Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious country. Most of the people in the Persian Gulf nation pray five times a day, 35 times a week, 140 times a month and 1,680 times a year. But they banned pilgrimages (one of the pillars of Islam), because of the pandemic.

Rome's Catholic churches were ordered closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, in a move believed to be unprecedented in modern times. St. Peter's Basilica, which is on Vatican territory, has already been closed and the pope has canceled his two weekly appearances in public.

My Question

Is the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrating that people of "faith" don't 100% trust in the existence of God? Do people not believe what they say they believe?

Note: Please focus on Christianity or Islam, the two largest religions, in your answer.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 14:52
  • I've heard that there are no atheists in foxholes. Something about bullets must be more fear-inducing than a deadly respiratory virus. I personally knew someone who died of Covid. I don't know anyone who was shot in a war though. Interesting question.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 20:55

5 Answers 5


Is the coronavirus (COVID-19) another piece of evidence that we are all either ‘atheist’ or 'agnostic'?
Most of the people in the Persian Gulf nation pray five times a day, ...


The tags that you used and clearly explain:

  • Atheism is (in a broad sense) a skeptic attitude towards the belief in deities. In a narrower sense, atheism rejects the existence of deities at all.

  • An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine.

Clearly not everyone either rejects or is non-commital, some claim to believe and some claim to be knowledgeable on the subject of God and religion.

Do people not believe what they say they believe?

We can not know if people really believe what they say, likely some do and some do not; some may not share their beliefs for fear of persecution while others may spread false beliefs for their own purposes.

Are people on their own, their own hope, but they do not seem to know?

That does not depend upon what people do or say but solely upon the fact or falsity of God's existence. Human beings existence and actions do not prove or disprove God's existence and actions.

Other Miscellaneous Information:

The Salah (prayer) time depends upon the position of the Sun and has an exact calculated time, often calculation hubs are used and a time is announced by the local mu'azzin. Not every Muslim prays 5 different times per day some combine prayers and only pray 5 times on three separate occasions.

On March 3 2020 the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America said:

"The permissibility of missing jumuah and congregational prayers out of fear of the disease depends on several variables. As for the daily congregational prayers, the matter is simpler since they are not obligatory according to the majority. The majority of those who considered them obligatory did not demand their performance at a masjid. As for the jumuah, it is not permissible for adult men who are otherwise required to attend it to miss it except in the case of justifiable, not conjectural, fear (whether for oneself or others). What matters in this regard is the instructions of the public health authorities. If they advise the avoidance of all public gatherings, then the epidemic has reached a level making that fear justifiable. As for the higher risk groups, such as old people and those with chronic disease, they should follow the advice of their primary healthcare providers. They are most entitled to concessions.".


As for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), it's creation is thought to have evolved from another coronavirus. It shows a 96.2% overall genome sequence identity to Bat CoV RaTG13 and is thought to have passed onto humans through a pangolin intermediary. The evolution to its current form either occurred within the pangolin or other population or within the human population.


Agreement of scientists or religions does not determine the truth of what is fact and what is fiction. People's beliefs and understanding can be improved or tarnished by many means.


I think you have a false premise.

Your premise seems to be "Devout believers/adherents of the religion Islam believe that humans need not make any effort in their survival in the natural world." I don't think that is true.

Evidence against that premise is that people in Saudi Arabia farm, gather, purchase, or otherwise obtain food to eat. If your premise were true, they would pray and study 24/7 without eating, believing that intake of nutrients was unnecessary for them as Allah would keep their physical body alive anyway.

  • 3
    I cannot seem to parse the sentence between quotes. Is it grammatically correct? Is there a word too many? Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 22:24
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    @EricDuminil Delete the word "I", I think. Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 23:34
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    @ErucDuminil Sorry ‘religion I’ Is Islam since that was the OP’s first example i was trying ti set it up as a more general premise. I see how that is confusing when read. Will edit.
    – Damila
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 0:04
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    I was wondering about the premise myself. The assumption, as I saw it, was: "If you truly believe in God, then you must believe that God will cure any nasty diseases that would otherwise endanger you." Not just that he could, if he saw fit -- but that it is inevitable that he will feel the need to do so? To the best of my knowledge, that is not, and never has been, a common Christian (or Jewish, or Islamic) doctrine, so I really don't understand where stevebaros got the impression that true believers must embrace that idea.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 12:51

There's a good joke about this.

The Mississippi floods, but this guy stays put and says "God will save me". A policeman comes past and says "Better be going" but our guy says "God will save me". The river rises more, and he moves upstairs. A rescue boat comes past and the crew say "Come on, you've got to go", but our guy says "God will save me". The river rises more, and he gets on the roof. A helicopter comes past and the crew say "you've really got to go now", but he says "God will save me". But the river rises more and he drowns.

Up in Heaven, he says "God, I trusted you to save me, and you let me drown." And God says "I sent you a policeman, a boat and a helicopter - what more did you want?!"

The point is of course that miracles are by definition an exceptional event. They cannot be relied on, predicted, expected, or made to happen on request. If you take a more Spinozan view of religion, then the Divine Entity (names may vary) is immanent in the world, and what the world does and what other people do naturally is what your Divine Entity wants. And that includes being saved by policemen, boats and helicopters.

The saying "God helps those who help themselves" is a good summary of the situation.

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    I was going to quote that joke in my answer! LOL In Judaism it's called hishtadlus.
    – Damila
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 0:08
  • European churches in the 18th century (witch hunters, them) resisted the installation of lightning rods, justified on lightning strikes being caused by demons and they having the power of prayer. Tragedy had to come for them to change their mind. Source: Franklin's Unholy Lightning Rod.
    – Theraot
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 7:58
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    For the religious and faithful Christians, read 1 Corinthians 10:13. "No trial has taken you but such as follows the nature of man. But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tried above your strength, but will in the midst of the trial make a way to escape out." - They were given a way to escape in the form Lightning Rods.
    – Theraot
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 8:00
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    @Damila Not knowing Jewish conventions, I couldn't comment on the name for it, but I'm sure the concept is pretty universal. :)
    – Graham
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 11:11
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    To advocate for the OP, this joke points out faith doesn't grant immunity to danger, one can't ignore obvious safety risks. If a flood put a church underwater, no one would argue it's dangerous, with a virus, a church is safe, 1 person in a church would be safe, but the act of congregation is dangerous, and if you see the congregation as a tenant of your faith it may be difficult. I think OP was saying that navigating around the risk of COVID-19 may mean disobeying the word of god or conceding to the fact god couldn't protect or prevent the spread of the virus to those places of worship. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 14:21

There are some religious groups --I'm thinking here of "prosperity" churches --that promote the message that nothing but good things will ever happen to the truly faithful. But these are definitely among the minority among religious traditions. Most religious people don't take it as an article of faith that bad things won't sometimes happen in their lives. In fact, we can see this reflected clearly in both Christian and Jewish religious scriptures.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong... This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.[!] All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
Psalm 73: 3-7, 12-14

The incredible poetry of Job and Ecclesiastes also discuss the unmerited suffering of the righteous, so that's clearly not a new concept among the religious. (It's hard for me to not think of certain world leaders, in the midst of the current crisis, when I read the above!)

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed--only Naaman the Syrian.
Luke 4:25-27

This is directly from the words of Jesus. It expresses the idea that just because people CAN be miraculously healed doesn't mean that they WILL be. After Jesus told people this, the same people he grew up with tried to throw him off a cliff.

As far as what the faithful person should do in such a crisis this following passage is perhaps the best representation (at least from the Christian view):

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool with five covered colonnades, which in Aramaica is called Bethesda. On these walkways lay a great number of the sick, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. One man there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am on my way, someone else goes in before me.”
Then Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.”
John 5:2-8

Here we have a person, waiting in vain for a miraculous healing. What Jesus demands from him is a) the genuine desire to get better and b) appropriate, pragmatic action on his part. The faith aspect here comes in the form of his willingness to follow Jesus' instructions, and not in him just lying there and waiting.

Finally, is it right to close churches, mosques and synagogues? Doesn't religious law mandate we keep them open?

One Sabbath Jesus was passing through the grainfields, and His disciples began to pick the heads of grain as they walked along. So the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus replied, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? During the high priesthood of Abiathar, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which was lawful only for the priests. And he gave some to his companions as well.” Then Jesus declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
Mark 2:23-37

These religious practices and rituals are made for people's benefit. They aren't there to follow blindly in the midst of all circumstances.

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    #Just because we take precautions doesn’t mean we lack faith.
    – nick012000
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 22:40
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    I cannot speak for the Islamic or Christian perspectives, but there is no need to find hints and suggestions in Judaism -- Jewish law is quite clear: in general, it is an obligation overriding all others (besides the prohibitions of idolatry, incestuous relationships, and murder) to preserve a person's life.
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:21
  • This is the real answer to the OP's question. There is a common belief I've noticed amongst many people - and you see this especially in TV shows and movies - that staying alive is the absolute highest good, nothing else takes precedent. This is nonsense, and it especially doesn't come from the Christian faith, from the scriptures. Some things are more important than even life itself. This actually I would consider to be a "hint proof" of Biblical Christianity being the true religion; that is, this mentality aligns with reality.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 15:04
  • We pray by thanking for all that is given us, trusting in the good that may be too close to see.
    – Timm
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 0:07

One word: Practicality.

The church and other religious institutions and leaders are insanely capable of aligning belief with practical necessity. To the point where I as an atheist often marvel at the spectacle and wonder if I somehow missed that everyone is in on the joke and it's just a widely-agreed form of let's-pretend.

This practical approach does nothing to reduce religious fever. The religious always find a way to explain things after the fact. How it was their prayers that caused the tide to turn. How it was a test of god. How it proves that obscure line X in obscure text Y is right. Etc. etc.

So no, this doesn't proof anything except a fact well-known to psychology: That established believes are solidified and not challenged by contradicting information. The human mind is much more complicated than we give it credit for, and while irrational from the outside, is absolutely capable of holding conflicting beliefs as truths. A religious person can be completely convinced of their belief and yet take practical precautions based on science, experience, hearsay, conspiracy theories or whatever non-religious sources they choose. They will then rationalized that action as being somehow based on their religious belief. Some comments have already pointed out typical phrases such as "god helps those who help themselves", etc.

How religion came to be like that is possibly best explained by - ironically - evolution. Religions that did not align themselves to practical needs simply died out as their believers made not just irrational, but also survival-impairing choices.

Religion might seem stupid, insane and foolish from the outside, but never forget that it had a few ten-thousand years of cultural evolution to perfect itself.

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