A larger percentage of the faithful see a divine role in the seemingly endless spate of disasters in recent months, according to a poll released today by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, USA Today
Nearly six in 10 evangelicals believe God can use natural disasters to send messages — nearly twice the number of Catholics (31 percent) or mainline Protestants (34 percent), according to USA Today.
Evangelicals (53 percent) are also more than twice as likely as the one in five Catholics or mainline Protestants to believe God punishes nations for the sins of some citizens.
The poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe God is in control of the earth, but the idea of God employing Mother Nature to dispense judgment (38 percent of all Americans) or God punishing entire nations for the sins of a few (29 percent) has less support.
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"It's interesting that most Americans believe in a personal God and that God is in control of everything that happens in the world ... but then resist drawing a straight line from those beliefs to God's direct role or judgment in natural disasters," noted Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.
The poll found that most racial and ethnic minority Christians (61 percent) believe natural disasters are God's way of testing our faith — an idea that resonates with African-Americans' history of surviving through slavery and racial discrimination.
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