Title

Angelic Belief as American Folk Religion

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-1-2011

Description

Belief in angels and their intervention in the material world is prevalent in the United States. Theoretically, the concept of folk religion offers an instructive lens into the popularity of these beliefs, which exist inside, outside, and across official religious doctrines, and are therefore able to transcend the boundaries of specific religious traditions by appealing to a diverse array of believers. Empirical analyses from a recent national survey support the application of the concept of folk religion, demonstrating that these beliefs are present in substantial proportions across disparate subgroups. Belief in angelic intervention is prevalent among conservative and "mainline" Protestants, Catholics, those with high levels of conventional religious practice, biblical literalists, and even those who strongly believe in "paranormal" phenomena such as Bigfoot and ESP. Belief in angels and claims of angelic protection provide compelling and flexible narratives, ready cognitive attributions, and emotional comfort. Consequently, these views have strong memetic appeal and are transposable into multifarious subcultures.

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