When religion becomes silly
According to a recent poll reported in the British newspaper the Guardian, two-thirds of Americans who believe in God think that the Covid-19 pandemic is a message from God. A striking 31% told pollsters that God sent the virus to tell humanity to change its behaviors and attitudes. God wants people to oppose abortion, same sex marriage, gay rights and other “liberal” views. Unsurprisingly, these individuals describe themselves as evangelical or fundamental Christians.
To suppose that God visited a Cov9d-19 “plague” on humanity terribly distorts the human perception of God. While people are unable to describe God's nature, concepts such as light, love and energy point to that which we call God, the divine, the Alone and a host of other names.
At best, those misguided believers have adopted a silly response to the virus. God does not specifically create or spread individual viruses; nor does God cause evil. Viruses are simply part of the cosmos, something that emerged from the primordial soup.
Nevertheless, those misguided believers have adopted a belief that likely to harm themselves and others. Self-harm comes from distancing one’s self from the very source of being. The aim of religion is to draw one closer to God, not to distance one’s self from God. God is not destructive, vengeful or violent. Indeed, the judgement of God transforms the broken or sinful into health, wholeness and life abundant. This applies to both individuals and communities.
Attributing the pandemic to God harms others first by potentially distancing them from God, to the extent that this negative conception of God poisons their beliefs. Second, regarding the pandemic as a rebuke from God fuels divisive culture wars and supports injustice. Illustratively, women are not chattel. A woman’s body is her own. She, not the state or anyone else, should have control over it. Similarly, a person’s sexual orientation belongs to the individual. Every individual has the right to live out their chosen sexual identity as fully possible. God chooses each person to be God's beloved, with no exceptions.
When religion becomes silly, other believers have a moral responsibility to call out that silliness as wrongheaded thinking with the potential, in this instance, to harm many of God's beloved.