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Beat Back the Chaos

March 26, 2020

We are still helping! Yesterday we launched the CFI Coronavirus Resource Center: Inoculation Against Misinformation. It’s our effort to collect, curate, and communicate the most relevant and useful science and reality-based resources for information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on what we do best, separating facts and science from misinformation and pseudoscience. Go check it out.

You should really read this piece on the coronavirus by Ed Yong in The Atlantic about, well, everything having to do with it. It is a repeated punch in the gut, but the blows are honest.

We still have to slug it out in the ugly policy arena, which happens to be lorded over by a guy who can’t seem to stop making things up. We called out Trump’s push to “reopen” the country by Easter and “pack churches” as both 1) a violation of church-state separation and 2) dumb:

“This is incredibly simple: Public health decisions should never be made to accommodate religious belief, ritual, or observance even in the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic that has already caused the deaths of hundreds of Americans, and will likely kill thousands more,” said Blumner. “If the president gets his wish, he will multiply what is already a perilous situation into an utter calamity, and so that he can appear as the savior of one particular faith.”

Really, it’s about more than Easter, though, right? Stephen Young at Religion Dispatches puts it this way:

Given the prevalence of religious voices among support for Trump, perhaps we could think about our situation with the ethics of religious responsibly as outlined above. A simple translation of “restart the economy” suggests itself: the economy or the free market is God. It rules over and defines reality. And this God demands human sacrifice to rescue us from Coronavirus.

Damon Linker responds specifically to the jaw-droppingly monstrous column by First Things editor R.R. Reno castigating all of us for wanting to save lives:

Reno calls this Christianity, but it is more accurately described as American libertarianism raised up into a theological first principle. Individuals are absolutely forbidden to take a human life at any stage of development following conception because to do so violates that person’s rights. But any effort to think in communal terms, to use state power to mitigate mass suffering, or protect our fellow human beings from harm, is “specious moralism,” an unacceptable, satanic imposition on the rightful order of things.

So much for love of neighbor. So much for the common good. So much for sacrificing a little individual liberty for something bigger and nobler than ourselves.

Alan Levinovitz at Religion Dispatches/Raw Story seeks to understand the need to reach for pseudoscientific and spiritual “cures” during the pandemic:

Illness and death exceed scientific explanations. The threat they pose is existential, not physiological. When confronted with cancer or COVID-19, we are forced to acknowledge the fragility of our bodies, our systems, our world. Cancer patients frequently describe the experience in terms of being “betrayed” by their bodies. This pandemic is a rupture of trust in everything that once seemed stable. It’s all out of control, including ourselves.

Faced with an existential crisis, people turn to existential solutions—rituals to beat back the chaos and affirm empowered participation in a coherent system.

Similarly, religion scholar Jeremy Cohen writes at The Conversation:

Conspiracy theorists, like all of us, are trying to make sense of a complicated world. Having a sense of control against an ineffable source of power — which describes the novel coronavirus in many ways — may speak to some of our collective fears and motivations in the face of mortality. After all, nothing offers direct evidence of human finitude and frailty like a viral pandemic.

Humanist activist Leo Igwe is warning about a “four-day prophetic power crusade” being put on by the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, “Breaking the Yoke of Witchcraft”:

They would get the people to buy into spiritual and supernatural causation of the disease, and reinforce occult fears and anxieties. This church service is a mechanism to mine the uncertainty and anxiety in society. It has the potential of inciting hatred and violence and getting the church members to use the narratives of witchcraft to make sense of the spread of the pandemic.

The New Arab alerts readers about a product being sold in Malaysia, “halal” hand sanitizers that don’t contain any alcohol. The bottom line: THEY DO NOT WORK.

Paul Putz, which was not my nickname in high school thank you very much, considers the impact of the pandemic on the religion of sportsball:

We can expect that sharing old highlights on social media, watching historic games and reading about past seasons on sports message boards and websites will proliferate. Perhaps in the months to come, some sports fans and participants will gain an even greater sense of connection to the history of their favorite teams and leagues.

The Washington National Cathedral donates thousands of face masks…from its crypt. Um, yay! Yay? Yes. Yay.

The human garbage that carried out the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand has decided to plead guilty.

You will be shocked to know that Ann Coulter can’t read a chart.

Hemant Mehta’s gonna be on Jeopardy. Holy moly.

Okay, this has nothing to do with the pandemic, but it’s AMAZING nonetheless. From a tweet thread by Sage Boggs, I proudly present, The Story of Trisuit. Enjoy.


Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.