This post presents a suggestion for forming hypotheses about human religiosity as a significant causal factor in the social phenomena of the Spring 2020 global war on the COVID-19 virus. There is no suggestion that the global response is primarily religious. Primary causes are to be sought in fear of sickness and death coupled with past experience of infectious disease.
I wish insightful students of religiosity such as Emil Durkheim,( The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912, William James(The Varieties of Religious Experience 1902) or Mary Douglas (Purity and Danger, 1966 were alive to formulate such hypotheses.
Of course, there is a null hypothesis that religiosity is an insignificant factor. But there is no need to make suggestions for formulating a null hypothesis.
My suggestion is based on the fact that similar measures are being taken by provincial and municipal officials throughout the entire world. The uniformity and haste is surprising. Usually when international experts gather in forums to discuss global problems nothing happens quickly.
Globalization and the internet forced on us a sense of being a single community although a dysfunctional community. A community forms a Durkheimian religion by representing itself as some object or situation. That object or situation becomes its totem. The totem is sacred or holy. Various rituals developed to protect or honor its totem provide a sense of protecting or honoring the community. That which damages or threatens the totem is taboo, unclean and unholy. Threats to the totem provide an opportunity for its community to feel strength and solidarity by protecting its totem.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for the new global community to express itself and feel solidarity. My suggestion is that human religiosity uses the pandemic as an occasion for expressing itself. Religiosity does not create the pandemic. It transforms health into a totem.
Perhaps in the convoluted ways of religious representation health may be represented by the face mask and, then, the face mask becomes the totem.
The threat is COVID-19. COVID-19 is unholy -the taboo. The taboo is everywhere. It may be on anyone of us without our knowing about it. Heavy economic sacrifices and ritual behavior such as social distancing can be taken as ways of protecting the totem by purifying us from the taboo.
I stop now commenting on the COVID-19 crisis because I am not a sociologist. But if anyone ever reads my blog posts, this suggestion might be worth considering.