New Harris Poll

Wow. Read the article.

The poll gives us some information worth delving into. I found interesting the demographics that do believe in God:

  • “People with no college education (62 percent) or who have some college education (57 percent) compared to college graduates (50 percent) and those with post-graduate degrees (53 percent)”
  • People in all age groups 40 and over compared to people in age groups under 40

Maybe the most amusing part: 10% of people believe God is a hermaphrodite.

“The public is almost equally divided between those who think of God as male (36%) and “neither male nor female” (37%), with 10 percent saying “both male and female.” Only one percent thinks of God as a female.”

Does that make any sense? If I were religious, I would think God would not have a gender… the idea of God being both genders seems alien to me. Any explanations?

[tags]Harris poll, atheist, Christian, atheism, God[/tags]

  • Siamang

    Wow, these numbers are interesting….

    Believe there is no God
    Somewhat certain that there is no God 6%

    Absolutely certain that there is no God 6%

    Not sure whether or not there is a God 16%

    Does this mean that 28% are agnostic or atheist?

    And that this has grown by 7% in the last 3 years?!?!?

    Atheists are experiencing some pretty startling growth.

  • Siamang

    Does that make any sense? If I were religious, I would think God would not have a gender… the idea of God being both genders seems alien to me. Any explanations?

    PZ Meyers has suggested a followup for the 36% of people who thing God is male.

    “How could you tell? Does God have a penis?”

  • Dave

    58% are absolutely certain! I find that very distressing. Not having any doubt bothers me greatly … even from other atheists. I don’t believe there is a god, but I realize there is simply no way to know for sure.

    The wish people would take a scientific worldview and understand that just about everything we know is based on varying degrees of limited or incomplete evidence. For some reason, people are just more comfortable with black and white answers.

  • Siamang

    12% of Jews “believe there is no God”???!?!?

    What temple do THEY belong to??!?! (The day care facilities must be spectacular!)

  • txatheist

    Last time I heard a statistic it was that 25% of Jews are secular meaning their mom was Jewish but they stopped the rituals and literal belief.

  • Brodie

    Not everyone who describes themselves as Christian or Jewish believes in God. Indeed, only 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics, and 30 percent of Jews say they are “absolutely certain” there is a God. However, most Christians who describe themselves as “Born Again” (93%) are absolutely certain there is a God.

    If they’re uncertain if there is a god, why even be xtian?

  • Allen

    There are a lot of puzzles in that poll. One big one: Who are the people that call themselves born again Christians but are absolutely certain that no god exists. Isn’t a belief in God an absolute prerequisite to being born again not to mention christian?

  • Siamang

    Last time I heard a statistic it was that 25% of Jews are secular meaning their mom was Jewish but they stopped the rituals and literal belief.

    Yes, but the question says “religious affiliation” not “ethnic group.”

    There’s a lot of Catholic nonbelievers as well. That’s not an ethnic group.

    There are a lot of puzzles in that poll.

    I think I may have figured this one out….


    “Yes we go to Church regularly. Our kids go to Lutheran Church Sunday School. My Husband is a committed believer… I’m not so sure.”

    “Our kids are baptized Catholic. We’re a Catholic family. We volunteer in the community. My wife has been catholic all her life, I converted to Catholicism 20 years ago, but I don’t currently believe in God.”

  • txatheist

    Siamang said

    Yes, but the question says “religious affiliation” not “ethnic group.”

    I can’t account for all of them but a very close friend labels himself Jewish yet never goes to anything religious. I can’t explain it in great detail but his wife’s relatives that are a little more redneck sarcastically tease him to just accept jesus. He won’t do it out of respect for his Mom even though he knows very little about Judaism. He was one of the first people I came out to because when I asked him why he was so quiet about his Judaism it was similar to my atheism, negative stereotyping.

    Brodie asked

    If they’re uncertain if there is a god, why even be xtian?

    Brodie, having a close friend that is strong Catholic she became very interested in my atheism. We had long discussions on religion and politics. She use to think God was certain and evolution was false. From our discussions and many hours of her own research she came to realize she couldn’t be certain of god because it no longer was concrete as before. She may have become more of a liberal xian in that she appreciated the ideas of the bible but it wasn’t liiteral, meaning god is a concept not a being. That’s how I interpret our conversational progress. if you go to and read some of the boards you’d be amazed how many christians sit in the church pews and question it. I know I did when I was leaving christianity. I remember to this day like it was yesterday when me and a college roommate were hanging out and I said I think it’s 1% possible there is no god and this is when I was a church going xian.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    I don’t want to try and persuade anyone, but I think you asked “how someone could believe. . .””

    I can’t speak for anyone else, and don’t have the energy to even try, but here is a piece of my recent experience.

    I was a fundamentalist for most of my life. Then I became Quaker. . .well, an evangelical Quaker. (confused, yet?)

    And after some 20 years of this, including a “ten-year” in graduate school, when I was considered by some to be “a leader” God just sort of says “OK, you asked for it. . .”

    Everything is different. Almost all of the dogma I had before is so insignificant. After years of finding creative ways to “be a committed Christian” and avoid long services (the “praise choruses” are still hard for me) now I want to be there.

    Well, not always for the sermon and I would like it better with limited or no chorus singing, but for the experience of being “gathered together.” I don’t know why it makes such a difference, but it does.

    And now I see the entire Scriptures in a different light. I *knew* the Bible, had read through it in a year several times, and even tested out of the “Bible Survey” class at college.

    But surprisingly, the things that used to matter to me don’t seem important at all. And my conception–perhaps more accurately–my experience of God, is the biggest change.

    Before, I saw everything by substituting “Christians” for God. That is, I would pray and sing and feel good at times and prepare to be able to say the right things, but it was the Christians I thought were like me who mattered.

    God was like a “comped” (let in for free, complementary) spectator at my one-man-performance. It was the other Christians who were the directors, stage hands, critics and the paying customers.

    I said that God was omniscient and omnipresent and even marvelled at how that thought was beyond my ability to understand it. But what was real to me, my real experience, the stuff I didn’t cavalierly dismiss later, was what other people said about me.

    Was I a “powerful testimony for the Lord?” Was my life “an inspiration to others?” and the ultimate test “was I a leader for the Lord?”

    Now I am still ashamed to think about it.

    I acted as though God could only see what other people saw. I interacted with God as if God were sitting there in the darkened theater, watching my performance of “my interpretation of my life.”

    I really didn’t believe that God was hanging out with me, that God knew what I was thinking when I wasn’t directly thinking about “God-stuff.” I certainly didn’t think of God as someone I could have a relationship with–like a family member. In fact, the nexus of those two concepts was way too scary to even consider.

    When I really and truly decided to stop pretending it was nothing like anything I had ever imagined. This was *not* a conversion experience–I had truly accepted God (insert your favorite euphanism here) years ago.

    But now, I am aware of God with me, all of the time. (It is a bit weird thinking of God sitting there when I go to sleep, following me into the bathroom, walking with me through the grocery store, driving in traffic–but that’s what it is like.)

    Most of the Bible I now see completely differently–not at all a set of rules or even “guidelines for living.” It finally clicked (good thing God is as least as patient as I am stubborn. . .) that there isn’t really a need for a bunch of regulations if you assume God is there with you all of the time.

    And the family metaphors leap out at me. The people who God loved? Not the steady church-attenders, the ones who studied the scriptures the most, that’s for sure! People like Enoch, who “hung out” with God.

    Now here, for me, is the head-twister: The two groups of people Jesus said such hard things about were (1) the wealthy (not that they were bad, but that it was considerably harder for them to trust God) and (2) the church leaders.

    So here I am. Seeking and searching more than ever. I believe that as a human I am limited. At least, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t seem limited. I can’t understand a whole lot and what I can understand makes me dizzy if I think too hard about it. (And I am accustomed to thinking hard about things–I do have a Ph.D., but as my son puts it “not the kind of doctor that’s helpful to anyone”)

    How can I believe God is both female and male? Precisely because God doesn’t have a penis–or a uterus. I don’t understand it, so please realize that I’m trying here to describe stuff I don’t fully understand. . .

    But I don’t use personal pronouns thinking about God anymore. God is both male and female, both creator and destroyer (“hi” to all of my Hindu friends), is the one to be fearful of, and the one to take away our fears. Or as the Scriptures put it “the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.”

    But my spiritual life became so much more rich when I was finally able to talk to God as my lover, the one who loves me more than I could ever understand or predict (or reciprocate). I can’t tell you, or anyone, why God loves me, but I do know that I can count on it–I’ve tested it way too often.

    I also know God as my playmate (the kids in the sandpile kind), my teacher, and in a metaphor that is so striking to me (for a variety of archaic/peculiar reasons) the master to whom I am apprenticed. And especially since God chose to use the family metaphor so often, I think it is probably wise to know God as my parent, as well.

    And I have sensed in God much more complexity than this, even.

    As a human, I can know some smallish parts about God. But the moment I begin to tell myself that “I know (the whole) God” I am lying. I can’t know. Now we see through the cloudy window and all that. . .

    But I do understand that God isn’t interested in the things we do, except that the things we do tell about who we are. Not God–God knows already. But what I do tells me who I am.

    Needless to say, I don’t think much of trying to persuade others they aren’t doing something the right way, any more. That’s God’s business, if it is anyone’s, and I can’t even imagine how, if it were left up to me, I would ever decide which cute little deer I would lead to the lions, so that the cute little lion cubs wouldn’t starve.

    I’m surely not up to the task of deciding about when life starts, or how someone else should get or not get an abortion, or even whether they ought to go to a particular meetinghouse on a particular day of the week and just what they should do there.

    If I can’t figure out how to feed the animals, I just am not up to the task of deciding what something in someone else’s life means. Besides, I’m way too busy talking with God about my own life. . .just about all of the time I am awake.

    (at least that’s the optimistic view. I’m not up to directly confessing how often I fail to acknowledge God’s presence, just because I “hurt too much” or “don’t feel like it.”)

    So I’m not at all concerned about how people answer a particular poll. I don’t believe that most folks out there are *that* much more clever than I am, (and I probably wouldn’t admit it, even if I did think I was the runt of the intellectual litter).

    If I start by knowing God, then the various categories don’t matter so much. Why should I care what others think is the key to finding love, when I’m already perfectly in love?

  • txatheist

    Seems like you have a live and let live attitude and that’s great. I wish more believers had it. The ones that bother me are the opposite of you, the ones who think I’d be happier with their god in my life.

  • Roy Gathercoal


    I agree. They bother me, too. I would even go so far as to point to the troublesome passages in Matthew where many say (really loose paraphrase)

    “I don’t understand! Why are you (God) throwing me out? I did all the things you told me to do. . .attend services, read scripture, pray. . .what else is there?
    And God replies,
    “I was blind, and shivering, and hungry and in prison, and you didn’t do anything about it”
    They say
    “No, can’t be! If I saw you in need, I would have done something right away! (undertext: “I’m not like those awful Romans and Pharisees who schemed, arrested, tried and killed you–not like them at all!”)
    God, getting more and more angry at all of this whining, says
    “You know all those sick people, the poor ones? Many were in prison falsely, (you sent some of them because they made you not feel “safe”, remember?)
    “How about all the people who were hungry? Did you really think the “two cans” contribution you made as admission to that Blues festival would feed me for a year?
    “No, you proved who you were, and who you cared about. After all my careful examples, parables, and outright commands, you still only helped those you thought might help you later.
    “When you dissed those poor, sick, uneducated (God particularly spits this word out. . .) and hungry people, you dissed me.
    “have a nice day.”

    It’s radical, but the older I get, the more flimsy the “live together in one happy gated community” Christians seem to be.

    So we both don’t like them, don’t trust them, and think they are doing wrong things. Good.

    Now what do we do about it?