as well as an equal slew of liberal commentators calling upon Obama to hang tough and get that extra revenue from the rich. There's a 60% or so middle ground or so, but that is hard to get together when both sides are getting pulled to the poles.