After nearly two years of pitfalls, pain, and disorder caused by a global pandemic, toxic politics, natural disasters, and intensifying social dysfunction, some might wonder whether Americans have lost faith — or whether they blame God for the aforementioned events and misfortune.
But a compelling, new analysis from The Pew Research Center — a unique, first-of-its kind exploration for the iconic polling organization — found that, despite recent challenges, believers and many Americans don’t blame the Lord.
So, Who Is to Blame for Suffering?
The data is especially intriguing considering the age-old debate about why a good God would allow suffering. Despite tough times, it seems people haven’t become too jaded or frustrated with the Almighty — and many believe He has a plan, regardless of the good or bad humans experience.
“Americans largely blame random chance — along with people’s own actions and the way society is structured — for human suffering,” a press release from Pew proclaims. “While relatively few believers blame God or voice doubts about the existence of God for this reason.”
Studies and statistics in recent years have shown swaths of Americans are at least nominally shedding the “Christian” label, yet some of the Pew results expose a populace much more in-tune with order and far less thrown off by cultural and global disorder than some critics might imagine.
The survey found 58% of Americans believe in God as He is described in the Bible, though a total of 91% (the so-called “believers”) said they more generally believe in God or some form of a higher power.
Interestingly, 44% of all U.S. adults also seem to have a belief in “evil,” blaming Satan for most of the suffering seen in the world today; 48% of believers share this perspective.
The Pew report is full of other elements as well, including the general belief among the majority of U.S. adults (68%) that “everything in life happens for a reason” — an idea that points to order.
As for other suffering metrics, 61% see such pains as existing to “provide an opportunity for people to come out stronger,” and the majority of people (71%) credit suffering as being “mostly the consequence of people’s own actions” or “mostly a result of the way society is structured” (69%).
What Do the ‘Believers’ Say?
Pew asked the larger group of “believers” additional questions and found that 80% attribute most of the world’s suffering to people rather than God — and 56% believe God doesn’t intervene to stop suffering because it is “part of a larger plan.”
But do people blame God when things go awry? Not many.
Just 17% of believers surveyed said they “often” or “sometimes” get angry with God for allowing suffering.
These results were gleaned from interviews with 6,485 adults collected from Sept. 20-26, 2021. Read the full Pew Research Center report here.
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