Americans Think God Made Us Great

Posted July 8th, 2015 at 10:35 am (UTC-4)

The painting "Desembarco de los Puritanos en America," or "The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America," by Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) depicts the Puritans landing in America in 1620.  (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The painting “Desembarco de los Puritanos en America,” or “The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America,” by Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) depicts the Puritans landing in America in 1620. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Last year at the U.S. Military Academy, President Barack Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”

A majority of Americans seem to share that belief. Six in 10 agree with the notion that God has granted America a special role in human history.

“Fundamentally, if there is one thing that has been traditionally what makes America unique in the world, it’s this idea that we as Americans have a special relationship with God,” said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which studied the subject, “that we are supposed to make a difference, that we are sort of first among equals in the world and it goes back to the pilgrims really.”

The pilgrims came to North America from England in 1620 to avoid religious persecution and established a colony in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilgrims are credited with leading the way in establishing religious freedom and laying the foundations of  American democracy.

John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, delivered a sermon declaring that his fellow settlers must establish a “city on the hill”. This notion of being a beacon of light suggests that the American colonists and the people who followed them were uniquely blessed by God to establish a society that would better all humankind.

The concept of American exceptionalism also has secular roots. In his 1776 revolutionary manifesto Common Sense, Thomas Paine argued America’s difference from the Old World demanded that it be independent from it. He perceived America as a unique land where humankind could begin again, establishing a society built on progressive new ideas.

Others believe the idea of American exceptionalism first appeared in the 1830s, when Democracy in America author Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”

Whatever its exact origin, for many, the idea of American exceptionalism became, and remains, central to our national identity.

“You’ve seen it the second half of the 20th century, espoused by politicians quite frequently,” said Cox. “It’s this belief that, yeah, there’s something unique about being American, that our religiosity, our morality, our economic strength, all makes us something different in the world and you still see people really holding on to that idea and I think you’ll continue to.”

However, not all Americans are on board with the the notion that the United States is inherently unique or exceptional when compared to other countries. One-third do not believe a higher being has given America a special role in human history.

Not surprisingly, religious people are far more likely to believe in American exceptionalism than people who consider themselves to be religiously unaffiliated. Eighty-three percent of white evangelical Protestants agree that God has granted the country a special role in human history, while a majority (53 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans disagree.

20 responses to “Americans Think God Made Us Great”

  1. Buck Mast says:

    Did God (the Judeo/Christian God) make us great?All one has to do is to read the document that made us a country,the Declaration of Independence.The whole theme of the Declaration of Independence is “God (Judeo/Christian God) gave man certain rights and it is the job of Government to protect those rights”
    What other country of the face of the earth has a document like that?

    • P8triotNH says:

      I am an American agnostic. I do believe that a lot of our founding fathers had strong Judeo/Christian beliefs. However, I do not think that core human values are tied to these beliefs, though all the religeous people will tell you there are no morals without a God. The fact is, that if you remove God from every discussion and every book/ piece of paper and computer screen… the core values that a lot of Christians hold to be true, will still resonate with most Americans. Whether you are Muslim or Christian or Atheist, most Americans are still holding on to the belief that we are all created equally and every one of us (male, female, gay, straight, disabled or other) has a chance to be great and persue their happiness however they see fit. It is these concepts of equality and prosperity that drive Americans to work hard and to push through adversity and to always try to become a better poerson. I know that our processes are broken in our government and we are working to rectify the situation. Many of us are awake and realize that we are beholden to a few elite that run the military and our leaders. We have lost a lot of our Freedom, but we are not giving up, we are strengthening our resolve and we will prevail and make our country great again. Our purpose is great only because we accept that we are diverse and united to do right by all citizens. On the whole and in my experience, most Americans are charitable, kind and willing to go out of their way to help others if given a chance. I have travelled the world and I find that on a local level this is something that all the world shares in common. We are all united by our humanity, and God has nothing to do with any of it. If you have the core belief that you deserve to live a long and happy life without tyranny and opression, without someone telling you how to live or where to live, and with hope and love in your heart… these are core HUMAN values not values that are prescribed by a diety.

    • Mark says:

      you should read a little deeper into the history of this nation’s founding fathers and also the word of the Christian God.

      • David says:

        Why is that important to understand? Why is it necessary to believe in a fairy tale to understand what this country is founded on? What the hell does some make believe fantasy character have to do with any of this? That’s like telling me to disregard every thing that is factual and replace it with some demented psychotic fantasy belief. It doesn’t help at all.

  2. Jacob says:

    As one quote in the article pointed out, no one can question that America is exceptional due to its economic might which is connected with a dominant position in many fields such as science and medicine. If someone believes in the traditional notion of God, obviously ultimately all this goes back to him. If someone does not believe in such a God, the facts still point to a very exceptional world power that most people see as having an important role in world peace especially given the paralysis of the UN due to Russian and Chinese vetoes. Thus, the this quoted statement is a bit unclear: “Eighty-three percent of white evangelical Protestants agree that God has granted the country a special role in human history, while a majority (53 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans disagree.” If someone believes in the classic notion of God as directing history, the first part of the statement is obvious. If someone believes there is no God or that he is not involved in the world, then the second part would be obvious to such people. I presume that is the point being made. In conclusion, whether you believe in God or not, America’s military and economic might alone are enough to make it exceptional.

  3. i am constantly surprised that so ignorant people of usa achieved such greatness

  4. weverton mangea says:

    I believe that is an easy way to justify the enormous competence of the americans and their forefathers… Different from Spanish and Portuguese, the english settlers did not destroy or explored the new country… Besides this, the settlers understood that this place would be their home and for their heirs. Despite all war, struggle, recession, etc. those people have survived and created one of the best places in the world to live, due to its both economic and military success… So, please, let God out of this! The Americans (old and new) are able to create, maintain and support this beautiful country by themselves.

  5. John moore says:

    VOA, I believed that everyone made by God, are unique, with equal rights in His present. America is great, their greatness carry great value because all nations are base here. But God also give great values to others, around the seven continents.
    So, the president’s statement, is unbelievable.

  6. Jean-Marc says:

    VOA seems unable to escape the current media crazy confusion between opinions and facts. According to his own opinion, everyone is the centre of the world, this is a fact, but what does it tell us? Crazy religious beliefs is widespread. I relish with this fake this Einstein quote: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about th’universe!”…

  7. Xaaji Dhagax says:

    European settlers worked so hard and made America great, the best in the world. God (if exist) has got nothing to do with it.
    It’s known fact that religions never served the needs of humans, it only served specific group of violent people for selfish motives.
    Both Bible and Koran contain bigotry, deception, falsity, hypocrisy and duplicity articles and commands.
    Every religion should be challenged scientifically, socially and academically. Freedom from religions must be considered as universal right for human rights

  8. Peter says:

    I am an atheist and I find the very idea or a belief by some of a ‘god’ to be simply prepostorous. And I am of the opinon that the very idea that there is a ‘god’ and that he favours Americans over other nationalities to be idiotic and invites ridicule, and the same for the Jewish people who believe that they are the ‘chosen ones’.

    • Evgeny says:

      I’m not atheist but agree with your words. There is also another nation that believes in its exceptionalism. Russian Mind Washing Machine is working on full power. The difference between American and Russian exceptionalism is that Russian one has no economic strength. Actually Russian “unique” nation lives in mud, drinks much vodka, but keeps “profound morality”, an explosive contradictive mix of orthodox religion, communist past and Russian neo-imperialism. How do you think who do they blame in their problems? Americans! This is a very comfort ideology. So we have three “chosen” nations for now: American, Jewish and Russian.

  9. zach says:

    they don’t even believe in GOD…they are a bunch of terrorist…murderers…their judgement day will be in front of GOD…let them enjoy the pleasures of this world…..

  10. Aggro says:

    How would you claim Americans “the chosen ones” when they have 200-year old country, don’t have a native language, but use English instead and are a mixture of everything we, filthy Europeans wanted to send there a while ago? Or I’m ignorant enough not to understand that the chosen ones are chosen right now, today, in this VOA article in spite of the fact that people exist on this planet in this shape for circa 50k years… anybody enlighten me?

    • Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind, dude.

      • weverton mangea says:

        Sorry Mr. John for not believing in such thing as “The Holy Spirit”. Even though the most fervorous religious man could understand and explain this creation of the human being… Believe in meritocracy, in success and in hardworking… those things you can prove!


  11. S.N.Duru says:

    America’s military and economic might make it exceptional. It has nothing to do with God Almighty. Here is the proof: Next Sunday, if all the people who are not in church are expelled from the USA, the society will not be different. Nothing will change. American exceptionalism has nothing to do with God Almighty. It would have made sense if what the Kennedy administration stood for continued. Read “When Culture Overrules God and Reason.”

  12. S.Rost says:

    The earth is not now what is was once to be.

  13. Isaac Ephraim says:

    Barack Obama and the people whom supported that notion ‘exceptionalism’ are all fools and junkies.

  14. John moore says:

    America have their will, other Nations also have their believed, but the important fact is,
    The people have the culture s and traditions, which America can not change.
    Let America believed what they think is good for them and let other Nations lived by their cultures and traditions.
    Even Jesus Christ, has tradions by washing His disciple’s feet.

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