Not surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic is causing religious people around the world to turn to superstition, fantasy, and unproven remedies.
Naturally they'd be much better off if they paid rapt attention to the public health experts who are using science and facts in their advice about how to keep from being infected by the COVID-19 virus.
But religion often brings out the stupid in people. Especially when they're afraid of an unseen menace. Like a virus. Or the devil. The difference being that a virus is real, and the devil isn't, along with God and other imaginary supernatural entities.
Today the New York Times has an interesting story, "In a Pandemic, Religion Can Be a Balm and a Risk." Below are some passages that focus on the risk of believing untrue things.
As I've frequently said on this blog, I have no problem with religious people believing in crazy stuff -- so long as their craziness doesn't adversely affect others. In other words, keep your weird ideas to yourself.
Unfortunately, dealing with the coronavirus requires that everybody follow recommended public health practices that are based on sound science. Just as with immunizations, if too many people fail to do this, then COVID-19 will keep on infecting more people at an exponential rate.
So this is a great example of religion being a danger to society. There's no way to pray yourself out of getting the coronavirus. But hand washing and social distancing will help. A lot.
Here's excerpts from the New York Times story.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Down on earth, the coronavirus outbreak was felling lives, livelihoods and normalcy. A nation-spanning blessing seemed called for. So up went a priest in a small airplane, rumbling overhead at an epidemiologically safe distance from the troubles below, wielding a sacred golden vessel from a cockpit-turned-pulpit.
Before his flight over Lebanon, a soldier at an airport checkpoint asked the Rev. Majdi Allawi if he had a mask and hand sanitizer.
“Jesus is my protection,” said Father Allawi, who belongs to the Maronite Catholic Church. “He is my sanitizer.”
Religion is the solace of first resort for billions of people grappling with a pandemic for which scientists, presidents and the secular world seem, so far, to have few answers. With both sanitizer and leadership in short supply, dread over the coronavirus has driven the globe’s faithful even closer to religion and ritual.
But what is good for the soul may not always be good for the body.
Believers worldwide are running afoul of public health authorities’ warnings that communal gatherings, the keystone of so much religious practice, must be limited to combat the virus’ spread. In some cases, religious fervor has led people toward cures that have no grounding in science; in others, it has drawn them to sacred places or rites that could increase the risk of infection.
In Myanmar, a prominent Buddhist monk announced that a dose of one lime and three palm seeds — no more, no less — would confer immunity. In Iran, a few pilgrims were filmed licking Shiite Muslim shrines to ward off infection. And in Texas, the preacher Kenneth Copeland braided televangelism with telemedicine, broadcasting himself, one trembling hand outstretched, as he claimed he could cure believers through their screens.
...People may have already unknowingly spread the virus in the name of piety.
Iran is home both to one of the world’s worst outbreaks and to dozens of major Shiite Muslim shrines, which have remained open to crowds for weeks even as the coronavirus left the country shellshocked.
...India has so far refused to call off an annual festival that starts Wednesday in honor of the god Ram, also known as Rama. In normal times, it draws as many as a million people to Ayodha, which some believe to be the birthplace of Ram, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The state has asked devotees to celebrate at home this year. Organizers, however, are carrying on.
“People are getting the opportunity to have glimpses of Lord Rama,” said Vinod Bansal, a national spokesman for the group, Vishva Hindu Parishad. “It’s not appropriate to deprive them of this opportunity.”
...Amid the coronavirus anxiety, it was perhaps inevitable that some would interpret the pandemic as a divine missive. What it said was less clear.
Some Egyptian Muslims expressed certainty on social media that God was smiting non-Muslim countries by giving them the virus, apparently unaware that Egypt has registered nearly 200 cases and may have many more uncounted. Some Islamists, especially supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, cast the outbreak as punishment for the Egyptian public’s support of the military takeover that brought the country’s authoritarian leader, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to power in 2013.
Some sought earthly remedies inspired by higher powers.
Video emerged last week of Hindu activists in India drinking cow urine to stave off the coronavirus. At the Lebanese government hospital where infected patients are being treated, a woman recently arrived carrying a mixture of holy water and dirt dug from the mausoleum of Saint Charbel, who is revered among Lebanese Christians. Some Christians were said to be drinking similar solutions as a precaution.