“Will people get out of the habit of worship? Might faith – already fast declining in Britain – enter a downhill slump?” This is what The Spectator asked when churches and mosques began to close due to coronavirus. (The Spectator, 11 April 2020)
The immediate “online” response to coronavirus has seen a surprising increase in religiosity, especially in secularist Western countries.
BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, Martin Bashir highlighted the increase in religiosity in terms of viewership.
The Spectator article drew attention to how “The number of people searching for the word ‘prayer’ on Google ‘skyrocketed’ last month, doubling with every 80,000 new registered cases of coronavirus, according to a University of Copenhagen study.”
Meanwhile, the results of a Pew poll “found that 55 per cent of Americans have prayed for an end to the pandemic … 15 per cent of those who ‘seldom or never pray’ and 24 per cent of those who do not belong to any religion have prayed about the virus.”
Russell Brand’s recent podcast, with actor Ricky Gervais (an ardent atheist), about atheism and belief, especially in its modern context, was widely listened to and watched by people from across the world. Without a doubt, when humans are struck with adversity, pain and helplessness, they realise nothing in the world – whether physical or intellectual – can provide lasting solace. Their natural internal compass directs them to a Higher Being and their conscience yearns to find and plead before that Divine Being; God.
The Holy Quran highlights this by asking why, when people are left at the mercy of a storm at sea, they call out to God, promising, “If You should save us from this, we will surely be among the thankful.” (Surah Yunus, Ch.10, V.22)
Even after World War II – which killed 86 million people – Christianity saw more adherents and church worship across Europe. Science – the new “god” of our age – has also failed; the science hasn’t been clear and decisive, nor has it given the solace and comfort people have been craving during the coronavirus.
Governments and organisations have been using “the science” that suits them best. Interestingly, as coronavirus began spreading through Europe, Phillip Johnston asked in the Daily Telegraph, “How many times have we heard people say ‘Everything will be OK because scientists will work something out’”. (Daily Telegraph, 18 March 2020)
People are, for the moment, reaching out to God, praying and finding their religious footing. However, the question, quite rightly asked by The Spectator, was, “Will the pandemic’s effects be so profound that they change the West’s prevailing view of mortality?”
Though the article expressed “It’s hard to believe” that people will revert to religion after the pandemic as much as post World War II, one thing is for sure; the pandemic has highlighted our internal whispering voice nagging us to search for God; humanity’s true solace.
Coronavirus has proved what God, in His divine texts, repeatedly echoed; His existence is imbedded within our very conscience.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, peace be upon him, the Prophet of our time, encouraged everyone to at least begin a serious investigation – without prejudice – towards finding God. If done honestly, without a doubt, God will come running and manifest Himself.
That’s when the real journey begins.