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These numbers from a Pew Research Center survey out today are just fascinating: U.S. adults who typically attend church services were asked if their religious leaders had talked about the COVID vaccines in either a positive or negative way.

Most of them said vaccines weren’t mentioned at all. But when the subject did come up, the religious leaders overwhelmingly encouraged people to get vaccinated.

Only 5% of churchgoers heard anti-vaccination messages, compared to roughly 39% who heard sermons that were pro-vaccine. (Among evangelicals, the numbers were 21% and 4%, respectively.) I would argue that the pastors not mentioning them at all are doing a disservice to their congregations, but it could be worse.

But those numbers also suggest a different problem: The small percentage of anti-vaccination pastors routinely have their message amplified by right-wing media outlets and Republican politicians. Meanwhile — and this is just me making an assumption — the majority of churchgoers who don’t hear anything about the vaccine are more likely to fall victim to conservative lies about the shots.

So much for the claim that Christians have some religious reason to avoid the vaccine. The people who share the faith of the anti-vaxxers would say something very different.

Pew also found some troubling responses in other areas. While most churchgoers trust their primary care doctor for medical advice (84%), more of them trusted their pastor (61%) than a government health expert like Dr. Anthony Fauci (60%) even though pastors have no specialized knowledge in that field. That makes it a lot easier for conspiracy-minded religious leaders to spread their bullshit to gullible Christians.

It’s also no wonder that only 9% of Republicans believe religious leaders have done more harm than good during the pandemic — compared to 39% of Democrats. When pastors are either sharing anti-vaxxer sentiments or ignoring the topic entirely, it’s easy to think they’re not part of the problem.

There was one final question that stood out to me: As a whole, what percentage of adults said religious organizations (like churches) were helpful or harmful?

While 81% of evangelicals said churches did more good (and only 5% said they did more harm), atheists were the reverse image: 12% believes churches do more good while 71% find them harmful.

That alone isn’t surprising — but it’s interesting that while 21% of evangelicals say their pastors have encouraged people to get a vaccine, 81% say their churches provide a net benefit to people. That means there’s quite a bit of overlap between people who say their churches ignore vaccinations or spread anti-vaccination conspiracies… and those who say their church more good than harmful.

We must have different definitions of what it means to be helpful.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.