Religion and Pandemic – MK in the New World


History and modernity

Since biblical times, pandemics have been perceived as punishment for sins and unbelief. Trouble, suffering, according to religious beliefs, make sense: they get rid of pride, vanity, show the limits of human knowledge and capabilities, teach compassion, bring one closer to understanding the omnipotence of the Almighty, strengthen and elevate the spiritual world.

To deserve forgiveness and deliverance from the punishment of heaven, the clergy organized mass prayers and processions, the believers promised to correct themselves and keep the commandments. Along with repentance and humility, they often resorted to radical measures: they looked for the guilty, usually foreigners, Jews often found themselves in this role, but their witches, sorcerers, healers and other heretics were punished mercilessly. If prayer and suffering did not help, believers were comforted with the promise of the kingdom of heaven.

Fanaticism lives on to this day. In climatic cataclysms – hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts – religious fundamentalists see the approach of the apocalypse. The pandemic is declared a punishment for apostasy, consumer psychology, sexual perversion.

There are clerics calling to resist the closure of religious institutions, to disobey the mandates and recommendations of the authorities and scientists, who reject testing and vaccination. When renowned Israeli rabbi Yanka Kolanovsky, 93, called for vaccinations, an avalanche of curses and death threats fell on him and his family. This looks especially wild in Israel, considering that the Torah has many prohibitions and restrictions associated with infection, up to complete isolation behind the Pale of Settlement. The rabbi was also a doctor, and his word was law. In the name of health, preservation of life, it is allowed to violate even the laws of the Sabbath.

Most modern believers recognize that religion and science do not overlap or be hostile to each other. For them, there is no problem in participating in the prayer service by zoom, in the requirements not to gather in large groups. They believe that the pandemic must be fought with modern methods, relying on science and education.

In recent decades, the role of religion has declined, and secular beliefs and lifestyles have increased. Atheists have their own picture of the world. They see natural causes in the pandemic (a dangerous diet, a possible leak of the virus from laboratories, global communications, the level of vaccinations) and believe that it is necessary to fight the disaster, relying on the achievements of reason. Agnostics are convinced that the world is incomprehensible, and prefer not to complicate life with unsolvable questions, they are occupied with the realities “here and now.”

The attitude towards the pandemic does not fit into a simple scheme. Skeptics and dissenting people who do not want to change something in their way of life refer to religion and the Constitution, to distrust of authorities and authorities. The current political atmosphere is exacerbating the crisis. The pandemic is actively used in political struggle. And the attitude towards it is more explicable by ideology and interests than by sermons in churches, mosques, synagogues.

Do not make yourself an idol

A Pew poll in 14 countries found that the pandemic did not significantly change attitudes towards religion. And in the United States alone, 28% of those surveyed answered that their faith was strengthened. Three-quarters of Americans say they believe in God, half say that “religion is very important in their lives.” In Western Europe, Canada, Australia, the importance of religion is recognized by 20-25 percent, South Korea – 17, Japan – 9. In China, religion plays an insignificant role.

Religion in America is separate from the state. Until recently, however, the United States was perceived as a Christian country. And now the majority of the population is Christians: 23% are Catholics, half are Protestants. Christianity is divided into over 200 denominations. Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. Islam – for Sunnis and Shiites. Each denomination has its own adherents of varying degrees of conviction and activity. Several denominations have suffered from sex and financial scandals.

Over 10 years the number of Christians has decreased by 12%, over 50 – by 25%. Serious problems among Catholics due to pedophilia, attitudes towards same-sex marriage, the right of priests to marry, the appointment of women to church positions. Evangelical Christians are in severe conflict with the liberal ideology prevailing in the country.

The sharpest decline in the number of believers in Judaism. Among Jews, the proportion of believers is two times lower than in the whole country. Only 23% say religion is very important to them. Reform synagogues are dominated by militant liberalism and politicking. The Orthodox have strong faith, but only 9% of them.

Islam is strengthening its position, with a high birth rate and an increase in immigration, the number of parishioners is growing, the canons and traditions are observed. At the same time, the demarcation between Sunnis and Shiites persists, but there is no such radicalism and mutual hostility as in Muslim countries between the branches of Islam in America.

Even with complete freedom of religion and respect for religion by the authorities, it is not easy to maintain religious beliefs and traditions in the United States. An extremely stressful life with tough competition, without reliable social protection, political and civil confrontation absorb an excessive amount of energy, emotions, time, leaving no resources for reflection and contemplation of eternity. On banknotes – “In God we trust”, but the state of mind dominates the stock exchange, loans, debts – a constant source of uncertainty, stress and anxiety.

The Internet, social networks, and the powerful industry of political propaganda and entertainment do not strengthen the faith. Not every believer will remember about morning prayer, but he will not forget to check the phone and news from the stock exchange.

Materialism, pragmatism, pressure from mass and alternative culture and way of life, obsession with success, the cult of winners, celebritis, “Pursuit of happiness” do not fit well with the biblical notions that the kingdom of heaven will be deserved by the little ones of this world, humiliated and offended, that the road to heaven is closed for the rich that charity is not a monument of vanity, not a PR, tax fraud or interest-based sponsorship.

The pandemic has made things even more difficult. Churches, synagogues, mosques are closed, live communication cannot be replaced by streaming. Mass gatherings of Orthodox and evangelicals led to clashes with the police and caused public discontent.

But religion has its place in the life of society. It helps believers to survive trials, soothes their pain and anxiety, and gives hope for the future. The pandemic has had a severe traumatic effect on the morale of society, mental disorders, suicide, drug addiction, crime, and mutual hostility have sharply increased. Religion cannot overcome the virus, but it is obvious that for believers it gives a purpose and meaning to life, plays a therapeutic role, allows you to better survive social isolation, stress, anxiety. Believers have stronger mutual support, family ties, and caring for their parents. Whatever the explanation, their psychological and physical condition is better than that of atheists and agnostics.

Science is strength and powerlessness

Although religion and science are mutually independent in the free world, there is no cooperation and peaceful coexistence between them. The picture of the world in the Bible is little combined with the data of astronomy, physics, biology, archeology, inadequate to everyday logic and thinking. “I believe, for it is absurd,” said the father of the church, Tertullian; faith does not need proof, but science requires convincing evidence, verification, repetition of experience.

Since the days of the Enlightenment, the authority and influence of science has grown steadily. But progress is contradictory: “Knowledge is power,” but ignorance, stupidity, fanaticism, self-interest are often stronger. There is no evidence that cannot be challenged, there is no scientific evidence that will not be rejected if it contradicts the prejudices of the fanatic, the politician-demagogue, or affects the profit.

The modern scientist is not a freethinker, preoccupied with the search for abstract truth. The results of his efforts are directly dependent on funding, investments, grants. The decision of who to give and who to refuse is made by people who have their own interests. Investors are looking for a profitable return, and their expectations must be met.

Government subsidies are determined based on party programs and priorities. In the debates of experts about the primary social needs, one can always distinguish between conservatives and liberals and their party sympathies.

Politics and ideology determine the attitude towards the pandemic. There are a third more people who trust science recommendations among Democrats than among Republicans. To this day, depending on the party affiliation, Trump or Biden is called responsible for the crisis.

The dynamics of the pandemic will shift the accusations from personalities to scientists and doctors. The issue of the origin of the virus, the effectiveness of the means to combat the pandemic has not been resolved. Hundreds of billions have been spent, but many types of vaccines and medications are ineffective and have severe side effects. Forecasts, promises have not been confirmed. Now even optimists admit that there is no protection against infection, there is no strength or desire in society to continue to endure prohibitions and dubious precautions, and the weak and old can only rely on the mercy of God.

They expect a magic pill from scientists and doctors, guarantees of a return to their usual life, explanations and new promises are not accepted, those who believe in a conspiracy of dark forces have strengthened their suspicions. Yesterday’s heroes, demigods – scientists, pharmacists, doctors – found themselves in the position of Captain Cook: when he discovered Hawaii in 1778, the natives took him for a god, but soon ate a stranger.

With age-old diseases, they have been fighting since biblical times and do not expect a panacea. Mass vaccination against many infections has been in use for decades, but does not always help. Today, expectations and requirements for science are high as never before, a miracle is expected, but reality shows the limitations of a person’s capabilities and his knowledge.

For believers, this is evidence of the presence of a higher power that determines the fate of the world and man. Dostoevsky had little faith in the blessings of science and the power of reason and saw salvation in following the law of God. In Notes from the House of the Dead, he wrote that people want to believe that they have control over their behavior and fate, they want to evaluate and calculate everything – chaos, dark forces, curses … Dostoevsky earned a reputation as a reactionary and misanthropist. But Sartre, an atheist and a recognized humanist, said: “Hell is other people.” These views are not at odds with Genesis: “The imagination and intentions of the human heart are malicious from birth.” You need to make great efforts to become a person with developed morality and reason and to live in virtue even in an era of difficult trials.

It is obvious that without the progress of science through prayers, mankind cannot survive and overcome new unprecedented challenges. Humanity has no alternative to scientific knowledge and progress.


Source: Все материалы – Московский Комсомолец by www.vnovomsvete.com.

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