I just heard about this on NPR’s weekend Morning Edition and it was very interesting, if a bit silly. A polling firm recently asked nearly 1,000 people if God exists, how would you rate [his or her] performance? The anchor at NPR, after comparing the results of the poll with other peoples’ ratings — including President Obama, Oprah Winfrey and others — made the point that he doesn’t understand why someone would do a poll like this except for publicity (which it certainly is receiving, including here at DatingGod.org). Yet, in addition to being something of a “cute” or “lighter” story, it has captured the attention of many news editors and the wider public. Is this just something at which to chuckle and move on or does it show us something about our understanding of God and spirituality?
My guess is the answer to that question is a little of both. It is a somewhat immaterial story, but I think it allows us an opportunity to personally, or perhaps more broadly, reflect on our understanding of God and the world. For example, I actually think God’s approval rating is lower than 52%, but believe that there are certain respondents who could not bring themselves to say something negative about God — even if they feel that things aren’t going so well in their lives or world — because one “just doesn’t do that” in thinking or speaking about God. But, isn’t that what the Psalms of Lament are all about? Getting angry and expressing one’s grievances with God?
Then there’s the question about how we view God’s relationship to creation and, more specifically, humanity. What does it mean to talk about God’s “job performance?” For what is God responsible? For what are we? Here we tap into a much deeper question than simply rating our opinion of a politician’s public performance or popular perception. Here we begin to get into the theological territory of Divine Providence, Free Will and Theodicy.
This poll, I would claim, while not intended to be so, is indeed very theological. If only a theologian had been part of the team to help draft the questions, we might have an even more interesting set of data. Oh well, maybe next time. Here’s the wire brief that Religion News Service ran giving a summary of the story.
WASHINGTON (RNS) More than half of U.S. voters approve of God’s job performance, according to a new poll, making God more popular than all members of Congress.
The poll — which was conducted by the Democratic research firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) — surveyed 928 people and found that 52 percent of Americans approved of God’s overall dealings, while only 9 percent disapproved.
Questions about God were asked as part of a larger survey assessing American opinions of congressional leaders in the midst of the ongoing debt ceiling debate in Washington.
God’s approval rating exceeded that of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with each party receiving only a 33 percent approval rating.
God also polled significantly higher than the scandal-ridden media baron Rupert Murdoch: only 12 percent of those polled viewed him favorably, compared to 49 percent who viewed him unfavorably.
“Though not the most popular figure PPP has polled, if God exists, voters are prepared to give it (sic) good marks,” PPP said in a July 21 press release.
The poll also gauged God’s handling of specific “issues.” When asked to rate God on the creation of the universe, 71 percent of voters approved and only 5 percent disapproved. Respondents were also generally appreciative of God’s governance of the “animal kingdom,” with 56 percent approving and 11 percent disapproving.
Younger respondents were more critical of God’s handling of natural disasters, with those ages 18-29 expressing a 26 percent disapproval rating, compared to 12 percent disapproval among those 65 and older.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.