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Some new research has determined that individuals tend to have a stronger belief in god when they consider what might have been or what could have happened, and this is especially true after a major event or life experience whose outcome could have been much worse than what it was. The study data and conclusions were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, and the research has also concluded that rational and deliberate cognitive processes are used by believers to process evidence that backs their religious conviction. The research was performed after the lead investigator for the study, Dr. Anneke Buffone, started to be “intrigued by the question of how people perceive God as an active, trustworthy, and giving influence in their everyday lives.”

Dr. Buffone explained the study on a belief in god and what might have been by saying “Why is it that the vast majority of Americans, and many people across the globe, perceive a divine or spiritual influence in their lives and are firm believers in God, even in our modern world where many mysteries of the past have been scientifically explained?” The lead investigator went on to describe the study and stated “Counterfactuals — imagining how life would be different if a given event had not occurred — seemed like a good candidate due to its effect of making inferred connections between events seem more meaningful, surprising, and ‘meant to be’. We specifically explored how downward counterfactual thinking — thoughts about how life would be worse if an important life event had not occurred — may be a way in which believers come to perceive evidence for a God that is acting for their benefit. The results suggest that counterfactual thinking leads believers to the belief that the event did not occur by chance alone, and leads them to search for a source, in this case God, and this in turn leads to an increase in religious faith.”