At the outset of 2020, a mysterious virus began surging across Europe, claiming lives in its path.
By March, the outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Countries sealed their borders, sports teams canceled entire seasons of play, the workforce was sent home, while masks and social distancing became part of everyday life for millions across the globe. And country death tolls rose.
In those first few months, as the world gradually come to grips with the alarming prospect of living with a virus that would kill millions across the globe, Covid-19 spread like a prairie fire.
In New York City, three weeks after the first reported case on March 3, the epidemic had grown to more than 17,800 cases, claiming 199 lives. It struck the weak, those with poor immune systems, the elderly, the ill—but also healthy people—and hospitals soon ran out of beds and resorted to treating patients in crowded corridors and outdoor tents.
Those impacted by the epidemic found comfort where they could. Many turned to religion, praying to their God for solace in the face of the loss of loved ones and the fear of still rising infections.
Still others turned their energies to assisting both the afflicted and those unable to survive on their own, finding solace in selfless help.
Tony Ortega, however, had another agenda.
For Ortega has no respect for religion—they are all anathema to him. And he enjoys taking any opportunity to denigrate a person’s faith.
Case in point: His 13-part daily blog series, launched in April 2020, disparaging passages from the Bible.
“Is the pandemic right out of the Bible?” he asked.
“If the world really is ending, we thought it was time to prepare properly for Armageddon. By, you know, reading the damn thing.
“The Bible, that is.”
Never mind that Christianity, Judaism and Islam all find common ground in its text. And never mind that many faiths across the world similarly hold the Bible to be a holy work.
On April 2, Ortega sneered in his blog: “This book has become awfully silly in a very short amount of time, hasn’t it?”
By April 4, New York was losing 500 lives each day to the virus and hospitals had run out of ventilators needed to keep suffering patients breathing.
Despite living in the midst of the calamity, Ortega callously continued his assault on those placing their faith in God.
“Are you buying this?” he scoffed. After reading from Genesis, he added his own vicious spin, describing the Almighty as “this conniving, underhanded and petty biatch who is running things…. The Big Guy is such a small-minded wanker.”
By April 7, more than 5,000 New Yorkers had died. A week later, the death toll had reach nearly 10,000. All people of faith reached out in prayer.
Finally, the scourge of Covid began to abate. Scientists credited vaccination, masks, hand sanitizer, staying at home and social distancing. Others gave thanks to their enduring faith. The truth perhaps lies in both views.
Except in the mind of Tony Ortega, for whom religion and faith are but fodder for ridiculing the lives of millions who understand and cherish the importance of religious belief.
That is an understanding that Tony Ortega will never possess.