Images of God from surveys

Social surveys have shown that, while more than 90% of Americans say they believe in God, a range of views exist on what is meant by “God”.

One distinction is between a personal God (with a plan for the world and able to intervene with miracles and speak to individuals through prayer) and a view of God as an impersonal force. As is shown in the chart below, in the Pew US Religious Landscape Survey (2008):

In the overall population, 60% said they believe in a personal God, 25% saw God as an impersonal force, and 7% chose “other/don’t know”.

The majority of Christians said they believe in a personal God, but the majority of Jews and seculars saw God as an “an impersonal force”.

Pew US Religious Landscape Survey 2008 - Summary page 5

These and other surveys have shown a range of views – from belief in God as described in literal descriptions in the Bible to more general and symbolic views. For example, in a 2006 survey conducted through Baylor University, more than 90% of respondents said they believe in “God, a higher power or a cosmic force” but, of these, one-quarter said they believe in a “distant God”, that “launched the world and left it spinning on its own”.

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