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Americans increase trust in God, donations to relief agencies during natural disaster, survey findscomment (0)

September 26, 2013


Torrential rainfall amounts have caused deadly flooding in Colorado in recent days, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate their homes and triggering oil spills. The disaster has caused property losses estimated at nearly $2 billion, according to Reuters. Mexico is reeling from the effects of major storm systems including hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel that recently made landfall. According to news reports at press time, the death toll from the storms had risen to 97. And in Northern California, firefighters worked to battle a raging wildfire that destroyed homes. 

When natural disasters occur, most Americans take increased interest in God and donate to relief agencies — and they trust faith-based agencies more than their secular counterparts. 

Those are among the findings of a LifeWay Research survey conducted days after an historic EF5 tornado devastated parts of Oklahoma on May 20, killing two dozen people and causing billions of dollars in damages.

According to the study, commissioned by LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, a third of Americans increase their trust in God during times of suffering. In response to the question, “How do you feel about God when suffering occurs that appears unfair?” the most common response is “I trust God more” (33 percent). Other responses include:

“I am confused about God” (25 percent).

“I don’t think about God in these situations” (16 percent).

“I wonder if God cares” (11 percent).

“I doubt God exists” (7 percent).

“I am angry toward God” (5 percent).

“I am resentful toward God” (3 percent).

“Disasters, particularly natural disasters, perplex all of us,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “While some call them ‘acts of God,’ others question why a good and loving God would do such a thing.

“The fact is, God does not give us all the answers,” Stetzer said. “But, as Christians, we believe that God gives us Himself — and that is why we have faith. Faith is believing God when you don’t have all the answers. But, disasters test that faith — some people draw closer to God, some pull away.”

Nearly six in 10 Americans (57 percent) agree with the statement, “When a natural disaster occurs, my interest in God increases.” Thirty-one percent disagree and 12 percent don’t know. Nearly two-thirds of respondents living in the South agree (62 percent), compared with just more than half in the West (54 percent) and Northeast (51 percent). Women, people with a college degree and those who attend worship services once a week are also likely to be more interested in God during a disaster.

Despite their increased interest in God following disasters, most Americans doubt prayer can avert natural disasters. Fifty-one percent disagree that praying can avert natural disasters, with a third (32 percent) strongly disagreeing. Still, 34 percent believe prayer can avert natural disasters. Americans in the South (40 percent) are more likely to believe than those in the Northeast (26 percent) and West (28 percent).

When a natural disaster occurs, Americans trust faith-based groups to be more responsible than secular groups with their donations by nearly a two to one margin. Fifty-six percent agree they trust faith-based groups more, while 28 percent do not. Those who live in the Midwest and South, men and those who do not have a college degree are more likely to trust faith-based charities, while those in the Northeast and Americans ages 45–64 are not as likely.

Almost 60 percent of Americans donate to relief agencies in the wake of natural disasters. Thirty percent donate to both faith-based and secular relief agencies, 15 percent donate to faith-based relief agencies only and 12 percent donate to secular relief agencies only.

A third of Americans (32 percent) don’t donate to any relief agencies.

(LifeWay, TAB)

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