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New Poll Can't Spin God's Mystery

It's not just politicians who have their every act and utterance run through a wringer of polls, pundits, analysis and ratings.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, asked 928 people, "If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?"

Holding your breath?

Fifty-two percent said that they approved. Nine percent disapproved.

If you take this poll seriously, that would put God's approval rating slightly above that of President Obama, who has a 47-percent approval rating in the last Gallup Poll, and well ahead of the 33-percent approval rating both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress received in the latest Associated Press poll.

But God lags 8 points behind Oprah Winfrey. She had a 60-percent favorable rating in a Fox News poll this spring. Of course, Oprah hands out cars, popcorn and cruises. God metes out blights, hurricanes and floods — in addition to sunrise, spring flowers and puppies.

God earns His or Her — I can't bring myself to say "it," as the poll does — highest scores for creating the universe.

So the universe wasn't created by an iPhone app, although as of this morning, Apple reportedly has more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury.

Seventy-two percent say that they approve of God creating the universe. Twenty-four percent say they're "not sure." Could Woody Allen account for 24 percent?

The poll says that 50 percent approve of God's handling of natural disasters, 13 percent disapprove, and 37 percent say "Not Sure," which is what I would say until the pollster made it clear if natural disasters include the Chicago Cubs.

I am not sure what the purpose of this poll is, except to snag a little publicity, which it obviously has here. I can't imagine pollsters believe in a God who will read their data like a politician and say, "Those numbers are a little soft. How can we spin the Sodom and Gomorrah story?"

Believers and atheists might agree: If there is a God, the Almighty should carve commandments in stone, not spin.

But this poll reminded me about part of what I often distrust about polls. They rarely reflect how people really think. Many of us can hold subtle, tangled and contradictory views, especially about God, faith and life. People lose, find and question faith all the time. Real life can put a dent in your deepest beliefs and convictions. It's part of what keeps us growing and changing, even as we grow older. Asking people to check a box "Approve" or "Disapprove" just narrows our thinking when it gets truly interesting.

I think I'd be a little more impressed by a poll that could discover not if people approve or disapprove of God's performance, but the other way around.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small