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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys:

Belief in a "Higher Power"

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Belief in a "Higher Power:"

Do you believe in a Higher Power? If so what or who is it? How do you define it? What qualities does she/he/they/it have or not have?

A Pew Research Poll 1 tried to tease out a better understanding of what people mean when they say they believe in or don’t believe in God. They found that:

  • Some Atheists who say they don’t believe in God still claim they believe in a "Higher Power."

  • Some people claim they do believe in God, just not the God of the Bible, also claim they believe in a "Higher Power."

When you put the two groups together about 1/3 of Americans claim they believe in this concept of a "Higher Power." BUT the Pew Research poll didn’t answer -- or perhaps they didn’t attempt to ask -- any of the questions I mentioned above. So we really don’t know what these people mean by a "Higher Power"!

I am an Atheist and I also believe in a "Higher Power". I can, however, define exactly what I mean by this.

This "Higher Power" isn’t anything or something outside of us. It is a power within us that we develop and nurture. In this sense I also believe in a "Lower Power" that also is within us and that we can also choose to develop and nurture. The "Higher Power" is also called our "Better Angel". The "Lower Power" is called the devilish side of our nature. We can choose to develop, nurture, and bring out either the Higher side of our nature or the Lower side of our nature.

This "Higher Power" is on display anytime you see someone doing the right thing. There was a little segment on the news a week or so ago where three young girls found a wallet lying on the ground beside a car in the driveway. They picked it up and took it up to the house, knocked on the door and when a voice asked them what they wanted they told the camera they found the wallet and brought it up to the house so no one else would see it and take it. There was a large amount of money inside that they didn’t touch. That is their "Higher Power" at work.

This "Higher Power" is on display when you see someone stand up to a bully to support and defend someone being bullied.

This "Higher Power" is on display when protestors gather together to protest the action taken against people seeking asylum on our southern border and they hold signs saying "We are better than this."

I see this "Higher Power" on display every time I see a group of people working together for the common good -- helping at a food pantry, building a house for Habitat for Humanity, volunteering to help the homeless, tending a community garden, coaching a Little League Team, etc. etc. etc.

I see this "Higher Power" on display by individuals and groups after every natural disaster.

I see this "Higher Power" on display everyday at my local public library in the friendly smiles of the librarians and the cheerful voices of the children and other patrons. I see it in the grocery store when someone with large numbers of items in a cart tells someone with only one item they can go first. Sometimes the simplest seemingly most inconsequential action can have outsize effects. I saw this higher power at work when a man out for an exercise walk fell and several neighbors came out to help him. We may never know what these "random acts of kindness" do for someone who is helped.  

This "Higher Power" is what I call the "Power of WE". I wrote an essay about this earlier. Basically the Power of WE says that a person, alone, may not have much of an impact. However. when a group of us sets aside our differences and works together for the common good, WE can accomplish great things.

This is the "Higher Power" that I believe in, I see it on display all around me everyday, we can choose to develop it and nurture it or not. The choice is ours to make.

Some people envision this "Higher Power" as something outside of them and look to it to solve our problems. They need to look within themselves. That is where they will find it. When they find it and put it to work together, WE can make this a better place for all of us.

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"Lower Power"

An essay about a "Higher Power" wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging that there is also a "Lower Power" at work in this world.

I also see this on display everyday. I see it in the faces and words shouted at Trump rallies, in the cries of "lock her up." I see it outside family planning clincs in the words of hate shouted at women entering the clinic. I see it on the Internet in many online chat groups. I see it in the lies told and retold, tweeted and re-tweeted, in the words that call our faithful allies our foes, in the words that call the media our enemies. I see it in the Supreme Court cases where the argument for Religious Freedom is really about the freedom to discriminate and persecute those that don’t accept their beliefs. I see it in the fear and hate of the "other", in the claims that gun rights are more important than the rights of civilians to live in safety.

I see this Lower Power everywhere I look. I have to remind myself that those of us who believe in a "Higher Power" really can make a difference when we say NO to the fear, the hate, the bullying, the discrimination, the persecution, the self-imposed ignorance and lies, and join together to make this world a better place for everyone, even for those that aren’t just like us!

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?," Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life, 2018-APR-25, at:

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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys.
Posted on: 2018-AUG-30
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