One-third believe angry God caused tsunami
By Tim Reid
(September 14, 2006 12:00)
NINE in 10 Americans believe in God - but how they vote or see the US war in Iraq depends on the different views they have of God's personality.
The most detailed survey of religion in the US found Americans hold four different images of God - authoritarian, benevolent, critical or distant - and these views are more powerful indicators of their political, social and moral attitudes than traditional categories such as Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical.
And the study suggests the US is more religious than previously thought, with 91.8 per cent saying they believe in God and only 5.2 per cent of respondents calling themselves atheists.
The survey, conducted by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God's personality.
Researchers found Americans hold four distinct views, and these "four Gods" are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics to abortion, taxation and marriage.
"You learn more about people's moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than from almost any other measure," said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers.
Nearly a third of Americans, 31.4 per cent, believe in an authoritarian God, angry at earthly sin and willing to inflict divine retribution - including tsunamis and hurricanes.
People who see God this way are religiously and politically the most conservative. They are more likely to be less educated and have lower incomes, come from the south and be white evangelicals or black Protestants.
At the other end of the scale is the distant God, seen by 24.4 per cent as a faceless cosmic force that launched the world but leaves it alone. This view is shared by liberals, moral relativists and those who don't attend church. This God has most followers on the US west coast.
The benevolent God, popular in the US midwest among mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Jews, is one that sets absolute standards for humans, but is also forgiving - engaged but not so angry. Caring for the sick is high on the list of priorities for these 23 per cent of believers.
The critical God, at 16 per cent, is viewed as the classic bearded old man, judgmental but not going to intervene or punish, and is popular on the east coast.
African Americans believe overwhelmingly (53.4 per cent) in an authoritarian God.
Women tend towards engaged images of God - authoritarian and benevolent - while men tend towards the distant God and are more likely to be atheist.
More than 80 per cent of those who see an authoritarian God believe gay marriage is wrong, compared with only 30 per cent who view their God as distant.
Only 12 per cent of authoritarians want to abolish the death penalty, compared with 27 per cent of those who see a distant God. On Iraq, 63 per cent of authoritarians see the war as justified, compared with 47 per cent of those for a benevolent God, 37 per cent for critical and 29 per cent for distant.
Almost 54 per cent of authoritarians believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the terror attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, despite CIA denials, compared with 23 per cent of those who believe in a distant God.
"This is a very powerful tool to understand core differences in the US," said Paul Froese, a professor at Baylor.
"If I know your image of God, I can tell all kind of things about you. It's a central part of your world view."
However, only one-fifth of those surveyed believed God favoured the US.
The researchers found one-third of Americans were evangelical Protestants, about a quarter were mainstream Protestants, a fifth were Catholics and one-twentieth were black Protestants.
Jews comprise 2.5 per cent of the population, while 5 per cent belong to other faiths.
More than a quarter of Americans have read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, although it appeared to have had little impact on beliefs, while four in 10 said they had seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
A majority said they believed in prophetic dreams, and four in 10 said there were once ancient civilisations such as Atlantis.
(The latter category all being GLP posters....lol.)
In other words, pick your version of mass mind control.
But what about Amerika's greatest God of all; $$$$....????
In reality, that is the one most worshipped and beloved God in this country, isn't it?
Capitalism IS a religon after all.