Respectful Insolence

About a month ago, I wrote about an unbelievably sad story of a 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin who died of untreated diabetic ketoacidosis because she had been unfortunate enough to have been born into a family in which the parents believed in prayer rather than medicine. I say “unbelievably” because I find it truly difficult to believe that anyone in this day and age would willingly eschew effective medicine for their suffering child in favor of wishful thinking. Tragically and not surprisingly, prayer didn’t work, and their child died. One of the unresolved issues at the time of the incident was whether or not the parents would be charged with a crime. You may think this would be a no-brainer for at least a charge of child neglect, but such is the sway of religion (at least Christian religion) in this country that deciding whether or not to prosecute the parents for even that small a charge is anything but straightforward.

In a bit of good news, it turns out that the authorities in Wisconsin are going to try to prosecute the parents for second degree reckless homicide:

WESTON, Wisconsin (AP) -- Two parents who prayed as their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes were charged Monday with second-degree reckless homicide.

D.A. Jill Falstad announces charges against parents who didn’t seek medical attention for a diabetic child.

Family and friends had urged Dale and Leilani Neumann to get help for their daughter, but the father considered the illness “a test of faith” and the mother never considered taking the girl to the doctor because she thought her daughter was under a “spiritual attack,” the criminal complaint said.

It turns out that the story was even worse than it sounded when it was first reported. Before, we didn’t know a lot about the full course of the girl’s illness and ended up having to speculate based on the known course of untreated diabetic ketoacidosis. Now, we have many more details, and it’s not pretty. Apparently, the parents were begged by not one but several relatives to take their daughter to a doctor for treatment as her health deteriorated:

Randall Wormgoor, a friend of the Neumanns, told police that Dale Neumann led Bible studies at his business, Monkey Mo Coffee Shop, and believed physical illness was due to sin, curable by prayer and by asking for forgiveness from God, the complaint said.

Wormgoor said he and his wife, Althea, were at the Neumann home when Madeline — — called Kara by her parents — died. Wormgoor said he had urged the father to seek medical help and was told the illness “was a test of faith for the Neumann family and asked the Wormgoors to join them in praying for Kara to get well,” the complaint said.

Althea Wormgoor said she “implored” the parents to seek medical help for the girl, the complaint said.

Leilani Neumann, 40, told the AP previously she never expected her daughter to die. The family believes in the Bible, which says healing comes from God, but they have nothing against doctors, she said.

Dale Neumann, 46, a former police officer, has said he has friends who are doctors and started CPR “as soon as the breath of life left” his daughter’s body.

According to court documents, Leilani Neumann said in a written statement to police that she never considered taking the girl, who was being home-schooled, to a doctor.

“We just thought it was a spiritual attack and we prayed for her. My husband Dale was crying and mentioned taking Kara to the doctor and I said, ‘The Lord’s going to heal her,’ and we continued to pray,” she wrote.

The father told investigators he noticed his daughter was weak and slower for about two weeks but he attributed it to symptoms of the girl reaching puberty, the complaint said.

Things rapidly became more serious:

Meanwhile, Leilani Neumann told police that by Saturday, “Kara was laying on the couch. Her legs looked skinny and blue. I didn’t realize how skinny she was. We took her to my bed where I got her warm. I thought it was a spiritual attack. We stayed by her side nonstop and we prayed.

“I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.”

Later Saturday, “Kara got up to go to the bathroom and fell off the toilet,” Leilani Neumann told police.

Dale Neumann told police he thought his daughter was getting better on Sunday but that at one point he tried to sit her up but she was unable to remain up.

The investigator said he used the term “unconscious” to describe the girl’s condition, according to the report, while Dale Neumann “preferred to say that she was ‘in sleep mode.’ ”

Dale Neumann said Kara couldn’t communicate and wasn’t taking any water.

By noon, the family contacted another couple, Randall and Althea Wormgoor.

The Wormgoors had followed the Neumanns from California to Wisconsin, a relationship apparently stoked by religious as well as potential business ties. There was talk of opening a second coffee shop in the area that the Wormgoors would operate, the police report says.

The Wormgoors arrived at the home 30 minutes before Kara stopped breathing, Dale Neumann said.

Randall Wormgoor encouraged Dale Neumann to call for medical help but the father “said he remained confident and steadfast in his belief that prayer would heal Madeline,” according to an interview Dale Neumann gave to police.

Dale Neumann said he heard a “commotion” coming from the room where his daughter was lying down and that he began CPR efforts. One of the Wormgoors called 911.

Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,” according to the interview statement.

And that, alone, is reason enough why the Neumanns should never, ever be allowed to raise a child again. Particularly horrific is her father’s last-ditch attempt to get help:

Police also said an e-mail Dale Neumann sent at 4:58 p.m. on March 22, the day before Kara’s death, showed that the parents were aware their daughter was very ill.

The subject line of the email was: “Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!!” The e-mail was send to AmericasLastDays, an online ministry run by David Eells.

Yeah, that’ll work. Whatever happened to “God helps those who help themselves” or the belief that God gave humans minds to figure out all these wonderful modern medical treatments and that He wants people to take advantage of them?

In any event, negligent homicide sounds pretty close to correct to me. In the U.S., we have freedom of religion. We also have freedom of self-determination. If a competent adult wishes, he or she can refuse medical care for religious reasons or virtually any other reason. If an adult wants to sacrifice his or her life on the altar of religion by refusing medical care for a life-threatening illness, the law and tradition permit that. Children, however, are a different case. Because they are not yet competent to decide such weighty matters for themselves, tradition and the law both give the ultimate authority to their parents or guardians to make such decisions for them. The assumption behind this, however, is that the parents or guardians will act in the best interests of the child. No doubt the Neumanns thought they were acting in the best interest of their their daughter, but any objective observer would occur otherwise. Part and parcel of acting in a child’s best interest includes providing adequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Withholding effective care for a very treatable condition to the point where the child died when her life was eminently salvageable is a gross neglect of that duty. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan put it quite well:

Parents do not have the right to watch a child wither away while they pray. Parents do not have the right to watch a child convulse in pain while they pray. Parents should understand that if a child is in agony, if a child is slowly dying before their eyes, that they have an absolute duty, the same as any other parent — religious or not — to call the police, an ambulance or emergency services.

[…]

We need to send the right message to parents — you can rely on prayer, but not when your child’s life clearly hangs in the balance. When it comes to children, faith must have limits.

That is why I am heartened to see the Neumanns prosecuted, even though it may well be an uphill battle to obtain a conviction. So great is our deference to religion in this country that I am not at all confident that the Neumanns won’t get off scot-free and even ultimately regain custody of their other children to have another chance to do it again. As was discussed in an episode of Freethought Radio by Shawn Francis Peters, author of When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law, various fundamentalist religions, led by primarily by Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have managed over the years to protect exemptions from prosecution for neglect if parents choose prayer instead of medicine for their children. Sadly, here have been many cases of children who died because medical treatment was withheld in favor of prayer, a few of which are documented here. One may wonder why the prosecutor is choosing to prosecute for negligent homicide rather than abuse and neglect. That’s because prosecuting for abuse or neglect is not an option under Wisconsin law, statute 948.03:

(6) TREATMENT THROUGH PRAYER. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.

Basically, the prosecutor appears to have done the best she could, given the crappy law in Wisconsin, a law that religious supporters of the Neumanns, in a despicable and deranged website set up to defend the Neumanns plan to try to milk for all it’s worth. (If you want concentrated religious craziness at a high dose, click; but you have been warned. You will lose brain cells.) Sadly, this deference to religion and its resultant exemption of “treatment through prayer” (i.e., no treatment at all) for children from prosecution for abuse and neglect. As Childrenshealthcare.org documents, most states have similar laws on the books, laws that leave children vulnerable. The number and breadth of religious exemptions for medical care affecting children are truly disturbing. Here are a some examples:

  • 48 states have religious exemptions from immunizations.  Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that require all children to be immunized without exception for religious belief.
  • The majority of states have religious exemptions from metabolic testing of newborns. Such tests detect disorders that will cause mental retardation and other handicaps unless they are treated. 
  • Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have religious exemptions from prophylactic eyedrops for newborns. The eyedrops prevent blindness of infants who have been infected with venereal diseases carried by their mothers.
  • Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have religious exemptions from testing children for lead-levels in their blood. 
  • California allows public school teachers to refuse testing for tuberculosis on religious grounds.  Ohio has a religious exemption from testing and treatment for tuberculosis.  It lets parents use “a recognized method of religious healing” instead of medical care for a child sick with tuberculosis.
  • Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse or neglect, largely because of a federal government policy from 1974 to 1983 requiring states to pass such exemptions in order to get federal funding for child protection work.
  • Eighteen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children.
  • Twelve states have religious defenses to misdemeanors.
  • States with a religious defense to the most serious crimes against children include: Iowa and Ohio with religious defenses to manslaughter; West Virginia with religious defenses to murder of a child and child neglect resulting in death; Arkansas with a religious defense to capital murder; Oregon with a religious defense to homicide by abuse.

To that I would add the example of Abraham’s Law in Virginia, which in essence strips any protection there was from the state away from teens 14-17 with a life-threatening illness, allowing parents to choose quackery, prayer, or whatever to treat them instead of evidence-based medicine.

It is true that the scope of religious exemptions varies widely from state to state and that many of the actual statutes have ambiguities that lead to differing interpretations. It is equally true that in far too many states children have little or no protection if their parents are religiously deluded into thinking that prayer is a substitute for medical treatment for serious illness. Once again, it must be emphasized that not just any religion qualifies for this exemption. Rather, it is primarily Christian sects. If the Neumanns had worshiped Poseidon and sprinkled their daughter with sea water, expecting that their god’s holy power would thus act through it and heal her, does anyone think there would have been as much resistance to prosecuting them or that the authorities would have dithered as long before coming to a decision? But have a Christian sect say the same sort of thing, and suddenly there’s a huge question over what is the right thing to do. Although I strongly believe in the freedom of religion, like any freedom religious freedom is not without limits. Like any other freedom, it has to be balanced against the rights of others, and if there’s one right that children must have, it’s the right to the necessities of life, including proper medical care.

Comments

  1. #1 DLC
    April 30, 2008

    I cannot articulate my displeasure in seeing cases like this.
    It’s entirely disgusting. Completely.
    These people should be jailed. How anybody could possibly
    watch their child die like this and do nothing astounds me.

  2. #2 DLC
    April 30, 2008

    Excuse the repeat post, but:
    Does ignorance and crazily-misguided faith burn as much as just plain stupid ? or am I just calling water dihydrogen monoxide?

  3. #3 Liesl
    April 30, 2008

    DLC: At least with some cases of stupidity there isn’t a choice involved. You have to choose to deny reason when you choose zealotry. Perplexing, isn’t it?

  4. #4 Danny
    April 30, 2008

    The parents obviously shouldn’t be allowed any legal representation or support – they should just pray that they don’t get set to jail.

  5. #5 chris y
    April 30, 2008

    it turns out that the authorities in Wisconsin are going to try to prosecute the parents for second degree reckless homicide

    Break out the popcorn and wait for the shitstorm of Christians screaming that these people are being perscuted for their faith. As, in this specific case, they should be.

  6. #6 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    I agree with most of what you say, Orac, except that by an enormous percentage, most Christians would probably favor prosecution of parents who neglect their children like this. The religious excemptions you mention are generally the result of political pressure by small, dedicated groups acting on state legislatures, probably the second most easily influenced and easily bought level of government.

    In the case of children, it should be seen as neglect and a violation of the most important right of children, to be protected. Sometimes that means protection from their parents.

    Politically, presenting this as an attack on prayer is going to be counterproductive, concentrate on the civil rights of the children to be protected and you might get somewhere. Of course, these days the courts are increasingly pretending that children are adults in order to present them to for corporate exploitation so you’ll have to change the general culture. These kinds of cases presented as a violation of the childrens’ rights might help do that, presenting it as an attack on religion, as is happening elsewhere on the blogs, is not going to help.

    You realize that many, many times more children are either deprived or denied care as a result of the for-profit health system in the United States, I’m certain. This kind of case is relatively rare as compared to those denied care by insurance companies and health care “providers”, read “rationers”. You might say that it’s a choice of gods, our country has opted for Mammon.

    Prayer isn’t the issue, denial of civil rights is.

  7. #7 AndyD
    April 30, 2008

    “…Dale Neumann led Bible studies at his business, Monkey Mo Coffee Shop, and believed physical illness was due to sin, curable by prayer…”

    As if it’s not bad enough they let their child die, they also blame the child for the illness. Here’s what one Christian site has to say about “spritual attack”

    “If the new believer … begins to study his or her Bible diligently …, then the odds are that Satan will not be able to effectively attack them. However, if after accepting Christ, the new believer … doesn’t bother to study their Bible in order to learn and grow in Christ, then it’s very likely that Satan will stage a successful attack on them, …”

    So, if you get sick and die, it’s your own damned fault.

    Hopefully the prosecutor can point to the parent’s lawyers as proof that they don’t really believe that prayer and faith solve everything. Indeed, when it comes to saving themselves, they abandon God and go straight to the trained professionals. Could the prosecutor then make a case that the death was the result of reckless intent (or whatever legal term fits) rather than a genuine belief in God?

  8. #8 colmcq
    April 30, 2008

    I hope I never experience watching my daughter die. Whilst I think the parents are unbelievably stupid and ignorant, they didn’t act malliciously or callously. What will prosecuting them achieve?

  9. #9 suska
    April 30, 2008

    I hope more religious fundamentalists hear stories like this and know the dangers or relying solely on prayer, especially since tomorrow is “national day of prayer”. However I doubt many of them, if any, will change their radical beliefs.

    http://www.ndptf.org/

    colmcq: prosecuting these people will possibly put them behind bars or at least prevent them from raising more children.

  10. #10 AndyD
    April 30, 2008

    Oops, I risked looking at the “Help the Neumanns” site. Blecchh!

    “While it is true that God created the world and all that is in it, including doctors, we must note: Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith.”

    Did Jesus raise funds and engage the services of a lawyer before he was crucified?

  11. #11 Jud
    April 30, 2008

    For anyone considering faith-based healing or subjecting others to it: Statistics appear to show that God especially loves and heals those who seek scientifically based medical treatment.

  12. #12 Dan S.
    April 30, 2008

    Politically, presenting this as an attack on prayer is going to be counterproductive, concentrate on the civil rights of the children to be protected and you might get somewhere.

    When framing, it’s good to have an well-chosen and attractive frame, but one also wants to make sure that the picture’s actually inside, rather than across the room.

  13. #13 John C. Welch
    April 30, 2008

    It would appear that whole “God helps them who help themselves” thing is true. In this case, it should have been appended by “…to competent medical care, thanks to the big brains and higher thinking that we were able to evolve under the physical rules created at some point” At least that’s using god and religion constructively.

    In this case, I think the saw about “too stupid to breed” is true, God realized its mistake, and repo’d the little dear.

  14. #14 Ranson
    April 30, 2008

    On reading Orac’s list of religious exemptions, I was at first heartened to see my old home state of WV as one of the two not providing religious exemptions for vaccines; then I got to the end of the list. WV has a lot going for it in the realm of common sense. The vaccine bit is one thing; they also have a subsection in their state education standards firmly enforcing the teaching of modern evolutionary theory as good science, and there are other examples. That they have a religious healing statute disappoints me, but it doesn’t shock me.

    WV is a breeding ground for fundamentalist and other denominations that pick a single line of the bible to exhort above all others. Some of those (distant relatives of mine) are some of the more famous snake handlers out there; the coal camps were the sort of place where if you didn’t like the way your church was run, you walk down the road a few minutes and found another. A lot of those talk up the Baptist hardline on healing and salvation, so I guess it was inevitable that someone would push a healing bill through the legislature. For all the practicality and sense I’ve seen, it gets balanced with a pretty fierce religiosity. It’s a strange state. Of course, many of the people I know that got a solid education and ended up leaving (like me) are fairly areligious or irreligious. Maybe if we all moved back, it would make a difference.

  15. #15 Martin
    April 30, 2008

    quote – “Whilst I think the parents are unbelievably stupid and ignorant, they didn’t act maliciously or callously. What will prosecuting them achieve?”

    Actually, they did act callously. They knew their child was ill, and deliberately made the decision, callously and in cold blood, to not call a doctor. They were asked by relatives to call a doctor, and they refused. I have nothing but complete contempt for them.

    And prosecuting them will (a) punish them for their cruelty and (b) send a message to other idiots who might think that this is acceptable behaviour.

  16. #16 colmcq
    April 30, 2008

    there’s something which is making me very uneasy about all of this…they’ve lost a daughter and that’s more punishment than I could ever bear.

  17. #17 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    I didn’t think of it so much as ‘framing’ but getting the right target in sight. You shoot at the wrong target, if it’s large and feels your shot, you might have a much bigger and more immediate problem. The target you want isn’t the one the Sciblogs are focusing on. This happens so often that I don’t think most of the really care about the issue of protecting children from abuse, it’s their daily fix of anti-religious invective and hate that really interests them. If I didn’t think Orac was interested in the children instead, I’d never have bothered commenting.

  18. #18 MartinM
    April 30, 2008

    there’s something which is making me very uneasy about all of this…they’ve lost a daughter and that’s more punishment than I could ever bear.

    And yet that isn’t enough to change their behaviour, apparently. Did you miss this part?

    Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,” according to the interview statement.

  19. #19 colmcq
    April 30, 2008

    I missed that bit Martin, my apologies. At 35 my eyesight would appear to suck.

    The guy’s a brainwashed moron. Poor kid.

  20. #20 daedalus2u
    April 30, 2008

    Orac, now that you mention it, I have never heard of a case where a child has died following the parents praying to Poseidon and sprinkling the child with seawater. Presumably all such prayers have either been successful or unsuccessful parents have followed up with real medical treatment.

    As I read the law, the parents can’t be prosecuted simply because they prayed for their child to recover. I think they could be prosecuted because they prayed ineffectively. If their prayers had succeeded the child would be well. The child died, therefore either they chose the wrong deity to pray to, or they didn’t pray hard enough.

    The father even said so; he saw it as a test of his faith. Pretty obviously his faith wasn’t up to the task of saving his daughter, but rather than acknowledge his clear limitations and get help from professionals, he chose to let her die.

    This wasn’t negligent homicide, it was reckless homicide.

    AndyD makes an excellent point. Praying was good enough to try and fix their daughter’s diabetes, but not good enough to fix the legal problems that prayer got them into in the first place.

  21. #21 Orac
    April 30, 2008

    You shoot at the wrong target, if it’s large and feels your shot, you might have a much bigger and more immediate problem. The target you want isn’t the one the Sciblogs are focusing on. This happens so often that I don’t think most of the really care about the issue of protecting children from abuse, it’s their daily fix of anti-religious invective and hate that really interests them. If I didn’t think Orac was interested in the children instead, I’d never have bothered commenting.

    Prayer was not my target. Fundamentalist religion that allows such irrationality to be considered acceptable was a target but not the main one. The laxness of our child protections laws was the target. The laxness comes from two sources: (1) an unjustified and unjustifiable respect for even extreme religious views that are so irrational that they regularly result in the unnecessary deaths of children to the point where tolerating such views and allowing children to die is, in essence, enshrined in law and (2) a seeming belief that children are more or less the property of the parents to the point where the parents have absolute power over them. This latter problem then leaves children vulnerable when parents fall for non-science-based and non-evidence-based woo, as in the cases of Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke, for instance, both of whose cases I have written about extensively. (Use the search box at the upper lefthand corner for more examples) In both cases, the law leaves children vulnerable to suffer from lack of medical care as a result of their parents’ irrational beliefs, be they extreme fundamentalist beliefs or beliefs in woo.

  22. #22 Orac
    April 30, 2008

    What will prosecuting them achieve?

    It will make an example of them and send a message society does not consider religion to be an acceptable reason to deprive a child of medical care and let her die. Also remember that the father was quoted as saying that, if he had another child and was faced with the same circumstances, he would have done the same thing. In other words, the parents have not learned their lesson from this tragedy. Consequently, it also serves the purpose of taking their remaining children away from parents who have openly said that they will not provide them with proper medical care if they become ill.

  23. #23 James McGrath
    April 30, 2008

    I will leave it to others to discuss the science and the legality. What I would like to say is that from a Christian perspective, these parents behaved reprehensibly.

  24. #24 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    I didn’t think that was what you meant, Orac or I wouldn’t have bothered to comment. Childrens’ rights exist as their own rights, not subject to the whim of their parents. Foremost of those rights is to the protection of the state so they have a better chance to become adults who can look out for themselves. It’s like Douglas’ reservation in the Yoder case magnified.

    Though, I’d say that calling prayer “woo” would tend to get more attention than your admirably nuanced stand on the subject. It would be focused on by those wanting to defeat your point in any political context. Take the word of someone who has recent experience of trying to make a detailed argument. You couldn’t have avoided noticing the tone this story is getting treated with at other blogs and in the comments here.

  25. #25 Calli Arcale
    April 30, 2008

    It bothers me that if you fail to get medical treatment for your pet, you can be charged with animal cruelty, but if you fail to get medical treatment for your child, you can cry religious persecution to avoid prosecution.

    The thing that bothers me the most about the idea of illness being the result of sin (besides the very nasty picture it paints of God) is that this man is obviously perfectly comfortable suggesting that his daughter has done something so heinous that it deserves capital punishment. Now, he doesn’t seem to hate his daughter — he prayed fervently for her to survive, after all. But if illness is punishment for sin, then logically she must have done something truly horrific. Either that, or God was punishing her for something her family did (an abhorrent idea to a modern Western mind, but one which made sense a few hundred years ago), in which case this guy is comfortable with the idea that God is willing to kill people for something someone else did. (That is in the Bible, actually: the sins of the father are to be visited on the descendants, according to the Old Testament.)

    So either he thinks his daughter did something so heinous that no amount of prayer would sway God’s hand, or he thinks *he* did something so heinous that his daughter had to die to pay for it. And thus could be guilty of negligent homicide even by his own belief system, if you think about it….

    That’s where the whole idea of illness as evidence of sin breaks down, of course. If it were true, those who sin more would suffer more. And that just doesn’t happen. I’m sure this guy truly believes that only prayer can save a person, and that he has been mightily tested, a la Job, yet stayed faithful to his belief. It’s very sad to see a person continue in such a belief despite having it slap him in the face so violently. It’s like believing that prayer will make you fly and jumping off a cliff, followed by trying the same thing six months later once you’re out of traction. *shakes head* Very very sad.

  26. #26 Graham
    April 30, 2008

    What you describe is absolutely appalling, and you are right, if these people were anything other than ‘Christians’ (a much misused term these days) then the book would have been thrown at them.

    The website, Whatstheharm.net (http://whatstheharm.net/index.html) has a good listing of just what sort of damage this sort of belief can bring about.

    The saddest thing is that many of the people who do this actually do believe that they are doing the right thing, even after it is too late.

  27. #27 Ruthie Graham
    April 30, 2008

    I am a Christian, one who believes in prayer, and does believe that it works, but I would never, never allow my child to suffer like this. I believe that God gave humanity wonderful minds and expects us to use those minds to help others….in this case, the wonderful minds of the medial community who could have saved this little girl’s life. God can heal anyway He chooses and many times it is through the medical community….I take my children to the doctor when they are sick, I pray for them and give them the medicine prescribed and follow the doctor’s orders…I am sorry that a few Christians on the fringe are blind to the fact that God does work through the medical community (although I know that there are many without faith in God who will beg to differ with me) to heal.

    My heart breaks for the little girl….how sad to have put upon you that you are sick because of a particular sin in your life and that you do not love God enough…it is tragic.

  28. #28 Bryn
    April 30, 2008

    So, Colmcq, if I kill my father, my sole-surviving parent, can I get excused on the grounds that I’m an orphan and have suffered enough? (Please see definition of “chutzpah”.)

    As for what good will it do–what good does any law do? We have laws against murder, yet people keep committing it. We have speed laws and people keep breaking them. In this case, I agree with Suska; it might not prevent others from breaking the law, but it will damned well protect the couple’s other children, whom they have stated they would “treat” the same way. If that doesn’t frighten you, I’m not sure what would.

  29. #29 Robert Ward
    April 30, 2008

    It’s about damn time. These people should never, ever be allowed near children. How could anyone, parent or not, watch a child whither away and die right before their eyes without thinking they may need REAL medical treatment. It really makes me sick.

  30. #30 Bryn
    April 30, 2008

    Ah, Colmcq, just saw your follow-up. Let me tell you what you have to look forward to at 48………

  31. #31 LB
    April 30, 2008

    Wow… I knew there were religious exemption laws for vaccinations, but I had no idea they were available for testing blood lead levels too. It’s sad that so many of the more urban states that have these laws are places where children may be more likely to live in older housing stock where lead exposure can be a serious public health problem.

    I always thought that if even 1/10 of the outrage and money from the mercury/vaccines people were to be focused on the problem of childhood lead exposure there could be real progress made. :(

  32. #32 Evinfuilt
    April 30, 2008

    I come from a rather religious family, so I get the view of what they were “supposed” to do.

    “When they prayed for help from God, they received it. God sent them their friends, who asked to take the child to the hospital. So these parents ignored God and paid dearly for it.”

    Well, at least that’s what I was taught. Reality to me, sick child = hospital. But the above statement is the religious answer to how they failed God and lost their child.

  33. #33 Evinfuilt
    April 30, 2008

    damn, dbl-post. I should have known better. Guess my faith in your server let me down ;)

  34. It would be interesting to make a case that you were just praying for your dog to get well because you believe in the power of prayer.

    Illiterate reporter alert: “would not waver…”

  35. #35 Kypdurron5
    April 30, 2008

    “You may think this would be a no-brainer for at least a charge of child neglect, but such is the sway of religion (at least Christian religion)”
    I’ve got to say- that really offends me, not because our beliefs differ…I am offended at your blatant biased ignorance. The largest group of “Christians” in the world is the Catholic church, followed closely by mainstream protestants. The sect we’re talking about here is loosely based on Christianity, and is criticized just as much in the religious world as in the secular one. I haven’t heard anyone, Christian or otherwise, fighting their cause- the ACLU is the only organization that would touch something like this, and they’re despised equally by everyone. If Christians have pull it’s because a majority of people in this country are indeed religious, but I assure you, no one with pull is using it to keep these neglectful parents out of jail, and I dare you to prove otherwise. Besides, the “Christian” bible that they read includes an apostle that was a physician, along with other clear references to medical care. The parents in this article had great ignorance about a lot of things… Do us all a favor and correct some of your own.

  36. #36 decrepitoldfool
    April 30, 2008

    Austria apparently has a Murder through failure to act” law. I reckon we need one like that.

  37. #37 Coriolis
    April 30, 2008

    Ok, Kyp, answer this for me, if these parents instead of praying to the christian god to save their child had instead asked poseidon to save her and thrown water on her while she died, would any law in any state consider that a religious exception for them? Would the cops who came initially have said “well there’s no sign of abuse, no need to take the other kids away”? Would they not be charged for child abuse like they ought to be?

    Do us all a favor and realize the wide cover that mainstream christianity offers to these nutjobs.

  38. #38 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 30, 2008

    I’ve got to say- that really offends me, not because our beliefs differ…I am offended at your blatant biased ignorance. The largest group of “Christians” in the world is the Catholic church, followed closely by mainstream protestants. The sect we’re talking about here is loosely based on Christianity, and is criticized just as much in the religious world as in the secular one. I haven’t heard anyone, Christian or otherwise, fighting their cause- the ACLU is the only organization that would touch something like this, and they’re despised equally by everyone.

    Um the ACLU is equally despised by everyone? What planet are you living on? I find the ACLU to be a great organization as do millions of others in this country. Just because the right-wing has their panties in a bunch over some(ignoring the things they do to protect religious liberty) of the things that the ACLU does, does not project to all of us.

    And it will be the religious folks in the government that support these people, not the reality based ones.

  39. #39 Sigivald
    April 30, 2008

    Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong atheist, and think reliance on faith healing is daft.

    Suska, et. al: Let’s not confuse fundamentalists with this particular brand of religion.

    Almost all fundamentalist Christians do not practice faith-healing (That is, they’ll certainly pray for the sick, but they also go to doctors. Even those that believe the laying-on of hands can cure illness almost universally reject it as a sole form of healthcare) or believe that illness is a punishment for sin or an attack by the Devil.

    Blame not the Fundamentalists, but the Christian Scientists and their offshoots.

    (For that matter, if people really did truly and sincerely believe that Poseidon* would take care of medical needs, I suspect they would get the same “cover”. Or at least an insanity defense rather than a murder conviction.

    *But, why not pray to Asclepius, the proper Greek deity for such ends? Or Panacea?)

    Rev.: You might want to realize that, even to this atheist, you sound like someone who has made a religion of opposing religion – and that’s both off-putting and ineffective.

    Plus I think the person you quote was suggesting that the sect in question was equally despised by everyone, and meant to have a – rather than a , before that clause.

    Not even the “right-wing” and the “religious folks” think the ACLU is “despised equally by everyone” – even its total detractors are well aware that the ACLU is not universally despised, you see. Thus a further reason why I think he just wrote clumsily.

    (Me, I think the ACLU would get more credibility if it defended all civil liberties and didn’t pretend that one and only one amendment in the Bill of Rights somehow refers, when it says “the people”, to “the state”.)

  40. #40 Chuck Lunney
    April 30, 2008

    I wrote the following column for the Kansas City Star newspaper’s Faith section this last weekend. It seems especially appropriate, given this topic.

    ———————————

    http://www.kansascity.com/656/story/591585.html

    Saving Lives is Better Than Saying Prayers

    I’m sure that many readers have heard that Thursday, May 1st is the “National Day of Prayer”. It’s supposed to be a day when believers of all faiths gather to kneel down and pray for healing, hope and peace (at least, I certainly hope that’s what most people would pray for).

    I do appreciate the sentiment, and I know prayer makes those doing the praying feel better, but unfortunately prayer is one of the most objectively ineffective and useless forms of assistance. Other than making those doing the praying “feel better,” numerous studies have shown time and again that prayer fails to benefit those who are prayed for, and at best it is no better than a placebo. As an atheist, that just seems like a tremendous waste of time and personal effort, which I’d prefer to see spent in a more unselfish and demonstrably beneficial way.

    For the last two years I’ve participated in the National Gift of Life Day (see http://www.centerforatheism.org), which is an organized effort to get atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers to donate blood. A single donation of whole blood is one of the most effective proven ways to save lives. It’s also a demonstration of selfless sacrifice and altruistic caring about the rest of humanity.

    I don’t know who will receive the blood I donate — he or she could be black, white, Asian, gay, racist, Christian, Muslim or atheist — and I don’t care. I am willing to stand on my feet, giving freely and openly of my own flesh and blood to provide a direct and demonstrable part of myself for the benefit of others, as opposed to all those on their knees who are wasting their time doing something that benefits no one but themselves.

    (I realize that there are some, for whatever reason, who cannot donate blood — sexual orientation, travel restrictions, disease history and so forth.)

    For those who are unable to donate, there are many other things you can do Thursday to help — volunteer at a local blood center, encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers and everyone else to donate, publicize the National Gift of Life Day on your blogs, your Web sites, your calendars and everywhere else. Don’t just sit around. Make a difference for the good of humanity.

    Please, no matter what your beliefs or affiliations, do more than bend your knees in ineffective prayer. Open your hearts to allow the most effective and lifesaving thing you could possibly do — donate your blood to save lives.

    Show the world how ethical, caring and significant the atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and other nonbelievers can be. Donate and show everyone the way to effectively and rationally make a difference in the world.

    ——————————–

    Let’s all do our part to lessen the irrationality and reliance on ignorance that goes on in this country — please, if possible, donate blood tomorrow.

  41. #41 Chuck Lunney
    April 30, 2008

    I apologize for the double-post above, my computer hung up, and I thought the first one hadn’t gone through!

    SORRY!

  42. #42 Lenora
    April 30, 2008

    Actually, I did recently donate blood in honor of a very ill child I read about on a blog. I don’t believe in intercession through prayer (does God only love the kids who have people praying for them? Pretty pissy for a divine creator.) but I do undertand that a regular donation of type O blood can help alot of people.

  43. #43 daedalus2u
    April 30, 2008

    I donated blood this past Saturday, second time this year, fifth time in the last 10 months.

  44. #44 freelunch
    April 30, 2008

    I hope I never experience watching my daughter die. Whilst I think the parents are unbelievably stupid and ignorant, they didn’t act malliciously or callously. What will prosecuting them achieve?

    They did it for the worst of all possible reasons in the view of Christianity. They did it to show that their faith, their prayers would save. It is hubris of the most immoral order. “I thank you, God, that I am not like these others,” is the prayer that they sent to God. No surprise that their prayers weren’t answered.

    It’s a sad real-life version of the story about the man suffering from a flood who turned away help from people who risked their own lives to bring him to safety, telling them that God would save him. He finally drowned and arriving at the Pearly Gates, he asked Peter why God didn’t save him. Peter remonstrated that his neighbor had offered him a ride, a man in a canoe came past to take him away, a rescue helicopter had come past. Why did the man think he was so special that God had to cause a miracle to save him when kind friends and strangers would do the same.

  45. #45 freelunch
    April 30, 2008

    Ok, Kyp, answer this for me, if these parents instead of praying to the christian god to save their child had instead asked poseidon to save her and thrown water on her while she died, would any law in any state consider that a religious exception for them? Would the cops who came initially have said “well there’s no sign of abuse, no need to take the other kids away”? Would they not be charged for child abuse like they ought to be?

    Both the Christian Scientists (Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist, the Mary Baker Eddy followers) and Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ones being protected. Not one in a hundred mainstream or evangelical Christians would consider either sect to be Christian denominations.

  46. #46 Sastra
    April 30, 2008

    One of the best reasons to prosecute parents who treat their children’s serious illnesses with prayer is to give other such parents an “out” when they waver, or when they want an excuse to go against peer pressure. Unless they have been raised in an isolated cult compound, the devout know all about modern medicine, emergency rooms, and paramedics.

    And it is very, very hard to “keep the faith” when you watch your child suffer. In every account I’ve come across, the parents all talk about their moments of what they considered to be “weakness.” Should they call the doctor after all? They are tempted.

    If there is a law — and if they know they will go to jail if they don’t — it may be just the little ledge they need to grab on to in order to justify seeking outside help — justify it to themselves, their spouse, or their church group (whom they fear may shun or condemn them.) “Look, I don’t want to, but the STATE is FORCING me. I have no choice. I’m so ANGRY.”

    And, secretly, so relieved.

  47. #47 Anthony McCarthy
    April 30, 2008

    I wonder why the neo-atheists here aren’t railing against the insurance companies and for-profit medical rationers who regularly deny treatment to children every day instead of lying about the vast majority of Christians who would want to see these people prosecuted for child neglect if not homicide.

    Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t wonder about it, it’s because they care more about their five minute hate than they do about the issue of children being denied medical care.

    Yeah. Insult eight-tenths of the population. Great strategy for winning.

  48. #48 wackyvorlon
    April 30, 2008

    @Callie: (That is in the Bible, actually: the sins of the father are to be visited on the descendants, according to the Old Testament.)
    Care to cite the scripture for this one? It may very well be in there, but for the life of me I don’t remember it.

    A point that should be mentioned, as well, regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses. The issue is with blood and blood transfusions, and the bible is fairly specific about it. We are very much not in the same category as the individuals cited. I have to confess, I find the assertion that we are not christian a very strange one. I’ve never had luck understanding it, truthfully. Is it because we don’t believe Jesus is god?

  49. #49 Dan S.
    May 1, 2008

    I wonder why the neo-atheists here aren’t railing against the insurance companies and for-profit medical rationers who regularly deny treatment to children every day

    Isn’t this a little bit like the one that goes, why aren’t those feminists bothering to fight real oppression in other (ie, Muslim/designated enemy regimes/etc.) parts of the world, instead of making a silly fuss about getting into golf tournaments or such? (If you don’t know why that’s stupid, stupid, well, stupidity, I’m too tired and cranky to help you. Sorry.)

    No, there surely are ‘neo-atheists’ who rail against insurance companies, etc., although presumably some are allowed to have different sets of favored causes/obsessions in this teeming and often mangy world. (For example, you keep banging on about Darwin and the history of 19th/early 20th C. eugenics, even while there are examples of serious racism and genuine neo-nazism right here and right now. You’re not (for example) David Niewert, and that’s ok). But it’s not at all clear why they should be required to go off on insurance companies refusing to provide care to sick kids in a thread that has little to do with the topic. (Though it’s certainly a good thing to bring up).

    Now, I’m not a enormous fan of random ‘religious people are sooo DUMB!’ stuff. But it would seem to me that one of the main points of Orac’s post is that excessive deference to (very specifically Christian) religion is making it extremely hard to obtain some measure of justice. Granted, that won’t help children who have already died because of such bizarre and twisted beliefs, but it could protect others. This isn’t incidental theist-mocking, but one of the main points. (See again their 9:32 and 9:37 comments, and also Sastra’s 7:37 pm comment directly above yours).

    instead of lying about the vast majority of Christians who would want to see these people prosecuted for child neglect if not homicide.

    I’m not seeing a lot (any, really) examples of that on this thread. It’s entirely possible I’m missing them – as I said, tired and cranky. Could you please direct me to some such comments here?


    Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t wonder about it, it’s because they care more about their five minute hate than they do about the issue of children being denied medical care.

    Yes, I’ve noticed that you’re increasingly attributing horrible motives to demonized others. Now, trying to figure out motivations for other people’s actions is what we do, it’s part of being human and (generally) having an highly developed and complex theory of mind (granted, mine mostly staggers along much of the time, but it’s there), and it’s incredibly important for all kinds of very practical issues.

    But between this and that bizarre comment on the other thread about “I’ve wondered if a scientist discovered that the earth was going to be vaporized in two days if he would make his short lived, world wide fame or if he would keep it to himself so people might not have two days of horrible experiences. My guess would be most would opt for the fame, though I hope I’m wrong about that,” I hope you’ll consider that you might have drifted off course due to strong (and often generally commendable) emotions, and perhaps need to take a few deep breaths (been there myself, after all).

    Though, I’d say that calling prayer “woo” would tend to get more attention than your admirably nuanced stand on the subject.

    No doubt it would. Of course, nobody here is doing so. Seems a bit irrelevant to the particular discussion.

    It would be focused on by those wanting to defeat your point in any political context.

    The unspoken bit here seems to be that (mostly Christian) religious people will be more offended by hearing a stunted and essentially magical understanding of Christian prayer described as woo than by hearing about parents who let their young child die a drawn-out and utterly unnecessary death in the name of Christianity, and who use the Bible to defend their repulsive acts, and will flock to support “those wanting to defeat your point.”
    As with Amy Sullivan’s stuff, the apparent assumption is that many or most Christians are ignorant, easily manipulated fools who care more about trash-talk from some random, probably 15-year-old blog-commenter than issues like this.

    Now, I suppose it’s possible that in many current political contexts, this assumption might allow one to make pretty good predictions for at least some religious groups, even if the actual nuances are more complicated. But one shouldn’t imagine that it isn’t far, far more smugly hostile than anything ‘neo-atheists’ might go on about.

  50. #50 Liesl
    May 1, 2008

    I wonder why the neo-atheists here aren’t railing against the insurance companies and for-profit medical rationers who regularly deny treatment to children every day instead of lying about the vast majority of Christians who would want to see these people prosecuted for child neglect if not homicide.

    Look over there! it’s a red herring! The favorite fallacy of those who can’t dispute the issue actually being discussed.

  51. #51 Dan S.
    May 1, 2008

    and the bible is fairly specific about it.

    Indeed, it is. It talks, in a handful of very brief passages, about the consumption of blood, as part of a system of dietary (and other) taboos and ritual purity. I am not aware of anything that even in the very vaguest resembles the modern medical practice of life-saving transfusions (freely donated by willing human donors. If we were talking about the drinking of human blood – say, by people who’ve read too much Anne Rice and such – well, there surely would be at least a literalistic point. (Plus, icky!).

    Incidentally, to ask a familiar question, I assume you also refrain from eating pork or lobster, or wearing cotton/polyester blends, or planting two kinds of seeds in the same field, etc., etc., etc.. If not, why not?

  52. #52 AndyD
    May 1, 2008

    “I wonder why the neo-atheists here aren’t railing against the insurance companies and for-profit medical rationers who regularly deny treatment to children every day”

    Although I’m an agnostic (I don’t have the commitment to declare absolute faith in ‘no God’) I guess in a thread such as this, I’m one of those neo-atheists you refer to.

    Fistly, let me say that Australia doesn’t suffer from the sort of insurance exclusion that appears to underpin the US health system. Secondly, let me assure you that just today I called our Health Minister’s (government) office to query a decision to cease a free mobile dental clinic for school children in our town. Thirdly, this discussion isn’t about insurance companies so that would be off-topic here.

    On a further note, since the Unleavened Bread Ministry claims that it does not oppose doctors, nor use of them by followers, does that mean the parents could ultimately be left out to dry on the basis that “this was their own decision”?

  53. #53 AndyD
    May 1, 2008

    Fistly, let me say that Australia doesn’t suffer from the sort of insurance exclusion that appears to underpin the US health system.

    I should clarify that I’m posting from Oz, I was not suggesting the story in question relates to Oz – just that I’m in no position to comment on the US system. I should also point out that the first word in the above quote should be “firstly”

  54. #54 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2008

    I guess in a thread such as this, I’m one of those neo-atheists you refer to

    I only use the insult “neo-atheist” for people who are being bigoted jerks. Most atheists and agnostics I’ve known aren’t jerks.

    Whenever my use of it is questioned I always define the term so as to limit it to people who are being bigoted jerks. So, I’m only talking about jerks when I say it.

  55. #55 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2008

    Yes, Liesl would be an example.

  56. #56 Steve
    May 1, 2008

    You know, when I was a teenager being indoctrinated by a fundamentalist sect, they read the bible – “All healing comes from God”. That would be an inclusive “all” – meaning antibiotics, surgery, etc. Sure, they indulged in prayer, but they called the minister to meet them at the hospital.

    Those days are long behind me, having bailed on that train wreck some twenty-odd years ago, and I certainly think these people should be prosecuted.

    But one must be very careful here, for many reasons. Freedom of any intellectual flavor requires that parents be given wide discretion as to the ideology they infect their children with. If you take that away, you destroy ‘freedom’ in a generic sense in favor of an Orwellian state-sponsored curriculum of thought. Your ability to choose differently from the crown DEPENDS on dissent. And since the bulk of the population self-identifies as Christian, do you want THEM setting the curriculum for YOUR child? I don’t.

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2008

    And since the bulk of the population self-identifies as Christian, do you want THEM setting the curriculum for YOUR child?

    Steve, you don’t make a distinction between liberal Christians and biblical fundamentalists. I wouldn’t have any problem with the average member of the United Church of Christ voting on the curriculum of a public school, I’d have a big problem with a fundamentalist, Southern Baptist having control of it. It’s OT on this thread but the failure to make the distinction between liberal Christians and fundamentalists is politically foolish and unjust. Pretending the increasingly rightwing court is going to protect the wall of separation is foolish too, it’s going to take election victories to protect it in the end.

  58. #58 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 1, 2008

    Rev.: You might want to realize that, even to this atheist, you sound like someone who has made a religion of opposing religion – and that’s both off-putting and ineffective.

    You got that from what I wrote there or from other comments?

    It’s far from the truth and has little bearing on the validity of any argument I put forth. Yes I’m an atheist. Yes I find many problems with religion. Yes I comment here and at other blogs (including my own) on the topics that include religion. I also comment on topics that have nothing to do with religion and never bring it up. But the subject matter of this post by Orac is at least partially related to the damage that religious ideas can do. How that is even close to being a “religion” is frankly pretty silly. Please understand that when you say something like the above, being an atheist or not, you are treading dangerously into the “Atheism is a religion” argument, and that argument is incredibly misinformed and ridiculous.

    Plus I think the person you quote was suggesting that the sect in question was equally despised by everyone, and meant to have a – rather than a , before that clause.

    Not even the “right-wing” and the “religious folks” think the ACLU is “despised equally by everyone” – even its total detractors are well aware that the ACLU is not universally despised, you see. Thus a further reason why I think he just wrote clumsily.

    I’m willing to accept that I misinterpreted what he(she) said, but I’m pretty sure that I am correct and that wasn’t a result of clumsy writing (something I’m very familiar with personally as I am no wordsmith).

    Not even the “right-wing” and the “religious folks” think the ACLU is “despised equally by everyone” – even its total detractors are well aware that the ACLU is not universally despised, you see. Thus a further reason why I think he just wrote clumsily.

    I agree, but interpreting what Kyp said the way I do, that is exactly what he (she) was suggesting. Of course, again leaving open the possibility that got the wrong meaning from Kyp’s point. So assuming I am wrong, I also don’t think that these people are despised equally by all. So if it is clumsy writing, it is also wrong.

  59. #59 Steve
    May 1, 2008

    Anthony McCarthy:

    I certainly recognize what you mean on an individual basis. Unfortunately for us, there is a HUGE constituency of “Casual Christians” who, say, go to church on Christmas and Easter – if at all, and believe in Wrasslin’ and Nascar, who are effectively “liberal christians’ – in that they don’t really care if you’re Methodist, Baptist, or Catholic – but in any important debate involving religious issues, side with the less thoughtful members of the Christian movers-and-shakers. Come here, to the Midwest, and talk publicly about letting gays marry, or allowing abortion with informed consent, and see how liberal the average Christian is, even though not fundamentalist.

    You know the kind – the ones that think that George Bush is a good, god fearin’ man that supports universal health care. We’re DROWNING in them out here. Can we send some to the coasts to kind of spread ‘em out and reduce their impact on politics?

  60. #60 Dan S.
    May 1, 2008

    I wouldn’t have any problem with the average member of the United Church of Christ voting on the curriculum of a public school, I’d have a big problem with a fundamentalist, Southern Baptist having control of it

    Why the non-parallelism (UCC member: voting::fundamentalist SB::controlling)?

    But the failure to make the distinction between liberal Christians and fundamentalists is politically foolish and unjust.

    Unjust, certainly. One reply might be that the difference between slavish and crudely literalistic followers of Poseidon and folks who might (if they’re of a rather sophisticated bent) say that Poseidon is the deep ocean of all being or something is diverting, but ultimately irrelevant to whether Poseidon and associated things exist in any meaningful sense. On the other hand, the difference between people who insist that earthquakes are caused by Poseidon the Earthshaker, and therefore the theory of plate tectonics (“Wegenerism”) is evil and wrong (same with naturalistic attempts to understand and cure epilepsy), and that worshippers of Athena (to say nothing of materialistic atomists and suchlike!) should have little or no say in the life and running of the polis, and etc., etc. (since even badly stretched analogy starts faltering here as we get into more modern cultural concerns), and folks who don’t, is quite an important one. (also that ‘a collection of correct or incorrect postulates’ isn’t exactly a very good description of what religion is.)

    Politically foolish? I don’t know. You’ve written that ‘neo-atheists’ are being a disaster for left politics, and that’s not a utterly absurd hypothesis, but do you have any evidence of it? When you write that “Pretending the increasingly rightwing court is going to protect the wall of separation is foolish too, it’s going to take election victories to protect it in the end.” – well, that’s certainly not wrong in a basic and literal sense, but beyond that it gets into a certain and contentious bit of territory also crossed by, for example, abortion-related strategizing, etc. There are practical questions – how many votes are actually ready to swing over but for the single issue (or small handful) one wants to moderate/throw under the bus/etc.? Having forged such a differently leaning coalition, and allowed the overton window to be pulled rightwards, will progress (or even heel-digging, desperately fought protection) actually be in one’s grasp? – alongside even more heated ideological ones. And to speak of the wall of separation is to perhaps remember how many foundation stones were not the product of crowd-calming moderation but – for many at the time, and of course still – a despised and alien radicalism.

    I dunno – this sort of stuff is far from clear in my own mind. I do think that AmySullivanism – there are hordes of ‘religious’ (= evangelical christian) voters out there who strongly share oodles of liberal values, but will vote for Republicans instead because some folks online with no political power or influence in any party were rude to them is a rather smug and sneering view (although given the foolishness (and tribalism) of our species, I can’t say it’s not a possibly accurate one.)

    And ultimately, certainly, we live and wish to live in a democracy, and a democratic society- our necessary task is to show people why our policies and ideas are good and valuable ones.

  61. #61 wackyvorlon
    May 1, 2008

    @Dan S. : “I am not aware of anything that even in the very vaguest resembles the modern medical practice of life-saving transfusions (freely donated by willing human donors. If we were talking about the drinking of human blood – say, by people who’ve read too much Anne Rice and such – well, there surely would be at least a literalistic point. (Plus, icky!).

    A very good point. It clearly doesn’t address modern blood trasnfusions, for obvious reasons:) This is where a degree of interpretation has to come into play. We look at the core reason for the initial prohibition. The blood is considered by god symbolic of life. Since the life belongs only to god, the blood must be poured out. It is viewed as sacred. It is from this understanding that we refuse blood transfusions. We believe that a transfusion is not compatable with this spiritual command.

    Incidentally, to ask a familiar question, I assume you also refrain from eating pork or lobster, or wearing cotton/polyester blends, or planting two kinds of seeds in the same field, etc., etc., etc.. If not, why not?

    An important point. When Jesus died, the old laws became obsolete, and it was up to those leading the congregation at the time to determine which laws should remain in effect. Acts 15:22-29 contains their decision. Verses 28 and 29 specifically say:

    “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”

    This is why we don’t adhere to the other parts of the law that you mention.

  62. #62 Anthony McCarthy
    May 1, 2008

    But the subject matter of this post by Orac is at least partially related to the damage that religious ideas can do.

    Why not talk about the benefit that religious ideas can be, providing medical care for many thousands of times more people than this one case provides for what would be seen for the transparent bigotry it is if a few words were changed? What would be the response to that point being made? On the Sci-blogs, that is.

    Dan S. you find me people who worship Poseidon who want to breach the wall of separation and I’ll oppose them. What a silly argument. I’d have expected something a bit more original from you.

    Why should anyone be surprised that religions change with societies and times, the sciences do. Just look at the difference in mainstream biology from the time it was allied with eugenics science, which didn’t have to be hidden behind scare quotes back then. Why not make the entire profession of medicine answerable for the subject of a thread above?

  63. #63 Calli Arcale
    May 1, 2008

    Belated reply to wackyvorlon, who has an extremely cool userid. ;-)

    “@Callie: (That is in the Bible, actually: the sins of the father are to be visited on the descendants, according to the Old Testament.)
    Care to cite the scripture for this one? It may very well be in there, but for the life of me I don’t remember it.”

    I don’t remember the specific verse off the top of my head, and my main PC (which has all of my bookmarks) is FUBAR at the moment. When I get home, I will try to find the reference. All I remember for sure is that it was in the Old Testament. Not very specific, I know. It’s often quoted out of context.

    “A point that should be mentioned, as well, regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses. The issue is with blood and blood transfusions, and the bible is fairly specific about it.”

    Well, the Bible is specific about not *eating* blood, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones who take that prohibition to such an extreme. Jews, who have of course been using the same scripture for thousands of years, have no problem at all with blood transfusions. Even Orthodox Jews don’t have a problem with it. My personal feeling is that the dietary and other restrictions given in Leviticus are not necessary — Jesus’ sacrifice supercedes all of that.

    “Is it because we don’t believe Jesus is god?”

    While many would agree that the qualifications for being a Christian are endlessly debatable (and have in fact been the source of much bloodshed through the centuries), it is generally agreed that one must believe that Jesus is the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ, hence a Christian must at a minimum believe that he was the Christ) and that Jesus is divine and that Jesus is the son of God. So yes — if you believe Jesus is not God, then most people would feel that would rule you out as a Christian. A follower of Jesus, yes. But there are many who follow Jesus’ teachings who are not Christians. Muslims, for instance, revere Jesus as a prophet (long deceased) but not as any kind of divine entity.

  64. wackyvorlon asks rather a surprising question, considering the wide circulation of the phrase:
    “@Callie: (That is in the Bible, actually: the sins of the father are to be visited on the descendants, according to the Old Testament.)
    Care to cite the scripture for this one? It may very well be in there, but for the life of me I don’t remember it.”

    It appears repeatedly, in (iirc) the same part of the book that– well, I’ve written and deleted some clever stuff here — that has all the famous rules that some groups seize on and generalize, plus the ones that people like to pretend aren’t there.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=fourth+generation&qs_version=9
    will find a bunch, starting with Exodus 20:5 . To be sure, the reference was inaccurate, making it sound like an order to people to punish sinners through the fourth generation, whereas the real text says it’s God that does that. A difference?

    It was my mother, a firm [atheist or agnostic, take your pick, she wasn’t big on the nitpicking distinctions] who explained this one to me: It’s not a piece of primitive hate-mongering religious vindictiveness; it’s an objective description of how the world is. She said this in the 1960s when the nation was experiencing the heritage of slavery, some four generations after it was formally abolished.

  65. #65 Inquisitive Raven
    May 2, 2008

    Incidentally, to ask a familiar question, I assume you also refrain from … wearing cotton/polyester blends…

    Umm, actually, what’s forbidden is mixing linen and wool. Other combinations are not prohibited. Since other combinations like cotton/linen or cotton/wool would have been feasible at the time, it’s safe to assume that combinations involving modern synthetics shouldn’t be a problem. This I know from selling fabric at SCA events and SF cons that occasionally had Jews of varying degree of observance attend.

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