A new study from the Pew Research Center revealed that many Americans stuck to their faith during the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t blame God for the virus that caused millions of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths and plunged the global economy into free fall.
More than 259 million people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19 as of March 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University, and more than 5 million people have died worldwide. More than 7.5 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
Aside from the pandemic, the world has witnessed other tragedies and devastating natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes and wildfires.
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Pew researchers said they found that many Americans believe the tragedies and human suffering were coincidences — attributable also to people’s actions and the way society is structured. Researchers also found that fewer Americans blamed or questioned God’s existence because of tragedies.
Surveyors provided participants from many religions — including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons — with open-ended and multiple-choice questions about their opinions about why terrible things happen.
When reading “Sometimes bad things just happen,” 44% of respondents said the sentence described their opinion very well and 42% said it reflected their opinion somewhat well. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe that suffering exists “to give people the opportunity to come out of it stronger.” In a separate questionnaire, 68% said that “everything in life happens for a reason”.
Seventy-one percent of Americans said the phrase “Suffering is usually a result of people’s own actions” describes their beliefs somewhat well, and 69% of Americans said they support the statement, “Suffering usually results from the way upon which society is structured.”
A large majority of American adults (80%) believed that most of the suffering in the world comes from humans rather than from God, researchers said. At the same time, half of all American adults, or 56% of religious believers, believed that God chooses “not to stop the suffering in the world because it is part of a greater plan.”
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Forty-four percent of all American adults said the idea that “Satan is responsible for most of the suffering in the world” reflects their views either “very good” or “somewhat good.”
Meanwhile, 14% of American adults overall confirmed that “sometimes I think the suffering in the world is an indication that there is no God.
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Researchers also asked participants about their thoughts about an afterlife. They found that many Americans believe in an afterlife where suffering either ends completely or continues into eternity.
Nearly three-quarters of all American adults (73%) say they believe in heaven, while a smaller proportion — but still a majority (62%) — believe in hell. Meanwhile, about a quarter of American adults say they believe in neither heaven nor hell, including 7% who believe in some other kind of afterlife and 17% who don’t believe in an afterlife at all.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.