How Do People Feel About God After Disaster Strikes? Templeton Gives Big to Find Out

The phrase "big questions" is thrown around a lot at the John Templeton Foundation. And by big questions, the foundation means to find answers to the "basic forces, concepts, and realities governing the universe and humankind's place in the universe,” through projects related to hard sciences and those related to humanities. Bringing together seemingly incongruent disciplines like physical sciences and theology makes Templeton’s grantmaking pretty fascinating.

Related: Why Templeton Wants to See Science in Seminaries

The mention of the words "theology" and "science" in the same sentence makes some in the scientific community a bit nervous, because to them, religion and science cannot be reconciled. But mixing religion with research is a non-issue for a Christian Liberal Arts school like Wheaton College, which just received a $1.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Templeton awarded Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) a $1.9 million grant to support the multi-year research project, "Earth as a School: Finding Meaning, Relating to God, and Experience Growth After a Natural Disaster." The study examines the psychological and spiritual effects that natural disasters have on people.

Now, maybe you're thinking the obvious: This kind of money could be better spent helping the victims of disasters, as opposed to studying them. Well, maybe so. But that's not Templeton's thing, as I said. And anyway, this research will, indeed, have some practical applications.  

Over the next few years, HDI's research team will first examine how natural disasters affect survivors and their personal relationships with their God. But according to HDI founder and co-director Dr. Jamie Aten, this isn’t a project that is conducting “research for the sake of research.” Rather, it hopes to use its findings to help survivors navigate through the trauma caused by natural disasters and to inform and train local communities on disaster preparedness and response efforts.

That’s not to say religion doesn’t come into play, here. The project will also study the role of religion as it relates to human resilience in the face of natural disasters and other traumatic events.

We don't see grantmaking like this every day. But we often say that about Templeton grants, which we've also noticed are pretty hefty in size. 

Related: A Fascinating Meeting of the Minds, on Templeton’s Dime