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Americans more likely than others to believe faith stronger during COVID-19, Pew reports

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WASHINGTON (BP) –  Americans are more likely than residents of 13 other countries to report that the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened their own religious faith as well as others’, Pew Research said in a study released Wednesday (Jan. 27).

Nearly three in 10 Americans, 28 percent, reported a belief that living through the pandemic helped strengthen  their faith, Pew found in its survey of 14 economically developed countries. The same percentage of Americans said the faith of their countrymen was strengthened as well. The percentage was far smaller in other countries polled. A tenth of Britons reported their faith was stronger, and 14 percent said the faith of their countrymen was stronger, Pew said. In Japan, the percentage was 5 percent for personal faith and the faith of others.

“When it comes to questions about strength of religious belief, the wide variation in responses across countries may reflect differences in the way people in different countries view the role of religion in their private and public lives,” Pew said in a report on the survey. “European countries experienced rapid secularization starting in the 19th century, and today, comparatively few people in Italy (25 percent), the Netherlands (17 percent) or Sweden (9 percent) say that religion is very important in their lives. East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea have low rates of religious affiliation and observance – at least by Western-centric measures.”

Supporting its reasoning, Pew reported that 15 percent of Italians said the pandemic strengthened their faith and 19 percent said it strengthened faith throughout Italy. In the Netherlands, 7 percent said the pandemic strengthened their faith and 17 percent said it strengthened faith of their countrymen. In Sweden, where only 9 percent of residents say religion is very important in their lives, only 3 percent said the pandemic made their faith stronger, and 15 percent said it strengthened faith across the country.

In nearly every country surveyed, individuals who said religion is very important in their lives were more likely to say both their own faith and that of their compatriots has grown due to the pandemic. For example, in the U.S., 45 percent of those who termed religion as very important in their lives said the pandemic had strengthened their faith.

Most people in all countries surveyed reported neither their faith nor the faith of others appeared changed by the pandemic. In America, 68 percent of adults said their faith was unchanged during the pandemic, and 47 percent judged the faith of fellow citizens to be about the same.

In the same study, many respondents said the pandemic had strengthened their family ties, with Spain (42 percent), Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. (all 41 percent), and Canada (37 percent) showing the highest percentages.

Pew polled 14,276 adults in the survey, which was conducted June 10-Aug. 3, 2020, in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

In a separate study released in October, Pew reported that about 35 percent of Americans said the pandemic caries lessons from God.

Some previous studies have found that calamities work to strengthen faith, Pew said, referencing a study taken after a 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.