Current Research

 A new study of young adults finds that while they feel a strong sense of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, many report an increase of faith, with a fairly large number saying they are actually developing new religious practices. Scholarly studies of religion and the coronavirus pandemic will likely weigh down journals for years to come, but the few appearing so far have mainly been issued by research institutes and polling companies. Such is the case with the Springtide Research Institute’s study, “Belonging: Reconnecting America’s Loneliest Generation,” surveying 1,000 young people between 18-25. The survey found that 35 percent of respondents said they are experiencing an increase of faith during the pandemic and 46 percent have developed new religious practices. At the same time, these young adults report that even if they participate in streaming religious services, 50 percent said they feel little connection to religious institutions and have few people to talk with about their feelings of isolation and questions about faith.

(The study can be downloaded at:

About half of Americans (49 percent) believe the Bible should have at least “some” influence on U.S. laws, with about a quarter saying it should have “a great deal” of influence, according to a Pew Research survey. Among U.S. Christians, two-thirds (68 percent) want to see biblical influence in the U.S. on some laws, with evangelical Protestants being the most supportive (89 percent). Those most likely to be against biblical influence on U.S. laws are religiously unaffiliated Americans, also known as religious “nones,” who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” Roughly three-quarters in this group say the Bible should hold little to no influence, particularly atheists. Two-thirds of U.S. Jews also think the Bible should have not much or no influence on laws.

(Pew Research,


The growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is no longer what it used to be, but specific reasons can be identified, writes Emma Penrod in Religion Unplugged (April 20, 2020). LDS annual growth has declined to 1.5 percent in 2019. New believers are still converting, but birthrates inside the church have been decreasing and are seen as the major reason for slower growth. Due to a higher than average number of children in Mormon families, births used to contribute to growth, since two thirds to three-quarters of the children born in the Church used to remain active once adults. However, this is reported to be changing, since retention rate has fallen to 46 percent. In former times, according to scholar and journalist Jana Riess, a number of young Mormons would drop out and later come back to the Church, but the rates of those following that pattern have lowered—something common across religious denominations these days. Children raised by those young people will mostly never join the Church.

Still, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has some hope to be able to counteract the trends. According to scholars interviewed by Penrod, one significant strength remains the community spirit offered by the church through its local units. According to Patrick Mason (Utah State University), keeping strong local communities alive is “the number one thing the church can do to maintain itself, because there are fewer and fewer places in the world where people find authentic communities. If they can find that, it will compensate for a host of other issues.” Half of the 400 new local congregations opened last year are located in the U.S. There are also indications of church efforts toward decentralization, as evidenced by the fact that it has given up “its standardized hymnbook in favor of regional hymnals designed to reflect local languages and musical customs.” Conversions to the Church outside the US continue to be significant, with a quarter million more members in 2019. Brazil may on its way to register more new members than the US. At a time when the potential growth of the church may well be tied to its progress outside of North America, its ability to open to diverse cultural perspectives might well hold the key to its future, Matthew Boewman (Claremont Graduate University) concludes.

(Religion Unplugged –

The recent shift of Jews from the Labour Party to the Conservative Party is far from a one-time occurrence, but rather is part of a long-term trend, according to a study by Andrew Barclay of the University of Manchester in the journal Politics and Religion (online in April, 2020). Britain’s Jews have historically been associated with the left and particularly the Labour Party, but allegations of anti-Semitism in the party and especially its candidate Jeremy Corbin, who had climbed to power since 2015, was seen to be a deciding factor for Jewish support for the Conservative or (Tory) party in the recent elections. Using data from the British Election Study and other representative surveys of the Jewish population in Britain, Barclay finds that the initial decrease in Labour support predated the recent controversies and goes back before the 2015 election cycle when it was perceived that issues of protection and security of Jews as a minority group as well as concerns for Israel were better addressed by the Conservative Party.

(Politics and Religion,