Prayer search intensity on Google rose around March 11, the date when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. In Northern Europe, few people searched for prayer before COVID-19. There were smaller increases in Northern Africa are due to the high initial levels of prayer searches. The largest absolute increases occur in South America and Africa, some of the most religious regions of the world.
In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for comfort and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Daily data on Google searches for 95 countries demonstrates that the COVID 19 crisis has increased Google searches for prayer (relative to all Google searches) to the highest level ever recorded. This rise amounts to 50% of the previous level of prayer searches or a quarter of the fall in Google searches for flights, which dropped dramatically due to the closure of most international air transport. Prayer searches rose at all levels of economic status, inequality, and insecurity, but not for the 20% least religious countries. The increase is not merely a substitute for services in the physical churches that closed down to limit the spread of the virus. Instead, the rise is due to an intensified demand for religion: We pray to cope with adversity.
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