While I’m open to exploring all sorts of religious connections to anime and manga on my blog, my focus is on Christian spirituality. I’m a Christian, and so I was very interested in how anibloggers felt about the faith. As I mentioned earlier this week, 1/4 of survey respondents identified themselves as Christian, much lower than the national average (and even compared to the world as a whole – there are approximately 2 billion Christians worldwide). Let’s see how this mixed group responded.
- Describe your view of God.
- How well versed are you in Christian beliefs?
- Please state the main idea of Christianity in one sentence.
- Which word(s) would you use to best describe the general Christian population in the U.S.?
- Which word(s) would you use to best describe the Christian God?
- Which word(s) would you use to best describe Jesus Christ?
- Which word(s) would you use to best describe the Christian bible?
- In one sentence, how could Christians better their image?
- Can science coincide with Christian belief?
- Has science effectively prove the Christian God does not exist?
- Has science proven that a god does not exist at all?
- Are miracles (acts that break the laws of nature) possible?
- Have you ever witnessed a miracle?
- Do you believe in evolution (or for creationists, “macroevolution”)?
Viewing Christianity Through an Aniblogging Lens
About 2/3 of those surveyed recorded that they were well-versed or moderately well-versed in Christian teachings. I think an important application here is for Christians. While many of those who responded that they didn’t know much about Christianity lived in other countries, many were also from the U.S. One person I know recently remarked that there were no Americans who didn’t know who Jesus is; but according to this survey, at the very least, there are still lots who don’t understand what Christianity is all about.
My next question about Christianity was to explain the faith in one sentence. It’s not an easy thing to do to boil down a world faith in so few words, but if I did it, I would say: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was sent by His Father to die as a sacrifice for our sins, which destined us for death and eternal separation for God, and it is through this sacrifice that we can live a Holy Spirit-filled life, loving God and loving others, particularly by spreading the good news of salvation.”
Some answers were similar to mine:
Love they neighbor.
God died for us while we were yet sinners so that we would not perish, but have eternal life.
We suck, God loves, Jesus saves.
God created everything, people sinned, God sent his son to earth and Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
Man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but by the grace of the Lord the price of our sins has been paid by death so that all who believe in Him may be saved.
Some were, well, off the beaten path:
Burn the women, rape the kids!
No idea, but there’s a typo in the question.
Jesus and stuff.
Some demonstrate negative attitudes toward the faith or its practitioners:
do you mean the “true”, “original” form of christianity? or how it’s been conveniently appropriated by the contemporary right? i guess the old form would be, do to others as they would do unto you. the new form would be…something more sinister.
The Church has perverted God’s teachings over millenia of tyranny; although they still do promote many virtues which is always a good thing.
And some answers indicated that many misunderstand or simply are informed enough to describe the essense of Christianity:
There are too many branches of Christianity to describe any single main idea. Catholics, protestants, orthodox, etc. all have different views.
Ehhh, probably not.
Is it possible? I suppose the main goal of Christianity is the same as any religion — a way to get people together behind a common goal and hopefully do some good works.
Love for every man (and women) or some kind of nonsense like that.
An abstinence from sin to preserve your location in heaven.
I think it’s supposed to be about charity, peace and love and being a good person.
the belief that christ was the messenger of god…I honestly am not sure
Notice that there’s a wide gulf in some of the answers, particularly in the ideas of grace, love and punishment. Grace means that one is given love when they are undeserving of it, and I believe (coming from a Protestant perspective) that this is the gift of God through Jesus’ sacrifice. Others disagree or don’t seem to know about this idea, as there seems to be a focus on good deeds and sin, which results in punishment.
And piggybacking off the last set of quotes I gave, I asked the survey takers to select adjectives describing Christians, and many (including professing Christians) selected negative ones. Many of the adjectives were opposite in nature (ex. right-wing and left-wing). The top three selections were “conversative,” “ignorant,” and “hypocrites.” Obviously, western Christians need to improve their image before others’ eyes if they intend to demonstrate the love of Christ. In addition, the “Moral Majority” seems to unfortunately define the church in America, even though I would argue the group is more about politics and morals than about faith. Finally, the high inclusion of “ignorant” (especially compared to the low numbers of “thinking”) may have something to do with views of science, which I’ll discuss below. On the other hand, other high-scoring adjectives were more positive, including “charitable,” “kind,” “passionate,” and “generous.”
What is God? Who is Jesus? And What of the Bible?
I asked respondents to describe God – but describing God is not an easy task. It will also provide widely varying answers in light of the wide spectrum of respondants’ religions. A selection of descriptions is below:
There is no god.
He sits on a cloud and has a black sense of humour, if he exists.
There’s only one god – Allah s.w.t
fictional entity created to answer complex questions, and as a method of control over and above traditional laws.
I believe he exists, but our perception of god is a human construct.
“God” as a concept can be supportive to the individual, a useful common frame for small communities, and a handy shorthand for certain moral behaviours that support society as a whole. “God” can be a force for good, so long as we agree what is the common good; however, “God” is also the first, last, and only recourse for those who do ‘evil’ in the name of ‘good’, a way to bypass logic and common sense, to cut off debate with no hope for future dialogue, and a comfort to those who do ill in the name of religion. Sorry for the long answer. I personally do not believe in God, but I must daily deal with the belief in God held by many of her followers.
If there is a God it is clearly something beyond our simplistic understanding of a deity. What God would be like is beyond my simple comprehension.
He is a force…that sparked the universe. But he’s not something that’s tangible or that has…thoughts.
Creator of universe. Salvation of Mankind
I intentionally made this question vague, as I wanted to see how respondants would answer this. Of course, most who adhere to a religion described their view of God, and those who did not gave often gave a view formulated from a gamut of ideas and sources. Many were perplexed and simply responded with a non-response.
When describing the Christian God, to my surprise, the top selections were positive or neutral terms: powerful (15%), merciful (14%) and loving (14%). The next few reponses on the list combined positive and negative elements, including judgmental (12%), patient (9%), vengeful (7%), and angry (6%). It looks as if Christians and others who view the faith in a positive light also view God in that same light. Meanwhile, non-believers aren’t all bitter and angry, as many practicing Christians may believe. There’s something to be learned from that and an opportunity to be gained – dialogue and discussion may be possible if both Christians and non-Christians avoid prejudices that are true for only some of each persuasion.
The views of Jesus were interesting as well. He was clearly human, according to over half of respondants; meanwhile, just 30 (about the same number as identified themselves as Christian) considered Him divine, also. Other high responses included “loving,” “wise,” “passionate,” and “activist,” each garnering about the same number of votes. In stark contrast to the presentation of God, Jesus is not seen as judmental (3 votes to 42 for God) or a hypocrite (1 vote). Another interesting note is that many understand that, having lived in the Middle East, he was likely not light-skinned (23 votes for dark-skinned to 1 for light-skinned). None found him handsome, although he’s portrayed that way in art, as compared to the description of his average or lesser looks provided in a prophecy from Isaiah.
Survey takers were most critical, however, of the holy Christian text, the Bible. 53 found it inconsistent, while only 7 found it otherwise – a very telling comparison, when considering almost how many identified themselves as Christian. In other words, only about 1 out of 4 Christians think that the Bible is consistent. About the same amounts described the Bible as a “fairy tale” and “inaccurate” as did “inspired” and as “God’s word.” Other descriptions had more to do with how the book was written, with many describing the Bible as made up of multiple short stories (47), poetic (34) and/or difficult to read (19). And despite a split on whether or not the text is true, many found it interesting (42).
Christianty: The Unscience?
As I mentioned earlier, many think of Christians as ignorant and unthinking. Could this be because of the seeming schism between scientific thought and Christian theology? Perhaps – but this isn’t so clear-cut. To my surprise, 69% of respondants believe that science can coexist with Christianity, with more responding that they were uncertain (18%) than with a no (14%). This could have to do with the poor wording of the question – after all, sure, any two ideas can “coexist.” The better question may have been, “Can science and Christianity both be true?” or something along those lines. Still, I believe (hope!) most respondants understood the intent behind the question. In fact, I think their understanding is demonstrated by the answers to the next two questions on the survey. 76% believe that science has not proven that the Christian God doesn’t exist, while 82% believe the same for “God” in general. The flipside would also show, maybe more demonstratively, that there’s also no scientific proof for God’s existence.
Continuing on the lines of science, I asked respondants about miracles, which would be a break in the laws of science. The responses were fairly evenly split between those that believe miracles are possible (50) and those who do not (42). However, a majority have never seen a miracle (72%) or were unsure if they had seen one (14%), with 15% saying they had indeed seen one.
The final question about Christianity and science had to do with creationism. While the scientific community often responds to this idea with shouts of “pseudo-science!” (PZ Myers comes to mind), there are vocal proponents of creationism and highly-educated scientists who abide by the theory. But the aniblogging community seems to follow line with the scientific community, with a heavy majority expounding evolution (86) over creationism (6), with a number unsure (16). It’s important to note that many Christians believe both that their faith is true and so is evolution, thinking that God set that mechanism in motion to “create” man.
I found these results more interesting than any in the survey; they were all over the place, revealing a wide spectrum of beliefs and responses. Tomorrow, I’ll reflect more on these in my final conclusions. In the meantime, what do you think of these results? Are they in line with what you’d expect? And how would you respond to these questions?
- Anime and Religion Survey: Introduction (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)
- Anime and Religion Survey: Religion of Anibloggers (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)
- Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Sacrifice and Arc Rise Fantasia (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)