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Analysis: Americans are relying more on faith in time of pandemic; faith provides comfort, fellowship

By Jan Hillard
NKyTribune Data Editor

While most American houses of worship were shuttered in response to COVID 19 (over 90% of churches nationally), their congregations, as well as others, say their faith is growing daily.

In times of threat and uncertainty, it is of course understandable that faith provides comfort and fellowship to many.

A national, representative survey released in April by the Pew Research Center documents the growing presence of religious beliefs in American’s lives, as well as the variations in the levels of reliance on religion across population groups.

Across all U.S. adults, Pew finds a 24% increase in those who report their faith has increased as a result of the virus, while a mere 2% say their faith has decreased, and 47% report their faith has not changed as a result of the virus. 26% say they were not religious prior to the pandemic.

Just as general beliefs across faiths and denominations have always varied, so do views of faith in the time of COVID 19. The percent of demographic and religious groups who report greater reliance on religion includes Black Americans who report their reliance on religion has increased 56%, Evangelicals who report a 42% increase, Protestants who report a 38% increase, and Catholics who say their reliance on faith has increased 27%.

Of note are the groups who say there has been little to no change in their reliance on religion. These groups include 7% of Jewish adults and 7% of unaffiliated respondents.

When looking at church attendance, it is not surprising that 46% of regular churchgoers report an increase in reliance on faith, while those that seldom or never attend say their reliance has grown by only 10%.

Two additional demographic groups show interesting patterns of reliance.

First, women who report greater reliance on religion outnumber men two-to-one (30% compared to 16%). Secondly, while one might predict differing levels of reliance by age, only the young (18-29) are significantly different from older adult age groups.

While the Pew study offers a definitive portrait of Americans’ level of reliance on religion in these difficult times, it does not present reasons for the differences across demographic groups.

It would be reasonable to locate the reasons for these differences with people’s deep-seated beliefs in the nature of God, the role of sin, and seeing religious texts as absolute. In addition, differences in political ideology and partisanship are intertwined with individuals’ level of reliance on religion.

Jan Hillard is data editor for the NKyTribune and retired Emeriti Faculty from Northern Kentucky University.

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