As Church Attendance Slid, Pandemic-Hit Americans Found Faith

A new Pew study contrasts how the United States is weathering the Covid-19 storm as compared with other economically developed countries.

A parishioner makes an offering after outdoor mass at St. Agnes, a Catholic church in San Diego, California, during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Courthouse News photo/Barbara Leonard)

(CN) — With nearly 3 in 10 reporting that their religious faith strengthened in 2020, the Pew Research Center released a study Wednesday showing numbers that are at least double what is seen abroad.

The study looked at 14,276 adults from June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, in 14 countries: the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Only 1 in 10 in the U.K., France, South Korea and Australia said their faith became stronger in the pandemic — the most common finding.

But some of those surveyed said their faith had weakened — the number was highest (9%) in South Korea. Denmark was the only country where no one said their faith had weakened, with 97% of survey respondents reporting no change and just 2% announcing that their faith had strengthened. 

While 14% Americans felt that their faith had weakened, the report found a trend internationally that adults who prioritize religion were more likely to say that Covid-19 had bolstered their faith.

In Italy, for example, 44% of adults said that religion is very important to them and that the pandemic heightened their faith, compared with 5% who said religion is not as important to them.

Across the board, lower-income adults have grown in their faith more than those with a higher income.

Indeed, 34% of lower-income U.S. adults say Covid-19 made their faith stronger, while 22% of higher-income adults say the same. A similar gap appeared in Spain, with 21% low-income adults compared with 9% of high-income adults saying their faith is now stronger.

Looking beyond themselves, adults in most countries said the strength of their faith was on par with those of their neighbors. In the Netherlands and Sweden, though, the survey respondents saw their people as more faithful than they themselves felt. Just 7% of Dutch reported that their faith had grown, and 3% of Swedes, while they saw stronger faiths in their countries at 17% and 15%, respectively.

This trend was pronounced in South Korea, but in the other direction: 17% feel the entire country’s faith has weakened.

In America, about half of white evangelical Protestants say their faith has grown, and 35% of Catholics say the same. This despite many religious activities and in-person services being canceled due to the pandemic.

Pew found that most adults, regardless of where they took the study, did not see much change in either their personal faith or the overall faith of people in their country. 

The study also did not find many differences between men and women, except in Italy and South Korea where women are more likely than men to say their faith has strengthened.

Religious faith was not the only thing to strengthen during the pandemic, with 32% of the surveyed adults in all countries saying their family bonds have grown as well.

In Spain, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S., 4 in 10 said that their relationship with their family has grown. In other countries like Germany, South Korea and Japan, only 2 in 10 share the same feeling.

In many countries, more younger adults say they’re closer with their family due to the pandemic. 

In the U.S., half of adults from ages 18-29 say they feel closer to family, while only 38% of adults over 50 say so.

This comes as no surprise with a record number of young U.S. adults living with their parents due to Covid-19, and 52% moving home last July. 

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