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.

Read more at City Journal

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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy