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Few Americans changed their religious identity during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many did change their religious habits, according to new research from the Survey Center on American Life and NORC at the University of Chicago.

In other words, someone who identified as Jewish or Catholic or Latter-day Saint pre-pandemic typically still claimed that label in spring 2022. But that same person might have transformed into someone who never sets foot in a house of worship.

“The number of Americans who became completely disconnected from a place of worship increased significantly over the past few years. Before the pandemic, 1 in 4 Americans reported that they never attended religious services. By spring 2022, that share increased to 33%,” researchers wrote in the new report.

If you remember struggling to get used to pandemic-related restrictions on in-person worship, it won’t surprise you to hear that many Americans pressed pause on their religious activities over the past three years. What’s more surprising is that researchers don’t predict they’ll be hitting the “play” button anytime soon (if they ever do).

“The pandemic accelerated ongoing trends in religious change,” the report said.

For Americans who were already drifting away from religious involvement before COVID-19 arrived, the pandemic acted as a final shove. The disengagement from religious activity was concentrated among groups that were already rarely attending worship before the pandemic began.

“The pandemic does not appear to have affected religious attendance equally,” researchers wrote. The share of liberals, never married adults and 18-29-year-olds who reported never attending religious services jumped by 13-15 percentage points over the past few years. For other groups, the gap was less than 10 percentage points.

Here are a few other interesting takeaways from the new report:

  • Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported little change in their religious habits over the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Before and after the pandemic, conservatives, adults 50 and older, women, married adults and adults with college degrees were more likely to attend worship services than other Americans.
  • The share of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated (25%) did not change between the two waves of the survey.

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Term of the week: Sabbath mode

If you look closely at your stove or fridge, you might notice buttons related to a little-known function: Sabbath mode. Appliances with this capability serve the needs of people of faith who follow strict Sabbath rules, which often include bans on flipping light switches or turning household items off or on.

“Sabbath Mode allows people to use their household appliances without violating their religious laws,” the Whirlpool website explains.

Although Sabbath mode features differ from appliance to appliance, the end goal, as Whirlpool noted, is to enable the device to be used in a nontypical way. For example, an oven in Sabbath mode will stay heated up and ready to bake indefinitely; its automatic shut-off function is temporarily disabled.

What I’m reading ...

I spent much of last week following and writing about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s recovery from his terrifying injury during a Jan. 2 game. But I don’t think anything I published was as fascinating as Ruth Graham’s piece on the relationship between Christianity and American football culture for The New York Times.

Although most houses of worship in the U.S. report being wheelchair accessible, few fully understand the needs of people with disabilities, according to The Associated Press. There’s a growing push for pastors to do more to help people in wheelchairs and others.

Odds and ends

In need of a heartwarming story? Try this one on for size: At age 5 he vowed to go to college with his mom. They just graduated together.

It’s a new year and I’ve got a new reading goal. What’s the best book you’ve read lately? I’m always interested in recommendations.