A reader criticized me for unfairly criticizing the faithful because I questioned the rationality and ethics of churches that insist on continuing to gather for worship amid a virulent coronavirus pandemic that is killing Americans. and craters our economy.
The reader said many churches were closing temporarily to protect worshipers from the current plague. However, these do not negate the many who still happily worship en masseas always, even defiantly so.
Like Hemant Mehta in his The sympathetic atheist blog wrote on March 18:
“Many churches are closing to protect their congregations and communities from the coronavirus outbreak. Not the Apostolic Faith Tabernacle in Clarksville, Tennessee. They boast that they refused to embrace “hysteria” and will therefore be open for Sunday services.
The sign in front of the Tabernacle is clearly a thumbs-up in the eye of Americans who are seriously following the advice of medical experts and federal and state officials who everyone should practice “social distancing” and not gathering in groups of 10 or more to curb the spread of the virus. The church sign reads:
“We are not part of the coronavirus hysteria – open Sundays 10 and 6.”
A single large church in South Korea, which requires its adherents to ignore the disease and proselytize in public even when sick, is said to have helped accelerate a stratospheric spike in coronavirus infections in that country.
So now is not the time to be cavalier about anything that can directly affect public health, including communal religious behaviors.
As this cartoon implies, not all devout people in the world, regardless of their religion, are able to fully put their faith in the divine as this life-threatening disease spreads wanton across the land. Which is rational. But it also begs the question of whether even true believers wholeheartedly accept that their supposedly omnipotent God certainly save them in a crisis as deadly as this.
Reason strongly suggests that he will not come to the rescue in a predictable and reliable way. This is where things get messy and faith takes a hit.
The problem is that when people’s belief in invisible beings puts everyone’s safety at risk, when there really are effective, down-to-earth practices that can significantly mitigate the risks of rampaging infectious disease.
Cartoon/Thanks to the Thinking Atheist