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Over half of all believers in US say suffering is part of God’s larger plan, Pew survey finds

Aimed at understanding what Americans think about the existence of God, the survey also showed how few adults seem to question religious beliefs because of human suffering.

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New Delhi: More than half (56 per cent) of the American adults who believe in God endorse the idea that God chooses “not to stop the suffering in the world because it is part of a larger plan”, a survey by US-based think-tank Pew Research Center said Tuesday. 

The survey also found that 80 per cent of the believers say most of the suffering in the world comes from people and not God.

The Pew survey sought to understand what the Americans think about the existence of God, and why there is suffering in the world, especially amid a pandemic that has killed over five million people worldwide.

It revealed that nearly 58 per cent of adults in the US say they believe in God as described in the Bible, while 32 per cent believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force. In all, around nine-in-ten American adults believe in God or a higher power.

Also read: Missionary is not a popular word in India. But in the Khasi hills, it holds a different meaning

Position on human suffering

Asked about the statement, “Satan is responsible for most of the suffering in the world”, 44 per cent say it reflects their views either “very well” or “somewhat well”. The survey noted that Protestants in the evangelical and historically Black traditions are especially likely to take this position.

It also revealed how few American adults seem to question their religious beliefs because of human suffering.

Only 14 per cent affirm that “sometimes I think the suffering in the world is an indication that there is no God”. An equal number of respondents voted on the question of whether suffering has caused Americans to doubt that God is all-powerful or entirely loving. Also, 14 per cent say they get angry with God “for allowing so much suffering” while four per cent say “all or most” suffering is a punishment from God.

Moreover, 71 per cent believe “suffering is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions”, while 69 per cent express support for the statement, “suffering is mostly a result of the way society is structured”.

However, many Americans also feel that suffering doesn’t happen in vain. Sixty-one per cent think that suffering exists “to provide an opportunity for people to come out stronger”, while 68 per cent say “everything in life happens for a reason”.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Why the world’s cascade of disasters is not a coincidence


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