Candy Apples and Razor Blades: The Detoxification of Religion
Recently I saw my family’s pastor say the following on a livestream: “I believe the cure for COVID-19 lies in the synergy of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine.”
He was parroting Trump, who said the combination of hydroxychloroquine and axithromycin “have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains — Thank You!” while the publishers of the study said the following:
“The study was a complete failure… it was pathetic….” — Art Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine.
Who can blame someone who listens to the president? Who wouldn’t want to believe the leader of the free world is a smart man who has the nation’s best interest at heart? There’s a catch though: the person with whom he’s disagreeing is one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases. It’s not a matter of opinion.
He’s endorsed yet another baseless conspiracy theory that has gotten people killed. Yes, people who took hydroxychloroquine along with azithromycin just as he instructed have already died, not to mention the fact that people who need these drugs for malaria, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and infections can’t get them anymore, because supply has been bought up by Trump supporters. Both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are serious drugs that can easily stop your heart. Well there is little evidence to prove that he stands to gain from spreading such misinformation financially, it is certainly not grounded in good science. It’s false hope, and it’s lethal.
Is this just another case of misinformation racking up a body count? Or is there something more fundamental at stake? Why is a religious leader in Florida echoing these lethal falsehoods?
Because of his spiritual conviction, he trusted the word of a civilian over that of a doctor with regards to medical advice. Who else believes God tells them to listen to a civilian over a doctor in life-or-death situations requiring medical expertise?
When given conflicting opinions with regards to medicine, always listen to the doctor over the pastor. It is a simple case of, how do you say,
Stay in your lane.
Or is it?
This pastor apparently believed that God was a better source of information than science, implying that God and science can disagree. This belies a fundamental misunderstanding of both God and science.
If God created all the information that science discovers as well as science itself, how could he and science ever disagree? Of course a single scientist or even a few or even many scientists might be completely wrong, but by the nature of its systematic avoidance of bias, the consensus of the scientific community at large becomes very special: it becomes a reliable source of absolute truth.
At first glance, it’s understandable that one might weigh the opinions of Trump and Fauci equally. Presupposing the divine right of kings, one might naturally tend to value Trump’s opinion infintely more than Dr. Fauci’s. Only with a firm grasp of the natures of both God and science can one discern how He reveals absolute truth.
In 1 John, when the Bible talks about the Word, it uses the Greek word logos for a reason. God designed us to understand Him. His actions are mysteries of course, but they can be demystified in limited yet powerful ways. He wants us to undertake the insurmountable challenge of learning the language He used to speak the universe and humanity into existence. He spent 13.7 billion years developing our powers of understanding to reward us with something that can ground us, even in a pandemic: absolute truth.
The most fundamentally vital part of the relationship between God and science is they can never disagree, if the science is done properly. Of course it’s fallible, but it’s a system specially designed to read the secrets God has hidden in realms as wildly different as deep spacetime and the human bloodstream. It reads the secrets of the fabric of the universe like a laser reads a CD. How could the secrets ever disagree with the one who wrote them, if the author is good?
Your religious leader and your doctor disagree. Your religious leader and your architect disagree. Your religious leader and the scientific consensus of the entire scientific community disagree. Who do you listen to? You decide, but I recommend the educated choice.
Religious leaders have been telling people wrong stuff for millennia. When Pope Benedict XVI says condoms spread AIDS, when your priest says “you know you wanted [to be raped],” and when your pastor says “hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can treat COVID-19,” keep your head on straight. Discover the truth for yourself.
Be a skeptic, not a victim.