Whether we are religious or investing our hopes in scientific research, for many of us, this period of upheaval is changing our attitude to beliefby Eve Willis / April 16, 2020 / Leave a comment
In the tenth plague of the Book of Exodus those who did not want their firstborn to die smeared the blood of a sacrificial lamb on their door, so God—hands cold with wrath—would pass their home over.
I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in plagues. But if I thought that it would lessen the chances of someone I love dying of Coronavirus, I would smear the blood on the door. Every night I watch the 5pm press conference, and lurch between panic and dread. Why are more people driving, slick with germs? Why are cases rising in the Midlands? It makes me want to gnash my teeth and rend at my hair, Old Testament style. I increasingly fear that this pandemic will make a believer out of me—temporarily, at least.
Science—not religion—is what will end this crisis. We don’t need blood on the door, we need a vaccine. For the bulk of us who know nothing about medicine we smile blithely, with a baffled respect for it, assured that—as if by magic!—it will grant us long lives. Like faith in god, this demands you serenely accept that which you cannot see, hear, or touch. We simply have to trust those with expertise, as we should. But in an era when faith in experts is diminished, this might prove difficult for many. You don’t need me to lecture you on fake news. You get the picture.
This isn’t helped by the dead-eyed pragmatism that a pandemic demands. When doctors talk about ‘triaging’—including giving priority care to those with a higher chance of survival—we shudder. Number 10 have categorically denied that strategist Dominic Cummings said of herd immunity that “if that means some pensioners die, too bad.” Regardless of what was or wasn’t said, the story took hold because it hooks into the whispered fear that scarcity of resources will force us to make choices that seem practical now, revolting later.
We need badly to maintain our trust in the present strategy and coming cure, but terror loosens the senses, and sometimes it feels like we are fruitlessly blundering in the dark, with no end in sight. Our situation, we are told, is “unprecedented.” There is no real timeline. Stay inside the…