Gods, microbes and men

| March 15, 2020

Greek Orthodox churches across the country will allow congregations of hundreds of people to sip wine from the same spoon during mass because “the holy cup cannot carry disease,” according to the Archdiocese.

Greek Orthodox priests dip a spoon into a chalice of wine and place it into the mouths of parishioners, as part of communion during mass. The spoon and chalice remain the same throughout the ceremony.

A spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, Steven Scoutas, said anyone showing signs of illness should stay away from church gatherings.

“But once we decide to go to church, we believe there is absolutely no possibility of contracting disease from the holy cup,” he said.

“We believe that no disease or illness can exist in holy communion, which we believe is the body and blood of Christ,” Reverend Scoutas said.

South Korea

This is important issue for Australia, as thousands of positive cases in South Korea have been linked to Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious group which has a cult-like hold over its followers.

The South Korean outbreak centered on Daegu, a city of 2.5 million in the country’s southeast, after a 61-year-old Shincheonji congregant — known as Patient No. 31 — infected fellow worshipers during services.

Shincheonji not only banned protective masks at its services and continued prayers in close proximity but its leaders have been accused of deliberately withholding information about its membership.  This hampered health authorities’ efforts to trace and test every person who might have come into contact with someone infected with the virus, allowing the virus to spread in the community.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that almost two thirds – 63.5 percent – of all confirmed cases in the country were “related to Shincheonji.”   Indeed Shincheonji’s founder might even face murder charges for his role.

After initially denying any culpability, the group eventually apologised for its role in the outbreak, and says it’s now co-operating with authorities, but Korean health officials say some members still refuse to be tested.

Iran

Such religious dogma is not confined to Australia or the Christian church.  Satellite images appear to show evidence of mass burial pits in Iran to accommodate a growing number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, as experts question Iran’s official death toll.

A series of images showing the excavation of a new section of graveyard in the city of Qom — the epicentre of Iran’s COVID-19 outbreak — that began around February 21, just two days after Iran reported its first cases of coronavirus, were first published by the New York Times.

Closed minds can’t fight Coronavirus

Recent psychological surveys have shown that a higher proportion of men join the priesthood with a need or desire to control or lead than with other professions. This is easy to understand because a priest is, in fact a leader in the spiritual field.

However, conversely the spiritual area is by its very nature, rather vague and undefined. Everyone’s idea of ‘God’ is different simply because the concept is virtually impossible to determine – is he/she a god of the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy or the universe? What do we call him/her? Jesus, Buddha, Allah or whatever?

It is one thing to be a leader but another to be broad-minded enough to accept and assess both the opportunities and challenges that beset the movement or the followers.

One thing we are now becoming aware of is that the priestly class is incredibly inept in the political arena. Whenever a country comes under priestly leadership the police and military tend to be called in to subdue riots, people are incarcerated for political crimes and opposition parties are banned.

Politicians who are very religious tend to dither and vacillate when presented with ethical or moral dilemmas. Historically, religion has been the causus belli from the crusades onwards and yet the majority of the populations of all countries have shown that religion is a necessity – not just as ‘the opium of the people’ but as a psychological necessity.

We all need to know that there is a reason for us to be here and that something is there for us after death. The ‘what’ is that which keeps us sane.

I  believe that the British concept of keeping politics and religion apart is the only one which is viable in the long term.

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