Video: How do you view God?

By Don Teague Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/12/2006 7:26:17 PM ET 2006-09-12T23:26:17

The sounds of faith in America — varied depending on culture, location or belief — but also familiar, and for good reason.

According to a comprehensive new study, America is a country of believers.

Researchers at Baylor University found nearly 92 percent Americans believe in God or a higher power, and their image of who God is shapes their lives in profound ways.

Among the study's conclusions: that Americans see God in one of four distinct ways. Sixteen percent see God as critical, 23 percent as benevolent, 24.4 percent as distant and 31.4 percent as authoritarian.

"In general what we find is people who believe in a more angry and engaged God tend to be moral absolutists," says Baylor researcher Paul Froese. "In other words, they think things are either right or wrong, and they also tend to be political conservatives."

Still, researchers found people on the political left are equally religious.

"Liberals have consistently argued that conservatives don't hold copyright to the word Christian," says Bill Lawrence, a professor at Southern Methodist University.

America has always been a religious country, but experts say even more so in times of crisis.

"At a time of great doubt and a time of warfare, a time when we feel threats quite immediate to us, that increases people's religiosity when they try to find meaning and try to find comfort at the same time," says Newsweek's Editor-in-Chief Jon Meacham.

Researchers didn't ask Americans if they expect to go to heaven, but they did ask about friends and family. The result? More than 75 percent expect their families to make it to heaven, and nearly 70 percent expect friends to join them.

Which sounds a lot like faith.

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