Monday, July 2, 2012

Believing ~ What do I think?

Diana Butler Bass says, "I am an author who explores the dimensions of religion and spirituality in today’s world.  I write books, columns, and blogs, all aimed to help people understand faith both analytically and personally."

In her book Christianity After Religion (2012), she talks about belief, behavior, and belonging as "three intertwined strands of religious faith" (p. 47), each asking a basic question.
Believing:  What do I think?
Behaving:  How should I act?
Belonging:  Who am I?
Today, I want to look at the first of these questions.  Bass says, "Baylor University researchers ... found that roughly 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God.  However, the Baylor team also discovered that Americans actually believed in four different Gods!  Not, however the Christian God, the Jewish God, the Muslim God, and everyone else's God.  Rather than dividing up according to religion, Baylor researchers discerned that Americans divide up according to how they perceive God's character" (p. 49).  She then lists these four as A-B-C-D, crediting Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, who wrote about America's Four Gods (2010):
Authoritarian God (31%), a wrathful sin-hating deity.

Benevolent God (23%), the forgiving friend of sinners, peacemaker, and caring healer.

Critical God (16%), the bringer of justice who will make all right at the end.

Distant God (24%), the cosmic creative force behind and beyond the natural universe.
Do you believe in God?  If so, do any of these categories resonate with you?


Helen's Book Blog said...

God is such an interesting concept and seems to mean so many different things to so many people. I really struggle with the idea that people pray to God to ask for trivial things and the not-so-trivial (heal the sick, etc). If God could fix those things, wouldn't we have a world without poverty, illness, war, etc?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

That's an excellent point, Helen. And it leads to people saying things like this: "Either God is not good, or God is not all-powerful."

Beth said...

So interesting, Bonnie! I'd say that mostly, "my" God is a Benevolent God. But my daddy was a conservative, Southern Baptist, hellfire and damnation preacher who presented God as a far more punitive and angry being, so I was definitely affected by that and sometimes find myself seeing God in that way.

Sherry said...

Isn't God, the God of the Bible, all four of those--or at least the first three? Yes, he is benevolent and forgiving, but He also hates sin and loves justice. I don't see a contradiction there, and if there is one, then those seeming contradictions are reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ.