Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Coviots - Christian Pastors and Their Dupes Are Dying of the 'Phantom Plague'

Services at Life Tabernacle Church in the suburb of Baton Rouge, La., are continuing despite the governor’s order banning large gatherings to fight the spread of the coronavirus. On Sunday, 1,265 congregants attended morning services at the church, the pastor said.

Photo credit: Woody Jenkins / Central City News
'A phantom plague': America's Bible Belt played down the pandemic and even cashed in. Now dozens of pastors are dead | The Independent.

It is tempting to talk about Darwin Awards and score points about these sad deaths, but I need to keep reminding myself of the basic Humanism in John Donne's "No Man Is An Island" - "Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each person's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Let's not forget that, no matter how stupid they were; no matter how brainwashed they had been to believe superstitious nonsense and carefully cultivated paranoias, these were still people; fooled by frauds and lied to by cheats who took advantage of their credulity, certainly, but still people.

If any good is to come of this tragic pandemic, it is that their sad deaths should remind us of the danger religion poses to humanity when it induces stupidity on this scale, puts money above people, and exploits the stupid and gullible to serve the naked greed and avarice of the frauds who promulgate it.

According to this report in yesterday's Independent:

As many as 30 church leaders from the nation's largest African American Pentecostal denomination have now been confirmed to have died in the outbreak, as members defied public health warnings to avoid large gatherings to prevent transmitting the virus.

Deaths across the US in areas where the Church of God in Christ has a presence have reportedly stemmed from funerals and other meetings among clergy and other church staff held during the pandemic...

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed how religious services in particular can be deadly vectors for the disease.

The CDC illustrated how a Chicago funeral became a "super-spreader event" that "played a significant role in transmission" of the virus.

Among several people who became ill following the service, one patient who developed Covid-19 symptoms two days after attending the funeral was hospitalised a week later and put on a ventilator. The patient later died.

Florida Pentecostal pastor Rodney Howard-Browne held several services in packed churches despite warnings from health officials and doctors to avoid large gatherings to prevent spreading the disease, which he called a "phantom plague" before his arrest for violating social distancing rules.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said that the pastor's "reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk" along with thousands of Florida residents.

Readers of this blog will already be well aware of the antics of Pasto Tony Spell and his odious mother Magi, who have been campaigning for the right to fleece their followers whilst ensuring they spread Covid-19 as widely as possible within their families and the wider community in return for giving Pastor Spell lots of money.

Spell's Life Tabernacle Church has been linked to at least one death from coronavirus - that of a 78-year-old man who had visited the church. The East Baton Rouge Parish coroner determined that his death was due to Covid-19. Pastor Spell has said the results are "a lie." Meanwhile Spell's attorney, Jeff Wittenbrick, was admitted to Baton Rouge General hospital last week with a high fever and persistent cough after attending two events at the church earlier this month.

Readers will also be aware of the scams where church leaders sell quack cures in the form of magic spells, lotions and amulets for large sums of money. One such fraud is the televangelist and serial adulterer, Jim Bakker, who has been denied the services of credit card companies as he tried to sell quack medicines at $80 a go. He has now appealed to his credulous dupes to send him money to avoid filing for bankruptcy because he can't scam them any more.

The following interactive chart shows the scale and indiscriminate nature of the pandemic:
(Source: The Independent)

The problem is much more acute amongst evangelicals. According to this survey, evangelicals are much more determined to attend church in person and this increases to nearly 33% in those state which have a clear prohibition on it. This degree of stupidity is attributable in part to the paranoid 'persecution' mania amongst evangelicals who are encouraged to see themselves as under attack by a state in league with anti-Christian forces. This us vs them strategy is used by church leaders to maintain cult-like in-group loyalty much more so than do mainstream church leaders. "Together in adversity" is a unifying slogan, even if the 'adversity' is manufactured and imaginary. The thing with invisible enemies is that they require an active imagination and persecution requires enemies.

And now the National Rifle Association, that purveyor of conspiracy theories and paranoia, has also tried to cash in on the crisis, telling it's credulous dupes that 'they' will use the lock-down as an excuse to 'want your guns'. Not surprisingly, fundamentalist Christians in America's Bible Belt are also dedicated gun nuts who believe 'they', like the Satanic forces that circle outside their cult's protective mental walls, are out to take their freedom away. These are people who have been inculcated from birth to believe that they never really won the War of Independence in 1776 or lost the Civil War, still need their guns with which to defend their freedoms from 'the enemies' who would like nothing better than to take them away. Paranoia is a major element in American politics.

What this Covid-19 pandemic is highlighting is the credulous stupidity of Christian fundamentalists who, by believing absurdities will willingly commit acts of gross irresponsibility, bordering on atrocities, where the lives of friends, families and the wider community can be put in danger at the behest of unscrupulous, politically-motivated charlatans and frauds.

But to come back to my opening point about all these tragic deaths being of people who have been fooled. As Stephen Weinberg said:

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

And Christianity in the Bible belt of the USA is not short of evil people doing evil things and fooling good people into doing evil things for money and political power and influence because they think it is the right thing to do.

These unfortunate people and their families are victims of religion.

"Each person's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind."

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