A new study by the Pew Research Center found that few Americans blame God for suffering in the world. Instead, Americans are more likely to blame suffering on random chance, the actions of others, or society at large.
The survey included questions about both religious or spiritual belief, and the meaning of suffering. Respondents who expressed a belief in God, or a higher power, were subsequently asked if they blame God when bad things happen in the world.
Nearly 75% of respondents who expressed a belief in God, or a higher power, said they “rarely” or “never” feel angry with God in the face of suffering. Protestants in the historically Black tradition and older Americans were more likely to say this, the survey found.
Fewer than 15% of those same respondents said suffering in the world makes them doubt God’s existence, omnipotence, or kindness. The survey found that doubt as a response to suffering was somewhat more common among young adults, Democrats, and religiously unaffiliated Americans.
Similarly, few of those same respondents said they believe suffering in the world is a punishment from God. Only 4% believe “all” or “most” suffering is a punishment from God, while 18% said “some,” and 22% said “only a little” is a punishment from God, the survey found.
The survey found that more than 70% of all respondents believe suffering in the world is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions, while 80% of respondents who expressed a belief in God or a higher power believe suffering in the world is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions, not from God.
Slightly more than half of those respondents believe God allows human suffering as part of a larger plan, with Evangelical Protestants most likely to hold that belief.
The survey included questions ranging from beliefs about the purpose of suffering, to beliefs in the afterlife. This was reportedly the first time the Pew Research Center attempted to pose some of these philosophical questions to U.S. adults, the survey stated. Pew asked Americans to share their views both in their own words, and by selecting from a list of options.