LQCs: Covid, human sacrifice, religious faith

Kurt Andersen on human sacrifice; Matthew Rozsa on Covid-19 and religious faith; headlines.

The Atlantic, Kurt Andersen, 25 Jan 2022: The Anti-vaccine Right Brought Human Sacrifice to America, subtitled, “Since last summer, the conservative campaign against vaccination has claimed thousands of lives for no ethically justifiable purpose.”

Opening paragraphs:

In the early phases of the pandemic, as the coronavirus spread in the United States and doctors and pharmacists and supermarket clerks continued to work and risk infection, some commentators made reference—metaphorical reference, fast and loose and over the top—to ritual human sacrifice. The immediate panicky focus on resuming business as usual in order to keep the stock market from crashing was the equivalent of “those who offered human sacrifices to Moloch,” according to the writer Kitanya Harrison. That first summer, as Republicans settled into their anti-testing, anti-lockdown, anti-mask, nothing-to-worry-about orthodoxy, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said it was “like a policy of mass human sacrifice.” The anthropology professor Shan-Estelle Brown and the researcher Zoe Pearson wrote that people who continued to do their jobs outside their homes were essentially victims of “involuntary human sacrifice, made to look voluntary.” Meanwhile, people on the right likewise compared the inconvenience of closing down public places to ritual sacrifice.

I got in on the analogy too: After Donald Trump’s first big indoor pandemic campaign rally in June 2020, I made a crack on Twitter that for the 6,000 MAGA folks attending it was like a “human sacrifice to please the leader.” And indeed at least once during the month before the rally, Trump played the part of a gung-ho godlike king presiding over the glorious sacrificial deaths of his subjects. When asked, during an Oval Office encounter with the press, whether the nation will “just have to accept the idea that … there will be more deaths” as a result of his open-everything-up-now plan, he said, “I call these people warriors, and I’m actually calling now … the nation, warriors. We have to be warriors.”

“Warriors,” “mass human sacrifice”: These were high-pitched figures of speech studding a debate about our political economy—whether and how governments should intervene to keep people and businesses financially afloat, and how many lives were worth how much of a hit to the economy. Beneath the polemics this discourse was at least fundamentally rational, a weighing of social costs against social benefits.

Long essay. Andersen is the author of 2017 book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.


Salon, Matthew Rozsa, 26 Jan 2022: COVID-19 is making us less religious — with some curious exceptions, subtitled, “A German study found that faith in a higher power weakened considerably during the pandemic.”

Opening paragraphs:

In times of crisis, humans often turn to faith for reassurance. Oddly, the COVID-19 pandemic might go down in history as an exception — when, according to some research, many people actually turned away from faith, and became less religious.

According to a study published earlier this month in the Journal of Religion and Health, the two largest religious groups in Germany both saw significant drops in religious faith during the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly during the more stringent lockdowns which followed the second wave.

Examining how Catholics and Protestants measured their own wellness and faith at various points during the pandemic, the researchers found that 15 percent of the surveyed participants during the first wave said they had lost faith in God or a higher power because of COVID-19. During the second wave, 21.5 percent said they had lost faith as a result of the pandemic, and the pattern of decline continued during the first half of 2021. The authors added that things “started to improve slightly” during the fourth wave, which began near the end of 2021.

Comment: Despite the claim that Covid is an exception, I recall reading, more than once, something similar about the Black Death, in that it caused a crisis of faith that led to the Thirty Years’ War, which in turned realigned Europe from religious divisions to nationalistic ones. And with the reduced influence of the Church, allowed the Age of Enlightenment to proceed, thus leading to modern science and the modern world. (Very loosely speaking; of course I can’t now off hand find a reference to a book I read that in.) So then.


Just headlines:

The Daily Beast, Mark Hay, 23 Jan 2022: The Shady Site That Shows Anti-Vaxxers Will Believe Anything, subtitled, “Experts say it distorts data to advance the bonkers and baseless theory that red states are receiving toxic doses, while others get placebos.”

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 20 Jan 2022: Donald Trump calls for racial violence: White supremacists are listening, but the media laughs, subtitled, “While the media congratulated itself for mocking or ignoring Trump’s Arizona rally, he spread vicious racist lies.”

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