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Rightwing Christians continue to insist on their right to be Superspreaders


There was a report this morning on the local T.V. news describing how a large group of people, none of them wearing face masks, gathered in downtown Napa city and sang Christmas carols, in defiance of mask-wearing and stay-at-home ordinances. Interviewed by a reporter, one of them said it was her “God-given right” to celebrate “Our lord, Jesus Christ,” and that any government that tried to prevent her from doing so was breaking the law and committing an unConstitutional act.

That was on Wednesday, Dec. 23. On the very same day, Napa County health officials reported an “unprecedented surge in new COVID cases.” “Napa County [has] never had this many cases for a full week,” the Napa Register newspaper said, with far more than half of the new cases reported in the same city of Napa where the carolers were singing unmasked.

I’m not sure what makes these unmasked Christians believe they’re not subject to the same physical laws as the rest of us. The coronavirus obviously doesn’t inquire what a person’s religion is before it invades their noses and heads to the lungs. But I can make some intelligent inferences. It’s clear that these Christian science-scoffers have traded an objective, scientific method of thinking for a superstitious theory that hasn’t changed since the Dark Ages.

In modern cosmology, there is a theorem called the Anthropic Principle. It argues that our universe is constructed in such a way as to permit the existence of life forms like humans. If galaxies and stars did not exist in their current form…if gravity did not have precisely its current strength…if the weak atomic force that binds the nucleus of the atom were only slightly different…if the chemical elements found in the universe (hydrogen, oxygen, silicon, carbon, etc.) were not in precisely the balance they are…if, in fact, dozens of other conditions for life were not exactly what we find them to be, then life would not exist. The Anthropic Principle implies that some kind of superduperintelligence must have designed all this for a reason.

Most scientists don’t like the Anthropic Principle. As the physicist Leonard Susskind puts it, creationists believe God made man with some purpose that involved man’s ability to appreciate and worship God. But, Susskind warns, “The whole point of science is to avoid such stories.” This is because science involves forming theories which can be tested over and over again, and whose provable results point to the same conclusions. To postulate “God” as the cause of everything is to explain nothing, and besides, it is science, not religion, that has advanced human life. Were it not for science, we wouldn’t have medicine, for example. We’d still be living in mud huts and hunting and gathering our food, and dressing ourselves in animal skins to protect against the cold. No doubt there are survivalists on the right wing who might prefer things to return to such paleo conditions, but the rest of us, I think, are glad that human ingenuity, based on science, has let our species advance.

There’s something in Christianity, or at least the rightwing interpretation of it, that is violently anti-science and anti-progress. Partly this comes from parts of the Bible that emphasize blind worship of God without analysis; part also comes from New Testament demands that Christians evangelize the world. In more modern times, these anti-science impulses have been strengthened by evangelical ministers in the United States, who command their followers to reject anything that conflicts with an extreme, rightwing version of Christianity. For example, these extreme evangelicals live for the day that their Jesus returns to Earth, heralding the Second Coming, the rapture, and the Millennium. That such an occurrence necessarily exists outside of scientific possibility is precisely why they reject science. To throw the baby out with the bathwater, the science-rejecters also must reject such scientific notions as evolution, man-made climate change and global warming. They also have to reject the germ theory of disease and the postulates describing how viruses are spread through human-to-human contact.

Viewed from this angle, it’s easy to understand how the woman in Napa who insisted on her God-given right to be a superspreader arrived at her conclusion. As a radical Christian, she has given up on rational explanations of things, and instead falls back on supernatural explanations, including a belief that God will protect her from getting sick. No doubt she has not thought through her position very clearly. If pressed, she might even admit that coronavirus exists and can be spread from nasal or mouth droplets through the air, where they will infect others. (You’d probably have to press her very heavily, and at some point you might give up in the face of her stubborn resistance.) But at least, we have a working theory of why such people are so ignorant and behave so irresponsibly. Their religious beliefs have simply destroyed their God-given ability to think critically and rationally, and to feel some sense of social responsibility.

The news reports of the sad event in Napa did not say what political party these protesters belong to, but can there be any doubt? I bet you there wasn’t a single Democrat among them. Republicans, every one of them, and radical Christian evangelicals or Catholics, too. We can thank Donald Trump for at least one thing: clarifying who the real “enemy of the people” is. It’s not reporters. It’s not liberals or progressives. It’s not Moslems, or Mexicans or Europeans, or ANTIFA, or Black Lives Matter, or Liddle Adam Schiff, or the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia. It’s that crazy woman in Napa, convinced that God has given her the right to be Republican, the right to believe in a ridiculous interpretation of the Bible, and the right to be a superspreader of disease and death. That is the modern Republican Party, may God help us all!

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