Southern churches pack bodies in during the pandemic; Liberty University reopens with students on campus

On the evening news last night, NBC reported that churches in the South were packing in the flocks—hastening their slaughter, I guess—in defiance of social-distancing regulations. They interviewed one of the preachers urging his flock to assemble to find togetherness, salvation, and (indirectly) the means to a hasty exit via viral contagion. The preacher said something like this: “The church is not a non-essential. It is the most essential thing right now.”

Yeah, right. I wonder if you gave the parishioners a choice between being able to go to church for a few months, with no science being done, or leaving the churches empty and allowing scientists and healthcare workers to do their thing, which would they choose?  Anybody who’s not insane would clearly realize that the most essential things now are epidemiology, science, and scientific medicine. Nevertheless, the megachurches are filling up: a recipe for disaster.

Read and weep (from Bloomberg):

Excerpts are indented:

In Louisiana, which has seen a spike in cases and has a shelter-in-place order, the Life Tabernacle Church in the town of Central held services at 10 a.m. More than 550 parishioners attended, about half as many as the week before, pastor Tony Spell told a local news reporter.

His state’s governor raised alarms Sunday that hospitals in nearby New Orleans could run out of capacity for breathing machines within a week as the state’s coronavirus death toll has climbed to the fourth-highest in the country. “We’re on a trajectory right now where we’ll not be able to deliver the care that people need when they need it,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Edwards, who has limited public gatherings to 50 or under, last week urged “all faith leaders to heed this directive”

According to the article, this kind of insanity is also afflicting Ohio and Florida. In fact, it is insanity of a kind, for here we see faith clearly in conflict with facts, and, of course, faith wins:

Pastor Spell told local news outlet NBC15 earlier this month that he didn’t believe his congregation was in danger of infection. “It’s not a concern,” he said. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.” The church did not respond to request for comment.

How can a virus be politically motivated? Are there red ones and blue ones? Or does he mean that the advice of scientists and doctors was politically motivated? That’s doubly crazy.

It gets worse: some think that going to church makes them immune to infection—but only within the church walls:

The River Church in Tampa, Florida, also held services this Sunday. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne posted a livestream of the services on YouTube, showing the sizable crowd. Howard-Browne said attendees were practicing “social distancing, or whatever” though the crowd appeared to be dense.

“We are not a non-essential service,” Howard-Browne said during the service. “You’re probably going to get infected at some other place, not here.”

The pastor condemned scientific reports about the virus and said that the pandemic was of less concern than the flu, a view that medical experts have disputed. The church did not respond to a request for comment.

Isn’t God empathic enough to recognize that it’s okay to worship him from home? There are online services, you know. And note the conflict between faith and fact again, belying theologians’ claims that religion is not at war with science. Well, now it’s at war with a virus, and faith won’t beat that virus. Science will.

Finally, preachers are arguing that they have a right to assemble in violation of regulations because it’s the First Amendment, Jake:

Solid Rock Church in Lebanon, Ohio, with 3,500 members by one recent count, held services Sunday in defiance of a letter from the local health department urging it not to meet, according to a local news report. The church, in a statement, cited its first amendment right to religious assembly.

No, this is a case where religious freedom must bow to the good of the greater society. Those parishioners who get infected in God’s House are going to leave and infect people who aren’t Solid Rock Baptists. Your right to assemble to worship your favorite imaginary deity stops at the point where assembling can spread contagion to the entire community.

At any rate, all this demonstrates how religion infects everything, and puts the lie to the claim that “true” faith cannot be in conflict with science. The only way that would be the case is if churches like Solid Rock and River Church didn’t represent “true” faiths. But try telling that to the sheep being led to slaughter.

Meanwhile, in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry Falwell, Jr., decided to reopen the conservative and religious Liberty University (founded by his dad Jerry Falwell) after spring break, bringing students and faculty back to campus. Read about it in this New York Times article.

1900 Liberty students came back to campus last week, but 800 have already left (four who were from New York, including one who was running a fever and had a cough, were sent back home). And the school physician, one Dr. Thomas Eppes, Jr., refuses to give Falwell advice to close the school. That’s because Eppes is infected with a different virus: the Goddy one:

For critical weeks in January and February, the nation’s far right dismissed the seriousness of the pandemic. Mr. Falwell derided it as an “overreaction” driven by liberal desires to damage Mr. Trump.

Though the current crisis would appear epidemiological in nature, Dr. Eppes said he saw it as a reflection of “the political divide.”

“If Liberty sneezes, there are people who don’t like the fact that Liberty sneezed,” he said in an interview. “Mr. Falwell called me to listen to a view that wasn’t exactly his. Great leaders do that type of thing.”

Great leaders? In the meantime, the “regular” citizens of Lynchburg are described as “furious”. They don’t want to die. Falwell had earlier assured the mayor that the school would remained closed, but changed his mind; did he get a message from God? And now Falwell is crying that he’s persecuted because his school is conservative and Christian:

“We think it’s irresponsible for so many universities to just say ‘closed, you can’t come back,’ push the problem off on other communities and sit there in their ivory towers,” Mr. Falwell said on Wednesday on a radio show hosted by Todd Starnes, a far-right conspiracy theorist.

“We’re conservative, we’re Christian, and therefore we’re being attacked,” he said.

Michael Gillette, a former mayor of Lynchburg and a bioethicist now working with its hospitals on rationing scarce ventilators, disagrees.

“To argue that criticism of Liberty is based on political bias is unfounded and unreasonable,” he said. “Liberty just did not take this threat as seriously as others have.”

Again we have a conflict between what science says and what conservative Christians say. They cry political persecution, but surely it goes beyond that, because plenty of conservatives who aren’t religious loons are taking the pandemic very seriously.

Finally, the students aren’t going to get full tuition refunds if they leave (they get a $1000 rebate). Some parents of Liberty students, as well as at least one professor, have begged Falwell to close the school. The paper says that his refusal to do so is a mystery.

All of this has left even his critics scratching their heads.

“It’s honestly hard to figure out what his motives are,” Mr. Best, the student who wrote the Facebook post, said in an interview. “If he had purely political motives, he’s being way more conservative than even Trump is being right now. Trump is at least allowing doctors to say their piece. Jerry is not. It kind of shocks me at this point.”

Well, maybe the motives aren’t just political but religious as well. Maybe God has told Falwell to open the campus, for spreading the Word is more important than making some students sick. After all, they’re young and resilient. In the meantime, the students are flouting local regulations and the area’s medical facilities are ill prepared:

On campus, the administration says it is adhering to Virginia’s public health mandates, but students are flouting them. While security guards appear to be enforcing state advisories requiring a six-foot distance from others and gatherings of no more than 10 people, students are still assembling in closer proximity to eat, play sports, study and use dormitory restrooms. Decals slapped on furniture that say “Closed for Social Distancing” have wound up on laptops and car bumpers. Study tables are farther apart, but shared computer terminals remain. While some students are trying to adhere to social distancing guidelines, they live in group houses, pile onto city buses and crowd the few businesses that remain open in Lynchburg.

. . . Lynchburg is particularly ill-prepared to become a hot spot. Hospitals in the region have a total of 1,174 beds, only 55 of them intensive care, according to a recent analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute. Those must serve 217,000 adults, nearly 50,000 of whom are 65 or older. Tests for the coronavirus remain in short supply.

The students are young, so I blame what’s going to happen—and it will happen if viruses behave the way they’re supposed to—on Falwell and the campus doctor. If there are any deaths, put them at Falwell’s door.  But he’ll just shift the blame to the Big Man in the Sky—the man whose will is inscrutable.

h/t: cesar


  1. GBJames
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink


  2. Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    “How can a virus be politically motivated? Are there red ones and blue ones?”

    No, they’re all Red Chinese viruses. Duh. 😉

    “Isn’t God empathic enough to recognize that it’s okay to worship him from home?”

    The God of megachurches and the likes of Falwell? Not so much.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      These so-called religious leaders just aren’t very imaginative. They should have gone with “Turn every home into a place of worship!” Perhaps they feared that they’d never get them back in the churches after the pandemic. Better to have a thinned flock than no flock at all, I guess.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        They prefer the plate be passed in public, where parishioners feel the pressure to pony up in front of their fellow congregants.

      • eric
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        They could have done that, but then the donations would have slowed down. Which tells you what’s really important to them.

        • Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          I’d say the dead don’t donate but they probably do. It will be “interesting” to see if these churches are helped or hurt by the likely high death rate within their flocks. Some will blame the church for misguiding them, some will see it as a sign from god that prayer doesn’t work, but some will undoubtedly double down by claiming that adversity has brought the church community closer together.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            These types of churches are adept at worming their way into their attendees’ wills.

        • chrism
          Posted March 31, 2020 at 6:48 am | Permalink

          They’d do better to follow the historical example of the Anglican William Mompesson and the puritan ex-pastor Thomas Stanley. You probably haven’t heard of them, but you likely know the name of the parish where they worked: Eyam.

  3. Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Anybody seen Omega Man?

  4. rickflick
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Religion poisons everything.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      And infects everyone.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      The list of flu deaths- many of those numbers are taken from a population that had vaccine.

      Corona virus deaths : no vaccine.

      This is all I’m pointing at

      • rickflick
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        I think the flu vaccines produced are based on past versions of the virus or viruses already in circulation at a low level. With corona virus, it may be that it’s more novel and that a vaccine will take longer and be more difficult to produce.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

          Apropos of this, last night I heard an interview on the NPR program “Technation” with Jake Glanville of Distributed Bio on their efforts to engineer monoclonal antibodies to immunize people against coronavirus instead of a vaccine

          Since novel coronavirus is a related SARS virus, they went back to past versions of the infamous strain of the SARS virus and found what they needed there. Fascinating stuff; very exciting.

          • rickflick
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. I’ll pull that up and give it a listen.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        My Comments are going in the wrong places.

        Anyway- I hope everyone understood.

      • phoffman56
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        The whole business of comparing the mortality rates of different viruses (not viri, I guess) comes because of the claims by some, particularly by the monster with daily free time on all the TV news channels to spew his dangerous lies, claims that it is no worse than the flu, by which is meant the common flu. And worse means worse for people’s health in 2020 in US.

        So somehow apparently ‘insisting’ that we must compare the death rates of the Corona virus with the putative case where we pretend there is no vaccine for the ordinary flu (called seasonal) is clearly utterly irrelevant, and virtually impossible to do anyway.

        I realize that has not been advocated explicitly here, but why raise the point in the first place?

        The only possibility I can think of is the red herring of somehow trying to guess how much improvement will happen once we have a vaccine for the present virus. If so, maybe that should be explained–why that could be done theoretically with any confidence at all.

        At any rate, it has nothing to do with trying to convince people to stop putting themselves and lots of other people in danger because they once again are falling for the USian common man’s favourite conman’s dangerous bullshit.

        So, irrelevant, I said in that earlier response.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          Influenza A is s virus. Coronavirus is a virus. I think it’s reasonable to ask how bad a virus is. When doing that, one thing to look at is how many people die from it. When doing this, it is important to think about the conditions which the data were collected in. Then we look at more data from the flu which has lots of data and is sort of an obvious place to look. And so on. I’m confident you, phoffman85, understand that, and we could discuss it if we had time. One thing I’d argue is that if the only thing we discuss is mortality, all we learn about is how many people die. It doesn’t tell us anything more. I can understand that one of the first questions is “what’s the mortality”, because perhaps it substitutes for an answer to “ how likely am I to die from this?” Etc.

          However, I think you’re pointing at a certain individual who is scientifically illiterate, asserting claims about … pfff.. does it matter? I think the system of free speech should correct for things, but at some point I guess it’s misinformation…

          • phoffman56
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

            “,,,does it matter?”

            It matters when a person kills himself with ingesting fish tank cleaner, following the monster’s advice.

            It matters when thousands of people follow the same asshole’s advice to not bother avoiding contagious situations, and some of them die as a result.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted March 30, 2020 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

              … oh, I see.

              Yes of course. I meant that it doesn’t matter what this individual says, it’s likely to be highly misleading. That is, there is nothing that should compel anyone to take what he says seriously.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Poisoning the poison

  5. KD
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Isn’t God empathic enough to recognize that it’s okay to worship him from home? There are online services, you know.

    Online attendance isn’t going to be so high, and you can’t pass the collection plate as effectively. I think if you could convince the preachers that they wouldn’t take a revenue hit & lose devotees if they went online, they would suddenly have a change of heart on quarantines. As Jesus pointed out, you can only serve either God or Mammon, and Chri$$$tianity has been cashing out since the Middle Ages.

    • KD
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      A Rabbi, a Priest and a Televangelist were discussing what they do with money collected at services.

      The Rabbi told the others he drew a circle on the floor, and threw the money in the air. The money that God directed in the circle went to the Synagogue, and the money God directed outside the circle he kept.

      The Priest said that was interesting, that he did something similar, but the money that God directed to fall in the circle he kept, and the money that God directed to fall outside the circle went to the Church.

      The Televangelist was also very interested, and he said he did something similar to the others. He threw the money up in the air. The money that God took from the air went to God, and the money that landed on the floor went to him.

    • eric
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Yes exactly. JAC asks “what’s their motivation?”


      Falwell is playing a game of chicken with his students and professors. If they choose to stop going to/teaching classes, he doesn’t have to pay the profs or refund tuition to the students. So he’s hoping they’ll do it themselves before the state makes him close.

  6. kraeuterbutter
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    If the religious leaders, parishoners and faithful become infected with Corona, they will no doubt call for the best possible medical treatment. If they should not receive it (keyword triage), they or their relatives or will most likely complain bitterly about the evil doctors and scientists.

  7. jknath1
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Well, I guess this is a great experiment to determine if god protects the faithful.

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Maybe the faithful have finally learned about the scientific method – it looks like they’re trying to replicate the results across the country.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Alternately, it will give some control groups to epidemiologists. In order to better appreciate different factors, it’s important to compare experimental (following advices) and control (following faith) groups.

      • Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Won’t work because these people aren’t randomly selected from the general population. For one thing, they pray and are under God’s protection! (Ok, perhaps not.)

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    It’s in the pattern of handling poisonous snakes – in this case though, the victim of religion is led to risk infection by a virus. The ones that survive will propagate the behavior.

  9. kraeuterbutter
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Former RPGNo1 – now kraeuterbutter

    Sorry for any confusion.

    I am still in the process of familiarizing myself with the intricacies of WordPress.

  10. Historian
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    The issue over the churches is a reflection of the wider culture wars that still rage even during a pandemic. The right wing, dominated by the conservative religious, have long held a distrust of what government tells them. Of course, Trump stoked this. Since the government has told them of the dangers of the virus, the conservatives are automatically skeptical. With their anti-science tendencies it doesn’t take much for them to dismiss what the government scientists say.

    Today, the Atlantic posted three interrelated articles on this topic. The first by McCay Coppins provides some anecdotes on how right wingers distrust government and will not accept what it says. The second is by noted political theorist Francis Fukuyama. He presents a scholarly analysis of how trust in government determines in large measure how societies responds to crises such as the current one. He notes that “the United States today faces a crisis of political trust. Trump’s base—the 35–40 percent of the population that will support him no matter what—has been fed a diet of conspiracy stories for the past four years concerning the “deep state,” and taught to distrust expertise that does not actively support the president.” Finally, historian Lawrence Glickman traces the roots of conservative anti-government sentiment back to the New Deal. The conservative rhetoric then as now is that government intrudes too much in the lives of people. And what can be more intrusive than the government telling people to stay at home and shut their businesses?

    So, perhaps we should not be surprised that many of the religious still flock to their churches. Religious fervor combined with an anti-government ideology provides them with the rationale to risk their lives. Even the deaths of many of their friends and relatives are unlikely to change their minds.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      That lack of trust in government in the U.S. is the key as well. The cult is trained to believe in nothing coming from the government. That will insure a terrible outcome.

      Hallelujah and on to ignorance. Keep the church cash registers ringing.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      It is a macabre study of our primate nature. When faced with an external threat, our species will retreat to their belief system and defend it nomatterwhat. One can see that in every debate everywhere. But this time… Yikes.

    • eric
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I fully agree. What we’re seeing here is the price of toxic political tribalism.

      For years, right-wing leaders have been convincing their followers not to trust the mainstream, not to trust the media (except themselves), not to trust science, not to trust organizations such as the EPA, CDC, etc.

      Well, it worked. This is it working. This is what happens when you sow such deep distrust within the community.

      • A C Harper
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I think you will find that *some* left wing leaders have also been building victim identities and conspiracies too.

        This is not just a problem for the USA, although the tribalism is perhaps greater.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Sure. But the question is how dangerous are the respective sides’ beliefs?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      The American rightwing appears to be retreating to the reactionary heyday of the John Birch Society, known for its virulent anti-fluoridation campaigns.

      The “Chinese virus” posturing is of a piece with the Bircher brand of xenophobia as well.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    It’s not political but of course the 1st amendment takes precedent – no exceptions. Somehow I’m surprised the 2nd amendment wasn’t asserted as a defense for this.

  12. YF
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Make America Not Stupid Again

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      You need a big brain for the slogan to fit on your cap, too.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Whatever chance I get, I try and evangelise about Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’s utterly brilliant Hulu 2016 Election Special. It is sublime…

      Robert Smigel is absolutely brilliant at gently making fun of Trump supporters.

      Note also this video, which made me lose my breath when I first watched it:

      • JezGrove
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        That was great – I’m looking forward to his re-election minority neighbourhoods visits later in the campaign now! 😄

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted March 31, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          The guy behind it, Robert Smigel, is fantastically talented, and that whole Hulu election special was sublime and criminally underrated.

          There’s a particularly funny bit that Triumph does with some very, very PC college students; he has a lot of fun with how nervous they all are about saying the wrong thing…

  13. Harrison
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I saw someone describe conservative denial and obstinance in the face of clear and present danger as “MAGA Political Correctness.”

    It’s politically inconvenient to acknowledge the dangers that Trump has denied so they’d rather get sick and die. And I’d be fine with that if they weren’t endangering other people as well.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The Rightwing employs its own version of “political correctness” — any concession regarding reproductive rights, gun control, a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, religious exemptions from neutral laws, or higher taxes on the rich subjects a member to virtue-shaming and shunning by the rest of the tribe.

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        And believing in climate change.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          Yes, of course, that one, too.

          The Right also has its own form of (literal) virtue signalling — whaddya think those crucifixes dangling from chains around their necks, the flag lapel pins, and the ostentatious praying before governmental convocations is all about?

          • Mark R.
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            Yes, cults love their symbols.

            When I see someone wearing a crucifix nowadays, I can’t help but think “nice torturing device you got there”. I first heard the phrase from Dawkins, and it stuck.

            • JezGrove
              Posted March 31, 2020 at 4:08 am | Permalink

              Yup, if Jimmy Jesus did put in another appearance I’m not sure what he’d make of seeing that thing everywhere.

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Natural selection at work.

  15. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I think that Mr Fallwell should be taken into protective custody, not to protect himself, but his congregants.
    With such a large congregation the chances of there being some CoVID’s present is extremely high.
    All congregants should be tracked down and tested.
    The dismal testing in the US might be the cause of the US becoming the worst CoVID 19 country in the world (while on paper it was the ‘best prepared’).
    The dismal testing is the result of a chain of unlucky and incompetent (if not some irresponsible malice) ‘events’ that one would think one could only find in a comedy film.

    From the Netherlands (where this dangerous ‘herd immunity’ approach was only recently abandoned) we get some very worrying news, confirming our worst suspicions:
    (Note that the scale of the graph is logarithmic, if it were linear the US would stick out horrendously).

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Sorry, the italics were only meant for “extremely”.
      When oh when will we get an ‘edit’ function?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      “Baker Acting” Falwell and tracking down his congregants for enforced testing would doubtless feed into the rightwing’s preexisting paranoid style.

      That’s not to say I disagree. 🙂

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        It was actually done in the Free State after a religious gathering of about 300 with 5 Covid-19 carriers. They tracked more than 1000, since including other contacts.

  16. Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    More Covid-19 deaths in Flint, Michigan than all of Canada. Seriously.

    The difference? I think it’s responsible government at all levels acting on medical consensus first followed by policies to mitigate economic concerns. A work in progress.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Sorry, looking at city projections. My bad. Still, the point remains that public policies have a huge impact on results and, when they are consistent, places like megachurches here have empty parking lots.

    • phoffman56
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      But still, Canadians’ 2 deaths per million population is 4 times better than USians’ 8.
      Those numbers are far more meaningful, especially now, than anything involving the number of verified infections.
      And they are independent of the population size, and will do nothing but increase with time for all countries.
      However, the “4 times” could change a lot, especially since it came here a bit later maybe than to US.

      • EdwardM
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        “But still, Canadians’ 2 deaths per million population is 4 times better than USians’ 8.”

        That number doesn’t really say anything about mortality. To determine how lethal a virus is, the denominator should not be the entire population but rather the population of infected people.

        • phoffman56
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          I did not say it had anything to do with the mortality rate of the virus.
          I replied to the original poster, who certainly seemed to be raising the topic of the relative effectiveness of the steps taken by the two countries, the relative environments and health systems of them as well.
          So it is not only related to the mortality rates in the two countries, it is exactly that number at the present time, modulo the accuracy of the data.
          The number will become vastly larger for both countries in the next few months. Living in Canada I hope the ratio goes from 4 up to 40, by us doing better, not US doing worse. But that’s out of the question. As I implied, the 4 ratio will most likely decrease somewhat IMO.
          And both will be much worse than the numbers for Norway and Germany. Universal health care and concern for the elderly, anyone??

          • EdwardM
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            If your point was fewer infections mean a smaller problem, well yeah. That’s true.

            • phoffman56
              Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

              No, my point is fewer deaths per million population of the country.

              Lowering the rate of infection will of course help that.

              But also helping that would have been, for example, not kicking out of the hospital without testing, that now dead uninsured California teenager, if, as likely, it turns out his death was caused by this virus.

              • JP415
                Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

                I just read about that. I hope the family of the victim files a big lawsuit. That will make hospitals think twice about denying people treatment.

              • EdwardM
                Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                The story is complicated. The young man did have insurance but he and his father (who was also sick) went to an urgent care clinic (NOT and ER) at a managed care facility where they tested positive for corona virus. However, they were not members of the managed care facility so their insurance wouldn’t cover treatment there. They were referred to a hospital a short distance away that accepted their inusrance and could treat them for suspected COVID-19. On the way there the boy went into cardiac arrest and died. His death is not considered COVID-129 related and rather from an underlying and un-diagnosed heart ailment. As a result, the CDC no longer counted his death as one of the COVID-19 related deaths in LA County.

                That’s where it stands now. I am sure the huge legal battle to ensue will muddy things even further.

              • phoffman56
                Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for the interesting details.

                There is apparently now some evidence that the corona virus caused deaths, or less, mistaken for ‘standard’ heart attacks–no blocked arteries found for example, but virus had attacked something in the heart (muscle(s) I think).

                The young man may be such a case, maybe not.

                The general point is that insurance ‘worries’ could be a factor in differences between US and other so-called Western countries, once we finally get past this and the data is more reliable. Might be hard to discern this, in particular to differentiate it from differing government policies with respect to battling the virus, and also non-policies but millions being taken in by nonsense lies on TV from the conman of the millennium.

      • phoffman56
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Just looked again at the ‘Worldometer’ stats, updated every hour I think. The 8 deaths per million is now up to 9, perhaps to 10 before we sleep, if we can, tonight. But anyway, that it increases is a matter of logic, since the actual population may as well be regarded as constant over a few months’ time span.

        And sorry to joke in present circumstances, but rising from the dead has gone out of style in the last 2000 years.

        I’m getting over my limit here, sorry.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s responsible government at all levels acting on medical consensus first followed by policies to mitigate economic concerns.

      Either that or the people of Flint have incurred the wrath of the Good Lord Almighty by affronting Him with something like issuing gay-pride parade permits. Could be one or the other.

  17. phoffman56
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “The pastor … said that the pandemic was of less concern than the flu.”

    Likely no one reading here needs this below
    (sorry for the negation of the stupid internet ‘needs, headline!). But something struck me which led to getting these reasonably accurate (I think) numbers, for US, maybe US/Canada, unlikely wider except the bottom two.

    For not-too-big digits I’ll write

    @wine flu pandemic(2009)……….2

    Seasonal flu………………….10

    Hong Kong flu (1968-9)…………50

    1918 pandemic…………………200



    Sars(2002-4) GLOBAL!……1,500

    Mers(?2018, Middle East)..3,430

    So 34 deaths is of less concern than 1 death if it means any trouble for Drumpf, does it Mr. God-flogger??

    IN 1968 I was temporarily living in Hyde Park (Chicago, where famous people like Obama and Jerry Coyne have lived and worked). I got that Hong Kong flu from work, my wife and then my 2-year old boy and 1 year old girl all caught it. Now it feels scarier than then looking at that number, but it was no fun. So I got the others, hopefully accurate.

    • phoffman56
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Swine, not @wine. How’d that happen??

      • JP415
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        “@wine” would make a good Twitter handle. (If it hasn’t been taken yet.)

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      One important fact when looking at coronavirus vs. flu :

      Vaccine- flu has one. Corona virus no.

      So all those deaths from flu underestimate the mortality of flu.

      • phoffman56
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        But surely the important statistic is the actual rate of mortality, not what the rate would be had science not helped us.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          I don’t follow

          A vaccine will prevent deaths. There’s a vaccine for flu. Therefore deaths due to flu – given the usage of a flu vaccine- are less than they would be if a vaccine wasn’t available.


          • phoffman56
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

            Right, but relatively irrelevant here. Right?

          • Posted March 31, 2020 at 5:01 am | Permalink

            I get your point, TP.

    • EdwardM
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Your numbers seem accurate. We now know the mortality rate for this coronavirus ranges from about 0.25% to about 3% depending on locale.

      • phoffman56
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        And so that makes it anywhere from 25 to 300 deaths per 10,000 infections, again being patronizing, sorry. But there are likely a few who find that comparison helpful.

        The lower number would make the old Hong Kong flu worse. But I’d bet that, unfortunately, it will be well over 100, maybe over 200 in the ‘end’, whenever that finally comes, for us northerly North Americans.

        Drumpf’s only possible miracle would be if a vaccine occurred very much sooner than likely, combined with a ‘flattening the curve’ in the popular jargon, which of course the genius putative scientist understands completely, but cannot suppress his internal monster.

  18. Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Criminal! Dangerous & stupid.

    What just might get thru their thick skulls are the issues of accreditation, insurance claims, and opening themselves up to lawsuits. Maybe that will get them too backtrack.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      When you can’t do anything to stop them, you can look to the bright side: less people to vote for Trump.

      • Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        It may seem that way but spreading the virus quickly means more people – not just Trump supporters but front line health care workers specifically – are infected across the board, meaning a larger number of people needing ICUs at the same time, meaning overwhelming these units for all, meaning higher number of unnecessary deaths.

        Obviously, not catching the virus is preferable, catching it later when anti-virals might be available for treatment is also preferable, and having access to a vaccine is even better. And wee little me figured that out without claiming a PhD relative boosts my ability to understand this Covid-19 risk assessment.

  19. dd
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Rod Dreher, an Orthodox Christian, writes about this same topic and is worth reading…one of the big churches is his home town. Apparently, many of these churches are Pentecostal.

  20. dd
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    BTW, it’s not just the religious who are flouting this, as we know. In Dallas parks and trails may be closed because people (including many, many young people) are not maintaining social distance.

    • GBJames
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      It is true that religion is not the only source of irresponsible behavior.

      • Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Yeah but nobody maintained that, least of all me. I do claim that religion is a reliable source of irresponsible behavior.

        • GBJames
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          “dd” pointed it out and I was agreeing with him. I don’t think anyone is disputing that religion is a major (the primary?) source of irresponsibility in this pandemic.

  21. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    That lack of trust in government in the U.S. is the key as well. The cult is trained to believe in nothing coming from the government. That will insure a terrible outcome.

    Hallelujah and on to ignorance. Keep the church cash registers ringing.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Here in Germany Merkel’s approval rating has shot up to 79%. I am glad to live in a country where the government can be trusted. (Trump’s approval rating here was around 13% late last year — and that was before he was caught trying to steal that vaccine.)

  22. tomh
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Happening all over.

    Choir practice turns fatal.
    Richard Read,LA Times, March 29, 2020

    On March 6, Adam Burdick, the choir’s conductor, informed the 121 members in an email that amid the “stress and strain of concerns about the virus,” practice would proceed as scheduled at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

    Nearly three weeks later, 45 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or ill with the symptoms, at least three have been hospitalized, and two are dead.

    • EdwardM
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Sad but it’s an object lesson not a comeuppance; this occurred before the restrictions on groups meeting were in place. From the article you cited;

      “But Skagit County hadn’t reported any cases, schools and businesses remained open, and prohibitions on large gatherings had yet to be announced.”

  23. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Goes to show that COVID-19 isn’t the only mass contagion. This seems evidence that there’s a religiously induced mass delusional disorder, or folie à plusieurs, loosed upon the land as well.

    Hope that, if and when these folks get really sick, they seek relief in revival tents rather than hog the limited bed-space available in make-shift hospitals employing our scarce supply of ventilators.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the Lord will breathe life into them, and normal people use ventilators, sounds about right?

  24. Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    “Or does he mean that the advice of scientists and doctors was politically motivated? That’s doubly crazy.”

    Yes and yes. Trump’s hoax meme from early in the pandemic, also echoed by Fox News, took hold with many of his followers. Even though both Trump and Fox News have changed their tune, the faithful (to God and Trump) haven’t yet got the message. Evidently they’re waiting for God to deliver it personally in the form of pestilence and, for some, death.

    • eric
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      What’s the old saying? You can’t reason someone out of an opinion they didn’t reason themselves into.

    • Harrison
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Trump and Fox are trying to play it both ways: The virus is simultaneous not as big a deal as everyone says and libruls are just using it to tank the stock market on purpose to hurt Trump, but also Trump is a big hero doing everything humanly possible to save us from this awful virus.

      Hell, they’re still trying to defend his attempting to shut down flights from China nearly two weeks AFTER the virus was already here and claiming it’s the durnblasted libruls that wouldn’t let him do it that doomed us.

      Even though, as I said, the virus was already here. Two weeks earlier.

    • Mark R.
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      If anyone is actually following Trump, they wouldn’t know what the hell is going on. He changes strategies/personas every other day; I guess to see what sticks. It’s a liberal hoax; then there’s only 15 cases soon to be zero; then he’s the wartime prez and it’s going to last until July/August; then a cure is coming; then he’s the best prez ever for shutting down flights from China which saved countless lives; then it will peter out by Easter; then millions would have died if he hadn’t acted and 200,000 deaths won’t be so bad because of his greatness; now the virus is bad again and the Easter talk was “aspirational”. Since the beginning, it’s been a complete shit-show. Then this weekend he’s accusing New York health officials of stealing masks; I wonder if he realizes it’s one-mask per patient. There’s never been a time that makes this fact so clear: there is only one thing Donald Trump cares about, and that’s Donald Trump. What a wreck of a human being, and he’s doing a good job pulling us all down with him.

      • Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        They say Trump’s opinion is often based on whoever he talks to last, though presumably that person has to also say nice things about him.

        As to Trump’s initial claim that the virus would all be over in a couple of weeks, a New Yorker article claims that he was influenced heavily by

      • Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Many say that Trump often bases his opinions on whoever he last spoke to, though it probably also requires that the person say nice things about him.

        According to the Washington Post, by way of the New Yorker, Trump’s initial take on the virus being over in a couple of weeks arose thusly:

        “Conservatives close to Trump and numerous administration officials have been circulating an article by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, titled ‘Coronavirus Perspective,’ which plays down the extent of the spread and the threat.”

        • Filippo
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

          Well, the gentleman, a lawyer, certainly seems confident in the rectitude of his opinions. I’m curious how economist Thomas (“Tradeoffs,” my nickname for him) Sowell, also of the Hoover Institution, views the coronavirus situation. (Too bad his mentor, Milton Friedman, is not here to lead, guide and direct us on the matter.)

      • JP415
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        I have friends who are convinced that Trump is a strategic genius who operates according to some kind of long-term masterplan. His constant flip-flopping and denials lead me to believe that he’s just flying by the seat of his pants — I can’t see much coherent planning going on with him, unless sowing chaos and confusion is some kind of deliberate strategy. Who knows? Trump’s mind is impenetrable.

  25. Greg Geisler
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Apparently as of Friday, a dozen Liberty U students have symptoms of COVID. Cause and Effect much?

    I suggest that if they need their church-goin’ so badly that they agree to stay locked in there for the duration. We’ll deliver them food and toilet paper and if they get sick they can just pray it away. Form a big holy human centipede for all I care.

    I don’t normally watch CNN but I have kept it running in the background on my computer and I have to frequently mute the audio when this comes on:


    • Claudia Baker
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Fucking moron.

      • darrelle
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Came here to say the same, but you beat me to it.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink


  26. steve oberski
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Well, they may want to consider this:

    From ProPublica:

    People With Intellectual Disabilities May Be Denied Lifesaving Care Under These Plans as Coronavirus Spreads

    Disaster preparedness plans in Washington and Alabama say people with cognitive issues are a lower priority for lifesaving treatment.

  27. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Where are your Sophisticated Theologians now, the ones who complain we non-believers always present a caricature of the religious?

    • darrelle
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      William Lane Craig’s got their backs. By definition anything their god does is good and moral. Therefore people dying from COVID-19, even Good Christians, is a good thing. If they had the courage of their convictions Good Christians everywhere would be out licking public toilet-bowl rims.

      Putting on my theologian cap the obvious explanation to me is that their god is offering certain especially worthy folks a special once in a lifetime opportunity to jump the regular queue and go directly to meet their maker. It would be a sin for any Good Christian to refuse His offer by following expert recommended measures to ovoid getting the instrument of their shortcut to heaven.

      • A C Harper
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        True… although by that argument ‘Good Christians’ should avoid all medical intervention to keep them living longer.

  28. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I was just told about two categories of retail business that have been allowed to stay open, being deemed essential. They are: marijuana outlets in Washington state (and I guess in other weed-friendly jurisdictions); and gun shops. Something for the Left, something for the Right. On this logic, if megachurches remain open, then perhaps colleges should reopen, not for classes, but just for demonstrations against
    colonialism and patriarchy in the curriculum.

    • JP415
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Weed dispensaries are open, libraries are closed. Only in America!

      • EdwardM
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        For people who need it, marijuana is an effective medicine for a variety of serious ailments. Books are handled and passed around, by hand. Libraries should be closed. Weed stores should be open.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          Gives a whole new meaning to “Hey, man, it’s me, Dave. C’mon, open up.” 🙂

          • EdwardM
            Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            Well, look what happened to everyone on board the Nostromo. Except Sigourney, of course. They should have listened to her.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      My wife dabbles in real estate and she told me real estate offices have been deemed essential also. I can see that sales that are in-process must be dealt with but not beyond that. They probably have a strong lobby.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        I am currently in the process of purchasing real estate and I’m doing it almost completely remotely. Risk is negligible. I’m sure there are some aspects of the industry that would not work quite this way.

        • Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that makes sense. My wife said that some open houses were still … open. I don’t see how that makes sense though perhaps there are some desperate sellers which means bargains for buyers. Hmmm.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Denver mayor ordered liquor stores and weed joints to shut down at dawn. Within a very short period of time, the lines at such establishments were hundreds of folks long. Shortest mayoral directive ever!! Weed and alcohol definitely essential.

  29. Posted March 30, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I think this church of reprobates heard the Chosen Orangeness wax poetic about wanting to see the churches filled at Easter. They must not have got the latest memo that the order for social distancing has been extended to April 30.

    This is reckless endangerment of the community at large, and these people just earned a serious shunning.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      In that case they undershot the mark. Ain’t even Palm Sunday yet.

      • Posted March 31, 2020 at 12:11 am | Permalink

        I realize that, but they are an overzealous lot, eh. And the church heads are very greedy too.

      • Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        Also, it’s Lent, isn’t it?

  30. JezGrove
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Whatever happened to “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be like the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of by men […] But thou, when thy prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray into the father which is in secret…”?

    • GBJames
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Superseded by “When thou choosest, thou shalt pick the cherries which does thou the most advantage.”

      • JezGrove
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        The gospel according to Matthew (effect), Mark (scam victim), Loot, and….

        • Posted March 31, 2020 at 12:12 am | Permalink

          .. Johns.

          • JezGrove
            Posted March 31, 2020 at 4:21 am | Permalink

            Of course! “Follow the money!”

  31. Roger
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    This is what happens when dumb as a rock virus meets idiot brain virus. Dumb as a rock virus comes out looking like a genius.

  32. Posted March 30, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    A scene from a plague and pestilence movie, possibly Life of Brian if it weren’t so real and lives at stake.
    Power, money and a dreary intellect are at play, imprisoned by faith and an over arching sense of importance.
    Plonkers and bonkers…

  33. Eli
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    In Florida the pastor holding services got jailed already.

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      He better start praying for an earthquake – it worked for Paul when he was imprisoned in Philippi. (Yeah, right…)

  34. Mike Anderson
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Florida Pastor (aka “Florida man”) arrested for violating large gathering rules:

    • JP415
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Ha, the infamous Florida Man strikes again!

  35. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    The neo-Confederate, white-nationalist League of the South has announced that it is keeping all its offices, national and state chapters, wide open and will be holding its national convention as scheduled in June, coronavirus or no damn coronavirus.

    Reassuring to know you can always count on the right-wing fever swamp to maintain its social distancing from reality.

    • Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Hopefully this flock will also be seriously thinned. Think of it as voter suppression.

  36. Paul
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this post and your site in general. Public commentary on atheism seems to have waned a great deal, and I appreciate someone willing to be openly critical in a thoughtful way.

  37. J Cook
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Nonothinism, a traditional American value. These churchgoers are going to find a ‘rapture’ of a totally unexpected kind.
    The decline of religion accelerated.

  38. Jimbo
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I do wish that every adult, especially Falwell, who endangers naive youth in this way gets COVID-19, I really do. Further, I wish that when they belatedly realize the stark consequences of their stupidity and beseech the scientific community for effective treatment that we could turn them away with a simple reminder that “they’ll have to go back to their church and pray and their fate is in God’s hands now.” This might sound harsh but if Falwell contracted COVID-19, I think I would actually prefer that he succumbed to it, not out of any hate for the man or even out of disdain for his religion, but there’s an ethical case to be made that he must be stopped. His guidance to students and parishioners will factually lead to the death of a number of them and their relatives so I view this as an evil and homicidal act like a slow-motion school shooting that requires interdiction to spare innocent lives. If he can be so immoral and callous as to endanger scores of students’ lives by coercing them to take their chances with the coronavirus, then I can require that he must likewise take his chances with the virus in the ethical hope that it stops him to save them.

    If people can get the wrong genetics (i.e. genetic disease through no fault of their own) to shorten their lives, I suppose they can also get the wrong mimetics to do the same. The only difference is that one can change one’s memes.

    • Lee
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      “I do wish that every adult, especially Falwell, who endangers naive youth in this way gets COVID-19, I really do.”

      My hope (and prayer, were I religious) is that such people will be held legally accountable for reckless endangerment, and when people die because of their negligence, for manslaughter. There are limits to freedom of speech if that speech is likely to cause imminent harm. What Falwell is doing and saying is a textbook case of that, it seems to me.

      Let the lawsuits commence. That’s the only form of counterargument to their misplaced faith people like Falwell understand.

  39. Mark R.
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    One thing’s for sure, Jesus is going to feel really lonely on his big day. Poor Jesus… Though the church leaders are more afraid of the financial fallout that will occur with the cancelling of Easter. I must admit a touch of schadenfreude at the thought of Easter being cancelled.😷

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Someone better quarantine the Easter Bunny before it becomes a super spreader!

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and I hope people don’t start hoarding eggs! I wonder how many eggs are wasted every Easter. Don’t do it people!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Easter — celebrating Jesus’s having come out of three days of shelter-in-place quarantine.

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink


      • G.
        Posted April 4, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Funny is funny. +1

  40. Posted March 30, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    IIRC, Falwell stated that they had opened dorms and dining facilities to students that wished to return, with many having no alternative housing. Overall occupancy was ~ 10% of the 15,000 capacity.

    I also recall reading that facilities usage either had been, or was being monitored by public safety.

  41. Vaal
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    How many ways can evangelicals demonstrate religious-born idiocy? It seems bottomless.

  42. Keith
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    The two billion Christians around the world are surely all praying to the God of the bible for the corona virus to be eliminated from Earth immediately. Every day they pray.
    And surely the collective power of two billion people praying for the same thing must be staggering….yet the virus continues to spread. So, in the mind of the Christian, what is prayer accomplishing?

    It just boggles my mind.

  43. Filippo
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Re: the arrested Florida pastor: It strikes me that it is no less legitimate that any one of the adult flock be arrested. (Unless one holds/concedes that the flock is somehow beholden to and compelled by the pastor to gather together.) Also, seems that adult members who are parents could be charged with child endangerment.

    Seems (even more) the same for a social gathering. Don’t see how the organizer/host should be the only one charged.

    If I may impose a bit:

    On pg. 1 of the 3/30/20 NY Times is a big article raking China over the coals for another coronavirus response failure. On pg. 6 is an article about China manufacturing and shipping a lot of protective gear to the U.S. (Of course, online one cannot make a distinction – or an inference of comparative news priority – between pg.1 and pg.6.)

    Strikes me that the Times is scraping the barrel in trying to get in additional digs at China. From the pg. 1 article:

    “As the United States, Europe and the rest of the world struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, China has cast itself as a model [a another dig, IMO], bringing down a raging outbreak to the point where the country has begun to lift the kinds of onerous restrictions on life that are now imposed around the world.”

    Re: “onerous.” In its reporting at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, the Times referred to the restrictions as “draconian.” Will the Times be referring to “draconian” U.S. restrictions? I suppose that it is progress of a kind to go from “draconian” to “onerous.”

    (The same with its repeated use of the locution “Chinese propaganda.” No doubt there is Chinese propaganda, but, I don’t recall the Times labelling Trump’s comments/lies as “propaganda.” What would Trump have to say to qualify as propaganda?)

    I suspect that it must set the Time’s collective teeth on edge to have to report the Chinese aid to the U.S.


    As of this morning:


    U.S.: 164,388 3,163

    China: 82,240 3,309

    • JezGrove
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Off topic, but the origin of the word “draconian” is interesting. Draco was the first Athenian law maker to implement a written legal code, replacing the old oral one that could be twisted to the advantage of influential citizens. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the punishments that he introduced were shall we say a little harsh (stealing a cabbage was punishable by death), hence his name has become a byword for severe measures.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink


      “The U.S. death toll passes China’s as questions mount about some countries’ statistics.”

      If I read this article correctly, it links to another article in support of skeptical questions about the accuracy of China’s statistics:

      Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see anything in this second article questioning the accuracy of China’s coronavirus statistics.

      At the risk of seeming petulant, I’m not all that surprised that the NY Times coincidentally references such questions about China’s statistics in conjunction with reporting the U.S. surpassing China in deaths.

      Let’s say China’s reported statistics are suspect. Surely there is some higher Chinese death figure which the Times (and the U.S. and the world) will accept as reasonably accurate, and prompt it to accept (what I speculate will be) the reality that the U.S. death toll is or will be greater than China’s(based on the accuracy of current – and evolving – projections).

      Of course, it’s possible (likely?) that the Times, and anyone else so inclined, can always (conspiratorially?) claim that no one can or will ever know for sure about the accuracy of Chinese statistics.

  44. Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    This is a shame. Literally the last thing I read online before this story is this uplifting XKCD

    It turns out the viruses are overestimating us.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Good one.

  45. Hempenstein
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    A longer list. I had heard the Spradlin story, and spot-checked a few others, all of which ring true. :

    1.) Two weeks ago, Pastor Landon Spradlin of Virginia posted a meme comparing the number of Covid deaths under Trump with the number of flu deaths under President Obama. The meme indicated the difference is mere media manipulation, pointing out the media’s “mass hysteria” over Covid deaths and “chill” over flu deaths.

    Pastor Spradlin then traveled to New Orleans to save souls from the debauchery of Mardi Gras. Upon returning he became ill, had some difficulty breathing — and died. His wife Jean is in the hospital with pneumonia in both lungs.

    I wonder, as he was gasping for his last breath, if it occurred to him that Covid might actually be worse than the flu.

    2.) Twelve days ago, on Sunday, March 15, when services should have been called off, Pastor Robert Burt of Danielsville Baptist Church near Athens, Georgia held a “foot washing,” a service where congregants wash each other’s feet in a show of humility. From the picture posted on Facebook, it appears only Pastor Burt was washing feet.

    The next post from Danielsville Baptist Church is dated March 23, one week after the foot washing service:

    “Pastor Burt has tested positive for Covid 19. Please pray for us all during this time of uncertainty. He is in Piedmont Athens in ICU and on a ventilator. Thank you for your prayers.”

    3.) Pentecostal Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, 20 miles north of Jimmy Swaggart’s Pentecostal church, defied the “no congregating” order and held an in-person church service five days ago on Sunday, March 22.

    He drew a crowd of more than 1,800 defiant people who believe God will protect them from the virus, just as my Pentecostal brethren believe God will protect them from the venom, when they reach into a wooden box and draw out a handful of rattlesnakes and copperheads and dance and shout before Almighty God.

    The crowd was too large to fit into the sanctuary so they held the service outside, congregating physically close together for both the service and the lunch that followed. Nine of them were baptized, each fully dunked in the same water.

    In a few days, we’ll see if Pastor Spell miscalculated, as the Appalachia Pentecostal snake handlers often do.

    4.) Pentecostal Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay held a “snake handling” service, leading his congregation in a time of intentionally shaking hands because “we are not pansies.”

    Only a few letters difference:

    Shaking Hands
    Snake Handling

    5.) In Chicago, 43 people at Life Church of Glenview are currently sick, with 10 having already tested positive for Covid. The sick are in their twenties to forties — 80 young adults attended a March 15 service with a guest speaker. Pastor Anthony LoCascio says he did give some thought to canceling it, but didn’t.

    6.) Pastor Mark Palenske and his wife Dena are among the 37 infected Pentecostals at Greer’s Ferry First Assembly of God in Cleburne County, Arkansas, where three have died, including sweet little 91-year-old greeter Bill Barton whose official job was to shake hands with everyone who came through the church doors.

    7.) Widow Carrie Dry made a Facebook video imploring people to heed warnings:

    “A temporary restriction of movement is far less intrusive into anyone’s life than losing a loved one. It’s very dark right now. Oh, so dark.”

    Her husband, Rev. Merle Dry who worked both at Metro Pentecostal Church in Tulsa and Oral Roberts University, was healthy, 55 years old, sheltering in place, and had posted a cute video of his stash of Oreos. He fell sick with Covid Tuesday, March 17 and died Wednesday.

    8.) After testing positive for Covid, Pentecostal recording artist Sandi Patty also recorded a Facebook video striking directly at Trump: “This is not fake news,” she wrote in her post.

    9.) Hillsong is a mega multi-continent Pentecostal church based in Sydney, New South Wales. Justin Bieber attends its New York satellite location where 41-year-old Pastor Carl Lentz just tested positive for Covid.

    10.) Matthew Broderick’s sister, Rector Janet Broderick, is the former pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. She tested positive for Covid after returning from CEEP — Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, held in Louisville, February 19 – 22.

    11.) Also positive for Covid after attending CEEP:
    a.) Father Robert Pace, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas;
    b.) Rector Brad Whitaker, pastor of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chattanooga;
    c.) Rev. Roy Cole, pastor of Manhattan’s Church of the Epiphany;
    4.) Pastor Timothy Cole of Christ Church Georgetown in Washington DC, who was in physical contact with hundreds of people before testing positive.

    12.) Dr. Anthony Chandler, pastor of Cedar Street Baptist Church of God and Dr. Lance Watson, pastor of Saint Paul’s Baptist Church, both in Richmond, Virginia, notified the 1,500 people who attended their joint conference March 8 – 11, that a positive Covid patient was amongst the attendees.

    13.) Associate Pastor Javier Castaneda of The Worship Center in Lubbock, Texas has tested positive.

    14.) Ditto for Pastor Eli Morris of Hope Church in Memphis.

    15.) In Goodrich, Michigan, Pastor Ben Gonzales and his wife and “several” members of the First Baptist Church of Goodrich, have all tested positive for Covid.

    16.) More than 1,000 people weekly attend Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, West Virginia. Pastor Kevin Deming is positive for Covid; he just returned from leading a group on a tour of The Holy Land. All boxed up together in planes and busses.

    17.) Pastor John Drage heads The Rock Campus Church at the University of Missouri. He’s positive, too.

    18.) There are 18,000 members of the Seacoast Church in Charleston where Pastor Josh Walters has tested positive for Covid.

    19.) At Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pastor Paul Roberts and two parishioners have tested positive.

    20.) Pastor Tony Shirley of New Manna Baptist Church in Marion, North Carolina and his wife Becca have both tested positive for Covid.

    21.) As has Lead Pastor Dan Nold of Calvary Church in State College, Pennsylvania.

    22.) Ditto for Senior Pastor Eric Elnes of Omaha’s Countryside Community United Church of Christ.

    23.) Three members of the congregation at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin have tested positive.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      This is the perfect time to pull out the quote of the century:

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted March 31, 2020 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Clearly god is punishing these people. It’s not clear why, but my bet is impure thoughts. That pastor that went to Mardi Gras? He wasn’t there to save people, he went there to look at tits.

  46. Stephen Wilson
    Posted March 31, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    You can’t fix stupid. We can only hope Natural Selection takes it out…good start, REVERENDS!

  47. g.
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Point taken. But as much as educated northeasteners and Chicagoans enjoy making fun of those religious rubes in rural areas (especially if they have southern accents), aren’t Bill deBlasio and Andrew Cuomo the pastors of the biggest megachurch of all? The church showing the largest outbreak in the US? (I’ll plead guilty to whataboutism, in advance.) Religion may make you believe dumb things. But it’s not the only cause.

    “We want to encourage NYers going out. If you’re under 50 & you’re healthy, which is most NYers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy.” – deBlasio, February 10th.

    “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see ‘The Traitor’. If ‘The Wire’ was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.” – March 2nd.

    And why leave Nancy out of the fun. The high priestess of wokeism says Corona virus is bad, but not quite as bad as being considered a racist: “But that shouldn’t be carried over to Chinatown in San Francisco, I hope that it’s not that. But all I can say is, ‘I’m here.’ We feel safe and sound, so many of us coming here.” – Feb 25th.

    (h/t Hitchens)

    • phoffman56
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      “..I’ll plead guilty to whataboutism..”

      You’d be more accurate right there to plead guilty to statistical and factual ignorance. Wait awhile, and we’ll see what happens in various other regions compared to what has happened in NY state. And we won’t chortle like you seem to be doing, but won’t hesitate to assign blame where it is deserved.

      Your last quote (Pelosi) is so completely out of context as to be worthless.
      The middle one is from whom?
      And the first, from deBlasio, has been much criticized already, often by his own people. But additionally here, there has been a huge difference in knowledge about the virus, at least in the US, between the time of his quote of Feb. 10 and almost two months later, with the dangerous idiocies from the Governors of Florida and Georgia.

      Those latter two guys have undoubtedly been labelled “rubes” in the past. But right now this is deadly serious, life or death for many thousands, not time for ‘rubiness’ nor “chortling”.

      • G.
        Posted April 5, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        No, I’m definitely not chortling. I don’t chortle when my fellow citizens are dying. Perhaps you should direct your accusation to those who might be chortling about the southern pastors. Did you see any comments that contained elements of “they deserve it” in them? That was the point of my post, which you seem to have missed.

        And where, exactly, do you see statistical and factual ignorance in my post?

        The situation should be less acute outside of NYC because NYC is 3x the population density of the next most densely populated area in the US, San Francisco. And given its cosmopolitanism, was likely exposed earlier and more deeply saturated with the virus. We’ll see.

        The middle quote is from deBlasio as well.

        • phoffman56
          Posted April 5, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Good, I accept your claim of non-chortling and withdraw that.

          As far as the ‘they deserve it’ people, I would interpret such a remark in a more sophisticated way, e.g.:

          ‘I hope not a single person from now on dies from this virus. This of course is a hope which won’t happen. If it doesn’t, the death of a pastor who leads many people to their deaths is one I would prefer to see happen in place of almost any one of the 170,000 USians who will very likely die of the virus. That pastor deserves that death much more than almost all of them.’

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted April 5, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

            Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgement. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. -Gandalf, to Bilbo, in Lord of the Rings *quote is not verbatim – from memory *

            • phoffman56
              Posted April 5, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

              Speak for yourself.

              You are the one who sees “dealing out death and destruction” in my remark. Maybe read it again??

              Many are unable, and the rest mostly unwilling, to say what they fear will happen. If you are one of them, fine. If not, let’s hear what you expect to happen.

              Scientists should not have too much fear of being wrong, and then later admitting it.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted April 5, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                I point it out as a passage from a story, worthy of reflection in this moment. As a work of fiction, it is not 100% congruous to real life. Yet, the story suggests a thoughtful view.

                I do not accuse you of anything here, or insinuate anything, though superficially I understand one could conclude that. Again – the quote, and it’s setting within that story, I reach too in this moment.

              • phoffman56
                Posted April 5, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                You say “I do not accuse you of anything here, or insinuate anything, ..”

                referring to your own post, replying to mine, and beginning “Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgement.”

                May I humbly beg to know what that last is supposed to mean, if it’s not a ridiculous accusation of some kind? Were you speaking to some childrens’ fictional character, and not to whom you were replying?

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted April 5, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

                The quote is addressing the notion that somehow we could manipulate outcomes so that certain deaths benefit others. In the case of the church goers, at first it seems to me they should get Darwin awards. However, reflection suggests it’s not so simple.

                I’m honestly attempting to contribute ideas to the mix to understand the problem. It is likely a tangential attempt. The quote is a favorite of mine, and suggests that even when it seems dire, it might be OK to take out Smeagol. Indeed that’s how Tolkien wrote it. Gandalf changes that.

                At worst, part of your comment suggested the quote to me. So I put it there. Perhaps I could have kept it separate. So – how about I apologize to you for the suggestion that it was about you? I’d be glad to do that, I mean, I don’t really have any personal problem with anything you’ve ever written.

              • phoffman56
                Posted April 5, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink


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