Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Mad at God? Get in Line.

Published on July 7, 2011 by   ·   No Comments

D. Patrick Miller/ElephantJournal

At least that’s one finding of a line of research on “Anger toward God” being conducted by Julie Exline and her colleagues at Case Western University. Dr. Exline’s studies have sampled opinions among populations of undergrads, bereaved individuals, and cancer survivors to come up with these major conclusions:

  • — A lot of people get mad at God.
  • — People can be angry at God while still feeling love or respect for God (oh, that crazy, mixed-up love o’ God!).
  • — People get mad at God for the same reasons they get mad at other people (i.e., He’s unfair, He’s so unpredictable, He’s really made a mess of things…).
  • — People’s anger with God is not a mental health issue unless it becomes chronic (“That God makes me so mad, I could just KILL somebody!”).

The survey’s most controversial responses came from atheists and agnostics, and showed that, yes, even nonbelievers can get pissed at God – sometimes virulently.  This discovery led to a spate of somewhat smug and overstated reports in the popular media, circulating the idea that most atheists harbor a fury against the God, in spite of their professed non-belief.

Not surprisingly, there was soon a backlash from nonbelievers who protested: Pray tell— how could they possibly be miffed at Someone who doesn’t exist?

As is so often the case with scientific research, the devil was in the details. Aware that self-identified atheists were unlikely to have much of an answer to a point-blank inquiry about anger at God, Exline had tried to accommodate their stance by asking: 1) if they had ever been angry with God earlier in their lives, perhaps before they became atheists; and 2) how would they feel toward God if He did exist?

The press didn’t always report these subtleties, and some atheists charged Exline with a sneaky study design. Exline responded with a revised summary, clarifying that: “We are by no means claiming that all nonbelievers are angry at God.”  Nonetheless, she stuck to her guns by asserting that the findings suggest “the topic of anger toward God has some relevance for at least some nonbelievers.”

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