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In the Hannah Singer, Celestial Advocate stories, Hannah periodically has to argue a trial by God.  She points out that, when God speaks, what you hear depends on how you view Him.  Your interpretation is your perception.  Because she sees God as gentle, loving, and kind, that is how she hears His voice.  The Churches, because they see God as powerful and judgemental, hearing a booming and terrifying voice.  In one of the stories in the first book, the opposition sees God as distant and unimportant.  During the trial, she is turning her head slightly so her ear is closer to the voice and straining to hear anything.

I bring this up because of a new book out called America's Four Gods:  What We Say About God -- And What That Says About Us.  Written by a pair of sociologists from Baylor University, Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, they polled 1,721 people in 2006 and 1,648 in 2008.  I've noticed that, in a lot of recent stories where God directly factors in (like the recent Legion), God is disappointed in His creation and pretty much abandons it.  These things aren't runaway successes, so it's not like they are tapping into some mass cultural value.  But these things are certainly being made more and more often nowadays.  Is it because of artists willing to push the envelope and make a controvesial stand (which means it's always been there, it just wasn't expressed), or has the state of the world pushed more people into believing there is no hope, not even from the God that created us (a very very understandable notion).

Froese and Bader's research turned up that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans believe in some sort of God.  From that, four basic interpreatations of God emerged.  They are the loving (my view), harsh, distant, and critical.  I'm guessing these are leanings, since they are not necessarily mutually exclusive (the basic numbers don't add up to 100%).  It's more or less divided evenly.  The basics:

-  The Authoritative God.  He is actively shaping the world and history and woe be to anyone who doesn't play ball.  28%.  "They divide the world by good and evil."

- The Benevolent God.  Also actively shaping the world and history, but loves and supports us and encourages us to do the same for others.  22%.  "Rhetoric that talks about the righteous vs. the heathen doesn't appeal to them."  Doesn't appeal to most people, actually.

- The Distant God.  Pretty much the, "Here's a world for ya, have fun," and walked away view.  24%.

- The Critical God.  He lets us live our lives, then hammers us when we get to the other side of life.  21%.

More than 50% of white evangelicals and more that 70% of black evangelicals view God as Authoritative.  The Distant God is viewed by most Jews, Buddhist, and Hindus.  The exploited, poor, and suffering lean towards the critical, which certainly supports the theory that religion is a construct of people hoping for better days (they won't get it in this world, so surely they've earned it somewhere else).  Catholics and Protestants were evenly divided among all four, but trended towards the Benevolent view.

...hmm....veddy veddy intahestink....

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