By Erica Evans
In April, a Virginia pastor died from the coronavirus after telling his congregation to ignore physical distancing rules. Even after the story made national news, some religious leaders continued to defy public health orders and hold services, including a Louisiana pastor who told his church members, “God gave you an immune system to kill that virus.”
The next month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the virus can spread easily at large religious gatherings, citing a case where two people with COVID-19 infected 35 others in March at church events in Arkansas.
Stories like these show the potential danger of holding large meetings while the coronavirus continues to claim U.S. lives and could cast religious leaders who insist on public worship in a negative light. But Harold G. Koenig, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, has some positive news for people of faith. He argues that religiousness may actually reduce a person’s risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.
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