A key to understanding our current predicament is the extent to which Covid has come to resemble a religion. Covidanity, as I call the new religion, has all the rituals, superstitions, sacraments and shrines of traditional religion, and for many people, Covidanity has given their lives a new source of meaning and purpose. Once you realise this, it is much easier to understand why Covidanity has taken such hold of Australia and why a recent survey showed that 20% of Australians want permanent lockdowns and restrictions to remain in place. Many people simply do not want to give up their new religion, and their faith is unlikely to be shaken by ordinary rational arguments.
The Covid-19 virus is the god of Covidanity. Vengeful and wrathful like an old-testament God, we must fear the virus’ wrath if we ever fail to follow Covidanity scripture. It’s unsurprising to hear the Covid virus now spoken of in supernatural terms: the “beast”, which spreads at lightning speed and which might infect us without us ever realising.
At daily mass (the press conference), our modern-day priests (premiers) stand before us and speak in hushed tones about this “wicked virus”. Before it, we must all bow down in worship and become good Covid-fearing citizens.
At these mass services, priests announce the daily case numbers like biblical psalms and read from Covidanity scripture, the health reports and modelling. Covidanity prayers are recited to give us comfort in times of need: “We’ve got this”, “Staying Apart Keeps Us Together”, and “Let’s crush this thing”.
The cardinals of Covidanity are the chief medical officers and health experts. They issue the canonical gospel – the health advice – which must be enacted without question by the priesthood. And like Moses on the mountain, they declare the commandants of Covidanity. Thou shalt social distance, thou shalt wear a mask at all times, thou shalt check in with the QR code. These Covid commandments issued by the clergy cannot be questioned, of course. As Covid-fearing citizens, we must simply obey. If we are told not to touch a football flying at us, then so be it. After all, we bear the original sin – we may possess the virus – and as Priestess Gladys recently informed us, we should assume always that we carry the virus. Only through suffering in lockdown isolation, can we redeem ourselves from this original sin.
The hand sanitiser station is the holy water of Covidanity, used to ward off the virus. Rubbing sanitiser into our hands like crossing ourselves at church. We wear cloth masks, one of the central superstitions of Covidanity, like a crucifix around a neck to identify as adherents of the religion. The Covid test is the holy sacrament. A nasal swab is administered upon us, like a priest might have once placed a communion wafer on our tongue. And while a communion wafer may have brought us closer to God, the Covid test helps us learn whether Covid is already within us.
Every religion needs its objects of devotion. For Covidanity, the healthcare workers are our saints. In Melbourne, a shrine was built in the Botanical Gardens with the words “Thank You Healthcare Workers”, and a holy “Thank You Day” was declared a public holiday in October last year. In Britain, people stepped out of their homes every week to clap into the night sky for healthcare workers. A shared moment of devotion to our new sainthood. In Melbourne, it is not unusual to see people carrying religious objects, such as tote bags with Brett Sutton’s face on it.
Finally, and most importantly, we have the “Covidiots” – the apostates and heretics of the new state religion. Apostates are held up for ridicule and swiftly punished in the Covidanity state. The media play their role here too, posting photos of “heretics” – those enjoying themselves too much outside when they should be engaged in proper lockdown suffering. Prominent heretics face excommunication from the media or political parties.
Perhaps this has been years in the making. In our post-religion world, with its spiritual void, Covidanity has taken root within a matter of months. Covidanity plays to the religious impulse that exists within all of us – the need for a higher purpose and to be part of a community.
Followers of Covidanity are called to unite: to defeat a wicked virus and save lives. Whereas we might have once found collective faith at church on a Sunday, these days we walk around the streets, exchange knowing looks at each other over our face masks and swap “lockdown” stories of what we’ve been baking or how the kids are going with their home-schooling.
Historically, all religions use fear and hope to encourage the right kind of behaviour. Follow Christian teaching to avoid damnation and reach salvation in the afterlife. Nowadays, follow Covidanity medical commandments — check in your QR code and wear a mask – and we can achieve salvation from longer and harder lockdowns. In Victoria, this is encapsulated with the prayer “stay safe, stay open”.
And like all religions, Covidanity uses our innate fear of death at its core. By following the commandments, we can avoid damnation to a painful Covid death or the effects of long-Covid – the equivalent of Dante’s Hell. The priests of Covidanity understand this and amplify the fear of a “Covid death” as much as possible. Recently, the federal government released an advertisement of a young woman in hospital, a Covid sufferer barely able to breathe. Turn to the righteous path was the implicit message, or face a terrible death.
Australia is now firmly in the grip of Covidanity. We must remember that rational argument and facts simply have no effect on the faithful. Just as Christians have faith in the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary and his death and resurrection, the Covid faithful have blind faith in lockdowns, cloth face masks and mass PCR testing of healthy people. There is little hope in turning them away from this path with logical arguments or by presenting facts and figures. Just try showing a Covid faithful the graph of Swedish excess mortality or the results of the Danish mask study. They will stare at you like some kind of madman.
We must also remember that many do not want to lose their new Covid religion. They want lockdowns and restrictions to last as long as possible, prolonging their newfound religious purpose and community.
Perhaps there are just two ways out of this Covidanity crisis. The first is a reformation, led by the clergy of Covidanity. We need priests (politicians) brave enough to stand up and say ‘enough is enough, we cannot live like this’, or bishops (health experts) willing to stand against the hardliners within the COVIDanity church and say that our current approach is causing more harm than good. It takes courage to stand against the prevailing orthodoxy, and so far, very few have been brave enough to risk apostasy.
The second path is the coming of the Messiah: the vaccine. The Covidanity faithful of Australia await the miracle of high vaccination rates as our path of salvation. Like the Chosen Israelites, the vaccinated will be awarded their freedom with a vaccine passport. We must hope that the Covid clergy will decide that enough vaccinations have been administered, and that their grip on power can be loosened.
Until then, our new Covidanity religion will continue to exert its hold on us.
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