Wednesday, November 24, 2021

COVID: A New State Religion? By Tim O’Brien

 What started as a virus quickly became an epidemic and then a global pandemic.  The spread of a contagion laid the groundwork for what has become an industry, and it’s now morphing into a religious ideology with all of the familiar trappings.

In just the third quarter of 2021, Pfizer reported its sales rose to $24.1 billion, up 134 percent from a year ago, thanks in large part to its COVID vaccine. The company said it anticipates sales of COVID vaccine to top $36 billion in 2021 and $29 billion in 2022.

For its part, Moderna reports that it anticipates vaccine sales of $17 billion in 2021 and an increase to $22 billion in 2022.

Johnson & Johnson has stated that its COVID vaccine sales will come in around $2.5 billion for 2021.

That’s a total of $55.5 billion in vaccine sales for 2021 just from the three biggest providers of vaccines in the U.S. And this does not include a wide range of products, services, and industries that have cropped up to service the nation’s and the world’s COVID needs.

From makers of masks, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and ventilators, to major pharmacy companies paid millions to distribute vaccines, COVID has become a major industry.

Making an Industrial and Power Complex

Politicians and bureaucrats at the local, state, and federal levels have seized on the COVID crisis to achieve unprecedented levels of power through vaccine mandates, lockdowns, restrictions, and of course, overnight changes to election procedures.

Then, there is the public health sector. These are its glory days. Epidemiologists and other public health figures, who used to have to explain what they do for a living to their closest friends at cocktail parties, now don’t have to do that. They can simply tell friends and family to look for them on the evening news. Yes, they may have gotten into the field for altruistic reasons, but if you don’t think they are relishing the attention, you’re deluding yourself.

COVID is a new field of study, complete with federal grant moneys to analyze every aspect of COVID, so long as the research does not detract from the approved narrative.
Allowing the pandemic to run its course through herd immunity, and oftentimes inexpensive and widely accessible treatments no longer appear to be an option, if it ever was. Remember, “15 days to slow the spread?”

COVID is an industry. It’s here and it’s not budging. But it’s more than that. It’s also an ideology with all of the accouterments of an established religion.

The Baptism of Vaccination

The COVID vaccines are widely understood to be ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus. So, why the relentless emphasis on turning society on its head over flawed vaccines?

Like Christian baptism, the vaccine is the baptism into this new faith. The waters of baptism don’t physically clean one’s soul of sin any more than the vaccine can completely prevent contraction of COVID. In the ideological context, it’s a symbolic rite of passage into the faith.

Once injected, you can count yourself among the faithful, unlike the “unvaccinated” who are the COVID ideology’s equivalent to atheists circa 1400 A.D.  It’s okay to shun them, demonize them, discriminate against them, even deny them life-saving healthcare. In fact, you have an obligation to do so, so they learn their lessons and step in line. Otherwise, they will be made an example.

It doesn’t matter that they may have their own religious objections, they may have personal medical histories, or they may even have natural immunity from the virus which is much more effective at preventing spread.  What matters is that they can be dubbed “anti-vax,” a term that coincidentally or not sounds uncomfortably similar to “anti-Christ.”

To the faithful, if you’re unvaccinated for any reason, you’re selfish, you don’t care about others. You’re putting yourself before the majority, before the faith.

The Rites of COVID Ideology

Just as Catholicism has its rites in the form of seven sacraments, the COVID ideology does, too. One is the booster shot. If you were vaccinated a year ago, but have not yet gotten your booster shot, you are at risk of being labeled “unvaccinated” once again. Do you want to risk that?

Of course, once boosted, you have the privilege of knowing you are ‘born again.’

This new ideology even has the rite of confession. Were you asked by your employer, or the front office at the football stadium or basketball arena to disclose your vaccination status? How much different is that from the Catholic rite of reconciliation?

The practice of faith often involves sacrifice. The COVID ideology is not without sacrifice. Since adverse effects of the “safe and effective” vaccine are “extremely rare,” the burden is on you to take the risk. If you are one of those who contract chronic heart problems, permanent neurological disorders, or some other life-altering condition, that’s the sacrifice you must be willing to take for the good of the ideology.

COVID’s High Priests

Of course, no faith would be complete without its high priests, the most visible one being Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is routinely asked by leaders and journalists to bless one activity, behavior, or medical treatment over another. A legion of people seeks his final approval or disapproval on behaviors that until now were considered un-sinful. Some may even regard the pontifical bureaucrat as infallible.

He's not alone. There is an army of COVID clergy with titles like “public health director,” “governor,” “mayor,” “human resources director,” “Silicon Valley billionaire,” “editor,” “producer” and “reporter” all of whom are the keepers of The Word when it comes to COVID. Each has front-line authority to make decisions on the enforcement of COVID ideology.

To counter The Word or the narrative of this new faith is to be guilty of the sin of “misinformation,” punishable by banning, censorship, and denial of “communion” in the word’s most literal sense. The only way to regain access to the congregation is to recant.

If you belong to an established faith that holds dear the original Ten Commandments as handed down to Moses from God, you may recall the first one, which says, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.”

Keep that in mind, because you may be asked to choose. The God of our fathers, or the god of COVID? Just know that the god of COVID is a jealous god.

Tim O'Brien is a veteran corporate communications consultant and crisis communicator who operates O’Brien Communications in Pittsburgh. Twitter: @OBrienPR