Poll: What is God’s role in Climate Change, Natural Disasters?

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Americans largely concur that God created the Earth. But when it comes to how he wants its environment treated, and how much he’s willing to intercede — the agreement ends. A new poll released Friday shows major differences between faith groups on topics including concern over climate change, whether natural disasters are a sign of biblical end times and how deeply connected they feel to nature. White evangelicals are the most skeptical of climate change and the most likely to say recent natural disasters are a sign of “biblical end times.” Hispanic Catholics are, by faith affiliation, the most concerned about climate change, along with religiously unaffiliated Americans and black Protestants. The poll on religion and the environment was done by Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion. The academy, the major U.S. academic group for those who study religion, hosts its annual meeting this week and for the first time picked the focus of climate. The topic of God’s involvement in the environment is complicated, and people’s views can at times seem contradictory. For example, the PRRI poll shows Americans overall are more likely to say climate change (62 percent) is causing recent natural disasters compared with end times (49 percent). Fifty-three percent of Americans say God would allow humans to destroy the Earth, compared with 39 percent who think God would not. Fifty-seven percent say God “gave humans the task of living responsibly with animals, plants and other resources, which are not just for human benefit,” while 35 percent say God gave humans all that “solely for their own benefit.” Those numbers obviously suggest a very present God when it comes to the environment. However, in another place the poll asks respondents it labels “skeptics” — for their hesitance to believe the Earth is warming — to pick among a list of reasons for their disbelief. Only 2 percent said “God is in control,” while respondents were most likely to cite the weather they see themselves. But the biggest predictor of someone’s views on climate and God’s role, said PRRI chief executive Robert Jones, is his or her partisan affiliation. “There is a stronger correlation between partisanship here than among many religious variables,” Jones said. “If I didn’t tell you what the question is, and you just saw the data, you’d think I was talking about the midterm elections.” More data via The Washington Post.

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