Coronavirus poll: Most US believers say God is telling them to change how they’re living

People are seen practicing social distancing in white circles in Domino Park during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 17, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
People are seen practicing social distancing in white circles in Domino Park during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 17, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. | AFP via Getty Images/JOHANNES EISELE

More than 60% of American believers of all faiths feel that the novel coronavirus pandemic is a sign that God is telling humanity to change how it is living, according to a new study.

Thirty-one percent of Americans who believe in God feel "strongly" that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change, according to the study by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The nationwide survey, conducted April 30-May 4, 2020, found that evangelical Protestants (43%) are more likely than others to believe that strongly. And black Americans, regardless of education, income or gender, are more likely than those of other racial backgrounds to say they feel the COVID-19 disease is a sign God wants humanity to change. Forty-seven percent of African-Americans say they feel that strongly, compared with 37% of Latino and 27% of white Americans, the survey adds.

White evangelical Christians (67%), are more likely than other American believers (53%), to feel that God will protect them from being infected. White evangelical Christians (7%), are less likely than others (15%) to doubt God’s existence or feel God has abandoned humanity (3% vs. 10%) because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

There were more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States with 89,564 deaths as of early Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The study shows that Americans are more likely to say that foreign governments' actions or policies (43%) are the cause of the current coronavirus situation in the U.S.; 37% blame it on the U.S. government; 28% say "other things in nature" caused the current situation; 21% blame it on global trade; and 11% blame it on "human sinfulness."

The survey reveals that Americans overall have a nuanced view on keeping a balance between religious freedom and public health.

While 51% of Americans think in-person religious services should restart in some form, only 9% think services should be allowed without any restrictions. There is more support for drive-thru services in some form (87%). By comparison, 76% say people should be allowed to visit outdoor spaces like parks or beaches at least in some form, and 49% say the same about a protest, rally, or march in public.

Among Republicans, the support for drive-thru services stands at 38%, while only 18% of Democrats are in favor of it. And 15% of Republicans support in-person religious services compared to 7% of Democrats.

The study also indicates that Americans are more likely to say that restrictions on religious activities do not violate freedom of religion. Forty-two percent say banning drive-thru religious services violates religious freedom; 34% say the same for in-person religious service bans; and 17% say the same for in-person or drive-thru services that have restrictions such as crowd size.

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