Overheard (June/July 2021)
I’ve never seen anything begin to approach . . . the divisiveness that we’re seeing, but also the distortion of reality. There’s so much distortion of reality and complete misinformation out there that, you know, if it wasn’t so serious and have such a negative impact, it would almost be funny. But it’s not funny.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the level of misinformation that has arisen from the pandemic.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison announced it would file a lawsuit if any North Dakota school district displays the Ten Commandments. If opponents of the law, Senate Bill 2308, are correct, the state will lose the case. The state likely would incur legal costs regardless of the outcome. It’s an effort by legislators to impose their beliefs on everyone. . . . There are many ways schools can instill values in students without selective use of religion. . . . Legislators are trying to score points with voters while playing what they know is a losing game. The public deserves better.
Newspaper editorial: “Bills inviting legal action usually bad.”
Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune, 4-29-21
I want to make it clear, this law does not take away the choice of parents to make medical decisions for their children. But, if they do choose not to have their children vaccinated, this bill best ensures that other children and their families will not be exposed to these deadly diseases for hours each day in our schools.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, after signing legislation that would end the state’s religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations beginning in the 2022 school year.
Hartford Courant, 4-28-21
At this time, it appears more of the [conspiracy] theories are traveling in politically conservative circles, which corresponds to the higher percentages in the churches led by white Protestant pastors.
Scott McConnell of Lifeway Research.
Sojourners, June 2021
Imagine if the prime minister was a hardline atheist giving speeches about political matters at an atheist convention that he or she wanted to keep from the wider public. . . We have a right to know what ideas guide the actions and decision-making of those who stand for public office.
Meredith Doig of the Rationalist Society of Australia, explaining why her group released video of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech to Australian Christian Churches conference, where he talked about “the evil one” and “laying-on of hands” and talking to God.
Christian nationalists take the view that because America is a “Christian nation,” any party or leader who isn’t Christian in the “right” way, or who fails to conform to their agenda, is illegitimate. Legitimacy derives not from elections or any democratic process but from representing an alleged fidelity to their version of the American past and what they believe is the will of God.
Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers, as quoted in the article, “A Pennsylvania lawmaker and the resurgence of Christian nationalism.”
The Atlantic, 5-9-21
The best available weapon we have is to counter the information with facts, is to keep pressing for more information, because it’s in the area of facts that moral panics tend to collapse. They just get ridiculous, except for maybe a very small number of true believers who can tolerate an enormous amount of dissonance.
Sociologist Mary de Young, author of The Day Care Ritual Abuse Moral Panic, and how the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, when false accusations of the abuse of children in satanic rituals spread across the United States, is not that different from what QAnon members believe. Adherents of QAnon think that a shadowy cabal kidnaps children, tortures them and uses their blood in satanic rituals.
I am optimistic that this shared experience [of the pandemic] will increase trust in vaccines and in the man-made, not God-sent, miracles of medical science.
Columnist Nina Burleigh, author of Virus: Vaccinations, the C.D.C. and the Hijacking of America’s Response to the Pandemic.
The New York Times, 5-19-21