“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
As the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world, many churches have defied orders to stop gathering in large groups. There is a current ban on gatherings involving 10 or more people. This ban is not in place to stop people from having fun or to stop people from gathering to worship their deity of choice. The ban is in place to save lives. Period.
Despite all of the evidence showing the effectiveness of social distancing and self-quarantining, many “people of faith” have chosen to defy government leaders and have continued to pack churches around the world. There are several right here in the United States. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who is in charge of the River at Tampa Bay Church was arrested on March 30th after having a service on Sunday, March 29th, despite having been repeatedly told to not gather in large groups. This video clip from their service shows how “seriously” he took the threats, both from the virus and from authorities:
I’m not trying to single out this pastor or this church. They are one of many. A quick internet search will reveal many more. For example, there is this church from Louisiana:
Despite the serious risk of infection, these churches still hold large gatherings. They insist that the church is “essential” and therefore should be allowed to remain open for business. Even if that were true (which I do not agree with) they would still be subject to social distancing guidelines which call for 6 feet or more of distance between people. These video clips show that the attendees completely disregard the call for distancing and continue on with business as usual.
With the countless stories of church gatherings like these, I have concluded two things. One, I am so glad to no longer be a member of a group that dismisses a true threat because an ancient book of myths and fables makes people feel invincible. And two, if Jesus is real, then he is the Coronavirus incarnate. Wherever groups of people in a pandemic congregate, the virus spreads. And if Jesus (again, if he is real…and I’m inclined to believe he is not) is there wherever two or more are gathered, then he is either the cause of the outbreak or he is the monster who has the power to stop it (but does nothing) and instead chooses to have his ass kissed while people raise their arms and chant his name. He is Jehovid-19 and he demands your respect.
Let’s be real. If God is all-powerful, then he could stop this pandemic, but he chooses not to. If he hates to see his children suffer, then he has a strange way of showing it. The death toll is rising by the minute with this pandemic. The excuse of “this is a result of sin” is the same tired B.S. excuse that is used every time something horrible happens. Childhood cancer, the loss of a spouse, earthquakes, tornadoes, house fires, etc. Anything and everything bad that happens is because we angered God all those years ago and continue to anger him now. He hates sin but allows it day in and day out. It’s ridiculous.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking. First, God created the world we live in according to the Bible. Then sin entered in. How? God is the creator of all. He must have created sin as well. He certainly allowed it. He was angry and let out his wrath for thousands of years until he had enough. Then, Jesus showed up to save the day…except he didn’t. This “sin” still runs rampant and God supposedly is still seething with rage. If God is real and hates the sin we live in, whose fault is that? Ours or his? He created a world that he thought was perfect but messed that up by creating/allowing sin. Then, his fix for it (Jesus) didn’t change anything. Are we to believe that the second-coming of Jesus will fix it once and for all? Is the “third time’s the charm” mentality really going to pay off? The track record suggests that the “sin” that God hates so much isn’t going anywhere, because it isn’t sin at all. It isn’t evil, but rather just human nature that we all have in us. And as our “creator,” he should both know that and accept it. We are born this way and do not deserve punishment for it. That’s ludicrous.
If you want to pray about this pandemic, go for it. Judging by the surging number of infected people and the death toll, God doesn’t care, but pray away if you must. By all means, do what makes you feel good. But for those of us who see no evidence of God and see no evidence that prayer does anything at all, please be respectful and just stay home to do it. Stop gathering and spreading your germs alongside your unprovable myths, legends and folklore. Believe what you wish, but also believe in the numbers coming out of this outbreak. The number of infected. The number of dead. The number of people in the churches testing positive for a virus that could kill someone you love. You may believe that this life is just a preseason game and the big show is yet to come, but for those of us who only know of this one life, please do the right thing.
I find myself caring less and less about being cordial when it comes to religion and those who believe in it. I find myself becoming more and more disgusted with the disconnect between many in the faith and reality. Human history suggests we are on our own down here and that we need to work together in times of crisis. Praying may comfort your “soul,” but it does nothing to combat this invisible killer that is preying on innocent people. I have lived through many tragedies and prayer has not stopped even one from occurring. I have seen countless families grieve when losing a loved one far too soon, despite their pleas to the Almighty. I know that not all believers believe the same thing and some actually do follow the rules during these tough times and rely on science to fight back. However, the fact that not all believe the same thing is a damning piece of evidence that strongly suggests that a god is not interfering in our lives. If a god cannot even set the story straight, what hope do we have of ever following some divine plan? Everything is expected of us and yet, we are given nothing to go on. Strange for someone who wants an intimate relationship with us.
I find that despite my best efforts to stay away from writing about religion, my newly-opened eyes will not allow me to stay silent. I see that blind faith is dangerous. I see that prayer doesn’t do anything but make us feel better…sometimes. There is nothing tangible that comes of it. Even if a god is listening to our prayers, he/she certainly is not acting. And if a god is not acting after hearing prayers by the faithful, what is the point of praying in the first place? Anyone can talk to themselves, but that isn’t always helpful. In fact, it is often the sign of a mental disorder. I now see the dangers of placing hope in ancient words written by unknown people while ignoring the present world we are living in. People are getting sick and dying while you close your eyes, raise your hands and rub shoulders with the others gathering in your churches. Maybe that doesn’t matter to you, but it most certainly matters to those of us affected by the real world we live in. The Biblical world exists in a book and doesn’t translate over into the world we actually reside in. That’s why prayer doesn’t work, why Jesus isn’t here, why we can’t move mountains and why that ark that Noah built is so damned hard to find.