Lockdown makes no exceptions for belief. In March 2020 the now iconic image of Pope Francis praying to an empty St. Peter's Square hit the headlines. For the religious, it soon became emblematic of solidarity in isolation. Mass gatherings are now out. Places of worship, prayer groups, pilgrimages, weekly rituals and door-to-door evangelism have now been outlawed in many countries. It may be many months before Covid-19 ceases to be a threat. When it does, how will it have impacted religion?
It will weaken religious beliefsShow moreShow less
As millions die, so will the belief that there is a higher power looking out for the pious.
The growth in false 'cures' promulgated by religious leaders worldwide will destroy the trust people have in their faith. The examples of this dangerous practice are everywhere. In Iran, pilgrims were encouraged to lick Shiite Muslim shrines to protect themselves from infection. In Myanmar, an exulted Buddhist monk claimed that ingesting three palm seeds and a lime would grant immunity.
Meanwhile, in Argentina, the well-known pastor Héctor Aníbal Giménez exploited the virus. Encouraged by wanton greed, Giménez sold bottles of hand sanitiser at premium prices. He told his 30,000 followers that using the gel would immunise them against the virus..
These false claims could have potentially lethal consequences.
Believers place their trust in religious leaders. Those people are meant to act as their spiritual guides and create a stronger connection between the believer and their philosophy. This relationship depends on trust.
The rising number of these leaders - across all religions - touting false remedies is eroding this trust. In many cases, without it, there is very little to keep the believer in the faith.
In one shocking case, the Texan TV preacher Kenneth Copeland used a fake cure to boost his ratings. The televangelist claimed he had healed viewers through his sermon, asking them to touch their TV screens for immunisation..
As these scandals come to light and the credibility of these leaders is damaged, so is the belief of their followers.
These examples are outliers, and do not represent a trend amongst religious leaders. Religion, like any sector, will always be wracked with scandals. Such is the nature of any group of scale. A small number of crackpot examples cannot speak to the wider group.
[P1] Belief depends on trust between leader and follower
[P2] Leaders are touting false information
[P3] Followers lose trust in leaders
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] Belief does not depend on trust between leader and follower