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They Can Be Dunked in Raw Sewage

April 2, 2020

First things first: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster officially declares personal protective equipment such as N95 face masks to be “acceptable alternative religious garb.” Praised be:

Some dispute whether the mask should go under or over the eye-patch. I would think under, but I am not a doctor nor do I wear an eye-patch. Beards also prevent the masks from sealing optimally.

Ever so carefully, Stuart Vyse explores the role of Chinese superstition in the coronavirus outbreak for Skeptical Inquirer:

Although we don’t know the exact path of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is clear that unfounded beliefs about the benefits of different kinds of animal meats and byproducts, combined with the view of some people that freshly slaughtered meats are safer and more tasty than frozen, encourage traders to sell these products in the wet markets of Asia. This created an environment ripe for the transfer of pathogens among different species and ultimately to humans. To the extent that these beliefs—many of which are drawn from TCM—contribute to demand for these products, they are a public health hazard. …

… It is easy to be critical of the Chinese fascination with live animals, but ask yourself, when did you last slide an oyster—traditionally considered an aphrodisiac—down your throat, boil a live lobster, or pay someone to boil one for you at a restaurant? The Chinese may lead the world in false beliefs—encouraged and sustained by wildlife traders—about the benefits of certain kinds of animal parts, but they are not alone.

The world leader determined to out-Trump Trump, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, is tripling down on the idea that the coronavirus is no big deal. I mean, this guy is a walking, talking disaster:

Brazilians, he declared last week, are uniquely suited to weather the pandemic because they can be dunked in raw sewage and “don’t catch a thing.”

Defying guidelines issued by his own health ministry, the president on Sunday visited a busy commercial district in Brasília, the capital, where he called on all but elderly Brazilians to get back to work.

Then he insisted that an anti-malaria pill of unproved efficacy would cure those who fall ill with the virus that has killed more than 43,000 people worldwide.

“God is Brazilian,” he told a throng of supporters. “The cure is right there.”

The conspiracy theories from Trump cultists about Dr. Anthony Fauci have led to a swarm of threats to his life, so now he has to have constant protection. The Post reports:

Fauci has become a public target for some right-wing commentators and bloggers, who exercise influence over parts of the president’s base. … Right-wing news and opinion sites [have been] launching baseless smears against the doctor that have gained significant traction within pro-Trump communities online.

Get ready to facepalm NO WAIT DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE. Florida finally implements a stay-at-home order, despite the reluctance of its denial-curious governor. HOWEVER, churches are being deemed “essential businesses.” Well great. Apparently this does not let the recently-arrested Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne off the hook for his infectionpalooza this past Sunday. RNS reports:

A representative at the sheriff’s office noted that the new order is “not retroactive” and will not impact the charges levied against Howard-Browne. “Nothing has changed,” the representative told Religion News Service, adding that the charges against the pastor of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules “still stand.”

CNN has a roundup of the twelve states giving special exemptions to church gatherings and thereby defeating the purpose of social-distancing orders. It’s what Jesus would want.

Hey, it sounds like anything can be an essential service! For example, Endo Health in New Zealand says it’s essential because it sells a homeopathic treatment for the coronavirus! The New Zealand Herald reports:

The documentation states: “Influenza Complex is a unique formulation designed to help prevent the common cold and ‘flu. Using a homoeopathic method known as isopathy, the complex helps to stimulate the body’s defence against many of the common ‘flu viruses.”

University of Auckland associate professor and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles reviewed the documentation: “It clearly says ‘homoeopathic’ so we know it doesn’t have any active ingredient.


Meanwhile, despite a huge uptick in infections in their state, Louisianans need them some Jesus-talk right from the pouty mouth of pastor Tony Spell:

Buses and cars filled a Louisiana church parking lot for another service Tuesday evening as worshippers flocked to hear a Louisiana pastor who is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services despite a ban on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. … Flanked by some of his congregation, including children and older people, Spell emerged from the church later Tuesday night and said he is going to keep his church doors open. He said he doesn’t consider keeping his doors open any different than keeping the doors of Walmart open. Spell also compared going to church to going to the hospital, but for spiritual healing.

Franklin Graham says his Samaritan’s Purse pop-up hospitals will not discriminate against anyone in treatment. Yes, they still discriminate in who they will hire, like, for sure.

Writing about the confusion around whether chloroquine is a legitimate treatment for COVID-19, Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times says, “The hype has run so far ahead of scientific knowledge that red lights should be flashing and danger sirens sounding”:

Chloroquine is dangerous when not taken under a doctor’s rigorous supervision, and its shortage can cause life-threatening consequences for lupus patients and serious health effects for rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis patients.

The bottom line is that evidence for chloroquine’s effectiveness in COVID-19 is unsubstantiated. It derives heavily from the work of a controversial French expert in infectious diseases, Didier Raoult, whose studies on the topic have been criticized as inconclusive, but who has been enthusiastically promoting chloroquine as the nearest thing to a miracle drug.

Also not a cure for the coronavirus: Weed as sold by a former football player. Lachlan Markay at The Daily Beast reports:

The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to that effect on Tuesday to the Las Vegas headquarters of Neuro XPF, which is owned by former NFL offensive tackle Kyle Turley. Turley insists that CBD, a popular non-psychoactive cannabis derivative, can cure the coronavirus.

In fact, Neuro XPF had an entire page of its website, headlined “CRUSH CORONA,” devoted to those claims. “Your best defense against the COVID-19 blitz starts with a strong immune system,” the page claimed, and “a growing body of scientific evidence shows that CBD can help keep your immune system at the top of its game.”

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz of Pennsylvania, you may recall, introduced a “State Bill of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” to, I guess, convince God to save us from the virus. Jeffrey Barg (“The Angry Grammarian”) at the Philadelphia Inquirer eviscerates the bill as only a grammar nerd could:

Then there are exclamation points, which rarely if ever pop up in legislation, and for good reason: The Tiger Kings of the punctuation world, exclamation points are flashy and in-your-face enough that you have to sit up and notice them, but ultimately, they’re vapid, empty calories (and they probably murdered their semicolon husbands and fed them to a big cat). …

… Thankfully for our commonwealth (and for the separation of church and state), the resolution died. If it hadn’t, that would have been a “state day of humiliation” that no amount of praying would have gotten us over.

What about the lack of an Oxford comma in the name of the bill? YEAH YOU HEARD ME.

The Telegraph in the UK has been selling advertising space to an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, People’s Daily Online, and it’s been pushing propaganda about the coronavirus. Dean Sterling Jones at BuzzFeed reports:

When medical authorities in China claimed they’d cured more than 750 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, using pseudoscience, one major British newspaper made sure there was space for China’s party line on the story.

“Traditional Chinese medicine ‘helps fight coronavirus,’” declared the March 3 headline, in the online version of the Daily Telegraph. Without any evidence, the article claimed that the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine had tested an unidentified “prescription” on 804 patients, and that “by the end of 14 February,” it had proven “effective in 94 per cent of the cases.”

And! And! Russia really wants Americans to keep fighting over vaccines. Ars Technica reports on a study of the proliferation of bots and misinformation by Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

76 percent of Americans have never heard of the QAnon conspiracy-theory machine, which is good, but now there’s all this reporting on this survey (thanks a HEAP, Chris Cillizza) so now way, way more people will know about it. Interestingly, Democrats are slightly more likely to have heard of it than the target audience, Republicans.

A federal judge refuses to decide whether or not the Mormon religion is true. Courthouse News reports:

Online research showed Laura Gaddy that the historical record differed from the teachings of the church in which she grew up. She sued the church last August on claims that included racketeering and fraud. …

… “Each of these alleged misrepresentations directly implicates the Church’s core beliefs,” [Judge] Shelby wrote. “Because a statement’s falsity is an essential element of fraud claims, adjudicating these claims would require the court to do exactly what the Supreme Court has forbidden — evaluate the truth or falsity of the Church’s religious beliefs.”

Brian Rainey of the Princeton Theological Seminary says Christians need to get their head straight in terms of coronavirus magical thinking:

If we’re not careful with even benign “God-is-in-control” slogans, we risk shaming those suffering from understandable anxiety and dismissing those suffering from even greater crises at the moment. … Anxiety cannot just be prayed away or willed away with pious slogans. Nor can the awful circumstances in which many will find themselves. So we ought not add to the burdens of the anxious or scared by piling on religious guilt. Worse, as a result of this theological shaming, people who are actually scared might deny even to themselves that they’re afraid, simply because they don’t want to seem unfaithful.

Okay okay but seriously, is it the end of the world? Elizabeth Dias at the Times explores theological attitudes about the current moment:

For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni’s right hand.

But the story of apocalypse is an old one, one of the oldest humans tell. In ancient religious traditions beyond Christianity — including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism — it is a common narrative that arises in moments of social and political crisis, as people try to process unprecedented or shocking events. …

… “Is it the end of the world? Maybe it is, maybe it is isn’t,” [theologian Ekemini Uwan] said. “But we need to be ready. We need to learn to number our days because we really do not know when our last breath will be.”

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.” You’ll need to do better than that.

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