"Evangel Cathedral" by Shardayyy / CC BY 2.0

When religion is dangerous for your health

May 1, 2020

By Daniel Burke

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best and worst aspects of religion.

Faith has inspired countless acts of generosity and goodwill while helping believers get through an extraordinarily scary and difficult time.

But some believers, from Christians to Hasidic Jews, have flouted social-distancing guidelines, insisting that God will protect their congregation. And as in previous pandemics, some have gone looking for scapegoats to explain why God would allow such immense suffering.

Jeff Levin, an epidemiologist and observant Jew who comes from a long line of esteemed rabbis, has studied — and lived at — the intersection of medicine and religion for decades.

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5 comments on “When religion is dangerous for your health

  • 1
    Cairsley says:

    “But some believers, from Christians to Hasidic Jews, have flouted social-distancing guidelines, insisting that God will protect their congregation. …”

    Why do these people not heed their own scriptures? Have they not read: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12)? As the Deuteronomy passage makes clear, their god is pleased by their observance of his will expressed in his laws, and he is displeased with their presumption upon his miraculous power to protect them from natural harm. If they must believe in superstitions, at least they should have the integrity to live according to the writings that they have professed to accept as authoritative for their belief and way of life.

    And again, have the Christians among these flouters of measures taken to counter the COVID-19 pandemic not read Romans 13:1-7, where St Paul (no less) insists that Christians must, out of obedience to God, obey secular authorities? Or 1 Peter 2:13-17, where St Peter (no less) makes much the same point? It is not as though the secular authorities are imposing the ban on gatherings in order to suppress religious worship. The restrictions are imposed for everyone’s safety from a real and deadly danger.

    Clearly these cases of civil disobedience among some religious people in the USA are evidence that the people involved are acting quite irrationally, not only in terms of common sense and basic rationality but even in terms of their own religious beliefs! They are hardly promoting their religion as worthy of reasonable and decent people.

  • All good points, but it’s even worse than that, Cairsley.

    For Christians, Jesus is supposed to trump both Paul and Peter. He is himself God.

    Yet how many of these US evangelicals have internalised the Sermon on the Mount? Or even: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”?

    For the loudest-mouthed of them, Christianity is just an extension of the US Constitution: something that confers special rights and privileges on Americans. It’s simply US exceptionalism taken to the next level: divinely ordained. The God-ordained right to do whatever the hell they like and to hell with everyone else. The God-ordained right NOT to be required to show any kind of consideration or concern for their neighbours while simultaneously shouting at the tops of their voices about being followers of Jesus.

    It really is a wonder their heads don’t explode, but then again, I guess their brains just aren’t engaged enough for that to be a serious risk.

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  • 3
    Cairsley says:

    Marco #2

    Thank you, Marco! You put into a few clear words what has been baffling me about those clearly un-Christian Christians they have over there, and, as I read those words, a light went on in my head. Yes, their Jesus has nothing to do with the New Testament or even the Old Testament and everything to do with religiously inspired US exceptionalism.

    It really is a wonder their heads don’t explode, but then again, I guess their brains just aren’t engaged enough for that to be a serious risk.

    And we all know what happens to biological organs and parts that cease to be used, if such examples as bats’ eyes, kiwis’ wings, whales’ hindlegs and the like are anything to go by. It may be too early to speak of speciation, but in time …, who knows? …

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  • Religion has always been dangerous to your (mental) health.

    As with (some) jews and their silly “sabbath” rules, religious people like to create extensive rules for themselves, then spend half their time finding ways to circumvent (or totally ignore…) them. It’s a bit ridiculous, but then, it’s religion…

    As for parts of their brains becoming vestigial, a detailed brain scan (fMRI or whatever…) to compare a devoutly religious person to a strongly rational/scientific person could be very interesting…

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  • I see that the Morons-in-Chief are now achieving the positions of world leaders in Coronavirus deaths and levels of stupid!


    Mr Pence earlier on Tuesday told reporters in a briefing that the task force could soon be disbanded.

    He said the Trump administration was “starting to look at the Memorial Day [late May] window, early June window as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies begin to manage, begin to manage our national response in a more traditional manner”.

    He said it was “a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country”.

    Some of Republican led states having failed to meet the guidelines are now “easing” the lax restrictions they were operating.

    The new group of  officials setting the agenda will by following business objectives rather than medical ones.

    It looks like unfortunate Americans are going to set new records for death rates, but no doubt stopping measuring, and more Trump-spin, will be the likely White House response – and of course applauded in the regular false-news outlets!


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