A Baylor University study demonstrates that Americans are more religious than is popularly thought because a large number choose not to ascribe to conventional labels. Their findings suggest that current statistics reflect more about how "...you ask about relgious connections than what it says about the commitment of the average American to their faith". So, for example, previous surveys would suggest that about 14 percent of Americans are not involved in some form of organized religion, but the Baylor report would bring that figure down to 10.8%.
This phenomenom of "what you think people want and what you measure do not always correlate" came up in Australia this week too, with the Herald publishing the results of recently commissioned survey which found Australians are more interesting in happiness than wealth. Which relates back to the BBC report that Happiness doesn't have to cost the earth.
The Baylor study also found an intriguing correlation between peoples' view of the world and how they believe God relates to the world. (There were two continuums one angry-benevolent, the other high or low engagement). Those who believe in a angry engaged God are more likely to be absolutists.
More specifically the Baylor University press release includes this summary
What researchers found was that the type of god people believe in can predict their political and moral attitudes more so than just looking at their religious tradition. Researchers found that none of the "four gods" dominated among believers. The data showed:
- 31.4 percent believe in an Authoritarian God, who is very judgmental and engaged
- 25 percent believe in a Benevolent God, who is not judgmental but engaged
- 23 percent believe in a Distant God, who is completely removed
- 16 percent believe in a Critical God, who is judgmental but not engaged
Other demographic relationships and religious effects surrounding the "Four Gods" include:
- African-Americans believe overwhelmingly in an Authoritarian God (53.4%);
- Region of the country is significantly related to the four types of god. Easterners tend towards belief in a Critical God; Southerners tend towards an Authoritarian God; Midwesterners believe in a Benevolent God; and the West Coast believes in a Distant God.
- Individuals with lower educations and lower incomes tend towards more engaged images of God.
Click here for Baylor University's Press Release and and a link to the pdf download of the report and survey. The report has already been written up on Ekklesia and Chicago Defender
The concerns about an angry God and absolutists takes on an urgency in these modern times where much of the humanity's violence is being justified on theological grounds. While the bible and other holy texts make references to God's anger, it is worth remembering that God prefers to be compassionate and merciful.
While God might be judgmental, God also heals there are many passages in the bible where God "pulls his punches" e.g. Isaiah 19:22 & 55:6-13 & 58, Ezekiel 18:29-32, Hosea 11:8-11, Lamentations 3:31-33, Jeremiah 30:14-22 & 33:6-12, Hosea 6:1-6, Hosea 14 which includes: "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely,for my anger has turned away from them."
Then there is the imagery of leading God's people to a better place, where they are back in proper relationship with God and reaping the rewards of acknowledging and respecting God's love and wisdom.
Isaiah 11:16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.
But God's promise to preserve and restore are remnat are not isolated passages e.g. Ezekiel 11:13-20
, Micah 2:12-13
, Zephaniah 3:11-20
, and Amos 9:11-15
starting with "In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name," declares the LORD, who will do these things.
There is a tendency to think of Jerusalem and Israel as a nation or city limited to a particular people or location, but ultimately they are meant to be symbolic imagery that can apply to any nation or people who choose to acknowledge and respect the Supreme Being and show suitable reverance for God's Creation and advice. Similarly, imagery such as Edom is referring to humans when they move out of jealousy and hate, rather than a particular tribe, and Egypt refers to materialism and greed rather than a particular nation.
Thus we are not looking for a geographical solution, but a solution that occurs within the hearts and minds of humanity, irregardless of our physical location. As is made clear in Micah 5:7-8
The remnant of Jacob will be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the LORD,
like showers on the grass,
which do not wait for man
or linger for mankind.
The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations,
in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest...
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