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38% in America Say Disasters are Signs from God (PRRI/RNS 2011)

Disasters are Signs from God?


Belief that God communicates to people through signs in natural events is popular in American Christianity, but only a minority seem to really accept it. According to a 2011 PRRI poll, 16% completely agree and 22% mostly agree that God uses disasters like earthquakes and floods as signs for humans. A majority, 51%, disagree that God uses disasters as signs.

The Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service conducted a survey on Americans' views about God in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. When asked how much they agree or disagree with the statement "Earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters are a sign from God," people responded:

  • Completely Agree: 16%
  • Mostly Agree: 22%
  • Mostly Disagree: 22%
  • Completely Disagree: 29%
  • Don't Know / Refused: 2%
  • The idea that God communicates to humans through "signs" in nature should be pretty common, but the belief that God uses natural disasters as signs is only accepted by a minority. Why is that? Belief that natural disasters are signs from God can be found not only in the Bible but throughout Christian history. It's a belief with a strong pedigree. Are Americans just reluctant to accept this belief because of the moral implications?

    This survey was by the Public Religion Research Institute and was done with phone interviews of 1,008 adults between March 17 and March 20, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 3%.

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