Americans Divided on the Nature of God

Thursday, 07 Oct 2010 05:13 PM

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About 9 out of 10 Americans believe in God — they just don’t agree on the deity's nature, according to USA Today. Is God wrathful or forgiving? Judging us every moment, sometimes or never? Americans don’t agree — and some postulate the possibility that God is a she. But how people see God reveals much about themselves, as well as their politics and life attitudes, two sociologists told the newspaper.

God, Americans, image, USA Today,“You can never really ask people directly about their moral and philosophical worldview,’’ said sociologist Paul Froese who, along with his Baylor University in Waco, Texas, colleague, Christopher Bader, wrote "America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God."

Froese adds, “But if you know their image of God, it could give you insight into why they get upset when you break the rules, or you stand up for a certain candidate. Or, how they will react when bad things happen.’’

Their research is based on more than 200 in-depth interviews as well as1,648 telephone surveys in 2008 and 1,721 in 2006. They found that about 28 percent of Americans believe in an authoritative God who punishes bad people. “They divide the world by good and evil,’’ Froese said.

God, Americans, beliefs, USA TodayAnother 22 percent believe in a benevolent God who is engaged in the world and supports people for caring for others. Then there’s the critical God that about 21 percent of Americans believe in. He watches over people but waits to deliver his final verdict until death. Finally, 24 percent perceive a distant God who started the universe and now leaves humanity alone.

Only about 5 percent of Americans are atheists or agnostics, the researchers said.

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