“Belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion.”

“Christian fundamentalism is often fatalistic. As far as many evangelicals are concerned, life passes quickly, suffering is temporary and worrying solves nothing. That’s not a view that comports well with long stretches of earthly time spent waiting out business closures or stay-at-home orders. It should be no surprise that a person’s deepest beliefs about the world influence how they measure the risks they’re willing to take.” Gary Abernathy writing an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

 

“Belief in an 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.” Stephen Pinker, A Harvard professor and public intellectual tweeting about what Abernathy wrote.

There has been a Christian and anti-Christian war of words, though not always words but actual violence on both sides, ever since 33 AD, or for you moderns CE. In the Twentieth and going into the Twenty-first Century it has flared up again as we see in the above quotes, but now, too, not just in words as above but actual violence and death as seen in the killings of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Abernathy speaks of “fundamentalist” Christians but I’m afraid he equates all Christianity as fundamentalism, as does Pinker in his writing. My friends at Merriam-Webster gives this as the second definition of fundamentalism: “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.” Typically the word is used with religions and Oxford Dictionary gives this definition: “a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.”

Now this first definition by Oxford and the first definition by Merriam-Webster that I didn’t quote but says the same thing (except it leaves out Islam) are totally misleading in that they pick out religion, and in particular Christianity, when fundamentalism can equally be found in every movement whether political or social or cultural. When members of an ideology, whatever that ideology is, take a hard line about their beliefs acting in a way condemning anyone who disagrees with their interpretation to be enemies of truth, and who want to force the world into their so-called truth, are fundamentalists.

Abernathy wants to be a little kinder to Christians and writes: “Christian fundamentalism is often fatalistic.” But while fundamentalists are often fatalistic, it’s also true that evangelicals let their Christian faith confuse them (because it’s other-worldly) and so inappropriately argue against “business closures or stay-at-home orders”. In other words, evangelical Christians are willing to risk returning to our freedoms before the risk is not there anymore.

Pinker, on the other hand, just knocks all Christians over with this statement: “Belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion.” No distinction here between fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist, every believer is in a “malignant delusion”. Every Christian is an evil fundamentalist. We who believe in an afterlife, and that would take in most religions, because of that belief “devalue actual lives”. In other words, we don’t give a crap about anyone living, all real meaning is in the afterlife, which, of course, Pinker doesn’t believe in. And not believing in such a thing Pinker devalues anyone who does, but worse, they are malignantly delusional spreading that delusion.

In a world where you make everything about politics nothing, but politics has meaning. Political correctness is itself a fundamentalism. I could also say it’s become a religion in that it’s an ultimate belief paradigm—it’s the answer to every question and must be rigidly followed. So we sick bastard Christians who want us to get over ourselves and go back to work, go back to church, meet and greet everyone as brothers and sisters as is our nature, care nothing about the risks (as the State is telling us) of us all contracting coronavirus and dying. It’s that damn Christianity we hold to that is really hurting us all.

I can’t account for all the variation of beliefs Christians hold as you cannot account for all the different beliefs non-Christians hold. There are always wrong-headed people spouting off nonsense. But speaking from inside the Christian community, Abernathy and Pinker have judged us from their bias, not ours. Because we believe the fundamental natural rights that built this nation to be true today as when our Founders put together this nation, that’s both a religious statement and a political one; government is to protect those rights not take them away. Certainly not when the rational for doing so is flawed, and we believe it is flawed. When you react out of panic your decisions will always be flawed, unless tempered with rational thinking and common sense.

I don’t know any Christian (though I suppose there are some) who believe the coronavirus isn’t seriously deadly. But modern technology and medicine will keep it from becoming the Black Plague destroyer it was. This being so panic shouldn’t be our first response. And yet it became our first response, and it remains our first response and the media are pushing that narrative.

Recently I’ve posted a number of responses to how we Americans are treating the Covid-19 pandemic because our response has been fear driven leading us to take draconian measures not necessary. I didn’t say we shouldn’t do anything, just that our reaction went too far. I’ve argued that the actual data doesn’t support how far we went. One response to this is that we are just downplaying the “whole situation, 96K + deaths is one too many.”

“One is one too many” is an interesting phrase that we’ve all probably used at one time or another, even our President used it. The sentiment of the idea is righteous, one is one too many and it seems mean spirited to make an argument against it. In terms of coronavirus that one person died, let alone that in the United States 95,000+ have died, is tragic. I don’t want to deflate this sentiment by saying that one person is one too many who were killed by a drunk driver, shot, had a heart attack, had cancer, fell off a mountain, or slipped in a bathtub killing themselves, but it’s equally true here, one is one too many. We can’t solve dying by taking away everything that kills us. Yet we are trying to do that here with coronavirus. While one person thinks that “we are just downplaying the whole situation” when we challenge the data, I believe we are “uplaying” an honest use of data, so we don’t get trapped by the misuse of data into a false narrative that doesn’t serve a commonsense response. That’s not denying the deaths, it’s also valuing the living.

Bringing this back to Abernathy and Pinker who charges that Christians are both devaluing the dead and the living by challenging our draconian response, we’re trying to look at this pandemic through common sense lenses, not out of fear and panic. We agree that one death is one too many, but we can’t get to that. What can we get to without destroying the lives of everyone as we are now doing? To put it somewhat crassly, what we are doing is like trying to put out a match with a firehose when an ounce of water would have done the trick without all the water damage the firehose caused.

This is not irrational. It’s not devaluing people. It’s not delusional. It’s common sense. It puts into perspective reality and doesn’t pit one sense with another sense but tries to fit them together in workable ways. Again, common sense.