Religion in 2024: Ongoing conflicts, elections, tech transformations and more …

As 2023 came to a close, members of the Religion News Association selected the Israel-Hamas war, along with the rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in the U.S., as the top international and domestic religion stories of the year.

As 2024 begins, these stories are ongoing, sure to continue capturing headlines.

But what other news will snare our attention in the year to come? What trends, storylines and events will occupy our social media feeds and fly across the airwaves?

This edition of ReligionLink is dedicated to stories that could possibly top the lists in 2024, providing background, resources and expert sources for you to turn to as the news unfolds over the next 12 months.

  • Swords into plowshares?
  • 2024 elections
  • Rising prejudice
  • U.S. Supreme Court news cools off?
  • The spirits of the games
  • Artificial religion
  • Recession religion redux
  • Is faith in fossil fuels fading?
  • Catholic headlines continue
  • Religion in a multipolar world

Swords into plowshares?

Hamas’ attack on Israel, and Israel’s retaliation against Gaza, not only upended the region but impacted religion headlines the world over.

The fallout from this ongoing conflict will continue to be felt for generations. Many questions remain: Will it morph into a wider, regional conflict? Or, will it offer a new chance for peace? Is a two-state solution still possible?

Meanwhile, existing wars in Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen and Myanmar, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, confrontation over Taiwan and instability in Lebanon, Haiti and Afghanistan, as well as conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Congo, Syria and elsewhere, threaten lives and livelihoods on every continent. All of these, and many other current conflicts, have religious components.

Religion reporters will not only be on the lookout for how these conflicts continue to evolve, but whether the various stakeholders involved might be able to negotiate for peace. Though religious actors will play a distinct role in the conflicts themselves, they will also be involved in formal peace processes and political transitions, most often at the grassroots with communities directly affected by the conflicts.

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  • Dmitry Adamsky

    Dmitry Adamsky is a professor at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University in Israel. His research interests include international security; cultural approach to international relations; and American, Russian and Israeli national security policies.

  • Americans for Peace Now

    Americans for Peace Now, founded in 1981, calls itself the leading U.S. advocate for peace in the Middle East. It works to educate Americans and engage the U.S. political process as well as to support Peace Now, the leading Israeli peace organization.

  • International Center for Religion & Diplomacy

    The International Center for Religion & Diplomacy works with religious leaders, governments and institutions to integrate the constructive role of faith leaders and institutions in the transformation of violent conflict.

  • Religions for Peace

    Religions for Peace is an international coalition of representatives from the world’s religions dedicated to promoting peace and was founded in 1970. Email contact through webpage.

    Contact: 212-687-2163.
  • Search for Common Ground

    Search for Common Ground is a Washington D.C. and Brussels-based non-governmental organization that works to end violent conflict and build healthy, safe, and just societies.

    Contact: 202 265 4300.
  • Catherine Wanner

    Catherine Wanner is professor of history, anthropology and religious studies at Penn State’s School of International Affairs. Her research centers on the politics of religion, conflict mediation and human rights, especially in Ukraine, but more broadly in Eastern Europe.

2024 elections

2024 brings elections all over the world, in countries accounting for more than half of the global population (4.2 billion people). That is more voters than ever before in a single year. Voters’ decisions will not only put a spotlight on the state of democracy around the world, but the role religion plays in people’s choices for who will govern their nation and guide their society.

Starting with Taiwan in January and running through the U.S. presidential election in November, it will be the biggest election year in history.

Countries that will be electing new leaders this year, and which have distinct religion angles for reporters to consider covering, also include Indonesia (Feb. 14), Russia (March 17), India (April), South Africa (dates to be confirmed), the United Kingdom (May) and the European Union (June 6).

Of course, most ReligionLink readers will be tuned in to the U.S. elections, with their attention focused on the major issues: the economy, immigration, abortion rights, climate change, crime and the so-called culture wars.

In its power to provide orienting identities, collective meaning and social power, religion will certainly shape the the choices voters make. With politico-religious demographics continuing to shift, Muslim Americans considering whether or not they will vote Democrat this year and Christian nationalism helping fuel political fortunes, religion reporters will be busy for sure. So too will we, with three source guides on election issues planned for the year to come.

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  • Ballotpedia

    Ballotpedia maintains a list of key staffers, including press contacts, communications directors and media consultants for various campaign teams.

  • Faith in Public Life

    Faith in Public Life is “a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”

  • Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui

    Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui is a media pundit, researcher and human rights advocate. Her sociological research focuses on the areas of migration, race/ethnicity, politics and ethno-religious diasporic identity.

  • Michelle Goldberg

    Michelle Goldberg is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. She is also the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which discusses “dominion theology,” which links Christianity and political governance.

  • Prema Kurien

    Prema Kurien is a professor of sociology at Syracuse University. Her books include A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism and Ethnic Church Meets Mega Church: Indian American Christianity in Motion.

  • Samuel L. Perry

    Samuel L. Perry is professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. He is an expert on conservative Christianity and American politics, race, sexuality and families. He is the author or co-author of numerous books, including  Growing God’s FamilyAddicted to LustTaking America Back for God and The Flag and The Cross.

  • Kenneth Wald

    Kenneth Wald is a professor of political science at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he also teaches on American Jewish culture and society. He wrote the book Religion and Politics in the United States.

The world wrestles with rising prejudice

In 2023, incidents of hate against Jews and Muslims skyrocketed after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel, and Israel’s military assault in Gaza. In Illinois, a Palestinian American boy was killed and his mother wounded in an alleged hate attack. The conflict prompted numerous protests, and college campuses saw fierce debate about the war and the boundaries of free speech. Many Jewish groups and evangelical Christians staunchly supported Israel and spoke out about antisemitism, while many Muslim and progressive religious groups decried Israel’s invasion of Gaza and bemoaned how the war was allowing anti-Muslim hate to spike yet again. 

While the previous months’ events saw a notable uptick, antisemitism has been consistently on the rise for the last decade. Similarly, Islamophobia has remained a potent force for the last 20 years.

Religion reporters will be sure to cover both issues — and their wider implications and ramifications — but will do so under increasingly polarizing political rhetoric, newsroom dynamics and legal landscapes.

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  • Anti-Defamation League

    The Anti-Defamation League tracks discrimination based on religion. ADL has 30 regional offices. Check with local ADL officials for a breakdown on the number and type of antisemitic incidents in your area and for leads on interfaith initiatives.

  • Jordan Denari Duffner

    Jordan Denari Duffner is a Catholic scholar of Muslim-Christian relations who has written two books on Islamophobia and interfaith relations.

  • Todd Green

    Todd Green is the director of campus partnerships at Interfaith America. Green previously was executive director of America Indivisible and served on the religious studies faculty at Luther College in Iowa. A nationally recognized expert on Islamophobia, Green served in 2016-17 as a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department, where he analyzed and assessed the impact of anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe on countering violent extremism initiatives, refugee and migrant policies, and human rights.

  • Ameena Jandali

    Ameena Jandali is a content manager and trainer for the Islamic Networks Group, which combats Islamophobia by educating people about Islam and organizing interfaith events. She also teaches courses on Islam and women in the Middle East at the City College of San Francisco. Arrange an interview through Ishaq Pathan.

  • Museum of Tolerance

    The Museum of Tolerance challenges visitors to confront bigotry and racism and to understand the Holocaust in both historic and contemporary contexts. It is a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which fights antisemitism.

    Contact: 310-553-8403.
  • Maurice Samuels

    Maurice Samuels is a French professor at Yale University, where he also directs the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism.

  • Simon Wiesenthal Center

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding. The center also focuses on contemporary issues, including racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide.

  • Ani Zonneveld

    Ani Zonneveld is the founder and president of Muslims for Progressive Values, which combats radical Islam, and a board member for the Alliance of Inclusive Muslims, which works to counter gender, racial and sexual bias in the Muslim community worldwide. She is based in Los Angeles.

Supreme Court news cools off?

Given the “water from a fire hose” feeling of religion-related Supreme Court news over the last few years, it might come as a bit of a relief that religion appears “notably absent from the Supreme Court’s fall schedule.”

But, religion angles still lurk in the details. For example, religious freedom advocates are closely watching Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which revolves around the actions of administrative agencies and asks whether courts should defer to their interpretations of the law. Some say this “could strip federal agencies of their ability to use broad discretion in interpreting laws” and lead to the restriction of religious liberty.

There are also religion-related cases on the court’s horizon and decisions from the past that will continue to make headlines — most notably the ongoing state court-level  debates over, and electoral importance of, the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to an abortion.

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  • Montse Alvarado

    Montse Alvarado is a former vice president and executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, through which she represented a wide variety of religious ministers, schools, prisoners and hospitals before the Supreme Court. She is now president and COO of Eternal Word Television Network’s news division, EWTN. Contact is Michelle Laque Johnson, director of communications at EWTN Global Catholic Network.


  • Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

    The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an umbrella organization of 15 Baptist bodies that work to promote religious liberty. They advise member denominations on religious liberties issues. It is based in Washington, D.C. Its executive director is Amanda Tyler, with J. Brent Walker serving as a consultant to the organization.

  • Kelsey Dallas

    Kelsey Dallas covers religion, sports and the Supreme Court for the Deseret News and serves as editor of the Sports Express team. She is also a former ReligionLink editor.

  • Family Research Council

    The Family Research Council is a Christian organization promoting the traditional family unit and the Judeo-Christian value system. Press contacts are J.P. Duffy or Alice Chao.

    Contact: 866-372-6397.
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and has become one of the leading activist groups on the nontheist scene.

  • Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty

    The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty is a nondenominational organization of Jewish communal and lay leaders. JCRL works with other faith communities to advocate for religious liberty.

The spirits of the games

Perhaps ideological differences will be put aside as the world enjoys the Paris Olympics. If not in Paris, could the men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in South Africa provide a break from tensions for the nations involved? Probably not, on both counts, but the religion angles will be rife at these and other sporting events in 2024.

Sport has long been imbued with practices and perspectives derived from religious doctrine, utilized as a means to evangelize or to benefit the goals of political and religious authorities. Sport in and of itself can also serve as a sort of communal religion.

This year, reporters should be on the lookout for how religion and sport intersect and interact, from Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas in February to major tennis championships in Australia, the U.S. and France and UEFA’s Euro 2024 tournament this summer in Germany.

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  • Kelsey Dallas

    Kelsey Dallas covers religion, sports and the Supreme Court for the Deseret News and serves as editor of the Sports Express team. She is also a former ReligionLink editor.

  • Paul Putz

    Paul Putz serves as assistant director of the Faith & Sports Institute at Baylor University.

  • Simran Jeet Singh

    Simran Jeet Singh is a Sikh scholar and historian of religion in South Asia. Simran currently serves as Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program. He writes frequently for various outlets, including TIME, CNN and Religion News Service.

  • Varun Soni

    Varun Soni is dean of religious life at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where there is a Spirituality and Sports Program. He wrote an essay for The Huffington Post about how his Hinduism is affected by following the perennially last-place Los Angeles Clippers, and he was part of a panel discussion that asked the question, “Is sports a religion?”

Artificial religion

While debate continues about how to regulate artificial intelligence, universities, businesses and other sectors of society are adopting it — or adapting to it. That is true in the religion sector as well.

The growing use of ChatGPT and other AI tools prompted ethical reflections among religious leaders over its use in everything from fatwas and Bible translation to the creation of autonomous weaponry and surveillance.

Debates about the best ethical approach — including whether an AI religion can save or doom us all — will intensify. In the meantime, pastors are using it to edit sermons, and there is Robo Rabbi for the Jewish faith and Mindar, an android priest, for Buddhism. Perhaps appealing to the growing ranks of the “spiritual but not religious,” wants to expand access to spiritual guidance for seekers from all religious backgrounds. It promises to “engage in conversation” with users “receiving personalized religious verses and comfort.”

In any case, religion reporters should be primed for more AI-related religion news in the year to come.

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Recession religion redux

The global economy did better than expected in 2023, and the U.S. economy especially so. But even if recession is still avoided in 2024, Americans are not out of the woods yet, with high interest rates and global shipping issues set to hit companies and consumers alike. With China likely to fall into deflation and commercial property losses threatening holdings, money managers and bank officials are wary of what may be coming.

While predictions about the economy remain cautious, uncertainty seems to be the name of the game. In the midst of such turmoil, it might be tempting to flip past the religion page and turn straight to business, finance and market reports. But that would miss the many intersections between religion and the economy that will be relevant to these storylines in the months to come.

As financial news continues to come hard and fast, portending potentially precarious times ahead, reporters will want to explore angles related to religion, the economy and global financial markets.

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  • Brian Grim

    Brian J. Grim is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, which makes the case that religious freedom is good for business. Formerly at Pew Research Center, Grim is a leading expert on the socioeconomic impact of restrictions on religious freedom and international religious demography.

  • Sriya Iyer

    Sriya Iyer is a university reader in the faculty of economics and a fellow of St. Catharine’s College. Her research is in the fields of development economics, economics of religion, health and education. For the past decade, she has been contributing to developing a new field of research called the economics of religion, in which she uses economic methods to study religion.

  • Ashley LeBaron-Black

    Ashley LeBaron-Black is assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life. She has published her original research on how religious involvement can alleviate or exacerbate financial stress.

  • Marketplace Chaplains

    The Texas-based Marketplace Chaplains has provided businesses across the country with Christian chaplaincy services since 1984. It employs more than a thousand chaplains around the country.

Is faith in fossil fuels fading?

Once more, faith-based organizations and religious leaders were a noted presence at the United Nations’ COP28 gathering in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at the end of 2024. The U.N. claimed the event — and its closing agreement — signaled the “‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil fuel era.” Critics, however, claimed the agreement was hollow and the gathering signaled yet another “historic failure” in the fight against climate change.

And yet, for religious campaigners for climate justice, 2023 marked some significant milestones — including the Church of England’s divestment from fossil fuels.

As the world is predicted to break the 1.5°C warming limit for first time in 2024, wildfires, urban pollution, drought and flooding will present new opportunities and challenges for religious actors across the globe. Adaptability will be the name of the game, as will discussions around the ethics of climate change and what the world’s rich might be able to do on behalf of its poor.

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  • Amanda J. Baugh

    Amanda J. Baugh is an associate professor at California State University Northridge, where she specializes in the study of climate change, the environment and American religion, with attention to questions of race, ethnicity and class. She is the author of God and the Green Divide: Religious Environmentalism in Black and White.


  • Blessed Tomorrow

    Blessed Tomorrow is a coalition of diverse religious partners working to advance climate solutions.

  • Saffet Abid Catovic

    Saffet Abid Catovic is a Muslim environmental leader. He co-founded Green Muslims of New Jersey and helped launch the Islamic Society of North America’s Green Masjid Task Force. In 2018, he shared his efforts to offset the carbon footprint of his pilgrimage to Mecca with Sojourners. Imam Catovic serves as Washington office director for the Islamic Society of North America. He earned a master’s in religion and society from Drew University, specializing in religion and the environment.

  • Dayenu

    Dayenu is a multigenerational Jewish movement that aims to confront the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action.

  • Evangelical Environmental Network

    The Evangelical Environmental Network is a Christian ministry dedicated to mobilizing people to care for God’s creation. The network provides resources for congregations and advocates for environmentally friendly policies.

  • Manja Holland

    Manja Holland is a habitat and education manager with the National Wildlife Federation and helps coordinate the organization’s Sacred Grounds program.

  • David Rosen

    Rabbi David Rosen is Special Advisor to the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi. Previously, he served as the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs and was the rabbi of the largest Orthodox Jewish congregation in South Africa and chief rabbi of Ireland. In addition to interreligious representation and education, his work involves mediation and peace building. He is heavily involved in multireligious engagement on ecological issues.

Catholic headlines continue

In 2023, RNA members selected Pope Francis as the top religion newsmaker of the year for the fourth time. Despite his declining health, the pope traveled widely last year, convened a historic synod, denounced anti-LGBTQ+ laws, oversaw the Vatican repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and faced various controversies. He ended it all with a bombshell in December, formally approving letting Catholic priests bless same-sex couples.

Going into 2024, the Vatican and worldwide Roman Catholic Church — which counts 1.3 billion members — face numerous “forks in the road.” Not only will the second General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dominate headlines in October 2024, but nine metropolitan appointments (including in Nigeria, Peru and Boston) will help determine what the current pope’s legacy will be. In addition, the first World Day of Children will take place in May 2024 and Pope Francis will be making trips to Belgium and possibly Polynesia, Vietnam and France for the reopening of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Religion in a multipolar world

Much of the storylines above are influenced by what might be called a global “macro story”: the redistribution of power among multiple nation-states rather than a select few. As power continues to pivot toward Asia, long dormant conflicts are flaring up again and economic, political and social destinies are increasingly intertwined, how might the disruption of global power balances impact religious communities? And, in turn, how might religious actors play a role in the world’s polar power shift?

Tensions — and outright schisms — in global Catholic, Methodist, Muslim, Hindu and Anglican communities are ongoing, and overstretched religious organizations will have to adapt to a more complex, unstable and contested world. At the same time, some theologians and ethicists argue that a multipolar world, where equal powers cooperate in a way that serves general interests, might provide for a more peaceful, just and desirable state of global affairs.

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  • Dmitry Adamsky

    Dmitry Adamsky is a professor at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University in Israel. His research interests include international security; cultural approach to international relations; and American, Russian and Israeli national security policies.

  • Judd Birdsall

    Judd Birdsall is the project director of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy and a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. He is also the editor of Religion & Diplomacy and a senior editor and a frequent contributor at The Review of Faith & International Affairs.

  • Elizabeth K. Cassidy

    Elizabeth K. Cassidy is director of research and policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She oversees USCIRF’s research and publications and the development and promotion of USCIRF’s policy recommendations. Her substantive expertise includes the International Religious Freedom Act, international organization issues, international and comparative law issues, and refugee and asylum policy

  • Palwasha L. Kakar

    Palwasha L. Kakar is the interim director for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Kakar joined USIP after four years with the Asia Foundation, where she was the Afghanistan director for women’s empowerment and development. Prior to joining the foundation, Kakar led the Gender Mainstreaming and Civil Society Unit in the United Nations Development Program’s Afghanistan Subnational Governance Program, managing a small grants program for Afghanistan’s civil society initiatives. Kakar also served as program manager for the Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University. She has experience working with the World Bank Group on gender, social justice and environmental issues surrounding their various projects in the region.

  • Peter Mandaville

    Peter Mandaville is a professor of international affairs and a senior fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Virginia. He writes on political Islam and the origins of mainstream Islamism. As a senior visiting expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace with the religion and inclusive societies team he has written on the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine.

  • Katherine Marshall

    Katherine Marshall is executive director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue and senior fellow and visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, leading the Program on Religion and Global Development. She is an expert on international development issues and advises the World Bank, where she once worked.