During the Pandemic, Religion Helped People Cope

There is little question that the coronavirus pandemic took an emotional toll on nearly everybody across the world. The University of Cambridge reports on two studies from the U.S. and the UK about how people responded mentally to lockdowns, infection, and the infection of close friends and family:

University of Cambridge economists argue that—taken together—these studies show that religion may act as a bulwark against increased distress and reduced wellbeing during times of crisis, such as a global public-health emergency.

“Selection biases make the wellbeing effects of religion difficult to study,” said Professor Shaun Larcom from Cambridge’s Department of Land Economy, and co-author of the latest study. . . . “However, the COVID-19 pandemic was an extraordinary event affecting everyone at around the same time, so we could gauge the impact of a negative shock to wellbeing right across society.”

“The study suggests that it is not just being religious, but the intensity of religiosity that is important when coping with a crisis,” said Larcom.

There was little overall difference among Christians, Muslims, and Hindus—followers of the three biggest religions in the UK.

Read more at University of Cambridge

More about: Coronavirus, Religion

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

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