Thursday, January 29, 2015

Is the Jewish God a Cosmic Life Force?

The General Social Survey, the workhorse survey of American sociology, in 2010 asked a representative sample of American adults how they envisioned God.

The two most popular options were "God is a personal being involved in the lives of people today" and "God is not personal, but something like a cosmic life force."

For Christians, the more strongly religious they reported themselves to be, the more they chose the first option.  Thus, 93% of "strong Protestants" and 86% of "strong Catholics" think God is a personal being, compared to 70% of "not very strong" Protestants and 62% of "not very strong" Catholics. 

By contrast, only 3 and 5%, respectively, of strong Protestants and Catholics see God as a cosmic force. For not very strong Protestants and Catholics, the proportion embracing the cosmic force view rises to 17%.

For Jews, though, the trend goes in the opposite direction. Among strong Jews, only 33% see God as personal, whereas 40% see God as a cosmic force.  Interestingly, it is the not very strong Jews who show a more gentile distribution: 53% say "personal being," vs. 12% who say "cosmic force."

My best guess of what this means:  Jews who are not very involved in the Jewish community do not really know the distinctive features of Jewish theology, and therefore assimilate to the Christian view that pervades American culture.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Improved U.S. - India Ties are Good for Democracy

President Obama and Indian President Modi unblocked a stalled agreement to improve joint trade and development relations on nuclear power and drones.

President Obama turned toward India at the beginning of his administration, with Modi's predecessor.  Now he has made a second visit to India, to deal with the new administration, and move forward.

It has always made sense to me that the U.S. and India, giant English-tradition democracies, should be allies.  The Cold War made us enemies.  The silver lining of that era was our relatively close ties with Pakistan.  Still, India is a more natural ally.  With the end of the Cold War, and the rise of the mutual competitor, China, it is very hopeful that US/India relations are improving.

This is an achievement of the Obama administration that will pay dividends not only for the U.S., but for the advancement of democracy.