Published in the Journal of Religion and Health, a recent study interviewed Christians and irreligious people online at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This suggests that those who had strong convictions in their Christian faith, or who had no religious beliefs, strengthened belief in their positions after the start of the pandemic.
Christian respondents who reported having low to moderate belief reported no change in their strength of belief in response to the crisis.
The study, led by Dr Francesco Rigoli, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at City, University of London, interviewed 280 adults online on March 30, 2020. Half of the respondents were UK citizens and the other half US citizens , and shortlisted for belief in Christianity or having no religion.
Participants answered a series of questions to assess their extent to which they agreed with a variety of positions.
For example, one question was “How religious are you?” Respondents answered with one of the following numeric responses: 1 = not at all religious, 2 = somewhat religious, 3 = moderately religious, 4 = somewhat religious, 5 = very religious.
Other similarly worded questions included how much religious beliefs have changed since the onset of COVID-19 (if any), personal feelings of control associated with the coronavirus pandemic, confidence in the capacity of the authorities to manage the crisis and the anxiety generated by the crisis.
No link was found between a change in religious belief since the onset of the crisis and personal feelings of control, or the ability of the authorities to deal with the crisis.
However, the study suggests that respondents’ anxiety level caused by COVID-19 may mediate the change in their strength of belief after the onset of the crisis. The higher the level of anxiety, the more respondents with a strong belief in Christianity seem to have strengthened their belief, and people without religious beliefs strengthened their irreligious position.
Reflecting on the study, Dr Rigoli said:
The implications of this study are twofold. First, our results contribute to research on the impact of stress on religiosity, supporting the idea that, at least in some circumstances, stress and anxiety reinforce commitment to prior belief systems, namely Christian faith for strong believers and skeptical belief systems for non-believers. -believers. Second, our study contributes to expanding our knowledge of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Besides its medical implications, the coronavirus crisis also represents a dramatic challenge for the psychology and culture of many communities; Therefore, shedding light on these aspects represents a major research effort.