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Aversion to and Understanding of God Talk in the Public Sphere: A Survey Experiment

Abstract

© 2018 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion “God talk” occurs when a member of the public gives religious reasons for a policy claim. The legitimacy of God talk is the subject of great debate among sociological and political theorists of the public sphere. There has never been an empirical study of the general public's views of the legitimacy of God talk itself. Using a vignette survey experiment, I find among the overall public that there is a statistically significant but extremely small degree of aversion to hearing God talk. Additionally, respondents claim to be able to understand God talk just as well as claims justified by science. Aversion to hearing and understanding God talk do differ by the religion of the respondent. I conclude with a discussion of how these results may influence theoretical debate about the public sphere.

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