Religious Beliefs and Devotion Linked to Sense of Personal Control

An individual’s level of commitment to religious rituals like praying
and attending service is directly linked to their sense of personal
control in life, according to new University of Toronto research.

U of T Sociology professor Scott Schieman interviewed 1,800 Americans in
a groundbreaking survey that examined the link between levels of
religious beliefs and sense of personal control over events and outcomes
in everyday life.

Among the study’s surprising results:

* People who believe in a powerful and influential God but aren’t as
strongly devoted to religious rituals like praying or attending service
report a lower sense of personal control in their lives;

*By contrast, individuals who believe that God’s will influences
outcomes in everyday life do not report a deflated sense of personal
control if they actively participate in religious rituals.

“One might think the most devout religious practitioners would feel a
lack of personal control in their lives because they have such faith in
divine control,” says Schieman. “Surprisingly, we found the opposite.
It’s those who believe in God but don’t dedicate much time to practicing
religion who feel the least in control of their lives.”

Schieman says these findings are particularly important in the current
economic climate, when many people are losing their jobs, their homes
and their savings.

“Some people feel unable to change the important events and outcomes in
their daily lives. Some people turn to a divine power or authority for
support. In some cases, this also implies a sense that one’s own fate
is influenced or determined by powerful external forces, especially
God,” Schieman says. “This notion of divine control is reflected in
common phrases like ‘It is all in God’s hands.'”

The study, entitled “The Religious Role and the Sense of Personal
Control,” is published in the October issue of the journal Sociology of
Religion.

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