Category Archives: Evangelical Christianity

Loathe Thy Neighbour


Recently Malak Abas wrote an article reporting that in Winkler, another community like Steinbach, civility is in short supply as shown by residents and businesses being harassed and abused at their places of work for following and enforcing provincial health orders. The headline for the article was a slight poke at the reported Christians in town: “Loathe Thy Neighbour.” It seem like the good citizens of Winkler think that is what the Good Book tells them to do.


The Free Press reporters visited Winkler and found that at a dozen businesses none of  implemented provincial wide public health orders that mandated actions to curb an expected fourth wave of Covid-19. The authorities want to avoid what is happening around the world in many places. Manitoban seem to think we can avoid the disasters elsewhere. Maybe because they think we have a direct line to the Big Guy.

What is really disconcerting is that Winkler has the second lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba.  The lowest of course, are in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Stanley. Steinbach and its surrounding Municipality, Hanover, are not far behind.  So far faith in God is not helping much, because Southern Health in which these communities are all located also has the highest rate of Covid-19. As the Free Press reported,  recently, “The province reported 88 new COVID-19 cases Friday; 30 of them — the highest number of any of the five regions — were in Southern Health, where Winkler is located.”

There seems to be a direct link between religious communities and high rates of Covid-19 and low rates of vaccination uptake. I have been exploring in this blog why that might be the case.

According to the Free Press, the vast majority of patrons in the restaurant the reporters visited were unmasked and were not asked to show proof of immunization as Manitoba’s health orders require. It seems, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, no one notices the sick when God is on their side.

Not only that but people in Winkler are getting nasty about their intransigence. As the Free Press reported,

Winkler is taking a break from being in Friendly Manitoba, it seems. “Not all, but some of them are just angry, they take it out on staff members at the store,” police Chief Ryan Hunt said. “We’re just seeing a lot of frustration.”

The Free Press also reported that a woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared a backlash toward her business or her family said,

“she hadn’t asked the Free Press reporter to wear a mask in the store out of a sense of defeat. People who aren’t following the rules in stores often get loud. And even violent. “They’re very negative,” she said. “They yell, they swear, they spit, they refuse to stand behind the plastic shields.”

Things were so bad that one business owner posted this sign on its door: “Kindness is mandatory. Proof of kindness required at front entrance.”

One would have thought Christians did not need such a reminder. One would have thought wrong.


Invasion of Idiots comes to Steinbach




Just when you think there’s no more room for ignorance, more of it comes sloshing into Steinbach. For the second time Steinbach was the scene of a protest of Manitoba’s health restrictions imposed by government officials trying to stem the tide of Covid-19.  Both protests were led by Sheena Friesen who called on those in attendance including me, to make our voices heard protesting the limits on our freedoms. I felt I had to see what was going on in Steinbach so I grabbed my camera and drove to our City Hall.  Needless to say, I was one of the very few people there wearing a mask. I stood out and was proud to do so.


Friesen is a chapter leader of an organization called Vaccine Choice for Canada. She urged us to ditch our fear and live life to the fullest. “Don’t acquiesce; don’t let them push you around,” she said. In fact, she assured us, “I will live under a bridge with my family like a troll if necessary.” She thanked God for bringing her to this community of protesters. There were about 100 protesters I estimated. Not a huge number, but Steinbach is much less vaccinated than most of Manitoba. The last figures I have seen showed Steinbach had vaccination rates of about 60% compared to more than 70% for the province.  The Rural Municipality of Hanover which surrounds our town has even lower rates of vaccine acceptance.  Vaccine resistance is real in Steinbach, as it is in Winkler and its surrounding rural municipality. They have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the province.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence that these regions are heavily populated with Mennonites and other conservative Christian groups and also strongly support conservative political candidates?   One of the speakers claimed “my Jesus is a rebel.” Funny I never thought of Jesus as someone who would selfishly put his “rights” above the needs of vulnerable people to personal safety. None of the speakers expressed any concern for the 30,000 people in Manitoba who have had to put aside surgeries and other important medical procedure because of the fears that Manitoba’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by unvaccinated people who contract Covid-19. These people care only for themselves and their “rights and freedoms.”

The grim reaper was in attendance. In fact he pointed at me and I pointed back. What did he mean? What did I mean? Is it wise to tick off the grim reaper?

Frankly, my overall impression of the speakers in attendance  is that they were selfish and stupid. That is a mighty powerful toxic cocktail. I really hate to put it that way, but their speeches were ill thought out and frankly not very smart. I was dismayed by the quality of the speakers. One said to the audience don’t worry if your children are not allowed in school for not wearing masks, “You can home school them.”  Have children home schooled by these ignorant people is a thought that is enough to make one shudder.


They think wearing a mask is a great violation of their freedom, immensely more important than the right to life and health of others around them.  One speaker, a very young man who “owned a corporation” said before the restrictions his business made a profit of $10,000 per day!  Last week after new restrictions came into effect reduced his daily profit to $400. A truly astonishing reduction. Unbelievable actually. But all he cared about was his loss of profit. He did not mention the people who got sick or were missing life saving surgery as a result of the unvaccinated.

More protesters who were not very friendly to facts.


In my opinion the speakers and those who loudly supported them  exemplified what Italian writer Umberto Eco referred to as “an invasion of idiots.” This is what he wrote:

“Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.” (Trans. T. Bolin).


If this is the best of vaccine resistance its hard to believe it can be so dangerously effective. But is!

When Ideology Swallows Sense


I have been struggling to understand this amazing phenomenon that regions with a high prevalence of Christians and conservatives, such as southern Manitoba where I live, also have a high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy. Why is that the case?  What unites these two ideologies with nonsense? I think this is a very important question.


I have been surprised by the number of people that won’t take the Covid-19 vaccines because they don’t trust the government. To me that seems ludicrous. I have managed to dodge the prevailing political wisdom that assumes anything the government does is bad while anything the private sector does is good. I hear it all the time.  It is particularly prevalent here. That has been the prevailing political belief since at least the time of Saint Ronald Regan. Even left wingers are subject to this ideology; it is so common and so pervasive.

Some people blame the internet for this problem, and it is a partial cause.  But it does not explain enough. One of my favorite political commentators in my favorite newspaper (now a magazine), Nesrine Malik of The Guardian, pointed out something very interesting when she said,

“People with the wildest theories about the pandemic can be found in countries even where most people don’t have access to the internet, cable TV or the shock jocks of commercial radio. A common impulse is to write off those espousing conspiracies, consigning them to the casualties claimed by WhatsApp groups, disinformation or silent mental health issues. These things may be true – but vaccine hesitancy is a symptom of broader failures. What all people wary of vaccines have in common, from Khartoum to Kansas is their trust in the state has been eroded. Without understanding this, we will be fated to keep channeling our frustrations towards individuals without grasping why they have lost trust in the first place.”


Malik emphasizes that governments around the world, particularly in the developing world, have earned this distrust. Endemic corruption breeds justifiable distrust. I agree entirely with that. But what about countries like Canada with governments that are not as corrupt? Why is distrust of governments so common here? Not that our governments are perfect, but they have at least a modicum of integrity.

As Malik said,

“Vaccine rejection doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s easier to dismiss hesitancy and conspiracies as unhinged behaviour; it makes us feel less unnerved by displays of unreason from those who we think are, or should be, rational people. Sure, among vaccine-hesitant people are those who are simply stubborn, misanthropic or selfish. But, just as the pandemic exploited the weaknesses of our economic and public health systems, vaccine hesitancy has exposed the weaknesses of states’ bond with their citizens. There are no easy answers for how to deal with those who repeat conspiracy theories and falsehoods, but scrutinising the systems that lost their trust is perhaps a good place to start.”


I also want to point out that in the west since the 1980s during the reigns of Saint Ronny, Princess Maggie, and Prince Brian in the US. UK and Canada respectively, people have been fed a steady diet that the state is unreliable and predatory.  As Saint Ronald Reagan said, the most scary 11 words in the English language are, ‘I am from the government and I am here to help.’

 This is all part of neo-liberal dogma/propaganda that the government can’t be trusted only the private sector is worth our trust. Of course, this ideology has for decades served the interests of the wealthy who care more about minimizing their personal or corporate taxes than the plight of the less advantaged. As a result many of them  have used their wealth to convince us of its truth because it is in their interest to do so. This ideology is now so prevalent that even people whose best interests would be served by government are reluctant to accept its help. Vaccines are a case in point. Governments provide many things of enormous value that the private sector is unwilling or unsuited to provide including hospitals, roads, libraries, universities, parks, environmental regulations, health and safety standards to name only a few. For decades we have been taught and many of us believed that governments are bad and private enterprise is good.

Now we are paying a heavy price for blindly following that ideology.

Spreading Falsehoods in a time of pandemic


Steinbach, religion, and vaccine resistance is in the news again. Recently the Carillon News in Steinbach published an article about a family of 12 that came to Steinbach all the way from Lac du Bonnet to publicly protest against Manitoba’s official response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   I was struck by one of the photos that showed a very young girl, probably less than 10 years old carrying a sign that read “They killed babies to produce vaccines.” Needless to say that was a shocking statement. Absurd actually.

It took me a little while to realize that the sign was likely referring to the claim that stem cells from aborted fetuses had been used to produce one of the vaccines. These stem cells were “harvested” decades ago. Long before anyone ever heard anything about Covid-19. Yet I can see some argument here, namely that if those who think  that abortion is always murder, we should not try to “profit” from the murder. But the sign of course could not get into the complexities of examining that moral judgment. This is a complicated issue and I won’t get into here. Perhaps later. For now, I just want to say no babies were killed for the purpose of the vaccine as the sign suggested.

Each of us are entitled to our own opinions, even very young girls carrying signs.  But the moral issue is a little more complex than a sign at a protest might lead one to believe. Leading people to believe that vaccines were created by killing babies is a case of gross misstatement that is not acceptable in the midst of a health pandemic where people need the best information available. I will leave this issue with that comment for now.

Other family members of this young protester also carried signs. One read, “prayer and worship are the solution.” I would strongly suggest that in the case of such a pandemic good scientific data and advice from scientists should not be avoided in order to get answers to prayers. There is nothing wrong with prayer but if the desire to pray interferes with getting the best scientific data during a pandemic I am opposed to that.

Another family member held a sign that read, “First communism, then starvation.” This again reflected the right wing bias of many protesters. It show the strong connection between religion, right-wing politics and what I call unreason. Frankly, suggesting that Manitoba health orders are part of “Communism” is absurd.

I also recognize that historically many anti-vaxxers were left wingers, but I think in this pandemic most belong in the camp of the conservatives. If anyone thinks I am wrong I would ask them to enlighten me.

The father of the young protesters was interviewed by the Carillon News and he said, “The vaccine prevents nothing. Prayer and worship is about the only thing we can do, so that our way is to have a little bit of resistance to the government.” This statement again shows the frequent connection between anti-vaccines, Christianity, and right wing politics—the toxic brew as I have been calling it.

That is the statement that really bothers me. There is plenty of evidence that the vaccines are enormously important at preventing serious illness from the coronavirus. We see it every day in Canada and the US where since the vaccines have become widely available here in North America, the pandemic has largely turned into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  Doling out misinformation that vaccines don’t help is seriously wrong.  I think the father should be ashamed of himself. I wonder if spreading such misinformation should be a criminal offence. It certainly should not be tolerated.

In a pandemic spreading nonsense or what I have been calling unreason,  can have serious consequences. We should all remember that. Every day in the Southern Bible Belt we have more unreason. It is blossoming. And the flowers are black.


Vaccine Unreason in Southern Health Region (Again)


I live in the Southern Health Region of Manitoba. While our region is very diverse, it also has many conservative Christians and conservative right wing people as well. I know I have been going on and on about these people and everyday I want to switch to another topic and then something else comes up. This happened again.

Our region also has the lowest rate of Covid-19 vaccinations in the province. Is that a coincidence? Or did that happen for a reason?

Last week, one day there were 56 new Covid-19 cases in Manitoba. Of those 22 were in the Southern Health region even though it only has a population of 211,986 people. Winnipeg, on the other hand, has a population of 791,284 people and it had only 18 new Covid-19 cases. The next day Southern Health had 41 new cases and Winnipeg had 29 new cases.

I think these numbers tell a significant story. What do you think?

At the same time, many people in our region complain how “my rights” are being trampled on by government health restrictions. Really, Winnipeg should complain about the alt-right Christians. Some people no doubt think I have been too hard on the Christian right in southern Manitoba. I think I have been too easy on them.

Since then our region has seen rallies by the Christian alt-right in Winkler and Steinbach. Both were similar with people saying their rights have been trampled on by health restrictions imposed by our government. It is interesting that our government is in fact a conservative government elected be these same people. Imagine how the people would protest if a heathen left-wing government did this to them.


One of the Winkler protesters said this: “mask use reduces oxygen levels, that she doesn’t believe in vaccinations and that, as a Christian, she trusts God to protect her from illness.”

The protesters include people of strong faith. The suggest that if they get a vaccine they don’t trust God anymore. They say they trust in God to heal them. That is all the protection they need. Vaccines can’t save them only God can do that. This makes me wonder if they have a tooth ache do they wait for God to heal them or go to a dentist? If they have a broken leg do they go to a doctor? What about if they have sever abdominal pains? Do they not have faith in God that he can heal them? Do they lock their doors when they go away on a holiday or let God protect them? How do they pick and choose what God can heal and what requires expertise? I really would like to know. Perhaps one of my faithful readers can enlighten me.

Christians, Conservatives and Unreason


I do not think it is a coincidence that so many Christians and Conservatives have had such a mesmerizing journey to unreason. In both cases many among the groups have abandoned all standards of truth seeking. In fact, many in both camps have abandoned truth entirely. Once the standards of truth, and even worse, once all respect for truth itself, have been abandoned in one area such as faith without evidence, or belief in things that are so obviously untrue like stolen elections, it is very difficult to get those important standards back when they are urgently needed. For example, we need them now when we confront an international climate crisis that may be the crucial crisis of our generation, or when we confront an international health pandemic such as Covid-19, it is almost impossible to retrieve those standards no matter how urgent it is to do so.

That is why we must always be so careful not to abandon evidence based decision making and critical thinking Those skill are vitally important.

In the US the conservatives are led by the Republican Party. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman,

“Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.”

In the U.S. the Republican Party very briefly after the insurrection on January 6, 2021 flirted with the idea of dealing with Trump. Their Senate leader Mitch McConnell said what Trump did was impeachable but then soon abandoned that position and now seems to support him as do so many other of his party. The leader of the party in the House of Representatives also briefly said Biden won the election and Trump bore some responsibility for the attack on Congress but soon began to kiss the ring of Trump. It does not matter that Trump is unhinged. This is how Krugman described the Republicans: “In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules.” In Texas the party adopted the QAnon slogan “We are the storm.” QAnon is about as loopy as it get, but the Republicans are close behind. In Oregon the Republicans endorsed the claim that the insurrection on the Capitol was a left-wing false flag operation.

Part of the problem is the incredible rise in extremism fuelled in part by their cheer leaders at Fox News. This is what Krugman said about that,

This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism (something, by the way, that I’ve seen happen in a minor fashion within some academic subfields). As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.

Like I have been saying, when you give up evidence based decision making, it is difficult to get it back when you need. Republicans show no signs of wanting to get it back. Instead, as Krugman said, “One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back.”

In Manitoba we are currently plagued by an evidence free zone created by conservatives and Christians particularly in our southern health region where I have the misfortune of living. Particularly in a time of pandemic this sleep of reason is a very dangerous thing.

The Theology of Vaccine Resistance from Winkler to Arkansas


I doesn’t matter much whether you look at vaccine resistance in Southern Manitoba or the United States. In either case it has some common characteristics.

For one it is often found among conservative religious people and conservative political people. The common denominator seems to be distrust of government. Allan Levine described it this way in the Winnipeg Free Press:

“You can only shake your head in dismay at such distorted thinking. From Winkler to Arkansas, the unvaccinated, who are now petri dishes for the Delta variant and putting themselves and everyone else at risk, explain their untenable decision (apart from the tiny minority with medical reasons) in a variety of ways. This includes everything from fearing needles and concern about insufficient medical data to believing crazy conspiracy theories about the vaccine being a nefarious plot to implant tracking microchips in arms.

Mostly, though, their position is about not trusting government, often combined with fundamentalist religion (as a Winkler resident put it, “I trust in God. I trust he’ll get us through this”), and anti-intellectualism and anti-science.”


In both countries the adherents to the theology of vaccine resistance share similar political views based in deep feelings of mistrust about governments. As Levine said:


In the U.S., it is no surprise that these sentiments are most prevalent in Republican-dominated states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Wyoming, Florida and Tennessee, where rejecting the effectiveness of the vaccine is official policy — as are the absurd denunciations and threats directed at Dr. Anthony Fauci for his work managing the pandemic and promoting the vaccine (in Florida, the Republican slogan is “Choose Freedom over Faucism” and there are T-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Fauci my Florida”).

The ideology of vaccine resistance is ultimately based on a rejection of science in favor of fundamental religious beliefs that reject science and evidence based decision making in favor of faith in the cause. For example, in the late 19th century and early 20th century Christians increasingly battled the advocates of scientific reasoning in favor of “truths” learned by faith, which usually involved beliefs that had been inculcated by parents in their children in hopes of assuring for them eternal life and avoiding eternal damnation.

Charles Darwin, perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, developed a theory of evolution by natural selection that had a profound effect on science. His theories were so deep and well argued that they changed the course of history and even religion. Darwin shredded the religious view of the day which presumed that the world we live in was created by God with a divine purpose in mind. This resulted in the igniting of a debate that rocked the 19th century world and continued unabated until at least the famous Scopes trial in 1925.  In many places religious views strained to resist the new science which they felt contradicted their faith. As a result, as Levine said,

“during the summer of 1925 in a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., (southeast of Nashville). By then, the very same states whose governments and citizens currently question or reject the vaccine — Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas — had passed legislation banning the teaching of evolution.’


Today in southern Manitoba communities like Winkler and Steinbach reflect the same trend—namely, conservative evangelical religion and conservative politics, against modern science.  Both groups give a pass to truth seeking in favour of faith based thinking.

 I  know that some believe this is  opinion controversial if not wrong, but it seems to me that everyday in this pandemic there is new evidence that supports it.

Know Jesus; Know Peace

Winnipeg Free Press Photo August 24, 2021


Southern Manitoba continues to lead the way on the stupid Olympics. When Umberto Eco, the Italian author, talked about the invasion of stupid he could have been talking about us.

A Municipal councillor from the Rural Municipality of Stanley, that surrounds the city Winkler, which have the worst and second worst rates of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in Manitoba,  permitted a sign on his property that clearly disparaged the vaccine. It had a graphic of a syringe with the word “Experimental” written inside it referring to the fact that it has been approved on an emergency basis. I don’t think that makes it experimental, but many in our area believe that is what it means. Clearly this was intended to sow distrust in the vaccine among the undecided. Or perhaps to mock those who had taken it. It also had the words “Know Jesus Know Peace” written on it as well. This was a reference to the Black Lives Matter protesters who often carried signs that said, “No Justice No Peace.”

This is dangerous stuff in a Rural Municipality where about only 20% of eligible people have taken the vaccine when we desperately need all the confidence in it that we can get to encourage people to take the vaccine and prevent a deadly 4th wave of the virus that might again overwhelm our health system.  With my wife Christiane finally having a tentative date for her brain surgery we cannot afford to take the chance of another 5 months delay like we just experienced in the 3rd wave. Hopefully the vaccine can help us avoid that, but if everyone was like the people around Winkler we would be in trouble.


The sign on the councillor’s property was actually installed by Travis Fehr a local farmer  who told the Free Press that he believes he has important information that indicates the authorities have been hiding a drug treatment for the virus. Presumably that is because the government wants to use the virus to control us.  He has placed other signs in the community that explain “his goal is to spread a religious message that encourages people to trust in God before ‘Pastors, or politicians, or doctors or anybody else.” I suppose when he needs his appendix removed or heart surgery he will trust in God rather than doctors or politicians. According to a local doctor, Don Klassen, there is in his area a common belief that  “a wide network hiding is information about a treatment for Covid from the public.”

Fehr also said, “I believe that God is going to start a fiery revival for Jesus in Manitoba, and so I want to be a part of that. So I do have some signs out there.”

The Free Press also reported that Fehr set up

“a rotating set of messages, including calling the vaccine a “#Clotshot,” suggesting the drug Ivermectin (typically used as a de-wormer for livestock) is a proven successful treatment for COVID-19 and implying the vaccination rollout violates the Nuremberg Code.”

According to the Winnipeg Free Press Fehr gets his vast medical knowledge on “Telegram, a messenger app that touts its privacy features and is known for hosting far-right personalities that are often banned on mainstream apps.”  Again we get that toxic connection between untruth, religion and conservative politics. I wonder why these people hide their cure that would no doubt enable them to earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just today I heard that Manitoba Covid-19 cases jumped again. More than twice as many today (105) than yesterday (41). And guess what—almost half of them in Manitoba were from our Southern Health region. Either the Lord doesn’t care about us, or Covid-19 knows where the idiots can be found.

It never ceases to amaze me what people in the Bible belt are prepared to believe. Know Jesus; Know Peace.

Vaccine Unreason and the offspring of credulity

I am still trying to understand why so many people are reluctant to use what many scientists consider the greatest medical achievement of modern times–vaccines.  What is going on?

When we give up critical thinking in favour of things like faith, or wishful thinking we can get into the habit of believing crazy things. That is why Patrick Moynhan an American sociologist, politician and diplomat made this very important statement about truth: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” We must always respect truth and the truth-seeking process. If we are not on constant guard to defend this, we can become easy prey for demagogues.  There have been many of them around the world, not just America.  According to author Kurt Anderson, who was interviewed by Charlie Rose a couple of years ago, “Trump in effect says that anything that is inconvenient to me or that I disagree with is, fake news.”  If we give up on all standards of truth, we become dangerously bereft–babes ready for the slaughter.

Anderson also pointed out on the television show with Rose, and in his book FantasyLand, that “America has always been exceptionally religious compared to the rest of the world… Outliers in our religiosity compared to the rest of world, not just a little bit, but a lot. We are not like the rest of the developed world, we are much more religious.” According to Anderson that had radical consequences for America. That made Americans credulous—ready, willing, and eagerly able, to swallow all kinds of fantastic beliefs for which there was no evidence.

Anderson spoke before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was the perfect example of what he meant. Instead of trusting in science, many of us, too many of us, have placed our faith in the Internet instead. That has led directly to catastrophic consequences in our failure to defeat Covid-19. When we experience an international health emergency, as we recently have been,  we need our best defences open to us. That in such circumstances is science–not fanciful Internet “research.”

All of this, as I have been saying for some time, has serious consequences well beyond religion. Anderson put it this way, “Once as a culture you are more inclined to believe in magic, in supernatural events, it won’t stay in its religious realm. It will leach out into not believing in climate change say.” Or it will leach out to distrusting medical experts like Anthony Fauci in favour of demagogues. And that can–as it did–cost an enormous loss of life and health. Credulity has serious consequences.  We are experiencing them now.


Kurt Anderson also pointed out how credulity, as bad as it is, can easily be supercharged by what he calls the “fantasy industrial complex.” This includes not just organized religion but everything in the entertainment industry. In the US, he pointed out, everything becomes entertainment. Real estate business for example, becomes entertainment. Everything becomes part of show business. Religious leaders are show men. Politicians are showmen. This fantasy industrial complex uses modern technology skilfully to convince us of dubious truths and bald faced lies. Then the Internet came along and jacked this tendency up to the stars.

As a result, we should not be surprised when ordinary people believe outrageous claims. Ordinary people are part of a culture that leads them to believe without evidence. When critical skills are lost, and we learn to believe without evidence, we turn ourselves over to fake news and the demagogues that take advantage of it.

Vaccine Unreason in the Bible Belt


I am still trying to answer my friend’s question: ‘Why is there so mu vaccine resistance among conservatives and Christians?’ I think this is a very good question. It is particularly important to me since I live in an area stuffed with Christians and conservatives.


Conservatives distrust government. This is particularly true of those born in Eastern Europe where they had very bad experiences with their government. But they came here, to Canada, presumably to get more freedom and better government here. Yet they are also distrustful of Canadian government. I have talked to clients who are convinced the government is out to get them. They really believe that the government is using Covid-19 as an excuse to take away their freedom. Everything governments are in fact doing, such imposing restrictions, points in that direction. Even born in Canada Christians, it seems to me, have a strong tendency to distrust government. Why is that?

This summer I talked to one an acquaintance who comes from a family of fairly conservative Mennonites. They live in Winkler. When the vaccination uptake rate in Winnipeg was 70% in Winnipeg it was only 40% in Winkler. I believe that is because so many of them are conservative Christians who don’t trust the government. Our friend told us recently her father did not believe in Covid-19, but he was very ill with very serious cancer. He was immuno-compromised as they say. If he does get sick, he is likely to die. Meanwhile, his friends and relatives also don’t believe in Covid-19, so when they come to visit him they do not wear masks, nor do they remain socially from each other. Some of her father’s friends in fact actually had Covid-19 and but till did not believe they had it, nor that it was real. Even when they were sick with Covid-19 they disbelieved! Instead they came over to comfort her father, risking his life.

Recently a Christian pastor from Steinbach, Kyle Penner, gave a short invitation to get vaccinated to the community on a TV ad, in a casual non-judgmental manner. He did not castigate or blame the unvaccinated. I found it hard to believe anyone could be offended by his remarks. Yet he was piled on by members of our community. He was called “a traitor to Christianity.” Vicious rumours spread around town about how he had been paid to lie about Covid-19. The only payment he received was a $50 gas voucher to pay for his gas to the TV station in Winnipeg. I would say, the complainers were blinded by unreason. This can happen in the case of religious disputes.

Eventually, he had to close his social media account as he could no longer tolerate the harassment. It was as if he was speaking blasphemy. And that brings up an important point. To many people, one’s identity is tied up to one’s position on Covid-19. Covid-19 beliefs are like religious beliefs. They are sacred in other words and any one attacking them, no matter how gently, is in for a spiritual battle. Those are the worst kinds of battles.

Charles Blow of the New York Times described a similar situation this way:

“All the while, the patients on ventilators gasped for breath, and refrigerated trailers filled with bodies. Death is one of the ultimate truths of life, and yet not even it could dissuade the headstrong from casting doubt on the science.

And then, a miracle.”


The miracle of course, was the Coronavirus vaccine. And sadly, much of the Christian right rejected that miracle.

Of course, Blow detected this intimate connection between religious views among evangelicals, political views among conservatives, and the rejection of the science of vaccines. They all had a common thread—they were all religious views, and as a result this meant, in my view at least, that they were not adopted by reasoning or thinking, but instead by inculcation. This is what Blow said,

“As the Delta variant surges, there is an uptick in the pace of vaccinations in the country. It’s almost like religion: Many disbelievers will call out to whatever god there may be when the reaper is at the door. Fear of ideological defeat is no match for the fear of imminent death. And yet, it shouldn’t have taken another surge of sickness and death for good sense to set in.”

I add to this the observation that frequently, such beliefs were in fact just as strong, if not stronger than, the fear of death. As John Loftus observed, the consequence of holding such religious views is that it is not possible to dissuade someone of his or her religious views by reason, because the beliefs were not adopted by reason. Just as you cannot convince a Christian to become a Muslim, or a Muslim to become a Christian, you cannot convince someone to take a vaccine for Covid-19.

 Of course, there is a second religion involved, at least in the United States. This is the religion of Trump. As Blow pointed out,

“Why were Americans turning away a vaccine that many people in other parts of the world were literally dying for? Many did so because of their fidelity to the lie and their fidelity to the liar. They did it because they were — and still are — slavishly devoted to Trump, and because many politicians and conservative commentators helped Trump propagate his lies.”


The mixing of religion, politics, and disparagement of science, if not truth, has created a venomous brew. And it will haunt us.