September 19, 2006

Which God Do You Believe In?

Baylor recently released results to their American Piety In The 21st Century survey.

Some interesting things points from the survey are that those who attended college are slightly more apt to believe in the paranormal and that more women than men believe in haunted houses. But more important results were revealed.

Over 1700 Americans were asked a series of questions and the biggest revelation to come out of this was the fact that Americans for the most part agree there is a God (91.8%) but can't agree on what kind of dude God is.

It seems that Americans believe in one of four conceptions of God:

'A is the Authoritarian God, worshiped by 31.4% of respondents. This deity is highly involved, responsible for Earthly events such as tsunamis or economic upturns and "capable of meting out punishment to those who are unfaithful or ungodly."

B is the Benevolent God, the choice of 23% of respondents. He also is involved in human affairs but isn't in the smiting business. This God is "mainly a force of positive influence in the world and is less willing to condemn or punish individuals."

C is the Critical God, who "really does not interact with the world." But believers in this God — 16% of the sample — still watch their Ps and Qs because God C "views the current state of the world unfavorably" and will punish evildoers "in another life."

D, the Distant God. Twenty-four percent of respondents endorsed — "embraced" is probably too strong a word — this version of the deity, "a cosmic force which set the laws of nature in motion" but has no interest in human activities.

Just over 5% of those surveyed identified themselves as Atheists.

The study is further broken down by region. It would only make sense that those in the South and the Midwest are more likely to believe in the Authoritative God for example.

Now my thoughts:

What about the 5th type of God? You know, THE TRICKSTER GOD. This is the God I would most likely to believe in. He is the one who put absolutely no evidence on this planet that he exists, in fact he purposely put all kinds of evidence on this planet and in the universe to contradict the Bible (His Word). He has made it appear to every reputable scientist that evolution is fact, that the earth is ancient, that the Great Flood never happened, that the Exodus never happened, and that Jesus wasn't even a historical figure.

I have to ask those who believe in a distant God.......Why? Is it so you think you have a shot at an afterlife? What evidence are you basing your belief on? At least the first three God's are at least somewhat based on interpretations of a Holy book or two.

Also, for you believers. If God exists, don't you think he would have made it crystal clear as to what type of God he is? Why is his word interpretated in countless ways? Shouldn't his word be black and white? Does man made ring a bell?

Here is a breakdown of God conceptions and specific religions:

Author. Benevol.Critical Distant
Catholic 22.6% 28.2% 18.6% 29.2%
Protestant 68.0 12.0 20.0 0
Protestant 52.3 23.6 12.8 10.8
Protestant 23.7 26.6 19.7 29.3
Jewish 19.4 13.9 16.7 41.7
Unaffiliated 2.9 5.0 15.7 35.7

Jews can't even agree on what kind of dude God is. Note: according to my calculations only 43 Jews were surveyed and 4 of them said Jesus is the son of God, so the Jewish numbers probably have a high margin of error attached to them. Jews were also most likely to not be sure if God existed of all those surveyed.

Distant God? C'mon, you people are really Agnostics. Get over it.

For more on this topic check out The Jewish Atheist, Stardust Musings, and God Is For Suckers (which is Stardust's post, but the comments are worth looking at).


  1. Best of the Web has a bunch more:

    # Totalitarian God. He is everywhere, and he is watching you.

    # Multitasking God. Answers prayers by phone, fax and BlackBerry, all at the same time.

    # Noncommittal God. Loves his children, but isn't "in love" with them.


  2. From my limited understanding (8 years of Jewish day school and I don't know crap), the g-d of the Torah is responsible for both good and evil, as the concept of evil as a manifistation (Satan) would not be introduced until later. (before anybody ask, I believe that the concept of Satan in the book of Jobe was as a prosecuter, not a disobidiant angel who causes hardship)

    So while other faiths have the advantage of blaming the devil, the Jews must look to our g-d and say "you've got to be kidding me". I must admit, Christianity is a much more consumer friendly religion.

    Combine that with the stereotype of the Athiest Jew, I don't think it is suprising that we vote for the distant g-d more than any other group polled.

  3. Perhaps this is just evidence that people really haven't got a clue and so what they believe in has nothing to do with the scriptures (their only "evidence") and is just some vague nonsense they learned to think they believe in.

  4. It seems obvious to me that God is more concept than concrete. These different ideas about God reveal different levels of understanding about what God means. The Bible reveals a God that develops from primitive nature God to tribal God to war god to all embracing saviour god in human form. God is a concept that has developed as man has grown more sophisticated. The problem is that it is hard to teach the idea of God to young children and simple adults without resorting to analogy and metaphor. God simply represents all that we know to be good or the essence of goodness if you like. Bad things or bad behaviour could be described as going against the “will” of God.

    I am an atheist yet I believe in God because God is a word representing a useful and powerful concept. Because God is a word that represents a human concept the meaning of the word is open to interpretation. The advanced human being such as myself has reached the point where God is a concept pure and simple. Others have succumbed to notions of grey haired omnipotent beings or blobs of ectoplasm. Islam still has its war god. The pure concept is immortal, sinless and unchanging and the “end of the way”. I don’t worship God yet I strive to be good and goodness is a rock that the foundations of my life are built on – you see we cannot escape metaphor. This could be interpreted as worship.

    It’s all about semantics. Even the Bible states, “In the beginning was the Word…”

  5. Angloamerican,

    That's a bit like saying I believe in pregnat women getting a good nights sleep and being helped through morning sickness and calling that belief thalidomide. That's not a straw man, just an example of how bundling your desires and conceptions in with a word that has had very different meanings is possibly not a good idea. You get all of the historical nastiness still attached regardless of how you have defined this new meaning to yourself. What's in a name? Quite a lot.

    If you use the word god for your idea of goodness then you are without question bundling in a history of barbarity and unreason. It would be better to find a new and more suitable word or even better still to provide detailed description of what is good and what is not, thus avoiding positioning your enthusiasm for goodness as a bridge between an obscene past and your hopes for the future. This would also define your opinion and make it communicable and debatable.

    You are right, it is all semantics. But semantic is defined as "of or pertaining to meaning". A communication is lost or polluted if one uses words that do not carry the intended meaning. Your message is what the listener hears, not necessarily what you believe you are saying. Do you really want to risk your meaning by calling it god?

  6. I know I’m going to get myself in it but here goes I’ll try to keep it short.

    First I am a bacon eating non atheist Jew.

    I studied Judaism, Torah and Talmud as well as from the philosophical Kabbalistic perspective for about 3 years. It wasn’t formal study just something I did on my own. The information is all free on the net and I found it interesting.

    There is science that says the Exodus story can be validated by tying the timeline to the eruption of the volcano at Santorini around 1500 B.C. All of the events of the 10 plagues can be explained as after effects of the eruption. There is new science as well that shows there might have possibly been many global floods as well as a theory that points to a ME flood the known world for a time. None of that is from Torah study that’s all current science theory.

    The way modern Judaism is taught there is explanation for evolution through the time when God gave the Torah to people when they were ready for it. I don’t know about the old days I wasn’t around then. There is a passage that says Solomon was the wisest man ever and at some point he realized he might not know anything at all because if he was wrong in interpreting one thing than how many other things could he also have misinterpreted before that. Point being whatever past scholars thought or taught what is being taught today is most relevant. IMHO.

    As for Jews that all have different interpretations of God and how to perceive him, I would put that down to the amount of knowledge you have of studying religion specifically Judaism in this case.

    As for the violence of religion and that being dangerous and the main downfall of religion, according to what I’ve learned God is the only one who can say who gets killed. As nobody is speaking to him these days you basically aren’t allowed to do it. Insert 10 commandments here. Aside from the bible stories and defending themselves after you get around the propaganda Jews are probably the least violent still existing race.

    As for evil/Satan. The whole concept is Satan is making the wrong the choice of not following the 10 main 613 total laws not a guy with a red suit and pitch fork. For every wrong choice you don’t make amends for you receive a slightly less beneficial spot in the afterlife.

    It could be God and the soul come down to a being a different dimension the afterlife. Part of thin slicing/M theory. The theory of everything. Judaism also claims that 98% of your soul isn’t here it’s on a different plain of existence.

  7. A wise man once said: the particles that make men conscious, the invisible forces that bind our universe together and govern space and time I will call god. Once science has a name and a rational explanation for all these things I will use theirs.

  8. Jhrhv,

    There's also scientific evidence that not everyone in the middle east or the animal species present there can trace their ancestory back to a signle pair of their species in 1500 BC. The flood story is nonsense and utterly unsupported by published peer reviewed scientific study. Biblical flood science is right there with ID science. It's totally nonexistent and any inferences taken from published science to support the flood story are at best wildly circumstancial and indefinite.


    Doesn't sound so wise to me since we already have a perfectly good word for these msysteries that doesn't require invoking and assuming a connection to the supernatural. It's called reality. Nothing is gained by defining the unknown details of it as god except reinforcing the blinkers of those addicted to blind ignorance (a.k.a. faith). By adding definition where there is none I would argue that one limits ones ability to recognise and thus investigate the unknwon. Wisdom like that is nothing more than trying to make ignorance sound like understanding. Pure egomasturbation. I don't know who the statement comes from, but I doubt it was their primary contribution to human understanding.

  9. Jhrhv, at least you aren't dismissing scientific evidence. I'm just not sure that you have a lot of it when it comes to the flood or the exodus.

    Hammer, you are talking about the God of holes. Holes have been closing pretty good of late, and a hole doesn't equal godidit.

  10. Do you really want to risk your meaning by calling it god?

    The point I am trying to make is that words are used imperfectly. The notion of god means different things to different people and that’s what Bacon’s post is about I guess. There are probably as many different gods as there are people on the planet. Organised religion is an attempt to standardize what god is. Yet I maintain that the idea of god is confusing. How do you know when descriptions of god are meant to be accurate or when they are metaphor? Are idols actual gods or representations of gods? Some religions ban all forms of idols including paintings yet these representations are just as valid as words when describing god. With words are created thoughts which more approximate images and pictures and with our thoughts we make the world.

    I’m not really worried about risking my meaning by calling good things god. I am a bit of a snake in the grass to those simpletons who believe in a super human type god. Who believe that ‘god’ has feelings and compassion, who pray to a concept, who don’t understand that a physical omnipotent God cannot possibly exist. All creation is the result of mindlessness and that there could be no other way. Mindlessness (evolutionary process )has no compassion, no feelings, no guilt, it is not constrained – it creates monsters and angels (I’m being metaphoric here) and lets them duke it out and the winner is called good.

  11. Only 5% atheist? My God! :-)

  12. Angloamerican,

    It sounds very artistic but it hardly seems reasonable to me to equate an entire religious text with a painting. Both may be open to interpretation but a painting of a god is much less specific than a fat text describing its psychological traits and preferences. If we take the catholic flavour of god as an example the bible excludes a distant god. A painting may have missed that but the texts do not. So catholics that believe in a distant god are not catholics. They are missusing the word catholic because they do not understand the concept.

    Your assertion that it is valid to call good things god also shows a lack of understanding for the concept since the word god means a supernatural entity worshiped as a controllor or create of all or some of reality. That concept does not describe generally "good" things. So when you use the word you are missusing it in a way similar to the missuse of the word catholic. One of the reasons why we communicate with words is the reliability with which we can communicate meaning. That breaks down if we missuse words. I can quite happily say "look basking shark apple trouser lemon" and say oh, but that's because I've decided my word for "my" is "look" and so on and so on. But by utterly ignoring the protocol that exists, as published in numerous dictionaries, which ascribes a meaning to each word I have reduced myself to the level of a babbling idiot. So make the world all you like with your thoughts, but you isolate yourself from any opportunity to communicate that if you ignore the most basic protocol that allows that communication.

    Basically, I'm saying what you wrote sounds clever but it's quite stupid. Or maybe it isn't. Maybe what you wrote is pure genius but I can't recognise that because you have encrypted your message so that only you can understand it by ignoring the protocol of words having defined meanings that would have allowed me to understand your profound thought. Maybe, even allowing for poetic licence, when it comes to communicating specifically , such as in a conversation about our thoughts, it would serve to adhere to some constraints when using words - like using words that have a defined meaning at least similar to what you are trying to express.

    Everytime you say "god" every theist and 99% of the athiests will think "supernatural". So you are antheist who talks about his god. Sorry to go on, but it just seems foolish and I suspect you are more intelligent than to put your atheism back up with the cherubim and seraphim in the clouds. It's like a surgeon talking about curing demonic possession after perrforming an apendectomy.

    Can't be bothered to spell check since it doesn't even seem worthwhile to use the correct words, so if any of this is indecipherable let me know.

  13. Oh my God you spelt "atheists" wrong.
    Anyway so words only have one meaning? Like God:
    A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
    The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
    A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
    An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
    One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
    A very handsome man.
    A powerful ruler or despot.

    Not forgetting that the meanings of words change over time. The KJ Bible was written in a form of English not now used. It was translated from Latin which was translated from Hebrew probably or Aramaic I forget which. You can't tell me that words always retain their meanings.

    Makes me think that pictures and statues are a much more reliable form of communication.

    The point I am making is that people get confused with metaphors. Words can be ambiguous.
    Good and god are very similar words.

  14. Archbishop marrigold ├╝berpuppy artichoke underpants. In absent up fart of printer ankle bracket sideways tuesday bank correction fluid?

    I hope that's clear or should I draw you a picture? If I do would it be ok just to do it in photoshop or should I do it on a cave wall somewhere and just send you the coordinates?

    Words may have multiple meanings. The word "god" however is not defined as having the meaning you have attributed to it.

    "The point I am making is that people get confused with metaphors. Words can be ambiguous."

    Words are defined and thus their ambiuity is limited by the ignorance of user, the ignorance of the listner/reader, and the precision of the context. Of course, by ignoring definition we radically increase the ambiguity of the context as we have no way of knowing if only one or multiple words have been personally redifined to suit the speaker. It's your choice if you wish to redifine words to please yourself. Without consensus in those meanings your communication becomes meaningless.

    This conversation is pointless.

  15. Choosedoubt

    Can you draw me a picture?

    I am astonished at your attitude. Words are not always used literally. What a dry, dull old world yours is.

    Anyway, I maintain my place here as the most religious of atheists.

  16. ...and I do urge you to ponder on the wonders of the metaphor.

    "The metaphor is perhaps one of man's most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him."

    All I am saying is that God is a metaphor and a very useful one too. Words such as "underpants" aren't nearly so flexible - a point that you seem to be having difficulty grasping (that last word is a metaphor :).

    Google God and metaphor and you get over 11 million hits.

  17. Hmmmmmm. When I used to wear underpants they were very flexible. Perhaps you should try washing yours. Words are useful because they have meaning. My attitude is that an atheist that talks about his or her god has rather missed the point and utterly fails to understand that by using the word god with their own private meaning all they do is promote theism. They would entangling whatever they say about their own beliefs with the logical inference of those they communicate with that they are talking about a supernatural belief. As I said, go ahead if that makes you happy. But please don't pretend it makes sense. It does not.

  18. Couldn't one say that everything is natural, scientific, eventually provable? Some people call this god and some people call it nature.

    Its all nomenclature. When people start putting a consciousness and personality on the face of nature then it becomes theistic.

  19. The notion of a "trickster" God makes some sense, especially if one thinks of God as having both a Yin and Yang - two primal opposing but complementary forces - dark and light, good and evil, etc.

  20. KK, quit embarrassing yourself.
    Show me one scientific study that leaves doubt about evolution. Just one. I know you won't and can't.

    Rhetoric is rhetoric KK.

  21. I asked for something KK, and you provided me with nothing but a bunch of garbage and more rhetoric.

    One scientific study that leaves doubt on evolution.

    I'm not playing your games. I find those who don't buy into evolution to be scared of the truth.

    Any finding in the study of biology, archaelogy, etc fits into the theory of evolution. I'm asking you to find me one that doesn't. Just one. You can't.

    I have a better question too. Why does the idea of evolution scare the crap out of you.

    You are scared like a child KK. Keep up with the nervous laughter though. It fits my idea of the fear you have.

  22. KK, I'd like to add too that every finding fits common descent theory.
    I'm asking for one finding or study that doesn't. You won't find one, instead you will spin or deflect or not answer. I know, because of asked you wuss know-it-alls in the past, and that is all I get. Oh, you may come up with already refuted nonsense like Merry Widow did about moon dust.

    So in case you are about to play that game. Read this first.