At God We Rage: Anger at the Almighty Found to Be Common



Stephanie Pappas writing at LiveScience:

If you’ve ever responded to tragedy by raging at God, you’re not alone. A new study finds that anger at God is a common emotion among Americans.

The anger often stems from the belief that God is responsible for bad experiences, according to the research, which is published in the January issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. But anger isn’t an indication that someone is turning his or her back on God, said study researcher and Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Exline.

“People can be angry at God while still feeling love or respect toward God,” Exline told LiveScience. “In other words, the feelings are not mutually exclusive.”

Religious rage

Exline and her colleagues collected data on people’s feelings toward God from five separate studies. Two studies asked undergraduate students to reflect on negative experiences in their lives and how those experiences made them feel about God. Another was a 1988 national survey that asked people if they had ever been angry at God. The final two studies asked similar questions of both people who had recently lost a loved one and people with cancer.

The participants spanned many religious traditions, but Christians predominated in all groups.

The 1988 survey revealed that 62 percent of people were sometimes angry at God. Women, people who were more highly educated and younger individuals all showed a slightly greater tendency toward God-directed anger. White people were more likely than black people to report such religious anger, and Jews and Catholics were slightly more angry than Protestants.

People achieved peace with God as they aged, the survey showed, with older people reporting less anger at God than younger people. That result was echoed in the studies of undergraduates, bereaved people and cancer patients, Exline found.

Among college students, 87 percent of believers reported feeling negative emotions about God after a personal setback or loss. Forty percent of grieving people reported anger at God. In both groups, however, positive feelings about God outweighed negative emotions.

Why the anger?

Even those who didn’t believe in God were sometimes angry at the deity. College students and bereaved people who were atheist or agnostic reported more anger at God than religious people in the same demographics. The findings don’t contradict the participants’ agnostic or atheist beliefs, either: The study asked people about past experiences, and many atheists and agnostics had stories of anger dating from their religious pasts. Many of the study questions also asked atheists and agnostics to imagine their feelings toward a hypothetical god.

“It’s probably not best with some of the studies that we did to try to compare the believers and the non-believers,” Exline said. “The believers are talking about a God they think is real, and people who aren’t believers are talking about an idea” based on cultural conceptions of God, she said.

People tended to become angry at God when they saw God as personally responsible for negative events and when they saw the deity’s intentions as cruel. In that way, people relate to God much as they do to other people.

Read more here.

14 Comments on "At God We Rage: Anger at the Almighty Found to Be Common"

  1. What’s more disheartening to me: agnosticism and atheism are still so embroiled in the idea, that people actually think they can be mad at ‘(G/g)od’, and still claim the title. I’ve been a Christian in past versions of myself, and the walk out of it wasn’t pleasant. It was long and lonely, but my only anger from the whole ordeal stems from the frustration regarding how deep that concept gets into people of otherwise sound mind. The continued using of that ambiguous term is the only reason it remains relevant. Remove it from your vocabulary for awhile and every time someone uses it they sound like a freaking loon.

  2. If there was a side effects list on religions, lack of a sense of accountability would be on top of the list for fundamentalism.

    • Only religion can combine unwarranted guilt with unwarranted irresponsibility.

      • It’s either God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit (the trinity) and/or an angel came to me. Let’s not forget about the shadow to God, the trinity, and angels. The Devil and demons made me do it.

        Just as the physical hierarchy takes away spiritual authority. So does the heavenly/hell hierarchy take away authority.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Oct 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

    I more pissed at Santa
    and at least he’s real

  4. I think “god” whatever it might be, takes the rap for a lot that isn’t its fault. I think random chance, cause and effect and dumb luck need to remembered. Blaming some deity is to take on a type of victim mentality.

  5. I think the problem is the very primitive, simplistic and cartoon-like way in which most Westerners conceptualize “god.” For most of them, HE, and it is always a HE, is this old guy who created everything and is somehow apart from his creation, like an engineer or an architect. He is essentially and angry sky god in the imagination of most fundamentalist xtians.
    The very term “god” has become so loaded and weighed down by thousands of years of total mind-fuckery by various iterations of the dominator culture that it has effectively become useless as anything other than a lighting rod for hatred, bitterness and an excuse to kill and control people your group does not like. It’s also a great pretext for commiting all kinds of atrocities and barbarism of the most brutal sort on pretty much anyone, for whatever reason, because “god commands it.”
    When you say “god” to a white, illiterate, xtian fundamentalist, his concept of what that means will be radically different from that of a Hindu intellectual, for example.
    They may both use the same term to mean RADICALLY different things. The first is referring to an angry sky pixie, while the other may be referring to the ultimate ground of being, consciousness, or some other idea that goes far beyond the old man in the coulds, Sunday School version of “god” that is still so prevalent in the Western imagination.

  6. DeepCough | Oct 30, 2013 at 9:14 pm |

    Everyone needs an outlet.

  7. Rhoid Rager | Oct 31, 2013 at 9:54 am |

    God invented hemorrhoids….what’s not to be pissed about?

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