Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Useless Power Of Magic Words

This morning I came across a clip of long-time American megachurch pastor Kenneth Copeland praying against COVID-19.

Having been a former Charismatic who believed that material reality could be affected by psychically-transmitted thoughts, or by saying certain words with the right amount of belief and emotional conviction, the following video reminded me of a past I'm not too proud of:



Twenty years ago I was the kind of person that when faced with a challenging situation, I would have done something lot along the lines of what Kenneth Copeland was doing in the video above - said specific words that I believed had some sort of unseen influence or power over a situation that was beyond my immediate control. And in some cases, I would have performed specific actions tied to those words to add extra strength to the magic.

Yes, I believed Satan understood my Australian version of English so that when I stood in faith on the word of God by saying the magic words of belief and emotional conviction, Satan was not only listening, but he was scared of and compelled to act in line with what I was saying because by saying the magic words of belief and emotional conviction, it enabled me to have authoritative control over the (allegedly) second strongest supernatural force in Christendom.

Yes, I believed sickness (especially cancer) had an underlying intelligence behind it (whose explanation lies in the supernatural) that allowed me to speak English words and that the sickness in question was under my control such that it had to listen and do what I said.

And yes, I also believed that performing actions/mimes while praying caused those actions to translate in to the supernatural realm. So if I acted out crushing the head of an imaginary demon (typically named after the malady I or my fellow congregants belived it was causing, because in Fundie world, names are important) then that demon would literally have his head crushed by my foot in the supernatural, thus ensuring its defeat.

So when Pastor Copeland talks like he has some high-level control over a highly infectious disease while looking down a camera, wearing an expensive suit, receiving affirmation from his lackeys and making blowing actions, he is doing what religious people who have uncritically accepted an unjustifiable and untenable interpretation of reality do - they pretend.

Let's think about it and ask some hard questions:

Does Kenneth Copeland honestly think the coronavirus is just an anthropmorphic blob that even has the capacity to listen to a human voice?
And what specifically about his voice and his faith makes him think that his prayer will work over and above the prayers of thousands of other Christians?

What if the coronavirus doesn't understand English? Given the coronavirus originated in China, who is going to be the translator for the coronavirus?

If there is actually a demon behind sicknesses such as coronavirus (as some Fundamentalists believe), shouldn't someone go tell the World Health Organisation? A proven spiritual cause behind COVID-19 would be groundbreaking and revolutionise medicine as we know it.

And what does Satan have to do with the coronavirus, anyway? Does Satan suddenly have the capacity to genetically engineer a novel virus, then sneak it into a market in the middle of China?

Furthermore, why does Ps. Copeland think that heat will kill the virus? If it did, then how and why have places like Singapore, Iran and Indonesia, some of the most uncomfortable places on earth climate-wise, been hit hard?

Everything about Ps. Copeland's understanding of epidemiology and disease is completely wrong.

I'm sorry to say, but being a man of faith does not mean you are correct or should be trusted about everything you say. 
And I'm also sorry to say that in all these magical words of belief and conviction, as well as mystical actions, Pastor Kenneth Copeland is literally pretending.

And how can I say he is pretending? Firstly, because I used to do the same pretence myself. The only differences between a 22-year old me and Ps. Copeland are a good-looking suit and a few million dollars. I was firmly in his theological camp. 

And secondly, because all of his pretence and all of my pretence and all of the combined pretences of all the Charismaniacs all over the world has not and cannot be shown, to any reasonable or scrutable determination, to have made any material difference to reality except inside their collective heads.

The coronavirus that Pastor Copeland prayed against at least a week ago still exists, is still infecting and killing many more people, has returned to China where it originated, and has now jumped species. And ironically, the highest number of daily deaths at the time of writing is coming from America - the home of Creationism, the home of Televangelism, the home of Fundamentalist Christianity.

So whatever Pastor Kenneth Copeland has tried to do, it has obviously failed.

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Until next time, stay home and stay safe, listen to the the advice of trained health professonals, and let's do what we can do help our health workers lighten their load.

-Damien (quiterationaldad@gmail.com)


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