Findings & Footnotes

■  The edited collection, An Epidemic among My People (Temple University Press, $39.95), suggests that Covid-19 has a wider impact on religion and society than many might expect. The book, edited by political scientists Paul Djupe and Amanda Friesen, marshals a significant amount of data that documents religious behavior before and after the peak years of the pandemic, not only on standard measures such as congregational attendance but also on political and cultural issues that converged with religion during the health crisis. The contributors note that there has been a continuation of trends that were unfolding prior to Covid—increasing disaffiliation of Generation Z from religious institutions, even as many Americans, especially evangelicals, used their faith for coping with the pandemic. The obvious drops in attendance during and after the pandemic were accompanied by stable religious practices, such as private prayer. It is also the case that highly active evangelicals were able to sustain and strengthen their faith more than other believers in the early phase of the pandemic, as they ventured outside their own worship places that were closed to find churches that remained open.

But other contributions focus on tendencies of conspiracy thinking, “out-group” (anti-Muslim) attitudes, and loyalty to one’s own group, especially seen among evangelicals. Although the chapters are framed around topics such as racialization and gender, the actual survey results seem to show cross-racial commonalities (even if people of color were more affected by the pandemic), with such variables as the “born again” experience having greater influence than racial identity. Other chapters look at the greater tendency of religious believers to hold to conspiracy theories during the pandemic, such as that the virus was intentionally created in a laboratory (which may in fact be at least half on the mark, with some recent research arguing the laboratory origins of the virus), and the role of the prosperity gospel in generating distrust toward public health initiatives during the pandemic (with the prosperity gospel similarly having a comparable impact among both white and black Americans).