Religious trends in a time of international crisis

11 August 2020

Following new YouGov polling, Paul Bickley outlines how the pandemic is shifting spiritual sentiment and where might things go in the future.

In the early days of the pandemic, there was a burst of articles pondering the possibility of religious revival (see here and here). In a society which (with some notable exceptions) is becoming less religious, would the virus and the lockdown result in a religious re-awakening?

You can see why these questions are being asked. COVID-19 has introduced an element of universal risk that has been absent from the secularised west for decades. A pandemic means that we are all confronted not only with the abstract prospect of dying at some point in the distant future, but a comparatively high likelihood that we or someone close to us could die in the very near term. If there are no atheists in foxholes, as the saying goes, there should be no atheists in PPE.

Nor is it just about mortality, but about how we conduct our lives. What’s the future of our collective life after common struggle, albeit one that has been illuminated by acts of human kindness? On an individual level, are we satisfied with our lot? Are there things we want to change; existential questions that we have left unanswered? In the words of the Alpha course advertising (the course is said to have experienced a surge of interest), is there more to life than this?

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