God isn't dead in America

Title

God isn't dead in America

Description

By: Emily Sears, Contributing Writer, esears@smu.edu
Posted: 4/19/07

Pat McDonald is an atheist. The junior anthropology major was raised Catholic but reconsidered his religion his freshman year at SMU when he became familiar with Zen Buddhism and atheism.

"It surprised me because I never had considered atheism before. Atheism is a scary idea to me, because it seemed so dark and dreary," he said.

McDonald represents only a small percentage of Americans today.

A recent Newsweek poll shows that 91 percent of Americans believe in God, and of the nine percent who don't, only three percent consider themselves atheists.

SMU, unsurprisingly, has about 20 religious or spiritual organizations on campus ranging from Christian to Hindu to Pagan. The university, associated with the Methodist church, turns to prayer in the face of tragedy. Students, faculty and staff united at Hughes-Trigg Student Center recently to pray for the victims of the Virginia Tech mass killings. Crosses were placed in the main quad in memory of the massacred victims.

Dr. Jill DeTemple, an SMU professor of religious studies, says the number of Americans who believe in God does not surprise her. In fact, she thinks the percentage would increase if the poll had asked about belief in a higher power rather than God, which would then include many Buddhists and Hindus.

"Technically Buddhism is an atheistic religion," she said.

DeTemple says it's becoming popular again to be religious. In the '50s it was expected, in the '70s it was unpopular, and now, she says, it's once again the norm.

"I do think religion has a more public place than it did a few years ago," she said.

DeTemple said openly religious political leaders became popular with Jimmy Carter.

"Since then we've expected public leaders to be religious."

Emily Worland, a Roman Catholic and SMU sophomore economics major, says her religion has an impact on her political views.

"Through Catholicism I believe that everyone is equal, so I follow liberal principles," she said.

A political candidate's religion matters to the voting public, according to the poll. It showed that 68 percent of Americans believe a person can be an atheist and a moral person, but only 29 percent would vote for a candidate who publicly claimed he or she was an atheist.

"I think morality is more of a social norm than a religious following," Worland said.

But President George W. Bush's religious beliefs - he is a devout Christian - can't save him from disapproval. According to the Newsweek poll, only 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country. Sixty-six percent are unsatisfied and six percent don't know.

Christian Daw, an SMU English major, thinks many people believe in God because of the culture Americans live in.

"I feel a lot of people equate God and love and goodness, and they think that if they believe in goodness and what is right, then they believe in God." He said his parents have this mentality, but their beliefs don't impact their daily lives.

But Daw, a senior, is a practicing Christian, and his beliefs do influence his daily life.

"I think in order to lead the most fulfilling life, God needs to be a part of your everyday decisions," he said.

It seems many people turn to science to prove or disprove the existence of God. In "God: The Failed Hypothesis," author and physicist Victor J. Stenger used the existence of God as a hypothesis, putting the idea through a series of scientific studies. He eventually determined that God does not exist and the belief has actually made humankind worse off.

"The certainty and exclusiveness of the major monotheisms make tolerances of differences very difficult to achieve, and these differences are the major source of conflict," he wrote.

Lee Strobel, a graduate of Yale Law School and former legal affairs editor of the Chicago Tribune, also set out on an investigation to disprove God and the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. His findings, chronicled in his book "The Case for Christ," changed him from an atheist to a pastor. He used eyewitness, documentary, scientific, psychological and even fingerprint evidence in his research.

"The atheism I had embraced for so long buckled under the weight of historical truth," Strobel wrote.

McDonald, the atheist, says he is waiting for proof of God, and he's open to the possibility of God's existence. He also understands why people are religious - it gives life meaning and in his view prevents social chaos.

"This world can seem very boring, and it feels good to believe in God. It helps make every problem into a challenge, every ordeal into a test," he said.

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Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.smudailycampus.com/media/storage/paper949/news/2007/04/19/News/God-Isnt.Dead.In.America-2852191.shtml>SMU Daily Campus - April 19, 2007</a>

Creator

Emily Sears

Date

2007-08-24

Contributor

Sara AA Hood

Rights

"Norris, Mark William" <mnorris@mail.smu.edu>

Language

eng

Citation

Emily Sears, “God isn&#39;t dead in America,” The April 16 Archive, accessed October 16, 2019, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1217.