Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Blame for the Coronavirus

To no one’s surprise, the coronavirus has triggered the search for scapegoats.  The usual suspects top the list:  God.  Jews.  Some devious military group.   

No doubt, the wanted list will grow.

Might as well start with the big guy.  To religious fanatics, God is “punishing” humans for failure to 1) believe what the fanatics believe; 2) follow the rules the fanatics employ and/or 3) some other human mistake. To them, anything that happens – weather phenomenon, earthquake, pestilence etc. – must come from God and so is taken as direct communication from heaven.

That’s a decidedly mixed message.  For one thing, the devout invariably suffer right along with nonbelievers.  No study has ever found that the pious avoid problems shared  by all humanity regardless of belief or ethnicity. 

The Bible may have such a story regarding the Jewish exodus from Egypt, where lamb’s blood smeared on a door somehow saved occupants from the angel of death.  In real life, the Grim Reaper isn’t that picky.  Good people who prayed fervently died during Katrina, Sandy, massive floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.  When terrible calamities occur, no one in the path is immune.

As for blaming Jews, that has a long history.  Jews were credited with starting the Black Death some 700 years ago, for example, not  the bacteria carried by fleas hitchhiking on rats. As a result,  Jews were slaughtered with the usual cruelty and lack of common sense, since they also died during the plague.

Antisemiticflyer after 9/11
The same kind of irrational accusation arose after 9/11, despite the fact Jews were among the more than 3,000 victim of the World Trade Center (et al) tragedy. 

As for some military research escaping and infecting the public, that was said about AIDs, which actually jumped from chimpanzees.  A friend at the (now shuttered) farmers market insisted the coronavirus was the result of a Chinese Army effort gone awry, ignoring the obvious fact that the Chinese were the first affected. Or that such deadly concoctions cannot be limited to a single population, which was the problem with mustard gas in World War I and why such weapons quickly fell out of favor. 

The idea is to kill the enemy, as General George Patton noted, not to die.  Unfortunately, pathogens can’t distinguish between friend and foe, so no sane government would willingly concoct or release such a weapon.  In fact, the U.S. has destroyed half of its stock of chemical weapons. .A desperate country might not be so farsighted.   Iran and Syria have used poison gas in recent times.  The danger, both countries quickly learned, was not limited to one side.

Mustard gas surrounds a soldier.
My friend read about the Chinese Army's supposed misbehavior on the internet, so it “must” be true.

Wrong again.

The real truth is that viruses mutate.  They mutate all the time, as does every other living thing, including humans.  Viruses are amazingly athletic, jumping easily from one species to another.  In this case, from wild animals in a Wuhan to humans.  This virus happens to be particularly virulent.  Others are not.

Treating the coronavirus requires new research because it’s a mutation.  Existing remedies won’t work. 

Nor is this a novel situation. Our bodies are loaded with virus DNA, which merged into our genes and made itself a home.  Humans exist in their present form because of viruses.  We can’t live without them.  Most are benign.  A few are not.  Only a handful are deadly.

No divine figure or human agent is needed for the process to work, and never has been.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. He is the author of the recently published novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.