Dare you protest against God? Perspectives from a CWRU psychology study

or inactions? This was the key question behind recent studies led by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Exline.

Many report having a relationship with God, similar to those relationships in marriage, parenting or friendship. Exline and colleagues found that being assertive with God could actually strengthen that perceived bond and one's faith.

They report their findings in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality's article, ", Exit and Assertion: Do People See Protest toward God as Morally Acceptable?"

Using Internet surveys, the research focused on two groups: 358 undergraduates at a research university and 471 participants from a broad-based group of adults. Although a variety of faiths were represented, the analyses focused only on people with some .

The researchers discovered if a person views God as cruel, then protest toward God is seen as more acceptable.

"If God seems like a or a tyrant, standing up to God could be seen as an act of courage or even ," says Exline.

But when people see God as a kind and loving authority figure, then protest seems less acceptable. "In this case, protest could appear disrespectful to a good and fair leader," says Exline.

Exline suggests that it's important to analyze different types of protest.

The researchers found that many believers think that it's morally OK to be assertive by asking God questions or complaining. But they're less sure about whether anger toward God is acceptable.

"The larger step of leaving the relationship is clearly seen as wrong by most people of faith," Exline says. "Exiting the relationship can entail outright rejection of God, holding onto anger, questioning God's authority, rebelling, or withdrawing from the relationship."

"We can think about the parallel to a human relationship," says Exline. "Good relationships usually leave room for honest communications, including some complaint and . People tend to feel most close and happy with their partners when they have some sense of 'voice' in a relationship. This doesn't mean yelling or screaming, but showing respect and honesty with each other about their feelings—including those of anger and frustration."

A related question was addressed in the recent Journal of Psychology and Theology's article, "If I Tell Others about My Anger Toward God, How Will They Respond?" Drawing from the same Internet survey of adult believers, she focused only on those who felt some anger toward God.

If people felt that it was morally OK to feel angry with God, they were more likely to reveal their feelings to others.

Most people reported supportive responses, Exline says, but it was also common for people to receive unsupportive responses that made them feel judged, ashamed or guilty about their feelings.

"When people saw others as supportive, they were more likely to report that they had approached God with their feelings—and they were more likely to report strengthened faith in response to the incident," said Exline. "On the other hand, people who reported unsupportive responses from others were more likely to suppress their feelings toward God rather than dealing with them openly. They tended to stay angry with God and were more likely to exit the relationship. They also reported greater use of alcohol and drugs to cope with the problem."

Exline advises that if someone comes to you and tells you that they are mad at God, the type of response that you provide could be important in terms of shaping what happens.

"Regardless of whether you think that anger toward is right or wrong, it's important to respond in a way that helps the other person feel supported rather than shamed," Exline says.

Explore further

Angry at God? If so, you're not alone, says psychologist

More information: Any English-speaking person aged 18 or over can participate in an ongoing web study on these topics: (psychology.case.edu/research/god/index.html).
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Mar 26, 2012
I'm amazed that someone who can believe in God, can look into the night sky, and feel that a God who created that would ever have any interest in hurting us. We seem to do just fine with that on our own, no God or Satan needed.

Being angry at God, I don't understand that at all. I thought we have free will, so, if our actions are our personal responsibility, how can we shoulder them on something or someone else ? We can say " God works in mysterious ways " and in the same breath we say " I didn't get what I wanted " ?

Angry at the universe much ?

This really says volumes about people and how they think. They create God in an image that hates the same people they do.

Mar 26, 2012
The people conducting this study, the people related to this study, the people who funded this study, and the people surveyed by this study all clearly have none or little understanding of what "God" or "a God" is.

This whole study relies on a literal perception and interpretation of a Personal God (http://en.wikiped...al_God), with obvious bias fallacies strewn left and right throughout the entire study.

This study is only relevant for less than 5% of the world's population at most, and completely irrelevant and inaccurate hock-shmock for everyone else.

Mar 26, 2012
When Xerxes heard of this, he was very angry and commanded that the Hellespont be whipped with three hundred lashes, and a pair of fetters be thrown into the sea. I have even heard that he sent branders with them to brand the Hellespont.

So yeah, people today are thinking on the same level as people 2500 years ago. Pretty much plays into my theory that humans are only just BARELY smart enough to have civilization - but not an intelligently run or beneficial one.

I mean, consider that 50% of people have below 100 IQ. Now consider that any IQ below 115 or so is pretty darn dumb. Then you realize the extent of the problem.

(Yes, I am in a bad mood ATM. Give me a break LOL)

Mar 31, 2012
Actually, over the long term, I.Q. scores improve by about 3 points per decade from generation to generation.

The tests are adjusted and made harder and harder to compensate for this unexplained change, so that by definition, 100 is supposed to be always equal to the statistical mean.

But a person who scores 100 right now would have scored about 110 had they taken a test designed 30 years ago, and would have scored about 118 to 120 had they taken a test designed 60 years ago.

I have recently scored 122 on a verbal I.Q. test and again 122 on Raven's Squares in the past 6 months, but I swear my score has come down significantly by several standard deviations from when I was 21, probably due to high blood pressure and other crap screwing me over.

Even still, if you adjusted my age back to 21, and recalculated my score from when I was 21 and much smarter and sharper, my Raven's Squares I.Q. would be 185.

But I am aware my cognitive function decreased significantly in the past decade.

Mar 31, 2012
anyway, I believe in God, and don't see any reason why not to believe in God.

I do agree with some comments here in that many people simply do not believe in a God that makes any sort of metaphysical ontological sense, much less any traditional Christian or Judiac notion of who or what God is. there is a difference between simile or metaphor in the Bible or some other book trying to describe God, as compared to the actual reality of God, and truth is MOST believers simply do not recognize this at all.

Some stories in the Bible must be digested in terms of a metaphor or vision to explain a principle to people. God does not need sacrifices or chariots or thrones or even angels, etc.

It's sort of like what James T. Kirk says in Star Trek 5, "why does 'God' need a star ship?" or however he said it.

If I believe God created everything, then the notion that he could possibly need anything from me is silly.

Even Jesus said God already knows your prayers before you ask...!

Mar 31, 2012
For those that are angry at God, Michael Card has some good answers in his series Lamenting is worship. Very few preachers can explain it as good as he does.


There are 7 parts to the series. Michael Card is one of the very few people that I would love to sit down with to discuss things such as this.

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