The coronavirus pandemic has occasioned a pandemic of another sort: anti-religious hate. Atheist Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker (right, courtesy Rose Lincoln) exemplified this irrational hate with a recent (and quickly deleted) tweet:
Belief in the afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer and happier. Exhibit A: What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? Evangelicals.
What tripe. As science writer Alex Berezow notes at American Council on Science and Health,
Research shows that religious belief is good for the individual and for society… Religious people (who, in general, tend to believe in an afterlife) are happier and more civic-minded than non-religious people. They are also likelier to have better mental health…Alex Berezow, “Steven Pinker Calls Belief In Afterlife A ‘Malignant Delusion’. He Is Wrong” at American Council on Science and Health
Berezow points out that scientific studies have shown that non-religious doctors are more likely to (presumably inadvertently) end patients’ lives with large doses of sedatives, which suggests that atheist physicians are inclined to shorten, not lengthen, life. He also makes a salient and rather obvious point:
Have you ever noticed how many hospitals are named for Catholic saints? That’s because religious people in general, and Catholics in particular, have an obligation to tend to the sick and dying… Simply put, Dr. Pinker’s claims are demonstrably wrong. Let’s hope he comes around to accepting this evidence-based worldview.Alex Berezow, “Steven Pinker Calls Belief In Afterlife A ‘Malignant Delusion’. He Is Wrong” at American Council on Science and Health
Berezow reminds us of historian Rodney Stark ’s observation that during ancient plagues, Christian communities often had higher survival rates than non-Christian communities because Christians were more likely to remain in the plague-stricken community and care for the sick, even at the risk of their own lives. We see echoes of this courage in the millions of health care workers today who risk their own lives daily to care for COVID patients. Most of these workers are religious believers and no doubt their love for God and for their fellow man motivates their courageous acts.
In the Christian understanding of the world, creation is good and life is a blessing bestowed by our Creator, thus human beings are to be loved and protected. Furthermore, Christians are asked to provide special care for the sick, who are the least of our brothers and sisters. Contra Pinker’s bizarre claim that religious belief is a malignant delusion that devalues life, it’s fair to say that the Christian devotion to the sick is the paradigm for respect for life and for selfless love of the less fortunate.
The irony in Pinker’s outburst is twofold. First, Pinker’s own ideology — atheism — has been an unrelenting blood-stained assault on human life since its conception on the world stage in the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror:
During the Terror, the Committee of Public Safety (of which Maximilien de Robespierre was the most prominent member) exercised virtual dictatorial control over the French government. In the spring of 1794, it eliminated its enemies to the left (the Hébertists) and to the right (the Indulgents, or followers of Georges Danton). Still uncertain of its position, the committee obtained the Law of 22 Prairial, year II (June 10, 1794), which suspended a suspect’s right to public trial and to legal assistance and left the jury a choice only of acquittal or death. The “Great Terror” that followed, in which about 1,400 persons were executed, contributed to the fall of Robespierre on July 27 (9 Thermidor). – Britannica, accessed June 1, 2020
If the symbol for Christianity in human affairs is the Red Cross and the hospital, the symbol for atheism in human affairs is the guillotine and the gulag. Atheism, when it achieves government power, is the most effective instrument of mass homicide in human history. Atheists are uniquely unsuited to accuse others of devaluing human life.
The second irony of Pinker’s assault on religious belief is especially relevant to this coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 arose in China, which is the most atheist nation on earth. Whether the virus came from the Wuhan lab or arose naturally and passed to humans in wet markets near the lab, it is undeniable that the Chinese scientists and government officials — atheists all — lied and covered up the pandemic, and in doing so spread it to the world. If we are, as Pinker insists, to discuss the religious aspects of this pandemic, we must note first of all that it is a society steeped in atheism, not in religious belief, that has, by lies and incompetence, infected millions of people, killed hundreds of thousands of them and has destroyed national economies and individual livelihoods around the globe.
The COVID pandemic is just another iteration of a recurring theme in modern Western civilization: the hallmarks of atheism in power are lies, carnage, and economic devastation. If there is a “malignant delusion” in this pandemic, it is the delusion that the spread of the coronavirus is attributable to religious believers. A more accurate inference about the role of religion in the spread of COVID-19, given the origin of this pandemic from the incompetence and malfeasance of the world’s most atheist nation, is that COVID-19 is atheism gone viral.
Why prayer is wise during a pandemic. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne thinks that only fools would pray about Coronavirus. He is wrong and here is why: If God is real, then prayer is probably the first thing you want to do in a crisis. A plea to the Boss is a fine preamble to the grunt work of managing a crisis. I’m a neurosurgeon, and I pray before each operation. It really helps.
Neuroscience can’t dismiss near death experiences. It’s sobering to note that neuroscience has utterly failed to explain how the brain and mind relate. Despite claims, NDEs are radically different from any mental experience caused by brain impairment.