Survey Results: Alternative Concepts of God
May 22, 2012 — 4:04

Author: Yujin Nagasawa  Category: Concept of God  Tags: , , ,   Comments: 2

As part of our Templeton Funded project “Exploring Alternative Concepts of God”, Andrei Buckareff (Marist College) and I conducted a survey in January this year. The following is our analysis of the results. We are sorry it took so long to post this. We would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey.


Summary of results of the Conceptions of the Divine Survey:
Of 286 respondents, 14% described themselves as interested laypersons without formal training in philosophy, religious studies, or theology. 12.9% are interested laypersons with some training (e.g., a bachelor’s or master’s degree) in philosophy, religious studies, or theology. 11.2% and 32.5% are either undergraduate or post-graduate students, respectively, in one of the aforementioned fields of study. 27.3% described themselves as either a post-doctoral fellow or an instructor (lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, assistant professor, associate professor, professor) in a department of philosophy, religious studies, or theology. None of the respondents are retired scholars in philosophy, religious studies, or theology.
Most of the 286 respondents (71.3%) do not have a PhD in Philosophy. Only 28.7% of the respondents have a PhD in Philosophy. But while most of the respondents do not have a PhD in Philosophy, most of the respondents (69.9%) describe the philosophy of religion as one of their primary areas of research interest. 30.1% do not count the philosophy of religion as a primary area of research interest. Most of the respondents (72.7%) work primarily within the analytic philosophical tradition. Only 4.5% of the respondents describe themselves as working primarily in the Continental tradition, while 22.7% do not primarily within either tradition.
Regarding the attitudes of respondents towards what view of the existence and nature of the divine that comes closest to their own, the overwhelming majority (55.6%) describe themselves as traditional theists. A distant second from traditional theists are those hold that no account of the divine is tenable (12.2%). 11.5% of the respondents are open theists. The remaining respondents endorse various alternative conceptions of the divine. 10.5% describe their views as “other.” Panentheists (5.2%) and ultimists follow (2.1%). Pantheists (1.4%), developmental theists (1%), and polytheists (.3%) had the fewest advocates.
For the remaining questions, there were only 250 respondents. The other 36 skipped these questions. We are not sure why. We fear it may be because the last five questions were on the second page of the survey. The 36 who did not answer the last five questions may have failed to realize this.
In response to being asked whether language about God should be understood in realist/cognitive terms, the overwhelming majority of respondents answered affirmatively (91.2%). Only 4% disagreed and 4.8% had no opinion. Assuming talk about God should be understood in realist terms, when asked whether the only viable metaphysics of the divine is provided by variants of traditional theism, there was almost an even number of those who agreed (41.6%) and disagreed (41.2%). The remaining 17.2% had no opinion on the matter.
Most of the respondents (46.4%) disagreed with the statement that “Alternative accounts of the divine, such as versions of pantheism and panentheism, or some other alternative to classical theism, can provide a metaphysically and religiously adequate framework for theological realists.” 36.8% of the respondents agreed with the statement. 16.8% had no opinion on the matter.
While most of the respondents regard alternative accounts of the divine to fail to provide a metaphysically and religiously adequate framework for theological realists, the overwhelming majority of the respondents (88.8%) regard such account of the divine to be worthy of examination by analytic philosophers of religion and analytic theologians. Only 4.4% disagree with the claim that such accounts of the divine are worthy of examination. 6.8% have no opinion on the matter.
Finally, most of the respondents (82.4%) disagree with the claim that “The varieties of pantheism and panentheism are untenable and, hence, no such account of the divine is worthy of investigation by serious analytic philsophers of religion and analytic theologians. 7.6% agreed with the statement, and 10% had no opinion on the matter. This result is inconsistent with the response to the previous question. But a small minority of respondents failed to recognize any inconsistency in their responses.

Comments:
  • “This result is inconsistent with the response to the previous question.”
    Maybe people think that pantheism and panentheism are not worthy of examination but some other alternative to classical theism is worthy of examination?
    Or maybe people are confused by too many negations. 🙂 I sure am.

    May 22, 2012 — 19:10
  • Edward Wierenga

    Or else people think that pantheism and panentheism are untenable but still worthy of examination. That’s not an inconsistent view. For example, I think that ethical egoism is untenable, but it’s still a worthwhile project to figure how best to state it and to see whether objections to it are good.

    May 23, 2012 — 7:11
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