Thursday, July 28, 2011

God's Approval Rating

By Susan Esther Barnes

A recent telephone survey by Public Policy Polling asked, “If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?” The results were 52% approve, 9% disapprove, and 40% unsure.

Setting aside the question about what caused this company to decide to refer to God as “it,” I find these results to be interesting.

They did ask some additional questions, resulting in us learning that 50% approve of how God handles natural disasters, 56% approve of God’s handling of animals, and 71% approve God’s handling of creating the universe. Still, I wish there had been a follow up question asking what, specifically, people would like God to do better.

A clear majority think God handled creation well, but where, I wonder, has God gone wrong with the animals? When people answered this question, were they including humans in the equation? I certainly hope this isn’t just about Fido peeing on the carpet again.

Further, what do we want God to do differently about natural disasters? Since we have already conceded, in the wording of the question, that these disasters are natural (rather than supernatural, God-created occurrences), what, exactly, is God doing wrong? Is God supposed to fix everything for us afterward? Do we feel God isn’t supplying us with enough comfort after the fact? Should God issue advance warnings (“Hey, don’t build there, that cliff face will fall into the ocean sometime in the next 25 years” – isn’t that why God gave us engineers?)

Most of all, if God’s creation was so great, and now things are only so-so, who do we think messed it up? It seems to me God created the world, gave us a set of instructions to follow, and then stepped back and let us have at it. If we are now unhappy with the animals and the natural disasters, is that really God’s fault, or is it our own doing?

It also makes me wonder, if we called God and asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the job the humans are doing?” what would God say?

Maybe, “Well, I know they’re trying hard, but they really are making a hash of things is several different areas, and most of them don’t seem to get around to understanding what’s really important until they realize they’re about to die. So overall, I guess I’d have to say I don’t really approve.

“On the other hand, they are making some strides in the areas of equality in regard to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and many of them offer up some truly heartfelt prayers reasonably often, so I haven’t given up on them yet. Ask me again in another couple hundred years, if they're still around, and we'll see.”


  1. Since God by definition created nature, God is in some sense responsible for natural disasters. So given that natural disasters are a bad thing, I could see why one might be somewhat discontented with God's performance in this area.

    Though on the positive side, I haven't really been greatly affected by natural disasters, nor have most people (especially those who are still alive!)

    Having said that, I'm with you on animals. I think animals are pretty neat!

  2. They probably used "its" to avoid using "his" (which would result in lower numbers due to the bias of perceived male violence) or "her" (which would result in higher numbers due to the bias of perceived female nurturing).

    I would have phrased it "... do you approve or disapprove of Gods performance?

    Shabbat Shalom!

  3. Mark -
    You nailed it. Since there was such an obvious way to avoid the use of "his" or her" by using "God" again, why did they choose "it?" And did the use of that word lower the results by making God seem like an impersonal object?