The Pandemic’s Toll on Religion in the U.S.

Dec. 30 2021

Rather than driving Americans to turn to God in their distress, the coronavirus seems to be causing a decline in organized religious activity, argues Steven Malanga:

Throughout much of human history, famine, pestilence, and war have sent people seeking the comforts of religion. From the religious processions of Europe during the 14th-century Black Plague to the sharp uptick in churchgoing in America during World War II, it’s often been the case that the more terrifying times are, the more prayerful communities become.

COVID-19 has turned that historical precedent on its head. The percentage of Americans joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated has increased during the pandemic, according to a new survey by Pew, thanks largely to a drop in those identifying as Christian. Nearly three in ten Americans now report no religious affiliation, up from 26 percent in 2019 and nearly double the number in a Pew survey in 2007. The share of Americans who say religion is very important in their lives has declined to 41 percent today, from 56 percent in 2007.

Cultural trends exacerbated by COVID-19 will likely contribute to the problem. America’s declining birthrate fell further during the pandemic, as economic uncertainty and the persistent nature of the virus took their toll on decisions by couples to bear children. That may pose a big problem for religious institutions, too—because around the world, religious observance correlates with fertility and family formation. Secularization is increasing in places where childbearing and marriage are declining. Religious observance, meantime, is holding steady and even growing in places where couples are having children at greater rates than in the West.

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Read more at City Journal

More about: American Religion, Coronavirus, Decline of religion, Fertility

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism