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Official Backing to Witchcraft

April 8, 2020

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at

In his “Ask the Atheist” column, Jim Underdown talks about how he processes the inevitability of death, particularly during the current plague:

My relationship with death has always been about how and when. The if is already answered, but unless you’re Evel Knievel or living some other high-risk life, most of us won’t have much control over how or when we will die. It just kind of sneaks up on you in the guise of a disease – or sometimes a bus. …

… don’t be afraid to be creative in expressing your love for someone you’ve lost. Fit the tribute to the person. It may bring some joy to those still breathing.

And while we’re at it, consider making your own wishes known. Knowledge of how your own remembrance will go might even bring you a bit of comfort when your time is nigh. (After you die, not so much. You’ll be too dead to care.)

Here’s some depressing reading. Salon talks to Steven Hassan about the very literal cult of Trump:

A “destructive cult” is an authoritarian pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who claims to know all things and says God is working through him or her. Trump does that as well. Donald Trump is also trying to control people’s behavior, the information they have access to, and their thoughts and emotions, to make them dependent and obedient and under his control. Consider the novel coronavirus pandemic and how Trump has all these followers who do not trust real experts and only take what Trump says to be true. Trump’s followers also don’t believe in science and medicine. …

… Donald Trump constantly tells his followers that he loves them. His people need and want to believe that Donald Trump loves them. Trump’s followers have a deep investment in him emotionally and personally. I would tell Trump’s true believers the same thing I would tell people in other mind control cults: Think back to what you thought you were getting involved with, and now think about where you are now. If you knew then where you would be three and a half years later, would you have ever gotten involved with Donald Trump in the first place?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Texas’s abortion ban during the pandemic. The opinion was written by a Trump-appointed judge. The Texas Tribune reports:

Overturning the decision of a lower court, a three-judge panel on the politically conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the state may continue to prohibit all abortions except those for patients whose pregnancies threaten their lives or health — a restriction GOP state officials have insisted is necessary for preserving scarce hospital resources for COVID-19 patients. …

… Abortion providers have characterized the state’s lawsuit as political opportunism. Most abortions do not take place in hospitals, and according to providers, they generally do not require extensive personal protective equipment, like the masks and gloves in short supply for doctors and nurses fighting COVID-19.

It was to be expected when Liberty Counsel enthusiastically came to the defense of virus-loving pastor Rodney Howard-Browne when he insisted on endangering his parishioners and everyone else. But Reuters notes that, unexpectedly, other far-right groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have not:

“The right of religious freedom doesn’t give you carte blanche to threaten the public health of your neighbors,” said Luke Goodrich, a Becket lawyer. …

… Groups like ADF, which has a focus on conservative Christians, are on the lookout for any state or local orders specifically targeting religious groups, which would be an obvious violation of the 1st Amendment. If religious groups are treated the same as other secular groups, then it is difficult to argue that the state is guilty of discrimination, the lawyers said.

You’d never have guessed it, but everyone in Florida is confused about what the actual stay-at-home rules are. Politico reports that local officials have been told that Gov. DeSantis’s directives supercede theirs, except no they actually don’t, except that yeah they do, and of course most of the tension is around church attendance. Because of course it is.

Cuba’s government seems to want to make things as difficult as India, so they too are recommending and distributing homeopathic products to treat the coronavirus. The Miami Herald reports:

In an interview with Juventud Rebelde daily newspaper, Dr. Fernando José Estévez Cabrera said that homeopathy was “an effective preventive weapon” against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Homeopathy became popular in Cuba in the 1990s, when the shortage of medicines during a deep economic crisis led health authorities to experiment with traditional medicine. …

… “Are these people just ignorant and irresponsible, suggesting meaningless measures, selling agitated water?” asked Dr. Luis Carlos Silva on the website of the local newspaper Venceremos.

Silva said that portraying the use of the product as a preventive measure was “irresponsible” because “people without enough knowledge might believe they are protected.”

Steven Novella explains why this is so bad, apart from the obvious, which is that it’s fake medicine:

What this will accomplish is giving official backing to witchcraft, and also has the potential to create a false sense of security among those treated. Perhaps they will loosen their physical distancing because they believe they are protected. This is a well-documented backfire effect. The Cuban government, in turn, justifies their position by citing the inclusion by the World Health Organization of homeopathy in its list of recognized traditional treatments. This is exactly what we warned about at the time – giving false legitimacy to pseudoscience.

The Toronto Star talks to Goop-debunker Timothy Caulfield about coronavirus misinformation, tackling some of the more common fake treatments like homeopathy and silver. Here’s Caulfield’s response to the recommendation to drink cow urine:


Hulk Hogan, who is unworthy of Dr. Banner’s alter ego, says God made the coronavirus so we don’t need a vaccine.

In non-pandemic news, none of which is good, a former politician from Yemen is trying to get asylum in the UK, and as he waits, his family is stuck in Jordan. Here’s why that’s bad. The Independent reports:

To make matters worse for the family, Mr al-Bukhaiti’s eldest daughter, 17-year-old Tujan, is on trial in Jordan. She is facing charges of blasphemy for sharing her father’s criticism of both sides in the Yemeni conflict on social media.

Amnesty International has condemned the Jordanian authorities over the trial, accusing them of breaking international law by violating the teenager’s right to freedom of expression. It has urged them to drop this case immediately and allow her to continue with her studies.

After Cardinal George Pell had his conviction reversed, Pope Francis offered a prayer “for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence.” Wow. Way to read a room, Fluffy.

The Moon aliens are here, and it’s fine.

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.