Belief Beat

Belief Beat

Poll: U.S. Christians Conflicted About Why Disasters Strike

This month’s new Public Religion Research Institute poll asked how America’s evangelicals, mainline Protestants,  Catholics and minority Christians felt about natural disasters, like Japan’s earthquake-tsunami-nuclear crisis, as it relates to their understanding of God. The findings include:

  • Most white evangelicals (84 percent) and minority Christians (76 percent) believe God is in control of everything that happens in the world, compared to a slim majority of white mainline Protestants (55 percent) and Catholics (52 percent).
  • White evangelicals (53 percent) are most likely to agree that God punishes nations for the sins of some citizens, followed by 40 percent of minority Christians and just 20 percent of white mainline Protestants or Catholics.
  • Most minority Christians (61 percent) believe natural disasters are God’s way of testing our faith, while evangelical Christians are somewhat divided (51 percent agree, 43 percent disagree, 5 percent don’t know). Most white mainline Protestants (57 percent) and Catholics (56 percent) disagree.
  • Most white evangelicals (59 percent) and minority Christians (53 percent) see natural disasters as a sign from God; most white mainline Protestants (63 percent) and Catholics (63 percent) disagree.
  • Nearly half of Americans (44 percent) say the increased severity of recent natural disasters are evidence of biblical “end times,” but more (58 percent) believe they are evidence of climate change. The only religious group more likely to believe that natural disasters are evidence of “end times” than climate change is white evangelicals (67 percent to 52 percent).
  • Most white evangelicals (67 percent) and minority Christians (67 percent) think the severity of recent natural disasters is a sign of biblical “end times;” most white mainline Protestants (68 percent) and Catholics (61 percent) disagree.

Check out my Religion News Service story here ; The Journal NewsCNN and other outlets are also reporting on this poll.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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posted March 28, 2011 at 7:14 am

If God really did control everything that happens in the world, I doubt that there would be disasters! A god of love cannot or would not violate his principles of love to wreak vengeance on people. Clearly, disasters happen because humankind is out of position with God and the earth and needs to reassume its rightful purpose as stewards of this beautiful world (“dress and keep the Garden of Eden,” as it was put in the Bible), restoring control. But that happens only by opening ourselves to divine wisdom and clarifying consciousness.

I just wrote about this on my blog (at the link), and I hope you’ll visit and comment!

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posted March 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Perhaps natural disasters are a way of punishing, but perhaps they are also a way of bringing people together. I feel horrible for the people who have been lost in these disasters, and it’s this terror that leads me also to wanting a deeper understanding of life. I know it sounds a lot like being terrorized into believing, but I believe I genuinely want to seek out a greater spiritual bond not just to understand disaster, but to find the fortitude to endure. If I tremble, then let it be with an enriched spirit, not just fear of the unknown. Bless those in Japan and elsewhere who are suffering now!

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Grumpy Old Person

posted April 2, 2011 at 10:44 am

Hey, how come no ratbag of a “Christian” “minister” is blaming the Central Florida tornadoes this week on Terry Jones’ burning of a Q’uran?

Selective fundamentalism at its worst.

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