A pandemic can be a test of God’s existence for man. How do you worship without a church, temple, mosque? There is no doubt that the pandemic has brought each one of us on our toes. All large gatherings, including for religious purposes, have been barred since March 2020.
A Bible verse stormed social media when the pandemic swept across the world. It reads, “…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 4:17)
Speaking to a Pastor from a Mysuru Church, she beautifully stated, “Life was like a sad movie during the pandemic. A sad movie that seemed like it had no happy ending. A prolonged time that continued forever. Everyone was in this together. Life has seemed to pause.
“All religious places seemed to be in lockdown too, but I believed Not Jesus. Indeed it was a moment of despair, but in the midst of the storm, I saw calm. I saw some of the daily churchgoers who couldn’t save a penny and indeed end its debts; most of them testified that they inherited the art of saving.”
She narrated how many who wished to be rich realised that nothing seemed to save people, not even their own money. The pandemic was a believer, but God is greater in this. It had been a great teacher that taught churches to make the best use of technology.
Pastors used the new methods of being fishers of men. In this pandemic, many churches came forward to help. Indeed the pandemic did have some good things to teach us.
A Pew Research survey in 2020 found that 24% of American adults had felt their faith become stronger during the Covid-19 pandemic; 2% said it had weakened. The majority said their faith hadn’t changed much (47%), and a large number (26%) said the question wasn’t applicable because they were not religious to begin with.
Mehar Singh (named changed), a journalist, says, “On the spectrum that extends from devout faithfuls on one end to atheists on another, I was more inclined to the theists. I believed in a God. I prayed, albeit irregularly. Visited temples. Observed rituals. But it was all more of a cultural exercise that I sometimes suspended logic for.
“I questioned most things in life, but for innocuous, harmless religious practices, I could set it aside. My faith saw a shift during the pandemic in so far as there was no temple visits, no elaborate poojas, no community events. I missed them definitely. But a new phase of spirituality began.
“I started meditating, being more mindful of my words, actions and relationships. I focused on the body, mind and spirit in a more defined way, something that most religions preach but very few people practice.”
But a recent Pew Research Center Report, based on a face-to-face survey of 29,999 Indian adults fielded between late 2019 and early 2020 — before the pandemic — takes a closer look at religious identity, nationalism and tolerance in Indian society. The survey was conducted by local interviewers in 17 languages and covered nearly all of India’s states and union territories.
As narrated by a Delhi resident, she says, “I was always a believer in God, but the pandemic has got me closer to the power. Being a devout Shiv Bhakt, I have worked on how to master my senses and be in control. The lockdown helped in controlling the bad habits, and with a more focused approach to health, one does get in touch with the divine.
“My family got covid and apart from taking care in terms of food and medicine, praying was one constant practice that helped me deal with the panic.”
She went on to say, “I have tried to be more consistent with my puja and spiritual techniques to deal with inner turmoil first, and then handle what’s happening on the outside. I realised many things about myself this way.
“A quote from Shri Bhagwad Gita says, ‘But those who realise the Self are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfilment, they no longer seek happiness from the external world’. This is what I did realise and have tried to follow it.”
India’s religious groups share several religious practices and beliefs. After living side by side for generations, India’s minority groups often engage in practices or hold beliefs that are more closely associated with Hindu traditions than with their own.
Nearly all Indians say they believe in God (97%), and roughly 80% of people in most religious groups say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists. The main exception is Buddhists, one-third of whom say they do not believe in God.