New research published in the Journal of Religion and Health found that faith in God and trust in a higher power declined during the pandemic. The German survey found that the longer the pandemic lasted, the more people seemed to lose faith in God.
Belief in God and reliance on religious institutions are generally thought to increase during times of trauma and crisis. Previous studies have indicated religious beliefs can help people make sense of traumatic events that may initially seem meaningless or random.
“…trauma challenges so many assumptions about who we are, what our purpose is, and how to make sense of a traumatic event,” wrote theologian Danielle Tumminio Hansen, in an article for The conversation Last year. “Faith-based beliefs and practices offer significant resources to help navigate these questions. This is why the spiritual beliefs and practices of various religions can often lead to strengthening faith rather than weakening it, as a result of trauma.
A Pew Research poll conducted in the summer of 2020 revealed, in the United States at least, that the pandemic was strengthening the religious faith of many people.
“Nearly three in ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith as a result of the pandemic, and the same proportion believe the religious faith of Americans overall has grown stronger, according to the survey conducted in 14 economically developed countries,” the Pew poll found. after the first months of the pandemic.
This new study focused more on temporal changes in religious belief over 18 months, starting in June 2020 and ending in November 2021. Almost 5,000 people in Germany were interviewed at various times during the period. 18 months, and researchers found the longer the pandemic lasted. continued, the more people lost their faith in God or a higher power.
“Analyzes revealed that with the 2nd wave of infection and its 2nd lockdown, trust in a higher source, as well as prayer and meditation declined,” the researchers wrote in the new study. “Furthermore, the sharp increase in corona-related stressors was associated with a decline in well-being and a continued loss of confidence. These developments have been seen both among Catholics and Protestants, and among young and old people.
In June 2020, at the start of the study, only three percent of survey respondents indicated that they had lost faith in a higher power due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In six more surveys over the following 18 months, this percentage steadily increased until the final survey conducted between August and November 2021 found that 21.5% of people reported a loss of confidence due to the pandemic.
Loss of faith responses were consistent not only among Catholics and Protestants, but also among more agnostic respondents categorized as not affiliated with religion. But the researchers hypothesize that this general trend of loss of faith during the pandemic is most likely due to a breakdown in the social ties that many religious communities rely on.
“It appears that due to the long journey of social distancing and associated restrictions, more or less vital social and religious bonds between people and local religious communities have been affected and even disrupted,” the researchers hypothesized. . “…when sacred spaces (i.e. churches) are not easily accessible, people may lose access to the center of their public religious life, and so they may either develop new forms of spiritual practices in intimacy, or just getting used to the loss.”
A recent study from the Pew Research Center suggests that this pandemic-related decline in religious belief may not translate to the United States. While Pew has seen a steady decline in overall religious affiliation over the past 15 years, it has detected no unusual declines over the past 24 months.
While the pandemic has unsurprisingly caused US church attendance to decline over the past 18 months, it is believed to accelerate as the coronavirus abates. And many religious organizations are indicating a need for modernization their accessibility to establish better contact with young people.
The new study was published in the Journal of Religion and Health.