In the United States, subscribers of organized religions have been decaying for decades. But the trend took an opposite turn when the pandemic hit. A group of researchers found that online searches for the word “prayer” skyrocketed in over 90 countries. And a 2020 Pew Research study suggests that 24% of the U.S. adults stated their faith towards almighty have been stronger during the pandemic.
Danielle Tumminio Hansen, an Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology & Director of Field Education, Seminary of the Southwest and a theologian who studies trauma says, “..this shift makes sense to me. I often teach that traumatic events are, at their heart, crises of meaning that cause people to question assumptions about their lives, including their spiritual beliefs. The years 2020 and 2021 certainly fit that bill: The global COVID-19 pandemic has indeed led to traumatic experiences for many people, due to the isolation, illness, fear, and death that it created.”
Though in the smaller proportion, the pandemic influenced the religious faiths in other countries too. For example, 10% of the British adults admit that their spiritual faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic, and 14% of the British adults denote that the faith overall has increased due to the pandemic. In Japan, one of the largest countries in terms of atheists, 5% of people think religion now plays a firm role in both their lives and in Japanese society.
Beliefs and Karma
Similar to the conspiracy theories, faith in God gives short-cut explanations for the causations of the events happening in and around our lives. In most of the major religions, the concept of ‘Karma’ exists. If you are involved in wrongdoing, you will be punished by the almighty.
As a result, when the spread of COVID19 started, people believing in conservative Islam tried to convince the followers that this is a punishment given by God. Even clerics suggested that doing Islamic rituals will save a ‘true Muslim’.
Similarly, pious Hindus assumed similar logic and thought the sinners are getting punished. In social media, unscientific recommendations of unrelated ‘Ayurvedic’ (which may work for other mild diseases) and other remedies related to the Hindu religion surged.
Many Christians may inherit a belief from the tradition that God is the only pure good and that evil comes when God punishes people for their worldly sins. In other words, almighty would not punish someone without a reason. Conservative Christians might wonder, what made them evil in the eyes of God if they contracted COVID-19. Danielle Tumminio Hansen, claims “In such an event, the embedded belief in a punishing God may become something called a negative coping strategy – a coping strategy that has negative effects on a person’s life.”
How does trauma generate an atheist mindset and how does it harm?
After a trauma, a person tries to find meaning behind the traumatic event.
Mental health experts have suggested that healing from trauma involves making meaning of the traumatic event. In that path, one may think that they have done something wrong, or their particular belief was not strong enough to prevent them from being affected by COVID 19. They tend to adopt new religious rules, prayers, rituals. Or they may think that they have not performed the already existing rituals such as ‘Namaz’ or ‘Pooja’ or ‘Prayer’ in a pure manner.
If someone believes God is punishing them for contracting the novel coronavirus, the feeling of shame and despair to themselves or their old rituals may result from the thought that, ‘Oh! I am a good person, I am honest. So, why am I suffering?” These negative feelings would affect negative coping mechanisms that prevent healing, as psychologist Kenneth Pargament and his colleagues suggested.
How being religious beyond a limit makes you vulnerable to political parties and frauds?
As India has seen, there were so many claims of Ayurvedic cure of COVID19 flowing uninterruptedly through social media. The companies who try to feed on Hindu nationalism and hyper patriotism such as Patanjali released Ayurvedic remedies such as Coronil. These drugs did not go through any medical trial or rigorous screening process. If a person tries to find security under the tree of religion, one may be a victim of such schemes.
We do not need to mention, how religions and states are being intertwined increasingly with the advent of social media. The changing mind space of urban and semi-urban youth indicates that. This very fact may make someone prey to the already spread falsehoods and fake news by several political parties which are based on religion and religion only.
To sum up, COVID may make you more faithful to a religion that may or may not be harmful itself, but that may make you vulnerable to the religion-based bigotry adopted as a surviving mechanism by several major political parties.