If we start with Mourdock’s basic affirmation that all events, even terrible ones, are part of God’s will, Mourdock has considerable company, both historically and among white evangelical Protestants. This conundrum has vexed Christian theologians enough that the debate has a name: “theodicy” describes various strategies for reconciling the belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God with the undeniable existence of evil in the world. And today, most Americans affirm the basic premise of an omnipotent God. According to a survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute last year, most Americans (56%) agree that “God is in control of everything in the world,” while 34% disagree and 8% say they do not believe in God. Among white evangelical Protestants, this number rises to 84%, with only 15% in disagreement.
I don't doubt those people believe it in theory. But I'm glad that the poll asked about this:
However, the data also shows that the lived experience of evil and suffering in the world cuts against certainty at the level of religious belief, and has a visible impact on what policies Americans are willing to enshrine in the law. Theologically, nearly 1-in-5 (19%) Americans – and 12% of white evangelical Protestants – say that seeing innocent people suffer sometimes causes them to have doubts about God.
It's easy to believe god has some wonderful plan for you if you are born into a nice and healthy lifestyle. I thought the same thing for a long time. But life experience often leads to this:
In other words, despite the religious conviction that God is in control of all things and abortion is morally wrong, strong majorities of Americans (79%) and white evangelical Protestants (66%) believe that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion in cases of rape.
What these numbers show is that many Americans, and an overwhelming majority of white evangelical Protestants, do affirm a theological principle, which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would conclude that pregnancy, even in the case of rape, is something within God’s control and therefore to be accepted. For at least some, however, the suffering caused by difficult cases like these cause them to have deep theological doubts about the very existence of God. And for most white evangelical Protestants, and even more Americans, ambivalence about very difficult cases, and compassion for human suffering, creates a distinct reticence to harden their ideal theological convictions into concrete public policy.
I'm actually kind of encouraged by this. People can be very willing to ignore things that contradict what they already have an opinion on. But a lot of people can see the logical problems that something like a belief in god's will can often present and come to a different conclusion about policy than their theory should require. I don't wish bad things on people. But I hope those who hold strictly hold their belief in god's will could become more aware of problems that come about in the real world that conflate with a rosy picture of what they think god's plan is.