Sunday, November 26, 2006

In Gods We Trust

A new study by Baylor University and Gallop reveals that Americans believe in one of four types of God: Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical, or Distant.

The Authoritarian God worshipped by 31.4% of Americans and 43.3% of my fellow Southerners is pissed at everyone and everything that fails to meet his standards. He is anti-gay, anti-stem cell research, anti-choice, and pretty sure that the Blue States could benefit from another flood.

The Benevolent God worshipped by 23% of Americans is just as Red as his Authoritarian rival, but tends to forgive those who lean a pit toward purple. Love is his stock and trade, and while he would really like it if America were a Christian nation, he seems willing to forgive us for voting otherwise.

The Critical God worshipped by 16% of Americans is as pissed off as the Authoritarian God but contents himself with a cosmic cluck of the tongue rather than banging heads in Hell. If we want to screw up our lives, he won’t bless us, but he won’t stop us either.

The Distant God worshipped by 24.4% Americans is the God of the American Founders. This Divine Watchmaker made the world, wound it up, and then stepped back to watch the whole thing wind down unto death. This God basically doesn’t give a damn.

I find it interesting that believers in the Benevolent and Distant Gods basically cancel each other out, leaving us with God the Pissed If Not Yet Totally Postal as the dominant deity of America.

As I read about these four gods of America I had to figure out which god is my god. The problem is I don’t fit in anywhere. I am not alone: 5.2% of Americans don’t fit in either. Now some of these people are atheists for whom the very word “god” conjures up visions of the Salem Witch Trials and sends them running for cover. But I hope that some of these people are, like me, obsessed with God and still uncomfortable with the four choices offered.

I disagree with all four categories in that for me God includes and transcends the universe but is not separate from it. I agree that God sets laws for us: gravity, evolution, karma, and washing your hands before packing spinach for shipping being four of them. I believe that human reason and genius can uncover the natural and ethical laws of the universe, though knowing the good and doing the good are not one and the same. I don’t believe God has political opinions, nor does God care who marries whom, as long as you don’t invite him to the wedding simply to get a really cool gift. I think God laughs at us rather than criticizes us. I think hell is the fantasy of the impotent, and heaven the hope of those too frightened to live the “kingdom” here and now.

Of course it doesn’t matter what I think since I never get surveyed, which I suspect is a conspiracy all its own. Anyway, if you too don’t find yourself worshipping one of the four Gods of America, keep your chin up… and your head down.


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AaronHerschel said...

It's fascinating to me that the Critical, Distant, and Benevolant Gods are all basically absent. The Distant God is literally out of the picture, while the benevolantand Critical Gods aren't critical or benevolant enough to intercede. Only the Pissed Off God has any tangible power on this earth. Oddly, he's only credited with stuff like Katrina; sounds like some ad hoc mixture of the perennial philosophy and the pathetic fallacy to me.