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Religious Individualism and Moral Progressivism: How Source of Religious Authority Is Related to Attitudes About Abortion, Same-Sex Marriage, Divorce, and Premarital Sex

  • Jeremy E. Uecker (a1) and Paul Froese (a1)

Many hypothesize that religious individualism is associated with progressive moral attitudes. Our analysis of data from US adults from the fourth wave of the Baylor Religion Survey finds that those who navigate moral conjunctures as religious individualists, knowing what God wants them to do “in their hearts” or through “human reason,” are more likely than those who draw on institutional religious sources of authority, like the Bible or religious teachings, to express progressive attitudes on issues of same-sex marriage, divorce, and premarital sex, but not abortion. Our findings indicate that perceived sources of moral authority further explain differences in moral attitudes within the population of religious decision-makers, specifically with regard to issues that are culturally in flux. This supports the idea that religious individualism, even among religious individuals and within religiously conservative traditions, makes people more accepting of contemporary cultural trends in morality.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jeremy E. Uecker, Department of Sociology, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97326, Waco, TX 76798. E-mail:
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The authors thank Baylor University for financial support of the Baylor Religion Survey.

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