The Pandemic Is Making People More Religious

Bryan Schonfeld and Sam Winter-Levy: One of the most influential theories about the rise and fall of religion links its popularity to existential insecurity. When survival is uncertain, religion helps people cope with intense uncertainty and stress. But the more secure people become, the less religious they tend to be. As societies grow richer and life expectancy increases, existential security rises and religion wanes. From 2007 to 2019, the overwhelming majority of the 49 countries studied by the political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris became less religious. Secularism rose in rich and poor countries alike. And nowhere was this trend stronger than in the United States, which since 2007 has experienced the largest shift away from religion of any country for which data is available. The recent resurgence in religiosity may reverse this decline. Indeed, this rise in religiosity is consistent with a large body of social science research showing that religion can serve as a buffer against depression in times of stress and uncertainty, such as financial insecurity and war.

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