Americans’ Opinions Shaped by Their Belief in God

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by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi

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America is not a country where people are ready to say they don’t believe in God. It’s easier to say they do believe in God than make oneself a target for conversion efforts. According to many polls, it is generally said that better than 95% of Americans believe in God.

How a belief in God shapes opinions is revealed in a recent TIME Magazine poll. The greatest difference in opinion on current issues between four views of God (authoritarian, benevolent, critical or distant) involved abortion (only 1.5% of those who believe in a distant God thought abortion was always wrong, compared to 23% among those who believe in an authoritarian God, a 15.3 times difference). There was a 3.4 times difference in the percentage of Americans who "trust President Bush a lot" (9.3 to 32.0% distant God believers vs authoritarian God believers). While the war in Iraq has been divisive, the greatest difference between believers (distant vs. authoritarian) was only about 2 times (29% vs. 63%), comparatively not as divisive as one would think.

What is interesting is how many Americans, regardless of their view of God, believe government is an answer to so many issues, such as environmental protection (76—89%) or financial inequality (53—63%), as if God has nothing to do with any of these matters. Americans’ reliance upon government appears to have replaced reliance upon God.

Even though half of the US annual budget of $2.25 trillion is allotted for defense/war spending (the federal government only fesses up to 16% of the federal budget being spent for war and hides the remaining 34%), the American public apparently feels insecure and wants more spent on military, despite the fact war is bankrupting the country, and recent wars (Vietnam, Iraq) have been started on false pretenses. Even with the fact there were no "weapons of mass destruction" found in Iraq, with poorly substantiated counter claims by the President, from 3 to 6 in ten believers still think the Iraq war is justified.

Furthermore, even with an onerous tax system where the bottom half of tax payers pay little or no tax and the top 30% pay about 70% of the taxes, many Americans (53—63%) felt government could do a better job of redistributing wealth.

How belief in God affects opinions on issues, by % of Americans polled

Time Magazine Oct. 30, 2006

31% of Americans believe in a Authoritarian God

23% of Americans believe in a Benevolent God

16% of Americans believe in a Critical God

24% of Americans believe in a Distant God

Total % of Americans who believe each of these statements

Percent of Americans who cumulatively subscribe to godly beliefs

Thinks abortion is always wrong

23

17

5

1.5

12.2

12.2

Believe govt should allow prayer in schools

91

79

69

47

68.7

8.4

Govt should increase military spending

63

55

46

34

38.3

5.1

Govt should expand authority to fight terrorism

76

63

64

40

57.9

2.2

Govt should protect environment better

76

81

89

87

77.3

0.5

Govt should redistribute wealth more evenly

57

53

59

63

54.4

0.25

Say the war in Iraq is justified

63

47

38

29

43.4

0.14

Trust President Bush "a lot"

32

23

12

9.3

19.4

0.11

America By The Numbers TIME Magazine October 30, 2006 Vol. 168 No. 18

An exercise of interest would be to multiply the percentage of each group of believers (authoritarian, benevolent, critical and distant believers in god) times the percentage that held a certain belief. For example, only 47% of the 24% of Americans who believe in a distant god believe government should allow prayer in schools.

For evaluative purposes, let’s assume all truly godly people believe abortion is always wrong and prayer should always be allowed in schools, and that all the other issues (military spending, funding of anti-terrorism, environment protection, wealth redistribution, Iraq war participation and reliance upon the executive branch of the government), are antithetical to a belief in god. Sequential calculation of the percentage of citizens who actually subscribe to all of these godly opinions shows only about 1/10th of one percent would aggregately cast their vote on the godly side of all these opinions.

Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a consumer advocate and health journalist, writing from San Dimas, California. He offers a free downloadable book, The Collapse of Conventional Medicine, at his website.

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