Anime and Religion Survey: Anibloggers and Christianity

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.

Questions

  • 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.

John 3:16

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.

TL;DR

“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.

Life.

Creator of universe. Salvation of Mankind

Everything

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?

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

22 thoughts on “Anime and Religion Survey: Anibloggers and Christianity

  1. I’m starting to wonder a bit about how accurate the poll can be considered when you get answers like “Burn the women, rape the kids!” and “TL;DR”. I know in every poll you’re going to get off-the-wall responses, but if someone isn’t taking the poll seriously and they still get their responses counted in the poll, it’s certainly going to skew results.

    It reminds me of the time a Facebook group started a grassroots group to get a hockey player selected to the baseball all-star game. People were voting 25 times a day each, and with the number of people who voted, I imagine he got upwards of 10,000 votes. Yet the player never appeared in any of the leaderboards provided by Major League Baseball. I bet MLB just threw out any votes for non-eligible players.

    So when someone goes and trolls the poll with answers like those, and with a small sample size, they’re going to get their 1% heard just as much as someone who took the poll seriously. Unfortunately there’s probably not much you can do, it’s not simple to get people to respond to surveys, but it does throw off results.

    On another note, the fact that only 6 out of 30+ Christians believe in creation, points to a trend in American Christianity where many Christians simply don’t believe in the authority of the Bible (Hebrews 11:3, for example). I’m not saying someone’s not a Christian if they believe in evolution by any means, but there’s a growing trend of Christians who doubt the Bible, getting it to the point where churches are splintering off further and further.

    1. Point taken. I will say that I looked through many surveys one-by-one, including those that included “funny answers.” Many gave answers like that, but they were in tone with their feelings about that topic (ex. God), and most seemed to take the rest of the survey seriously. Others left much or most of the survey untaken, and those non-answers were taken into account.

      The survey sample is also very small. If the population size doubled, the responses might have been very different…unfortunately, that’s just how it went. 😛

      On your final note, I totally agree with you. There just seems to be a lack of faith, whether caused by ridicule from others, doubts instilled in them through academia, other reasons. Can we reconcile our faith with science, and does science trump our belief? These are important questions, and I think many of us have answered them by how we feel about the Old Testament, and Genesis in particular.

  2. The irony is this: If it wasn’t for Christianity, science would never be as developed as it is now. For example, Gregor Mendel, arguably the founder of the study of genetics, was an Augustinian monk. Copernicus discovered that the Earth was orbiting the Sun (though mathematically), and I do believe that he was a Catholic too.

    Wait a minute. The Roman Catholic Church helped the sciences? Interesting. That explains why the Vatican is pretty cool with evolution. And explains why most Protestants are not all that cool with science.

    1. Wow, using Copernicus as an example of the Roman Catholic Church helping the sciences! His book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was fiercely denounced as heresy by Dominicans like Tolosani and Spina, and we know how it ended when the Church took an official stance on these theories—Gallileo’s trial.

      1. To be honest though, Copernicus did take the sensible route and checked with his superiors. Galileo, I assumed, didn’t follow the instructions.

        Of course, the Church then was using Aristotle’s model of the Universe, for some odd reason.

  3. >highly-educated scientists who abide by the theory

    No. If you’re refering to the travesty known as “creation science”, it may be pushed by a fringe of individuals some of whom hold academic credentials, but what they practice is not science. It is the deliberate distortion of observations to fit a preconceived mythological framework, either out of blind adherence to superstitions or for political expediency. That is the opposite of science.

    Maybe American Christians would be perceived as less ignorant if they ceased to defend lies whenever the liars happen to share their religious beliefs.

    1. I don’t understand the ire regarding creation science. I’ll agree that the scientists start with preconceptions stemming from their faith – but is it all that different from scientists who refuse to accept the possibility of God, or who overlook possible holes in fundamental theories? I mean…science is incomplete. It, like my field of history, is continually evolving. Shouldn’t we all be open? It’s truth more important than looking silly?

      I’ve read books on creation science, and I believe in young earth creation. I’ll admit I didn’t understand everything I read and that some of what I read just doesn’t really hold up well as support. But I’ll also add this – I think I’m quite smart (toots horn), even if I’m a creationist. I know many who believe as I do who are also very smart – some brilliant. I wish Christians wouldn’t be judged as backwards or of a lesser mind immediately because they believe in a young earth. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case.

      1. To be honest, I just take Genesis 1:1 as literal and not care for the rest, considering that the rest of the chapter (and Chapter 2) can be construed as extremely allegorical and the Jewish weren’t exactly fond of dates and such.

        That, and the Old Testament was originally not on paper, but passed on orally. Given a few hundred years to several thousand years from time of origin, there’s bound to be distortions due to faulty memory or something.

        Besides, all will be revealed in time, and if it’s not science that does it, then it’s God who will reveal everything. Might as well not worry your head off such things and enjoy the ride.

      2. I wasn’t expecting you to actually be a creationist. A young earther at that!

        Well, let me address your points in order, and hopefully leave it at that.

        1/ Regarding creation “scientists”, it’s not so much that they start with preconceptions stemming from their faith—it’s that they stop there, cherry-picking facts and writing fallacies upon fallacies to arrive at conclusions that were assumed from the beginning. Call them whatever you want but not scientists.

        2/ I don’t know what you mean by “refuse to accept the possibility of God”, but I wouldn’t say that description applies to a large number of scientists (unless of course you really mean that as “being an atheist”). Scientists in general don’t particularly refuse to accept the possibility of God, more that they refuse to accept the possibility of the Spirit of the Forest, the Tooth Fairy or healing powers of the fiftieth centesimal dilution of arnica montana. What scientists refuse is God as an *explanation*, because it has no explanatory power at all—you can answer any question by “Because it is God’s Will”, and precisely because of that, it’s a useless answer from an epistemic viewpoint.

        3/ “Science is incomplete, yadda yadda.” Right. There are plenty of unanswered questions out there, and there will probably always be a deeper understanding of the physical world to be found. But that has nothing to do with creationism, because we’re not looking at unanswered questions at all. We’re looking at questions which have satisfactory answers with mountains of evidence to back them. Young-Earth creationism is even worse, because it basically amounts to rejecting all of modern science—the last 500 years of human civilization—out of mere theological convenience.

        It is a grave misconception about the epistemology of science (and one, I should say, that I shiver to read in the words of a self-identified historian) to think that it “evolves” by pretending human knowledge doesn’t exist and we can replace it with something else. Even major new theories do nothing of the sort: they are introduced to explain observations that do not fit existing theoretical frameworks, while not contradicting those frameworks regarding observations that do fit in (the old theory is an approximation of the new theory in a certain domain).

        On the contrary, creationism attempts to re-explain extraordinarily well explained facts by an entirely different (and previously disproved) framework which fails to account for a countless number of known and perfectly understood observations. This doesn’t make a shred of epistemological sense; it only makes sense if creationists do not care about knowledge at all, but only about the comfort of keeping their simple beliefs unchallenged.

        4/ I respect your right as an individual to have whatever beliefs you entertain, and honestly I don’t really care. But it’s a terrifying fact, and in some sense a token to our collective failure as a civilization, that those beliefs are shared by a significant fraction of the voting population in one of the world’s most advanced and powerful countries. It means that many decisions critical to the fate of mankind will be taken by people who have basically forfeited the ability to comprehend the physical world rationally.

    2. …Intelligent Design and that nonsense? Not much different from New Atheist spiel, I might add. I don’t like it, as it forcefully pushes something for a political reason.

      Then again, part of science IS about holding on to preconcieved notions and then carrying out experiments to observe the results and modify their beliefs. Or to use the vernacular, hypotheses.

      I might also like to add that even science itself cannot observe everything, and that sometimes, it’s a lot better to admit that the data is insufficient, or even worse, one might have a tainted sample and that it’s better to start afresh.

      (Don’t mind the picture. It’s… complicated)

      1. I’m a fish out of water here (though it seems like it’s moreso with semantics than anything), and I don’t think I can adequately address further ideas you brought up. But yes, I am a young-earth creationist and yes, professional, out-in-the-field, degree-ed, teaching and writing historian.

        Thanks for all the insightful comments, guys.

  4. >>The top three selections were “conversative,” “ignorant,” and “hypocrites.”

    This is my pet peeve — hypocrites.

    >>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 think along these lines too. From what I was taught at school (a Catholic school at that) there are times that what’s written in the Bible isn’t to be taken literally. Which makes me wonder why some people are so anti-evolution.

    1. Hypocrites? Dangit, then you’ll really be annoyed with me. 😛

      The Bible is a piece of literature – it contains poetry, history, stories, songs, etc. The question is whether or not we take the intent of the creation story as literal or something else. The evidence suggests to me that it is a literal account, and so, I’ll take it at that. I believe my God is big enough to create the world in six days.

      The problem when evolution for Christians then (and Crazy Packers Fan alluded to this), if the account is supposed to be literally true, we’re bending our beliefs to fit others’ thoughts, rather than trusting in God.

  5. More interesting results…I don’t have anything else to add without going into long, religious debates, but yeah, can’t wait to see the final results next time =)

    1. That’s pretty much where I landed. I saw the comments about creation and such and immediately thought of two very good books and a documentary on the topic. I figured this wasn’t the place to take them out and start quoting. Knowing me, my comment would end up longer than the actual post. 🙂

        1. Who, me? 🙂 I thank you, but they take a long time to write. As much as I enjoy it, I should probably keep them to one location, or I will never get any sleep.

  6. Of interest is that most view Christian as Right Wing conservative Christians. Unfortunately, the Christian left (imagine that! Socialist Christians!) are often ignored. Socialist Christians are more concerned with charity and helping the powerless (e.g. homeless, low income, prisoner, orphan, ect). However, because they are not as politically powerful, their views are often swallowed by the nonreligious-left (e.g. socialism, communism).

    Perhaps analyzing the data by categorizing participants into religious groups and re-running the view on Christianity would help. It may even be better to do that and classify participants by nationality/geographical location (e.g. continents). One way to do this is to spilt file in SPSS.

    1. Your discussion of socialist Christians reminds me of what’s really a growing community of a-political Christians. It’s difficult to categorize many of these individuals (I would fit into here) into a political group because they aren’t particularly interested in politics. They may also have views that are all over the political spectrum; one might support programs to help the lower-class (liberal idea) and also be pro-life (conservative idea).

      Not to mention the large numbers of Christians are simply, and plainly, liberal.

      Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, I mostly didn’t take the time to show statistics when categories are broken down (nor am I enough of a technophile to understand how to do this easily). But I did analyze my spreadsheet of results to get a general idea of how certain groups answered questions.

      The survey is FAR from perfect. -_-‘

  7. Eh, I’ll go ahead and make a comment on the “creation science” bit/comments.

    While ‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’ are considered interchangeable, when ‘creation scientists’ were put on the stand (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 1981-82), they admitted that ‘creation science’ was not really a science. Why? Because all the answers to it lie within the Bible and are NOT empirically testable in nature. So it is incorrect for anyone to refer to intelligent design theory as creation science.

    My comments on my beliefs? N/A, though I find the evidence for Genesis to being allegory more compelling than a literal interpretaion.

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