Four Gods


I once read about a survey that polled Americans about their beliefs in God, including God’s characteristics and behavior. The idea was to analyze the results and determine how engaged in the world Americans believed God to be and whether or not they thought God was angry at humanity’s sins. Their conclusions were that Americans tended to believe in one of four types of God.

The word “God” was used but they allowed that participants might personally use another name, such as Great Spirit, Universe, Allah, Father, deity, the Almighty, the Creator et al. The variety of names shows that there are certainly more than four types.

One is the Authoritarian God who is very involved in people’s daily lives and world affairs. They believe that God will punish those who are unfaithful. This God would be responsible for economic downturns and natural disasters. Is that your God?

Maybe you believe in the Benevolent God who is involved in our daily lives, but is not angry or wrathful and is mostly a positive force. Sounds very nice.

Some people believe in a Critical God. This God observes the world and is unhappy with it, but does not get involved in our daily affairs. Maybe divine justice doesn’t happen in this world.

The fourth view of God is a Distant God who is not involved in the world and is not angry. This God is a cosmic force that sets the law of nature in motion.

Of course, you might not believe in any God or hang out with all the college kids in the agnostics lounge.

I have identified for quite a long time as a Deist. I don’t know which of the four Gods is most Deist. Distant in that he (she? they?) chooses not to interact with our lives, but could? Crtitical for his detachment? If you want to give any God credit for good things and miracles, then you also have to attach blame for all the bad things that happen. Very few Benevolent club members do that.

I think that any of the four Gods would be pleased that we are thinking about them.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

2 thoughts on “Four Gods”

  1. The most recent poll I was able to to find on what Americans believe about God was published by Pew Research in 2018,
    I am not sure what poll you read, but there is one key characteristic omitted that the Pew survey addresses: those Christians who believe in a Biblical God. This is what the Pew poll said: “In the U.S., Christians are particularly likely (99%) to believe in God or a higher power, with 80% claiming faith in a biblical God. Three-quarters of Christians describe God as all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful.”
    The key characteristic that the poll you read omitted was “all-loving.” A God who created us to be good and we were. And because of our free choice, we suffered a fall and live in sin or separation from God-love. He who endowed us with the seeds of love and wisdom and who always has left the door open to us to return. So, God is a God who is sad about sin and has watched us muck things up. And through history has interacted with history to save us beginning with Israel and then all humankind. God sent us his son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, to atone for our sins, to guide us, and to bring us home to God/father-mother/ Love, not love in our own image or as we feel like it or as each person perceived it, but to love in the image of God. The image in which we were created. So, we are free to make a choice about God’s redemptive grace. One day we can tangle about the theology of it, but I don’t think that interest you as you more or less implied after I sent you the C.S. Lewis video. I cannot even pretend to begin to articulate as clearly as Lewis his reasoning towards God. For me, God touches more my heart than my mind. But God did endow us with reason, so I try the best I can to learn about theology. It would be a cruel God indeed who simply set the universe in motion and who would abandoned us, like a toy left in a dusty attic.


  2. You also omitted from the PEW survey that “only a slim majority of Americans now believe in the God of the Bible and roughly one-in-ten U.S. adults don’t believe in any higher power or spiritual force.” I would actually have guessed the latter number to be higher than 10% now. The 4 Gods idea does not align the 4 with any religions and you can probably find all 4 of those beliefs within any religion and crossing over multiple religions. I think the survey was more interested in personal beliefs than in what your religion taught you.


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