Eighty years ago this month, President Roosevelt addressed a nation still reeling from the shock and carnage of Pearl Harbor barely two weeks earlier. America had just entered a war that would snuff out the lives of 75 million people—20 million by combat but more than twice that amount by bombing, genocide, starvation, and sickness.
He positioned the coming war as not just a test of America’s strength, but as a test of her faith.
As this tattered year of pandemics, social unrest, and soaring hate crime statistics comes to a close, a Pew survey of the shape of faith in America reveals the resilience of our conviction that there is Something or Someone above the noise, superior to the proud and petty squabbles of this Earth and that that Something or Someone remains a touchstone of comfort and hope in the turmoil that has defined our times.
The new survey finds that 91 percent of Americans believe in God or a higher power and that more than 80 percent believe things can happen that are beyond the reach of science or natural causes. Survey questions about the possibilities of sensing “the presence of someone who has died,” having “a near-death experience where the person’s spirit actually leaves the body” or receiving “a definite answer to a prayer request” all produced a majority “Yes.”
Most respondents assigned no blame to God for human suffering with only 14 percent saying they felt the suffering in the world is an indication that there is no God. Questions as to any doubts of God’s omnipotence or love produced similar percentages.
A Pew survey of the shape of faith in America reveals the resilience of our conviction that there is Something or Someone above the noise.
How do people handle the terrible headlines and media bombshells that assault us 24/7? According to the survey, 25 percent of us “tune it out,” while a majority focus on the gratitude they feel for the good things in their own lives.
It takes courage and resilience to maintain one’s faith despite DNA evidence that all is lost and that hope is futile.
On the other hand, it takes no courage to hate. No strength of character, no heroism or nobility of spirit. There are no great novels devoted to hate, no immortal symphonies celebrating hate, no masterpieces of the fine arts praising bigotry and intolerance.
But it takes a lot of work, some suffering, and sometimes more than a dash of daring to have faith.
Albert Einstein, long misidentified as an atheist, confessed his own feelings of “rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”
Let us pray that the majority of us continue to feel that rapturous amazement and express it through whatever spiritual path we choose to take.