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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Americans blame God, study says
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Americans blame God, study says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

President Obama is not the only high-profile figure to see his job approval ratings slip.

God is in trouble too, according to an Ohio professor who has researched Americans' attitudes towards the deity for the last decade.

'We find that anywhere between one third and two thirds of people we've surveyed in the United States admit they sometimes feel angry at God in response to some current thing they are suffering with, such as a cancer diagnosis,' psychologist Julie Exline of Case Western Reserve University told ABC News.

'It's a very high number.'

After more than a decade spent studying American attitudes toward God, Exline has published her findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Exline readily acknowledges that her findings suggest some interesting theological problems.

'Some people feel God can make a mistake, and so for them it's not an issue if they get angry at God,' she says. 'But a lot of people see God as perfect and holy and not capable of making mistakes, and they still might get angry.'

In part, the public's frustration with God might be explained by the extraordinary religiosity of Americans.

According to a survey conducted in the U.S. by Canadian sociologist Scott Schieman of the University of Toronto, an astonishing 82% of Americans say they depend on God for help in their decision-making.

Schieman found that 71% of Americans believe both good and bad things are part of God's plan; 61% believe God has set the course for their lives; and 32% - almost one-third - believe 'there is no sense in planning a lot because ultimately my fate is in God's hands.'

An independent study by sociologists at Baylor University reached similar conclusions.

Taken together, the studies suggest that counting on divine assistance might lead to anger if God fails to perform.

Exline says this anger may lead to unexpected theological conclusions.

Getting mad at God 'can be a turning point,' she suggests.

'You have a choice. Are you going to disengage from the relationship, deciding that a loving God couldn't do this, and stop believing in Him? Others might suppress their anger and sweep it under the rug. And still others could work things out in their relationship, with another person or with God.'

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