Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, associate professor in economics of the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), CEPR, and director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics & Culture, has published a paper called “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Bentzen analysed internet searches for prayer in 75 countries since the onset of the pandemic, and points out that “search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
“I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global,” the Danish professor writes.
However, Bentzen also warns that “using internet searches as a measure of prayer intensity may underestimate the actual demand for prayer, since the elderly, who were most severely hit by the COVID-19, are not the most active internet users.”
‘INTERNET SEARCHES SURGED TO THE HIGHEST IN MARCH’
In March alone, “internet searches for the topic prayer surged to the highest level during the past 5 years for which comparative Google search data is available, surpassing all other major events that otherwise instigate intensified demand for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter, and Ramadan”, she explained.
Furthermore, “the month of March 2020 also saw an even larger rise in internet searches on topics related to COVID-19 with a first spike on January 31, a second spike on February 28, and the third and largest spike on March 16.”
“I find that the intensified searches on prayer during the COVID-19 pandemic is global: It occurs on all continents and for Christians and Muslims. Even Denmark, one of the least religious countries in the world sees systematic increases in internet searches on prayer,” Bentzen said.
According to the paper, “the surge mainly coincides with increases in the registered cases of the COVID-19 rather than surges in death rates. Prayer intensity also rises in countries that have only recently been hit by the pandemic.”
“The development in search intensity on prayer is flat before a country registers its first case of COVID-19, except for some of the most recently hit countries where searches on prayer rise before the pandemic hits them directly,” it added.
Additionally, “the rise in prayer intensity extends to searches on other religious terms, such as God, Allah, and Muhammad.”
‘IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THE RISE IN PRAYER WILL CONTINUE’
Bentzen underlined that “we humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis. The COVID-19 has proven no exception. The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years.”
“The COVID-19 is still far from its peak. Furthermore, as more and more people loose their loved ones, the demand for religion is likely to rise. It is there highly likely that the rise in prayer intensity will continue,” she concluded.