All I need is a miracle

If we’re to believe the hype, we live in an increasingly secular society that is losing its religion. Atheism is on the rise and less and less people have a belief in God. But is that really what’s going on?

From the Washington Post comes an article titled Most Americans Believe in Higher Power, Poll Finds.

It’s a fascinating look at the beliefs of Americans. I would guess that an Australian survey would yield similar results.

The poll took its results from interviews with 36 000 adults. While it shows that around 80% of people believe in miracles the percentage was even higher for those believing in God.

The study detailed Americans’ deep and broad religiosity, finding that 92 per cent believes in God or a universal spirit — including one in five of those who call themselves atheists. More than half of Americans polled pray at least once a day.

It’s interesting that 20% of people who claim some kind of belief in God or some kind of universal spirit call themselves atheists. I’m assuming that they aren’t rejecting the idea of God, rather they’re rejecting society’s understanding of who God is. This highlights the fact that the belief in God quoted in the survey isn’t necessarily a belief in the God of the Bible.

A belief in God or a higher spirit is pervasive. Even Americans who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic have a robust sense of a higher power: Twenty-one percent of those who describe themselves as atheists expressed a belief in God or a universal spirit, and more than half of those who call themselves agnostic expressed a similar conviction.

Smith said some people may identify with the term atheist or agnostic without fully understanding the definition, or they have a negative view of organized religion, even though they believe in God.

Many of the people surveyed believed in the power of prayer with many claiming to have experienced its power.

“I can’t remember any prayer that I have prayed that has not been answered,” said Helen Catchings, 62, of Vienna. God cured her of stuttering and gave her the resources for her home-care business, she said. And she said she has seen members of her church cured of cancer, brain tumours and other illnesses through prayer, baffling doctors. “I give Him all the credit,” Catchings said.

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales and current President of the Baptist Union of Australia. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today we discussed the survey and its implications. We also took a look at whether it really matters who we believe God to be. Is it good enough to believe in the God of our own understanding? Does it make a difference which path we take to God? You can listen to what Ross had to say by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Very interesting.

    Thanks for posting that.

    I don’t believe in God, but have hesitated calling myself an athiest. I tend to think of an athiest as someone who doesn’t believe in anything spiritual or metaphysical. I believe in those things, just not a personal God. Maybe a universal power or higher power….I could go for that.

    I would be curious to see if Australia has similar results. I tend to see Australia as more spiritual, but with less religious dogma. America tends to be very religious-focused–especially in the South East.

  • I think most people really do have a concept of supernatural being, or a God. But what people don’t like is the idea that they have to do what the God requires them to do. People want to do what they want to do and most people’s notion of God is that of a “police”, so they think when they have a God, they won’t be fully happy because their concept of God is killjoy.

  • Hello Dina. Thanks for dropping in and joining the conversation. I think you’re right that America tends to be very ‘religious focused’ or at least that’s the impression I get all the way around the world in Australia.

    In many ways I’m glad that Australia is a less religious and less dogmatic society as it forces us to come to grips with what we really believe rather than just adopting the beliefs of our parents or community.

    I suppose the fact that many people said they have seen answers to prayer would point to a more personal God, in that a universal power wouldn’t necessarily act upon our requests.

  • pchi, I know people who would consider themselves believers who demonstrate that attitude of God being a cosmic policeman who just wants to order them about. I’d have to say that I’d opt out right there. If that’s all there is I’m not interested and I think that the church is partly to blame for giving people that impression.

    I read a lot in the Christian scriptures about a life that’s abundant and about God giving his followers the desires of their hearts. Doesn’t sound much like a killjoy to me. 🙂

    I reckon that there are requirements God places on us but that those requirements come from a heart of love in the same way that I as a parent instruct my kids. I don’t tell them what they should do because I want to order them about, I do it because I love them and I understand the consequences of certain actions a little better than they do.

  • Hi Rodney,

    There are statistics on the Web about Australia. I found them some time ago, but would have to look them up again. From memory, most Australians believe in God, but not in terms of religion. However, a large percentage of those who believe in God believe in the Judeo-Christian God – that suprised me.

  • Man is so egotistical to think that God would leave it up to us to determine how to reach Him. It only makes sense to me that God, the creator of all things, is the one who makes the “rules” and man, His creation.

    In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am THE way, THE truth and THE life. No man comes to the Father but by me. (emphasis added)

    The way to God is through belief in His Son who died for us and rose again:
    John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    But God demonstrated His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.–Romans 5:8 (NIV)

    Romans 10:9 says, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shatl be saved.

    Finally, I close with Romans 10:13: Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

  • Thanks Karen.

    I agree that the Scriptures show the way to connect with God, through Jesus, but I guess the problem is that many people no longer accept the authority of the Bible.

    Unfortunately many people have seen the Bible used as a rule book that condemns rather than a God breathed revelation of the Creator who offers no condemnation to those who would accept him.

  • hi rodney,

    yeah, actually… the rules are there for a reason… it’s because of God’s love
    and the Christian life is not boring at all…
    if you are a Christian, life has a different meaning
    and a meaning that encompasses eternity
    even though you encounter hardships, there’s an anchor that keeps you from being blown away…

    I hope all the people would come to know God in a personal sense with deep relationship.. after all religion is not important. it’s the personal relationship with God that counts

  • Yes, somehow we have to help religion be the scaffolding and our relationship with God the building. Both are important IMO – but we have to understand the difference between the two & some confuse means, goal, and byproduct 🙂

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