David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

God Dominating the News

Brandon Sun, February 25, 2019 – David McConkey

God has been in the news lately.
U.S. presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders announced that God had supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In other news, the United Church finally decided what to do about its atheist minister. And Canadian singer Drake won the best rap song Grammy for God's Plan.

Who is this God that people do (or don't) believe in? We can begin to answer that question. But here’s an even bigger one: does a belief (or non-belief) in God make one a better person, a better citizen?

First, let's get Trump out of the way. (As if we could!) In revealing the deity’s electoral preference, Sanders officially confirmed what many had suspected: Trump enjoyed the support of God. In the presidential election, Trump received his greatest support from religious folks, especially white evangelicals. Religious leader Jerry Falwell Jr. summed up their adulation for Trump: “Evangelicals have found their dream president.”

Canadians are not as religious as Americans. So God would not play as big a role in Canada in supporting a Trump-like leader. For that, we can say, “Thank God.” Or maybe just, “Thank goodness”!

The meaning of concepts like God, religion and spirituality can be open to different interpretations. But even harder to decipher is the meaning of God's Plan! Like most everyone else, I had already heard Drake’s hit song. But I watched the music video only last week. I really should get out more often and visit YouTube: I was almost the one billionth viewer of God's Plan!

This surreal video shows Drake astonishing down-and-out people with his overall celebrity awesomeness. The superstar goes around showering poverty-stricken folks with cash – a cool million in total. Interestingly, the fabulously wealthy Drake was not giving away his own money. The funds came from his record label. I guess that is part of God’s plan. Whatever.

Where do regular Canadians stand? In a 2015 Angus Reid opinion poll, 39 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” This would make these folks the single largest “faith” group in the country.
CROP, another Canadian pollster, reports that beliefs about God have changed over the last two decades. In 2016 polling, CROP found that about 60 per cent of Canadians believe in God. This is down from 80 per cent in 1998.

For 22 per cent of Canadians, they believe in God “as taught by my religion.” (I picture an old man in the sky as portrayed in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.)

More Canadians – 37 per cent – believe in God “in my own way.” CROP comments that these folks “construct their own image of God, and He is more like a guardian angel than an ‘old man with a long white beard.’”

Twenty-one per cent of Canadians believe in a mystical “force” that “connects us to nature, the cosmos, the universe . . .” CROP calls this outlook “pantheist,” noting this group has doubled in size in the last 20 years. “May the force be with you!”

Finally, there are atheists, those with no belief in a God. The proportion of Canadians who are non-believers has tripled in the last two decades and is now 20 per cent.

“Only a tiny minority of Canadians believe in a church-sanctioned God,” CROP notes. “Over the years, the notion of God has exploded into a myriad of different forms, culturally better adapted to the times.”

The United Church of Canada is being buffeted by this cultural wave. The church wrestled for years about whether to dismiss Rev. Gretta Vosper – its famous self-declared atheist minister. In a move supported by many clergy and laity, the church decided last November to keep Vosper on.

The United Church could be moving towards a new theological position, which has been variously described as atheist, non-theist or post-theist. Christians are now in a “modern and scientific age,” one minister remarked in a letter to the editor of the United Church Observer magazine. “Like many other United Church clergy, I no longer believe in an interventionist God.”

This cultural modernizing of God is not limited to Christians. Pakistani-Canadian writer Ali A. Rizvi makes the case for the atheist Muslim. I reviewed his book with that title in this space two years ago.

Do you need God to be good? I will tackle that quandary in a future column. I also expect to be reporting on more news about God.

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See also: 

United Church Minister Part of Rise of Vocal Atheism

The Atheist Muslim

Book Provides Intriguing, Scientific Glimpse into State of Religious Beliefs

Authors Leading Vital Conversation About Islam

How Do You Be a Good Person?

Gay, Good or God?

Atheist Cards



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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Some Reviewed Books:

The War on Drugs:
A Failed Experiment

War on Drugs

Read the Review

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The Atheist Muslim:
A Journey from Religion to Reason


Read the Review

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Stranger Than We Can Imagine:
An Alternative History of the 20th Century


Read the Review

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Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now


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Islam and the Future of Tolerance:
A Dialogue

Islam Future

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Extraordinary Canadians:
Nellie McClung

Extraordinary Canadians Nellie Mcclung

Read the Review

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The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution

Greatest Show on Earth

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