Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher. Source: CNS.
The rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google “skyrocketed during March, when COVID-19 went global,” wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture.
Using Google Trends data on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, she said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released online on March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data “regularly,” she wrote.
Professor Bentzen, who authored a paper in 2019 looking at the impact natural disasters had on “religiosity,” said she wanted to study whether the COVID-19 crisis was impacting “one of the deepest rooted of human behaviours – religion.”
Specifically, she said she wanted to know whether the pandemic “has intensified the use of religion” globally, given that the coronavirus has affected more than 200 countries to date.
The data-timeline showing “search intensity on ‘prayer’ is flat before a country registers its first case of COVID-19,” and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world, including Muslim majority nations, she wrote. “The increases in prayer intensity documented here are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available,” she wrote.
Professor Bentzen concludes that “we humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis. The COVID-19 has proven no exception.”
In response to Professor Bentzen’s request for comments, some researchers cautioned against her assumption that “an increased share of Google searches for religious terms thus reveals an increased demand for religion.”
One US professor of sociology said the data only proved that more people were googling “prayer” and, without knowing people’s motives or background, it was not necessarily evidence of “an increase in religiosity.”