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Religious Quackery: Divided in Preaching, United in Deceit

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Ever since the coronavirus pandemic began, we have managed to convince ourselves that it was Godly or natural providence. We did not pause to think much about our contributions to wildlife trade and wild meat consumption and how that may have brought the disease amongst us, but instead, social media was flooded with how 2020 was simply an ‘unlucky’ year. And therefore, wherever there is a question of an Act of God, purported men and women of faith are there to sermonize and preach to all of us. This article lays out the various acts of divinity which were visited upon people by common men who saw this as an opportunity to justify their faith. For those easily offended and who have trouble comprehending exaggerations and satire, let it also be clear that this is not an attempt to generalize religion but simply call out only those who peddle in faith as an object instead of a tool to achieve personal tranquillity. Let us also take the opportunity to thank in the same breath the doctors, healthcare workers, and scientists who are working round the clock to find an actual solution amidst this all.

Act 1: It is a conspiracy versus it is all God’s plan!

As the scientists and doctors started to hog the limelight, to justify their continued existence, the bloviating blowhards of bigoted babble needed to assure their followers they were already forewarned and even had it under control. So we saw here the adoption of a two-pronged approach. Either diminish the pandemic itself or say it is part of a larger plan.

Some Christian rumor-mongers went to great lengths to have services during such difficult moments and even urged the congregants to shake hands because doing otherwise would have made them “pansies”. The Left-Wing media was blamed because the truth is now exclusively the domain of the Left, the Zionists were too because that is old-fashioned and tradition needs to be maintained. Some though chided the Catholic Church in Italy of being too fearful and castigated them for closing during the height of the pandemic.

Others chose a more fatalistic approach of ascribing everything to God’s will and therefore ended up ignoring global guidelines to protect against the pandemic because there can be no obedience to laws without basic fear of the consequences. Closer to home, we were informed that Corona was actually an Avatar of God to punish non-vegetarians. Though, why then China and not any of the other places, including in our own country India, where people eat meat, is left unclear. There was, however, strong debate on the theology of it all when others claimed it was not an Avatar but an “Asur” i.e. a demon. Thankfully the request to open temples to ward it off was warded off by saner officials.

Act 2: Claiming the mantle of superiority

This was the second act as the pandemic spread across the world. People generally failed to still comprehend the magnitude of the problem and engaged in putting other faiths down at the expense of their own. By this time though, denying this as conspiracy or just submitting oneself to God and becoming a risk to yourself or others was being increased, shall we say politely, being frowned upon.

A number of Hindus were widely elated and shared memes across social media about how their customs which had been followed for millennia had been vindicated and how the civilized world was just catching up. Now indeed, practices of cremation and isolation for a couple of weeks after familial death as our rituals demand fit neatly into the narrative and it is entirely possible that such an outbreak earlier led to empirical observations and codifications of rituals. It is indeed right to wash hands and fold hands while greeting during a pandemic and being from a tropical country where diseases spread easily this could have been imbibed over time in our culture. However, by taking a high road and claiming, as some did by saying “Indian culture has always shown the world a better way of doing things”, it made it seem as if Indic practices were inherently superior in every case.

Some Muslims were not far behind in saying how they were the ones who were right all along and chimed in with how ablution five times a day as commanded before prayers showed that they knew the importance of hand-washing before it was even a thing. Just as above, washing yourselves and keeping yourselves clean is a praiseworthy thing but does not grant one any heavenly moral superiority. Some of those who had objected to the Naqab, only when forced by men upon women and not in case voluntarily worn, were subject to ridicule now that the entire world had to be masked, somehow blurring the line between forced chastity and a fast-spreading disease. There were others who went even further and said by reading the Quran, the pandemic could be thwarted.

Oddball Christians were not ones to be outdone in this footrace of stupidity right to the bottom. They knew they were right because the disease had originated in China: a faithless country. So voila, a direct causal link between lack of faith and beginning of a pandemic was established from, I am assuming, one of the leading minds of our times. He was joined by a kindred spirit in Israel who blamed it all on the lesbians; darn those nasty women! Now, it is particularly dangerous to criticize atheists at this time since they constitute a great part of the scientific community and their emerging importance shall become clear incoming acts.

Act 3: A large helping of superstitions

As we gradually realized the seriousness of this and that we all had the chance of getting equally affected, the smiles on the faces of opportunistic quacks faded a little. They realized saying one faith as inherently keeping the disease away was not going to work as there was a good chance this was going to come everywhere. Hence, as is the nature of a mind that prepares for no eventuality rationally, it must behave irrationally when the dam bursts. The same outcome manifested itself here as the purveyors of faith began groping among superstitions for an intangible solution to a tangible problem.

Leading the way were our very own educated idiots. First, an MLA from Assam set the stage by claiming that cow dung and urine could cure COVID-19. Her reasoning was fool-proof, as in it was proof only to a fool: because cow dung and cow urine can cure cancer apparently. While this was summarily dismissed, another idea made it all the way to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on the recommendation of, and I despair writing this, the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Power). ICMR had to formally turn down Gangajal (water from the Ganges) as a cure for the pandemic.

But not ones to be outdone, it turns out Zamzam water can work against everything from the Ebola virus to the Coronavirus. Every disease from Swine Flu to the plague is retribution for sins against the exalted creator. And the list of sins stretches on quite a bit. From homosexuality, because they are the easy punching bags, to atheism to Darwinism to idolatry and whatnot, it is quite an exhaustive list. A certain compilation, by someone professing to be a doctor no less, have more instances of sins than cure, with fasting and Zamzam water plus some other techniques like cupping can pretty much cure everything under the sun. The compiler of this particular list and author of the book goes on to propose some health reforms but I could not bear myself to look at them because I expect no sense to come out of it. If someone can reach the end of the book and find out if it is satire, please inform me so that I may correct the record.

If the H2O of Ganges and Zamzam were competing up there with the best, acing the podium and leaving with gold were televangelists who needed no material medium of cure but could do so straight through TV. Serious man Kenneth Copeland, the richest of the TV preachers apparently, did just that. I am assuming he cured all the spectators at an instant or at least prevented them from ever getting infected. If not, that might have been a problem and superstitions may have run their respective courses. Possibly, for that very reason, leaving the old superstitions, in the next act, these peddlers of fiction came up with miracle cures.

Act 4: Never fear, miracle cure is here!

This is the stage of despair for those who traffic in religious falsehoods. At this point neither has religious superiority worked nor have old rituals and superstitions. So, it is time to come up with something new. But the problem is that they do not know science? Such small trifles and tribulations could not however stop these selfless people from coming up with cures and blaming anybody who questioned their methods as attacking their traditions and faith.

Marketing has always been important and alliterations are apparently in vogue nowadays. How about some Sherrill Sellman’s Silver Solution? Cures coronavirus 100%; eliminates it, kills it, deactivates it! I suspect it annihilates it, overpowers it, and devastates it as well, but I cannot be sure. The added bonus is it is fast-acting: just 12 hours and you are fit as a fiddle.

This though is not the age of a unipolar United States. This is the Asian century and we competed pretty well here too. One of our very own gentlemen claimed to cure coronavirus fully too, but in a more realistic seven days. When he was questioned on his methods, he naturally could answer them fully and by that I mean he attacked the suited and booted people, by which I presume he means scientists, though, in the current clash of cultures narrative, it easily could have meant the West. He has since done a full reversal on his earlier claims but from someone as lithe and proficient in Yoga, that was to be expected.

So, once the burden of proof turned out to be too burdensome, all that was left was to believe in the scientists. If only, they would have let us and we would have let them from the very beginning.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.