Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Jewish date:  20 ’Elul 5769.

Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  “H1N1 flu stops Italians kissing saint's blood”:  Thus is it written:
Fear of H1N1 flu will stop devout Neapolitans from performing the time-honored ritual of kissing the blood of their patron Saint Gennaro when the city's annual festival begins later this month.

The decision to forbid kissing of the glass vial containing the saint's blood was taken reluctantly by ecclesiastical and city authorities Monday, and has brought protests from local politicians.
In a time when a popular stereotype is to equate religion with irrationality and secularism with rationality, this situation turns the cliché on its head.  The church leaders have suspended kissing of the blood vial, thus lessening the chances that all their parishioners who might otherwise kiss the vial will be infected.  (Religious people in many religions are supposed to be worried about the welfare of others, including their health.)  Kissing the vial of what is purported to be Saint Gennaro’s blood may be a pious practice, but the church leaders have decided reducing the risk of H1N1 transmission is more important.  The politicians, or at least the one quoted in the article, at any rate, seem to be more worried about public panic, as it is written:  “Marco Di Lello, national co-ordinator of the Socialist Party, said the ban would "fuel the psychosis (over flu) which risks becoming unstoppable," and appealed to the archbishop of Naples to try to have the ban revoked.”   Granted, public panic is something to worry about, but so is the virus.  The question is what is the best course of action to take to minimize H1N1 infections.  The approach of the church and city authorities is to do something to prevent infections; though people may not be happy with this measure, the authorities can always make announcements discussing why they think their decision is for the best.  The politicians in question, on the other hand, seem to consider public panic more of a worry.  However, not taking this easy step to prevent infections gives the virus a new chance to spread to everyone who kisses the vial.  It probably would be possible to disinfect the vial between kisses (e.g., using chemicals or boiling), but this would make for a constant interruption of display of the vial and might be seen as disrespectful to the saint relic.  (Any Catholics out there who care to comment on this?)  And while doing without disinfection might make some people feel better, feeling better does nothing to stop the virus.  Viruses can only be stopped by doing things to prevent their transmission, and if that requires a little “psychosis”, so be it.  Kudos to whoever in Naples decided to stop the kissing of the blood vial.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing, suggested by Barry, is the geoduck.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.

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