Nearly half of religious Americans got more religious during pandemic

Published: Jun 07, 2022


From pandemics and protests to wars and inflation, the last few years have been full of events that could shake a person's faith or send them scrambling towards beliefs that help them find meaning in the chaos.


To find out what types of beliefs Americans are turning to for comfort and guidance, surveyed 1,250 Americans 18 and older. We asked respondents to identify themselves in terms of religion and spirituality, and how their relationship to their religious and spiritual beliefs have been changed by events like the COVID-19 pandemic.


(For the purposes of this survey, 'religious' was defined as 'engaged in the beliefs and practices of a recognized, organized religion.' 'Spiritual' was defined as 'rituals or beliefs related to the spirit and/or a higher power, but not necessarily in the context of an organized religion.')

Key Findings:

  • The majority of Americans identify as either ‘both religious and spiritual’ (44%) or ‘religious but not spiritual’ (15%). 22% of Americans identify as ‘spiritual but not religious,’ and 19% are ‘neither spiritual nor religious.’
  • 46% of religious Americans say the pandemic increased their commitment to their faith. 
  • The top reason why Americans say spirituality and/or religion is important to them is because ‘it connects me to a higher power outside of myself.’
  • ‘Religious but not spiritual’ individuals still regularly engage in practices aligned with spirituality, including reading horoscopes, studying astrology, and having readings by professional psychics.

59% of Americans identify as religious, an increase from 2017

As of 2022, 59% of Americans say that religion plays some role in their lives. Forty-four percent of Americans describe themselves as ‘both religious and spiritual,’ while 15% say they’re ‘religious, but not spiritual.’ 

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report, at that time, 48% of Americans identified as ‘both religious and spiritual.’ While the number of Americans who identified as such dropped in 2022, the number of Americans who say they’re ‘religious but not spiritual’ increased 9 percentage points, from 6% in 2017 to 15% in 2022.

Currently, 22% of Americans identify as ‘spiritual, but not religious,’ a 5% decrease from 2017. Nineteen percent of Americans are ‘neither religious nor spiritual,’ which is close to what it was in 2017 (18%). 

When asked what religion they most closely identify with, more than half of religious individuals selected either Protestant denominations, including Baptist, Lutheran, Pentacostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholicism. 

46% of religious Americans say COVID-19 strengthened their faith

For the majority of religious Americans, the pandemic affected their relationship with their faith. 

Forty-six percent of Americans in these categories say the pandemic increased their reliance on or commitment to their religious and/or spiritual beliefs. Another 17% say they’re commitment to their beliefs decreased over the course of the pandemic. The remaining 37% say their relationship with religion and spirituality remains about the same as it was pre-pandemic. 

Spiritual but not religious Americans are more likely to say their relationship with their spiritual beliefs were unchanged by the pandemic (55%). About one-third of these individuals say their reliance on their spirituality increased during the pandemic, while 12% say it decreased.

2 in 3 Americans with religious or spiritual beliefs say they’re a ‘very important’ part of life

Even as the pandemic tested or affirmed Americans’ spiritual and religious beliefs, the majority of individuals who identify as spiritual and/or religious say those beliefs and practices are still an important part of their lives.

Among Americans who identify as ‘both spiritual and religious,’ 75% say religion and spirituality is ‘very important’ to them, while 20% say they’re ‘somewhat important.’ 

Forty-three percent of ‘religious but not spiritual’ individuals say religion is ‘very important’ in their lives; 43% say it’s ‘somewhat important.’ 

Meanwhile 42% of Americans who are exclusively spiritual say spirituality is ‘very important’ to them, with 43% saying it’s ‘somewhat important.’ 

Americans use religion and spirituality primarily to connect to a higher power

When asked why religion and/or spirituality is important to them, all three groups had the same top answer. 

Sixty-four percent of religious and spiritual Americans, 59% of exclusively spiritual Americans, and 46% of exclusively religious Americans say these practices are important because they ‘connect me to a higher power outside myself.’ 

However, the groups diverge on other reasons why religion and/or spirituality is important to them.

For individuals who are religious and spiritual, other top reasons include ‘it teaches me to be a better person’ (50%), ‘raised with the belief that it’s important’ (48%), and ‘believe that it will impact what happens to me in the afterlife’ (46%).

Among those who are exclusively religious, other top reasons why religion is important to them include ‘raised with the belief that it’s important’ (43%), ‘believe that it will impact what happens to me in the afterlife’ (40%), ‘enjoy being part of a community’ (37%), and ‘provides a sense of comfort and order in a chaotic world’ (37%).

Exclusively religious folks identified reasons including ‘teaches me to be a better person’ (50%), ‘provides a sense of comfort and order in a chaotic world’ (44%), and ‘use for guidance on making major life decisions’ (42%).

1 in 10 ‘religious but not spiritual’ Americans have psychic readings regularly

Regardless of how they identify, Americans engage in a variety of religious and spiritual practices

Certain practices that are typically more aligned with spirituality than organized religion, including studying astrology, reading horoscopes, and seeking readings from professional psychics, are just as popular, if not more so, among religious individuals as they are among spiritual Americans. 

In fact, 12% of Americans who say they’re ‘religious but not spiritual’ regularly have readings with professional psychics, compared to 10% of religious and spiritual Americans, and 9% of Americans who are exclusively spiritual.

Horoscopes are also popular. Twenty-five percent of exclusively spiritual Americans regularly read their horoscopes, as do 22% of Americans who are ‘both spiritual and religious’ and 16% of Americans who identify only as religious. 

Twenty-two percent of Americans who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ study astrology, as do 16% of ‘both religious and spiritual Americans,’ and 15% of ‘religious but not spiritual’ Americans. 

Prayer and meditation are also popular ways for religious and/or spiritual Americans to connect with their beliefs.

Forty-eight percent of ‘spiritual but not religious’ Americans meditate regularly, as do 31% of those who are ‘both religious and spiritual,’ and 18% of ‘religious but not spiritual’ Americans.

Seventy-one percent of Americans who identify as exclusively religious, or both religious and spiritual, pray regularly, compared to 45% of exclusively spiritual individuals. 

Religious Americans are also three times as likely as spiritual Americans to regularly attend services, by a rate of 42% to 14%.


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 American adults were surveyed. This survey was conducted on May 27, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. This report also includes information from the Pew Research Center’s survey “More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious,” published on September 6, 2017. For more information, please email Content Marketing Manager Kristen Scatton at [email protected]