Is America’s pandemic failure based on its religiosity?

by Bob Schwartz

There are two obstacles to finding a single factor to explain something as substantial as America’s catastrophic failure to effectively respond to the pandemic. Situations like this are complex. And what you find may be a correlate and not a cause.

Still, I thought I might look at the ways America is distinctly different than all the rest of the developed world. A first place I looked was education, believing that some degree of critical thinking is needed to sort through the scientific analysis and recommendations. While America does not lead the world in the education of its students, it is far from the bottom.

I did, however, find one way that America is “exceptional.” According to the Pew Research Center, “Americans are far more religious than adults in other wealthy nations.”:

In fact, Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and ascribe higher importance to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy, Western democracies, such as Canada, Australia and most European states, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

For instance, more than half of American adults (55%) say they pray daily, compared with 25% in Canada, 18% in Australia and 6% in Great Britain. (The average European country stands at 22%.) Actually, when it comes to their prayer habits, Americans are more like people in many poorer, developing nations – including South Africa (52%), Bangladesh (57%) and Bolivia (56%) – than people in richer countries.

As it turns out, the U.S. is the only country out of 102 examined in the study that has higher-than-average levels of both prayer and wealth. In every other country surveyed with a gross domestic product of more than $30,000 per person, fewer than 40% of adults say they pray every day.

It is possible that this is merely a correlate of other attitudes having more to do with the pandemic response. But it does make sense. By the testimony of many Trump supporters, God answered their prayers by anointing a leader who would take care of the inequities that liberal progress inflicted on a once great nation. This latest infliction, in the form of a global virus, even if real, was merely another piece of the plan, one that the anointed one would vanquish.