An article by Huffington Post reporter Jaweed Kaleem, shares some of the results of a recent study about the religious practices, attitudes, beliefs and values of the American public. Baylor University, a Baptist school in Texas, chose 1714 American adults at random and asked them over 200 questions related to health and religiosity, the relationship between entrepreneurship/work and religion, religion and the American ethos, and religion and cultural issues, such as politics and same-sex marriage, and so on. There’s a lot of interesting findings.
To us, the most interesting revelations are about how the majority of American adults view the strength of God’s interest and intervention in both the life of the individual and the nation. Frankly, we were a bit surprised. We wrongly assumed that a majority of Americans believed in God, but believed in a Descartian view of God. (We know there are American atheists, too, who don’t believe at all).
René Descartes argued that God had the power to create the world and each creature in it out of nothing but chose to step back. Descartian thinking posits that God’s actions merely got the global ball “rolling” so to speak, and when it was up and running and the forces of nature were put in place, human beings were given utter and complete free will. Everything that happens is either a force of nature or an individual choice.
The Jewish mystics teach something a bit different: Yes, we have free will and all the corresponding responsibility to others and ourselves that goes along with it. But, our free will has a paradoxical quality because God’s Hand is everywhere in space and time. Our free will allows us to choose to be the agent for good or not good. But, it doesn’t always determine outcome.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds). Enhancements by Robert Simmon (ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation). Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights).