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A sacristan prepares the altar for a livestream Easter service at a church in Seattle. Sacristan Michael Seewar prepares the altar for a livestream Easter service at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, April 12, 2020 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

What Religion Can Offer in the Response to COVID-19

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

An article published earlier this month in the largest English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, the Daily Star, inadvertently revealed a lot about different perspectives on religion’s role in society, including during the coronavirus pandemic. The writer argued that religious actors play a “vital stabilizing role” during such global crises and can “offer a beacon of hope” amid “the ravages of this pandemic.” But in the comments, a reader took a starkly different stance with what he called “a rude question”—a few of them, in fact.

First, can faith and science go together? Second, how can faith actors help when they fight among themselves? Third, can faith actors think logically and rationally about the pandemic? The comment went on to say that having fixed beliefs “predetermined” by some higher power made one “irrational.” It concluded with a blunt suggestion that the article’s author “keep your religion to yourself and don’t mix it up with common-sense and science, especially in these difficult days and when the whole world is in turmoil with COVID-19.” ...

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