A new survey from the Pew Research Center revealed that a small number of Americans blame God for any suffering they experienced in life. The poll, which was conducted online among 6,485 U.S. adults in September, sought to understand how people today respond to suffering, especially in the midst of the global COVID pandemic that claimed the lives of over 750,000 Americans.

According to the Christian Headlines, a majority of Americans have a strong belief in God and that belief remains steadfast in the midst of suffering and hardship, such as that experienced by many during the COVID pandemic. Instead of blaming God for suffering however, many Americans blame individuals and societal institutions for the suffering of many.

The poll found that up to 71% of Amerians agreed that "suffering is mostly a consequence of people's own actions," while 69% agreed that "suffering is mostly a result of the way society is structured." Over half of respondents admitted that both of these statements described their views.

"People tell us they think a lot of suffering is just part of life. A lot of suffering is caused by people or systems people have created," Pew's associate director of research Gregory A. Smith explained.

This is the first time the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans on the source of suffering in the world. Previously, the organization polled Americans about their belief in God, heaven and hell. The results of that survey showed that 91% said they believe in God or a higher power. Meanwhile, 73% believed in heaven and 62% believed in hell, statistics that were consisted with previous studies. The poll also found that one-third of respondents believed in reincarnation, a statistic that remained consistent over time.

The new Pew poll, however, found that 71% of Americans said that they feel thankful for the good things in their own lives when they hear about terrible things happening to people, Religion News Service reported. 62% said they feel sad for those who are suffering, while 10% said they felt happy about other people's suffering because they deserved it. Meanwhile, one-fourth of Americans said that when they hear about bad things happening to people, they often would just rather tune it out because it's "just too much to take."

The Pew poll also found that 26% of Americans rarely and 48% of Americans "never" feel angry at God for allowing terrible things to happen to people, resulting in a majority of over 70% who believe that God is not the source of suffering. This is good news, said Jamie Aten, a disaster psychologist at Wheaton College.

Aten explained that according to studies, people who blame God for the bad things that happen in life are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety and trauma. But the fact that up to 80% of Americans believe that suffering comes from the actions of other people is still problematic.

"The danger in this is when we turn our blame to others we may see different levels of prejudice, bias, people harming others in groups different from themselves," Aten remarked. "That may be why we see so much tension toward one another in the U.S."

Vanderbilt University Divinity School dean and theologian Emilie M. Townes proposed that people must "look at what we do to each other more" and "ask why are we causing the suffering of others."