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The Great Oversimplifiers

August 10, 2020

Pew Research shows that the vast majority of Americans say churches should follow the same COVID-19 rules as everyone else. 79 percent. This isn’t the hotly-contested, divisive issue the religious right wants us to think it is.

Pastors are still defying court orders against indoor gatherings, people are crowding into South Dakota for a motorcycle rally, and a 7-year-old just died in Georgia from COVID-19.

Bill Gates says most COVID-19 testing is “completely garbage,” adding, “But I have been on that kick, and people are tired of listening to me.” Not me, Bill.

Michael T. Osterholm and Neel Kashkari explain in the New York Times how to CRUSH THE VIRUS: “In just weeks we could almost stop the viral fire that has swept across this country.” Well, let’s!


Pediatrician Todd Wolynn on the COVID-19 infodemic: “Enough of this pseudoscience, people making haphazard guesses. It creates waste, it creates fear and it creates harm, suffering, and death.”

The Guardian talks to Brazilian skeptic leader Natalia Pasternak about her efforts to counter the misinformation of President Jair Bolsonaro:

“It really disgusts me to see my country go through this. To have the worst possible leadership at the worst moment possible … As a scientist and a citizen, I find it so sad to think how this government has wrecked my country,” she added, her voice breaking.

I feel that.

Dr. Sajjad Fazel on countering COVID-19 misinformation: “I always tell people, do not target the person spreading misinformation. Target the information itself.”

Andreas Kluth on opening our minds as the only way out of crises like COVID-19 and climate change: “We must cultivate open-mindedness as a public virtue to save our democracies from authoritarians and populists. They are the great oversimplifiers who try to pit in-groups against perceived out-groups by deliberately scorning evidence in favor of their own truthiness.”


Elizabeth Dias has a big piece in the Times on why evangelicals are so enamoured with Trump. In 2016 he told them: “Christianity will have power. If I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power, you don’t need anybody else.”

Also from Dias: Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University after not being a “good boy.”

John J. Pitney at The Bulwark: “Trump was talking nonsense when he suggested that anybody could hurt God. But it is possible to hurt religion, which he does every day.”

This is dizzying: Emma Green at The Atlantic reports on the efforts by activists and business leaders to get America ready for all the babies coming when abortion is made illegal in the U.S.

Theologian Rubel Shelly on the decline of Christianity in the U.S.: “The primary bad actors that are driving people away from Christianity are churches.”

There’s a chef’s kiss kind of perfection to this particular study’s findings on religious ignorance and violence. I have to blockquote this passage at PsyPost, emphasis mine:

The researchers found that those who claimed to be familiar with concepts that did not exist also tended to report being more supportive of religious aggression. In other words, individuals who claimed to have knowledge of fictitious religious concepts were more likely to agree with statements such as “I would shoot someone if I believed God wanted me to” and “The modern world needs a no mercy attitude toward the wicked.”

“Overconfidence in what you think God supports or what scripture says is toxic. Thus, humility is a critical feature that is needed to bring out the best and most benevolent aspects of religion,” Jones told PsyPost.


Now an atheist, former Mormon Johnny Townsend reflects on unconscious biases at the Salt Lake Tribune: “An LDS leader can’t snap his fingers, say the church doesn’t teach racism anymore, and expect that to erase years of direct and subliminal messages.”

Chanakya at the Hindustan Times on the eroding of secular pluralism in India: “If India values its democracy and unity, it must fight for secularism and liberalism.”

Matt Farwell at The New Republic on the Blink-182 guy’s UFO technology operation: “It even occurred to me that To The Stars might be a government front, created to prepare the American public for knowledge of long-classified breakthrough technologies and materials.”


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 centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.


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.



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