Respectful Insolence

Religion and quackery: Pure synergy

Those of us who support science-based medicine and do our part to expose and combat quackery are naturally outraged at how rarely quacks are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All too often, all we can expect is for doctors practicing such chicanery to lose their medical licenses and be temporarily shut down. I say “temporarily” because it’s all too often that such physicians manage to obtain licenses in other states. Hopping from location to location, such doctors can often practice for years relatively unmolested by the law, because most states have relatively ineffective state medical boards that either don’t have the resources to adequately investigate all the potential bad doctors or have laws that make it hard to take a doctor’s license away except for problems that represent the most pressing threats to patients, such as substance abuse, running prescription mills, or diddling patients.

Quackery, seemingly, is frequently rather low on the list of enforcement priorities. We’ve seen it again and again, such as with the case of Rashid Buttar, who basically worked with “integrative medicine” practitioners to change the law in North Carolina to prevent the medical board from disciplining a physician for using non-traditional or experimental treatments unless it can prove they are ineffective or more harmful that prevailing treatments. There was also Rolando Arafiles, who was pushed supplements in the emergency room of a small rural hospital and whose business relationship with the local sheriff led to the false prosecution of two nurses who reported him to the Texas State Medical Board. Then there’s Stanislaw Burzynski, of course. Don’t even get me started at how ineffective the Texas Medical Board has been in shutting him down, letting him off on a technicality.

If there’s one form of quackery whose prosecution is the rarest, it’s almost certainly religious quackery. I suppose it’s not surprising (to a point, at least) given how effectively the religious invoke the First Amendment to justify almost anything and how religion-infused conventional medicine is in this country. Whether it be faith healers, practitioners of quackery based on religion, or parents withholding treatment from their children based on their religion, seemingly no form of pseudoscience garners more deference from the law, even when it kills. For instance, the law and courts seem to bend over backwards to be deferential to parents who refuse chemotherapy for their children with cancer, such as in the case of Daniel Hauser, based on religion; refusing to treat highly treatable diseases like diabetic ketoacidosis, because they think they can heal their child with prayer, such as Madeline Neuman; or refusing spine-stabilizing surgery for a teen with a spinal cord injury. Although it does sometimes happen, it’s pretty rare for faith healers and religious quacks or parents who let their children suffer or even die from treatable diseases to suffer serious consequences for their actions.

Which is why a couple of stories of which I became aware over the long holiday weekend gave me hope; that is, after I was depressed to read them. First up, we have a religion-inspired cancer quack jailed for bogus cancer cures:

A prominent Los Angeles doctor who claimed that specially-prepared herbal supplements could treat a wide variety of diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease — with a success rate as high as 80 percent — has been convicted and sentenced to prison.

Christine Daniel, a Pentecostal minister, sold her miracle cures through her San Fernando Valley clinic and on the Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) show Praise the Lord. In September 2011 Daniel was convicted of several crimes including wire fraud, tax evasion and witness tampering. Last week Daniel was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to repay over $1 million that she took from clients.

According to a story on Yahoo News, some of her patients died of treatable forms of cancer within 3 to 6 months after taking the supplements. Chemical tests showed the treatments contained beef extract flavoring and a sunscreen preservative.

One notes that according to a WSJ story, patients came to Daniel and trusted her because she was a minister. In fact, she appears to have played on her patients’ religion. In testimony, she was reported to have said:

Many reportedly said they trusted Daniel because she was a minister. She reportedly played on that faith, according to her jaw-dropping court testimony related by City News Service: “In faith-based churches, there are a lot of people who won’t go to doctors. They know in their hearts that what they are saying is not correct. They know the truth, and the Lord’s going to deal with this.”

Using the trust people had in her because she was a minister as well, Dr. Daniel, who had admitting privileges at several local Southern California hospitals, told patients to stop their chemotherapy and other conventional therapies for cancer and instead send her $5,000 apiece to use her herbal cancer cure known as “C-Extract.” Over the course of a few years, she managed to make over $1 million selling her herbal cancer treatment, as well as the use of a heat machine that, according to her, would shrink tumors. According to the original prosecution, at least 55 people used Dr. Daniel’s concoctions, and at least three dozen died after having rejected conventional cancer care. One, George McKinney, reportedly paid Dr. Daniel $100,000 for his treatment. Obviously, without more information I can’t possibly know how many of these patients had treatable, potentially curable cancers, but even if none of them did, choosing quackery over effective palliation at least robbed them of potentially more time and better quality of life. We do know, however, that at least one patient, a 22 year old woman, had a highly curable form of lymphoma and ended up dying. Very likely, she, at least, didn’t have to die. We also know that, according to the prosecutor, Dr. Daniel “repeatedly demonstrated a merciless and callous indifference to the suffering of her patients and their family members.”

Here’s an example of the results:

“I remember telling Dr. Daniel before we started, ‘If this isn’t real, if you can’t really help my daughter, please don’t take away our last time with her,’” LuAnn Kirsch testified at Daniel’s trial. “‘Just let us go home if you can’t really help.’ Because you don’t get that time back.”

And here’s another:

Paula Middlebrooks also put her faith in Daniel, who billed her nearly $60,000 over a five-month period to help treat her terminal breast cancer. Eventually, Daniel pronounced Middlebrooks was free of cancer and threw her a party. But in reality the cancer was spreading and Middlebrooks died shortly after she returned to her home in Georgia.

All in the name of God.

So what was this miraculous “Extract-C”? Believe it or not, a chemical analysis showed that it consisted of a sunscreen preservative and beef extract. Daniel hawked her C-Extract on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, claiming that it had a success rate as high as 80%. One wonders what quackery is still being hawked on TBN. Not having personally watched that channel in many a year (I used to enjoy a show back in the 1980s featuring a minister lambasting the evil Satanic influence of rock music), I don’t know. But one wonders.

Just out of curiosity, I took a ride in the Wayback Machine to take a look at Daniel’s website, which is now, not surprisingly, defunct. Right there on the front page, I found a book in which Dr. Daniel claims to have witnessed a dead child being raised from the dead through the power of prayer. Also—surprise, surprise!—Daniel is a creationist. One of her books is entitled My Cousins the Apes! Are You Serious? and has a blurb that reads thusly:

The book reviews the hilarious evolution theory from a medical doctor’s point of view. It goes into detail to show the complexity of the human body. If apes became humans, where did the first ape come from? Why are we not seeing more apes becoming humans? How did the animals decide which one would be male and which one would be female? From all possible genetic make-ups no one species of animals could or will ever become human. The human body is discussed to show how wonderful and fearful, God created us.

How did the animals decide which one would be male and which one would be female? To my stomach I say, “Steady there, big fella!” I must admit, that’s an anti-evolution trope I hadn’t heard before; so I suppose I have to give Daniel points for originality in her crankitude. She’s definitely an example of crank magnetism, because elsewhere on her website she bragged about having been the “Mathematical Decoder of the secret Code embedded in the Davinci’s Code name.” In any case, why is it that fundamentalist Christian physicians seem to think themselves uniquely qualified to comment on (and debunk) evolution? It’s damned embarrassing to me as a physician, although I must admit that it’s sometimes pretty hilarious.

In the end, though, it is a good thing indeed that Dr. Daniel is in prison, where she belongs. Hopefully, the state of California is combing through her assets to find the cash to try to pay back all of those good Christians who were the victim of a good Christian quack.

As sad as the saga of Dr. Daniel is, at least in this case there was something approaching justice. True, she got off too easy and should have life in prison as far as I’m concerned, but her sentence is a good start to send a message. Unfortunately, things get much sadder much faster when we contemplate the case of parents who let not one, but two children die on the altar of their religion. These parents killed their children, just as surely as Neumanns killed their child, through refusing to intervene when intervention would almost certainly have saved them.

Just last week:

A Philadelphia couple convicted of manslaughter for denying medical care to a child who died were charged Wednesday with the murder of another child.

Catherine and Herbert Schaible surrendered at police headquarters, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. They were being held pending a bail hearing.

The Schaibles belong to First Century Gospel Church, which believes in treating illness with prayer.

The couple are charged with the third-degree murder of Brandon Scott Schaible. The baby, just over 7 months old, died in April of bacterial pneumonia and dehydration.

“Sadly, there is only one reason for it: his parents,” District Attorney Seth Williams said at a news conference. “Instead of caring and nurturing him, they ultimately caused his death by praying over his body rather than taking him to the doctor.”

Yes, you heard that correctly. This couple had been convicted once of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment for denying medical care to their son Kent, who was a toddler at the time in 2009. The circumstances were eerily similar to the circumstances of the death of their son Brandon in April. In January 2009, they refused to take Kent to a doctor when he developed a cold. Over the course of two weeks, his symptoms steadily worsened into congestion, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Ultimately, he died of pneumonia.

As I said, Brandon’s death was eerily similar to that of Kent. In fact, it was the same thing. The child developed a cold, which developed into pneumonia, which ultimately killed the child, all while the parents did nothing other than pray. They prayed because they belong to a church, the First Century Gospel Church, which teaches that using modern medicine is a sin. Indeed, after their first conviction, their pastor, Nelson A. Clark, was reported to have said, “‘The legal community is trying to force our church group to put them in the hands of this flawed medical system, when they have chosen to put them in the hands of a perfect God, who does not make mistakes.”

Presumably, then, I can assume that God wanted Kent dead and in fact killed him. By Clark’s logic, that’s the only possible conclusion if God doesn’t make mistakes. This is entirely consistent with the beliefs of this particular church, as laid out in this document, Healing – From God or From Medicine?, which declares, among other things:

Many profess faith in Christ, but do not act in faith on His Atonement Blood for healing, protection, provisions, and other life issues. They say that doctors, medicine, and drugs are gifts from God—but the Bible does not say that, nor teach that. Bible Christians trusted God alone for healing.

My biggest question was this: How on earth could this happen again? The parents already showed once that they value their religion more than the life of their children. So how on earth could they have been allowed to keep their children in 2011, when they were sentenced? Unfortunately, the court didn’t throw them in jail for a long, long time, which is what they deserved. Instead, the court sentenced them to 10 years probation, making it in my mind just as guilty as the Schaibles in the death of Brandon Scott Schaible. The problem is that, with only rare exceptions (such as simultaneous physical abuse or cases of parents who are repeat offenders, such as the Schaibles are now) do such parents ever receive jail time. Usually, judges are reluctant to jail them and take them away from their children, their rational being along the lines of, “they’re good parents with strong religious beliefs that are different from the mainstream who did their best but made a mistake.” So, as in this case, they put the Schaibles on a meaningless probation with a promise, in essence, not to do it again (i.e., a promise to take their children to the doctor when they are ill). The welfare of the child is thus subordinated to the parents’ religion not only by the parents, but by the state, because it defies reason to think that judges are so naive that they really believe that parents who are willing to let one child die in the name of religion won’t do it again.

I’m not joking, either. That’s exactly what the court did in 2011. According to this report, in 2011, Herbert and Catherine Schaible promised the judge that they would “never choose religion over medicine again.”

Now, look at Judge Benjamin Lerner’s skewering of the couple:

The Schaibles gave statements to investigators last week, Lerner said, both admitting they believed that prayer was the best remedy for Brandon’s suffering.

“When asked why you didn’t call a doctor or seek a medical professional, you said, ‘Because we believe God wants us to ask him for healing,’ ” Lerner said. “You did that once, and the consequences were tragic.”

Lerner said the couple “knowingly, intentionally, hypocritically and callously violated” the most important term of their probation. But he did not detain them Monday because their remaining seven children already had been removed from the home by the Department of Human Services. The couple could face five to 10 years in prison for the probation violation.

“You are not a danger to the community,” Lerner said. “You are a danger to your children.”

So is the state that enables dangerous parents like the Schaibles. After all, even though the court ordered the Schaibles as a condition of their probation to bring their children in for regular medical checkups and to take them to the doctor when they got sick, their pastor recently:

Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a “spiritual lack” in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.

Clearly, the pastor knew the Schaibles better than the court did, and clearly the court system screwed up in how it oversaw this probation:

But a transcript of a later probation hearing that year shows probation officers were confused by their mandate to oversee the required medical care and felt powerless to carry it out. The family was not being monitored by child-welfare workers, who are more accustomed to dealing with medical compliance.

“I think that we all on the jury thought that it would not happen again, that whatever social and legal institutions needed to be involved in their situation would just take over … and that the mandated visits would be robust enough that they would not be able to do this again,” Vincent Bertolini, a former college professor who served as jury foreman at the Schaibles’ first trial, said Friday.

The result of all this deference to the parents and their religion? Another dead child.

Unfortunately, since quackery is baed more on belief than on science, there seems to be a natural affinity between quackery and religion, be it fundamentalist Christian religion like that of Dr. Daniel or the Schaibles or the Eastern mysticism that underlies more popular forms of quackery like reiki. To believe, you have to shut down your critical thinking facilities, and that makes you more susceptible to other belief-based quackeries.

Comments

  1. #1 Kathy Immelman
    south of the Tropic of Capricorn
    May 28, 2013

    As they consider medicine a sin I presume they don’t use contraceptives, and will continue having more children ad lib.

  2. #2 Renate
    May 28, 2013

    There are also non-medical ways to prevent pregnancy.

  3. #3 The Smith of Lie
    May 28, 2013

    There are also non-medical ways to prevent pregnancy.

    True. But even assuming those were effective enough, do you think Schaibles will use any contraception method? I don’t know the doctrine of their denomination (or are they fringe enough to constitute a cult?), but consider what Christian doctrines generally say about purpose of marriage and intercourse.

    If their church is fundamentalist enough to consider medical intervention a sin, I very much doubt that even calendar-based contraception would meet with the approval.

  4. #4 herr doktor bimler
    May 28, 2013

    Many reportedly said they trusted Daniel because she was a minister.

    I realise that calling oneself a “minister” and relying on some Godtalk to turn off the brains of the victims has always been a career path for confidence tricksters who don’t mind killing people and taking their money. Is it becoming more so, or less so, or about the same?

  5. #5 Sebastian Jackson
    May 28, 2013

    Oh, there is still plenty of “alternative medicine” pitchmen that appear on TBN, and most of the other Christian channels on cable. The faith healers that air on those channels — Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Todd Bentley, Peter Popoff, W.V. Grant — could count as quacks in their own right, only they tell people to buy prayer cloths and “holy water” in lieu of supplements.

    Then of course you could always pray the sickness away, or get exorcised. This woman, who was interviewed by Sid Roth, claimed to have put her son through an exorcism as a means to cure him: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8479&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=tv_

  6. #6 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 28, 2013

    Jim Humble of MMS infamy worked the con backward: he set up a “church” after being prohibited from shilling his bleach in order to skirt the laws by invoking freedom of religion. Kind of like what L. Ron Hubbard did with scientology in its infacy.

    Anyone who sells MMS can become a “minister” and claim religious persecution if he is prevented from marketing the bleach. The protocols Humble devised to “cure” cancer, AIDS, diabetes etc. with his bleach (or “cleansing water” as he now dubs it) are called sacraments. It’sactually quite fascinating the lengths to which he went to push his bleach:

    http://genesis2church.org/our-church.html

    There was another woo peddlar husband and wife team with their own radio show (I forget their names but I’m sure Denice knows who I’m talking about) that also proclaimed freedom of religion to ignore government orders to stop dispensing some cancer cure nonsense. They too called themselves a church and made a big public deal of tearing up the government paperwork in defiance.

  7. #7 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 28, 2013

    From Humble’s Genesis II Church website:

    All members of the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing receive their own membership cards that can be used when necessary. The cards will usually have a photo, unless the member specifically requests otherwise. On the backside of the card you will find the following statement:

    “This card signifies that this member of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has the God-given, unalienable rights to control and maintain their personal health. All members are exempt from any means not chosen, including but not limited to; vaccinations, medications, x-rays, scans, mandatory voting, or health insurance mandated by any human government or authority.

    Genesis II Church members have the God-given, unalienable right top choose products for their health, including but not limited to; food, plants, vitamins, minerals, herbs and all remedies in any quantities they consider useful or necessary for his or her personal health or the health of his or her family. All members have the right to ferely acquire these products for the health of themselves and for the other memebrs of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, and to maintain such products at their place of abode or wherever they deem necessary.

    Note: The Genesis II Church will vigorously prosecute any and all persons who violate religious rights of all members of our Church. If any of this member´s rights are violated, he or she will contact the Genesis II Church.

    (This last paragraph emboldened is exactly the same litigious angle scientology uses to break the law.)

  8. #8 Politicalguineapig
    May 28, 2013

    Orac:Presumably, then, I can assume that God wanted Kent dead and in fact killed him.

    Most churches these days are run by sociopaths for a sociopathic and sadistic God.

  9. #9 Krebiozen
    May 28, 2013

    The Smith of Lie,

    I don’t know the doctrine of their denomination (or are they fringe enough to constitute a cult?), but consider what Christian doctrines generally say about purpose of marriage and intercourse.

    I’m reminded of the Skoptsy cult in Russia. They believed that testicles and breasts were parts of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, that God grafted onto Adam and Eve a some sort of weird surgical punishment. The sensible thing to do, the Skoptsys decided, was to cut off their testicles, breasts and other bits and pieces in order to return to the pristine state we humans had before we were kicked out of Eden. They appear to have died out – I can’t imagine why.

  10. #10 fusilier
    May 28, 2013

    If this were a CSI or Law&Order Special Victims Unit script, nobody would believe it.

    fusilier

    James 2:24

  11. #11 Eric Lund
    May 28, 2013

    HDB @4: It’s hard to say, because for many years criticizing a “Man of God” Just Wasn’t Done (such grifters often had the explicit or implicit backing of the state). A minister with an M.D. is a combination I have not encountered before, but we certainly have had a number of religious con men (and women) operate in this country–people like Jimmy Swaggart, or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, or Aimee Semple MacPherson.

  12. #12 Shay
    May 28, 2013

    PGP — that is manifestly untrue and unjust. Please confine your anger to those who deserve it.

  13. #13 Heliantus
    May 28, 2013

    All members are exempt from any means not chosen, including but not limited to; vaccinations, medications, x-rays, scans, mandatory voting, or health insurance mandated by any human government or authority.

    “Exempt from mandatory voting”?

    In other words, “you have the right to let other make decisions for yourselves”?
    First news it’s something you have to ask to have. I was under the impression that its opposite, not having a chance to voice your opinion, was too often the default position.

    Did I miss something about the US? Are people rounded up and forced to vote at gunpoint?
    More than one century ago, there were cases in some US cities of beggars rounded up, provided with booze and trooped from one vote office to the next. But nowadays? And even back then, this forced vote was clearly seen as cheating.

    Re: the death of baby Brandon. That’s horrible.
    Thanks goodness his parents were God-fearing Christians with unwavering high moral values.
    I know, I know, they were not True Christians, and there are plenty of True Christians who are admirable, decent people.
    But in light of the willful murder of these babies, how can anyone say with a straight face that worshiping Jesus (or whatever other god) is a sure way to have morals?
    At the end of the day, no matter your beliefs or lack thereof, that counts is what you have done.

    I really cannot wrap my mind around this idea of basically asking God to move His Ass and do stuff which you could have done yourself. There is a deep arrogance here, especially for people pretending to be humble worshipers.
    What’s next, don’t grow crops or raise cattle and pray for God to drop food from Heaven? After all, it did happen once, according to the Old Testament.

  14. #14 lmachintelligence
    May 28, 2013

    blockquote>Their pastor, Nelson Clark, has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a “spiritual lack” in their lives and insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.
    Is there any possibility that he could be charged as an accessory to murder?

  15. #15 MIRose
    May 28, 2013

    PGP
    I presume then that you would never go to a hospital run or founded by a religious organization or someone inspired by their religion (St Jude and Danny Thomas come to mind(. If so, you would have a hard time finding a hospital near where I live.

  16. #16 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 28, 2013

    @Heliantus

    I’m reminded of the joke of the guy stranded on the roof of his house during a flood. He prays for God to save him. Someone with a canoe happens by and asks if he needs help. “No,” he responds, “God will provide for me.” The guy in the canoe leaves. The rain continues and the water level rises. National Guard in a rescue raft come by to help him. He refuses again, saying, “God will provide for me.” The rain continues and the water is now up to his chimney. A helicopter approaches, offering to save him. “No,” he replies a third time, “God will provide for me.” The rain continues, the water level increases and the man drowns.

    He arrives at the pearly gates and asks God why he did not save him. God replies, “I sent you a canoe, a raft and a helicopter! What more did you want?”

    And, yeah, PGP? You’ve been told before to be careful about making sweeping generalizations like that.

  17. #17 wileywitch
    May 28, 2013

    I agree that those parents should have gone to prison, and think that the state should consider the lives of children more compelling than religious claims. These parents killed two children through neglect. How can someone who truly loves a child let that child die from pneumonia? As far as I’m concerned they might as well have been snorting blow off a hooker’s butt, while their children were dying.

    But, Dr. Daniel is not a religious extremist—- her rubes are. There is nothing easier to feign than piety. She had a high-paying gig as a sociopath through the ripeness of certain religious fanaticism for the picking.

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    May 28, 2013

    I am intrigued by the concept of “purity” in its many guises:
    spiritually ( behaving correctly with others), being healthy or “whole” in mind and body ( without any taint or damage) and following the correct diet/ health routines ( avoiding taboo or danger)- Alt med squooshes them all together.

    I think it is something like this-
    primitively, they view health- and appearance- as proof of ‘correct living’- the superior person avoids sin, doesn’t break rules and is rewarded with health that is visible.

    Amongst the woo-entranced, being righteous extends beyond general social interactions to personal choices in food, exercise and sexual expression. The wages of sin are death and disease. This is also magical protection against illness and death: a denial of vulnerability.

    So if you are ‘unclean’ in any way, you get sick. Unseen, malignant forces cause illness and disability and “good” people avoid those forces. Frazer refers to the primitive person treading carefully, frightened, in a danerous world where death or illness might appear at any turn, thus a system of protective, pre-emptive actions develop and are ritualised in order to preserve a person- body and soul.

    Alt med proselytisers detail a complex system of taboos:
    a few sound primitive indeed- eating the flesh of an animal promotes illness and aggressiveness/ eating vegetables and fruits incorporates their healing essences.

    Much of woo involves the concept of the nurturance of life energy and avoiding things that diminsh or corrupt its purity.

  19. #19 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 28, 2013

    @Denice Walter

    I’m reminded of Nuada Silver-hand. He lost his arm in combat and was thus made ineligible to become king, since he was not physically whole/perfect. But, once he received a silver arm to replace his missing limb, he could become king again.

  20. #20 Denice Walter
    May 28, 2013

    @ Todd W.:

    Right and a king who wasn’t perfect would bring ill fortune upon all of his subjects.

    Isn’t it great that ALL people- even the *supposedly* most ‘sophisticated’ cultures ( i.e. white people)- arise from superstitious, warlike, myth-spinning primitives?

    Too bad it’s so close to the surface in many of them today.

  21. #21 Eric Lund
    May 28, 2013

    Heliantus @13: I didn’t follow the link, so I don’t know whether that church and all of its members are in the US. In some countries, such as Australia, voting is mandatory, and you pay a fine if you don’t bother to vote and don’t have a good reason for not voting.

    lmachintelligence@14: That quote is indistinguishable from the excuse many alt-med types give when their woo fails. The patient didn’t believe enough.

    Denice @17: Much of woo involves the concept of the nurturance of life energy and avoiding things that diminsh or corrupt its purity.

    Why does that sentence remind me so much of General Jack D. Ripper?

  22. #22 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    May 28, 2013

    In some countries, such as Australia, voting is mandatory, and you pay a fine if you don’t bother to vote and don’t have a good reason for not voting.

    I’d heard this years ago, back in my younger and idealistic years, and thought it was a fine idea that should be adopted here in the good ol’ USA. But as I grow older, I’m starting to feel that the only person who should be allowed to vote is *me*.

  23. #23 janet
    May 28, 2013

    Once when I was in the hospital, before the golden years of HIPAA, a nurse (!) told me I wouldn’t be there if I had prayed enough. Perhaps the ensuing drama, which included me trying to chase her while managing my IV pole and pain management system, and screaming invective (which included classic Anglo-Saxon-based words), taught her not to say such things. It certainly taught her not to come back to MY room. I’ve also been known to say (when pressed for a religious affiliation) that I am a Druid, but not a very pious one, since I only do human sacrifice once yearly. (All those years of Catholic school just didn’t engraft.)

  24. #24 Heliantus
    May 28, 2013

    @ Eric Lund

    In some countries, such as Australia, voting is mandatory

    Ah, I didn’t know. I would be less stupid tonight :-)

    But even in these cases, I dare to assume that you can still vote blank, or something. I mean, no Australian official is putting a gun to your head to force you to vote for Mr Re-Elect Me.

    Asking for the right to not to vote still sounds weird to me. But I guess it’s a logical position for a group of people who wants to live by themselves, with limited interaction with the other communities around them.

  25. #25 The Smith of Lie
    May 28, 2013

    @Janet
    You played that wrong. Should have waited till she turns her back to you than crack her skull with that IV pole. Once she wakes in hospital bad, stand over her and commiserate her lack of prayer leading to hospitalization.

  26. #26 Shay
    May 28, 2013

    Oh, Janet…what a tool that woman was.

    With the exception of the chaplain*, I can’t think of any hospital staff who have a valid reason to even bring up the topic.

    (*and around here, at least, the chaplain only shows up at your bedside if you’ve made that request on your intake papers. When the spousal unit had his knee replaced he was visited by a very nice young lady with a strong German accent, which allowed him to show off his three years of high-school deutsch).

  27. #27 Eric Lund
    May 28, 2013

    Asking for the right to not to vote still sounds weird to me.

    I’ll grant that it’s an unusual position to take. Most fringe religious groups who take a position on voting, at least in the US, tend to encourage it. That is a proven technique for creationist takeover of local school boards, as well as electing fellow adherents of your nutty religion to state legislatures. (I live in New Hampshire, where the latter is especially likely–we have only about 3200 residents for each state representative, and in the time I have lived here I have never seen either major party field a complete slate of candidates, so often having the right letter next to your name in a wave election is all it takes.)

  28. #28 Denice Walter
    May 28, 2013

    @ Eric Lund:

    About that Jack Ripper:

    I imagine that our ancient ancestors experienced hunger, thirst and weakness frequently- however- after eating or drinking -which supplied them with necessary fluids, electrolytes, sugar and other nutrients- they felt better- enlivened even.

    Perhaps they associated this increased vitality with its source BUT also saw that other actvities might be followed with an experience of weakness, tiredness – of being drained of ‘life’. Obviously- even modern primitives like Jack- might conclude that conserving ‘essence’ might remedy the situation. Don’t taoists and some yogis do similarly?

    -btw-
    woo-meisters advocate others methods of increasing life energy etc by imbibing supplements, eating super-foods, avoiding toxins, meditation- so their followers need not go Jack’s route.

  29. #29 Calli Arcale
    May 28, 2013

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say the courts are complicit in the death of the second child because they didn’t jail the parents the first time and take away their children. There is overwhelming evidence that taking children away from the parents and placing them in foster care is psychologically traumatizing to the children. And in some states, the child welfare system is so deeply corrupt that this happens far too often; I would be very cautious about encouraging severing of parental rights in all but the most extreme of cases. I can understand a court believing that the parents would have learned their lesson the first time, having seen for themselves the horrible cost of their negligence. It is hard to grasp the level of denial required to persist in treatment by prayer after it has already failed one child.

    In this case, another child died because of it, so it is easy to say “the court was wrong”. But how can we know that ahead of time? If we are too ready to take away children who are not being willfully abused (just medically neglected), then we open the door to systemic abuse. There are already parts of the country where prospective foster parents can literally order children from CPS (I wish I were exaggerating), and even in states with more limitations, minorities are disproportionately likely to have their children seized when all else is equal about their cases, simply because of a perception that minority families will be a worse environment to grow up in. So tread carefully. Good intentions can go awry incredibly quickly when child welfare is involved.

  30. #30 lilady
    May 28, 2013

    Dammit, Eric Lund AT # 11 beat me to it. We are dealing religious zealot, a snake oil saleswoman AND a licensed medical doctor…who actually had hospital privileges, based on her medical licensing. (Far different than reiki practitioners, who don’t have medicine-prescribing privileges). She had the ability to prescribe medicines, to discontinue medicines and to “prescribe” her supplements.

    The death of a second child at the hands of parents who already neglected and killed another child, is tragic. I suspect that there will be a major investigation into the actions of the local DSS…and some major shake-ups in their methods of implementing close supervision of a family, where parents’ negligence caused the death of their child. Small comfort for the poor baby whose life was snuffed out by negligent parents.

  31. #31 janet
    May 28, 2013

    @ The Smith of Life
    I like your idea a lot! However, I was relying purely on epinephrine to get up out of that bed, much less take a swing at her with the IV pole. It would have been very satisfying to land a haymaker on her. Ah well, missed opportunities…..

  32. #32 Politicalguineapig
    May 28, 2013

    Shay: a friend of mine recently had to leave her home because her religious parents don’t believe depression is real and continually meddled in her medical decisions. And that was as an adult- if she’d been in her teens and this stuff had gone down, she’d be DEAD. This is a big sore point for me.

    RoseMI: I presume then that you would never go to a hospital run or founded by a religious organization or someone inspired by their religion (St Jude and Danny Thomas come to mind(. If so, you would have a hard time finding a hospital near where I live.

    Of course I wouldn’t. There’s no guarantee I’d even get medical treatment and I *know* they’d happily let me die. Google Savita Halappanavar and you’ll see why I’m suspicious of any MD who works in a hospital that’s run by a religious order. (Yes, I know it’s Ireland, but that could happen here.)
    Todd: I said ‘most’ not all. Yes, there are a few well-intentioned good Christians, and an even smaller amount who believe they can learn and study and still be faithful. They’re just way out numbered and outshouted by the bad ones.

  33. #33 Narad
    May 28, 2013

    Most fringe religious groups who take a position on voting, at least in the US, tend to encourage it.

    Not voting is certainly the default position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who try to distance themselves from secular entanglements (although they’ve been willing to litigate when pressed). This is why, as I understand it, that the Watchtower dropped its antivaccination routine.

  34. #34 Yodelady
    May 28, 2013

    I’m very glad you covered the Christine Daniel story. It heartens me that they prosecuted her for duping cancer patients. I suspect many prosecutors would not bother — I would guess it’s too easy for the defendant to convince a jury that no treatment for cancer could be worse than conventional medicine. I hope there will be more court cases like this.

    The quacks I’ve been watching online seem to use religion or religion-like arguments to guard their flanks. Strong belief outweighs any number of experimental results. “Debates” on the matter are exactly like the playground discussions we had as 11-year-olds on the topic, “Is Santa Clause real?” It doesn’t matter that 98 of 100 11-year-olds know the facts; the other two win by bursting into tears and throwing temper tantrums. In fact, I think if we polled adults today we would find many do still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny.

  35. #35 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    May 28, 2013

    Secular cookie please…

  36. #36 Rich Woods
    May 28, 2013

    @Calli #29:

    “I would be very cautious about encouraging severing of parental rights in all but the most extreme of cases.”

    While I completely agree with your admonition “so tread carefully”, I’d suggest that standing back and letting a child die counts as an extreme case. If the parents have already demonstrated such a weak grasp of reality, can the court really be sure that one or more of the other seven children won’t sooner or later be exposed to a high risk of death or disability?

  37. #37 Matt Carey
    May 28, 2013

    Another example of a combination medical professional/religious professional in action is Jeffrey Bradstreet. He is a prominent alt-med practitioner in autism. His clinic hosted Andrew Wakefield when he first came to the U.S.. Bradstreet used to call himself the “good news doctor”. He was reported to have used exorcism on at least one autistic child.

    Bradstreet has moved from chelation to stem cells and immune therapies as his main methodologies.

  38. #38 Mu
    May 28, 2013

    I would be very cautious about encouraging severing of parental rights in all but the most extreme of cases
    Calli, these people watched their kid die over 2 weeks doing nothing – if that’s not extreme, what do you consider a valid reason?

  39. #39 lilady
    May 28, 2013

    O/T I’m having trouble get the SBM page to load.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org

  40. #40 Mewens
    May 28, 2013

    Keep in mind that many of these groups have a healthy paranoia of the government. Single-party voting is still pretty common in the governments of petty despots around the world; if you believe that your democracy is a sham, voicing opposition to a required vote (whether or not it exists) is a way of saying you don’t support what you perceive as a corrupt system. In the case of residents of the U.S. (and other countries without required voting), such a declaration also implies a belief in the fundamental corruption of the gov’t; I wouldn’t be surprised is these groups feel they’re heading off the inevitable violation of civil liberties at the pass, as it were.

    @Denice: Regarding ancient people and superstitions, don’t forget how easy it is to become trained to believe two unrelated events are linked. When I was in high school, one of my psych teachers showed a video that made a great impression on me: A Skinner box experiment in which Skinner taught a pigeon or some other hapless bird to do a full turn to get food. From our point of view, the turning and the food-giving were arbitrarily connected; from the pigeon’s, it was a fundamental law of the universe: do a turn, get a pellet. The process was simple: when the bird ticked its head to the left, it got a pellet; once it understood that connection, it stopped getting pellets. The bird began ticking its head further, and Skinner gave more pellets; the process would continue, with the bird exaggerating its movements more and more with each iteration of the cycle. In some sense, science has given us the tools to look outside the Skinner box of our environment, but we’re still hard-wired to respond in a “this worked once before” sort of way – at the very least, that’s the most satisfying explanation I can come to for behavior such as that outlined in today’s post.

  41. #41 MIRose
    May 28, 2013

    PGP
    I find the good Christians outshouted but not outnumbered. However, that is just my experience.

  42. #42 Calli Arcale
    May 28, 2013

    MIRose — that is my experience too. The wackos are very definitely the fringe. They’re just disproportionately vocal.

    Mu — my point is that you need to be very careful how you define it. It is very easy to say this specific case was extreme. Writing laws that cover all cases, that’s harder. And you don’t want the rare extreme cases to be deciding how you judge the much more common cases. It is a problem that needs solving; too many children get abused for too long. But there is a very real risk of replacing one problem with another. Children being adopted into abusive homes, for instance, or bouncing from foster home to foster home and never developing stability in their lives. We can all agree that *this* case is wrong. Will we all agree so readily on the next one?

    And with respect to this particular case, how do you distinguish between depraved indifference due to religious fervor and ignorance when it’s a first offense? What if the parents were simply being ignorant the first time (they would not be the first, and it isn’t just religious people who have failed to get their child adequate medical attention), and having learned their lesson in the most horrible way possible, will never make that mistake again? Do you traumatize their remaining children by tossing them into the foster care system, where they might bounce around for years, especially the older children? You could take a bad situation and make it a lot worse that way. This is why the laws are written to favor a more lenient approach. For most parents, losing a child is so horrific it is punishment enough. Apparently that wasn’t true for these parents, though.

    See, I think what the parents did the first time was horrible. But they do have children to consider. Family court has the difficult task of deciding whether or not to harm the children in their best interests. That’s what it comes down to; removing children is nearly always traumatic for the kids. You have to somehow predict which will be less traumatic — leaving or staying.

  43. #43 Delurked Lurker
    Located in the unfashionable western spiral arm of this Galaxy
    May 28, 2013

    Eric Lund @ 21
    Voting in Australia is not compulsory. What is compulsory is that you attend your polling station and get your name crossed off the list. You can then go home if you like. You can also scrawl whatever you want on your voting slip if you feel like registering a protest which is what a lot of people do. The percentage of people who vote is in the 90% range and the percentage of valid votes is around 80 % to 90 %
    http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=15

  44. #44 Eric Lund
    May 28, 2013

    Calli @42: I fully understand your position, but as things are prosecutors and judges have a lot of discretion in such cases. Many parents have been jailed for one-time (not ongoing, as in the case of Kent Schaible) acts of negligence, such as leaving a child in the car while running an errand, that resulted in the death of a child. Maybe in this case the judge assumed (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the Schaibles would have adequate supervision during the probationary period, or maybe the judge let a bias in favor of God-fearing people trump his better judgment (especially if they are light-skinned and claim to be Christian–I doubt that adherents of any other religion would have gotten off so lightly, and racial bias has not been eliminated in this country). Certainly, with 20/20 hindsight, we know it was the wrong call in this case. And yes, we should be reluctant to resort to that option when it’s not clear the circumstances warrant it. But when parents are jailed for less egregious oversights than in the Kent Schaible case, consistency of justice requires that either the Schaibles go to jail or the judge must provide a compelling explanation for not jailing them. Saying that they are God-fearing people who are sorry it happened does not strike me as a compelling explanation, though YMMV.

  45. #45 kultakutri
    May 28, 2013

    ToddW @16:
    I know a better-suited one. A guy prays for his sick relative or someone, asking God to do something about said relative’s pneumonia, pretty please. Then the skies open and a thunderous voice says: Why the hell you think I left Pasteur to stumble in his lab after another stroke?

    Not being of Christian persuasion (and I guess that the European ones are generally tamer than the U. S., we’d call them batshit crazy, ones), I have such friends. They generally say that it’s a miracle enough that God left people to invent all the ingenious things like penicilin so why not use them.

    @ janet
    Regarding religion… the other day, my friend who looks like 12-year-old answered the door to what showed to be Jehova’s Witnesses. They said Hello, little girl, could we talk to your parents, to which she promptly answered Oh, just sit down and wait for a while, they’re in the basement, sacrifying a goat to Baal. The guys promtly backed away and never came back.

  46. #46 Shay
    May 28, 2013

    There’s no guarantee I’d even get medical treatment and I *know* they’d happily let me die.

    Where on earth do you come up with this hogwash? I’m not aware of any faith-based public medical center that even requires that you state your religious affiliation, let alone if you have one.

    Both hospitals in our county are faith-based. They take and treat everybody. Even the uninsured, because their religion forbids that they deny care.

  47. #47 dean
    May 28, 2013

    We have some people here in West Michigan defending the Schaibles, stating that prosecution violates their right to practice their religion and live their lives as they know best. The christian reformed have always been very conservative here, but they’ve ramped it up quite a bit since that “evil man” entered the White House: they view this as expanded attacks on religion.

    @45: we do similar things in our house. We get the witnesses, but it is also the case that two of the local baptist churches send van-loads of people into the neighborhoods to drum up business. Our standard response is that if they wish to talk, they should return at midnight at the next full moon when we can “chew the fat” with roasted goat and ale.

  48. #48 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 28, 2013

    if you are a woman and need an abortion in Ireland, they will let you die – as they did for Savita Halappanavar

    if you are a woman with lupus and carrying an anencephalic fetus they will make you carry it to term in El Salvador.

    if you are a slight 9 year old and raped by your stepfather they will excommunicate anyone who helped you have an abortion in Brazil.

  49. #49 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 28, 2013

    sadly, another in a long line of criminally negligent people being excused simply because they claim membership in a 2000 year old apocalyptic death cult

  50. #50 Dorothy
    Oz--the Place
    May 28, 2013

    Why fuss and fume about such an extreme case when much less extreme believers are being duped every day by the ever-present Dr. Oz (that’s the other one)? This more “moderate” type of faith has the potential to be just as dangerous in much larger numbers as it keeps people from seeing science based doctors and from taking prescription drugs–to say nothing of all the people who claim not to be religious (just “spiritual”) who don’t vax their kids and give them homeopathy for colds. The only consolation is that most of these worried well loons WILL get their kids to the ER when the “cold” gets out of hand (although that may not help the innocent baby that caught their whooping cough along the way).

  51. #51 Denice Walter
    May 28, 2013

    @ Mewens:

    Besides arbitrarily-related events being connected merely by temporal contiguity ( the pigeons’ movement/ feeding), associative memory groups events or objects together if they resemble each other or occur close together physically. Long term memory association allow us to continuously link two objects together – altho’ they might have only interacted only briefly physically- forming the basis of contagious magic.

    A person might be ‘harmed’ by damaging/ destroying an item which he or she touched or used – the connection between person and item persists- despite the distance between the two- because it is so represented in the sorceror’s/ sorceress’s memory.

    I think it’s easy to imagine how a memory system that links coinciding events together can be a useful adaptive ( learning what is dangerous) it can also overshoot and link items that have no actual causal relationship.

    So you might learn that a particular herb relieves pain but you may associate that wearing a red cloth “removes” a fever ( actual European folklore).
    Charms resemble the desired ends the magician seeks.

    An added feature of human memory is our ability to conjure up images and sound in the mind’s eye ( ear). Although individuals vary in the clarity and controllability of imagery, images can be useful in planning in reality but can also be functional in the dreamtime world of magic.

  52. #52 Christine (the public servant Christine)
    May 28, 2013

    @PGP: on behalf of myself and other comitted Christians who comment here, please desist from tarring all Christians with the same brush. We are fully aware there are some appalling practices being promoted in the name of Christianity, and I’m sure people like Calli, lilady and MI Rose are doing a lot to fight them. We just don’t do it here mostly, because this is primarily a place for discussing anti-woo.

  53. #53 Christine (the public servant Christine)
    May 28, 2013

    @Eric Lund and @Johnny: the Australian mandatory voting thing is not quite correct. ATTENDANCE AT AN ELECTION is compulsory – you must show up to an electoral station, get your name marked off the register, and receive your voting papers. you are then free to vote as you please, even if “as you please” means writing a long essay on the back about the evils of government, voting for Donald Duck or leaving the papers blank.

  54. #54 Christine (the public servant Christine)
    May 28, 2013

    Hi, Dedicated Lurker! It’s great to see another person who has a reasonable understanding of the Australian electoral system! It’s sad how many Australians don’t.

    @Heliantus: even here in Australia, there are religious groups like the Exclusive Brethren who are excused from voting, even though our system allows for conscientious non-voting, so long as you get your name ticked off the electoral roll.

  55. #55 Ken
    May 28, 2013

    Daniel hawked her C-Extract on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, claiming that it had a success rate as high as 80%.

    The metric is so important. Success at curing cancer, not so much. Success at extracting money from desperate people, pretty good.

  56. #56 Chris,
    May 28, 2013

    Christine:

    @PGP: on behalf of myself and other comitted Christians who comment here, please desist from tarring all Christians with the same brush.

    Many of us know that not all Christians are like those described above. Some actually work actively to make a world a better place.

    We also know that Christianity is not the only excuse used by some to harm others or take their cash. Recently there have been Asian blessing scams happening all over this planet. And even the Orthodox Jewish community have been victims of scams.

    People like Dr. Daniels will play the religion card just to promote their scams.

  57. #57 Christine (the public servant Christine)
    May 28, 2013

    I fully agree, Chris. A scammer will use any means to promote their scams. There will always be people desperate to believe.

    But I did object to PGP referring to all churches (and by definition, those who are religious) as sociopathic, following a socioapthic and sadistic god.

  58. #58 Chris,
    May 28, 2013

    I wouldn’t worry about PGP, she has a habit of making sweeping generalizations. She will eventually learn.

    I did. Once upon a time I echoed the prejudices I grew up from my dad. But when I was seventeen years old I got a dressing down from a school friend about that (it was about homosexuals), and since then I have been forever grateful for reading me that riot act. Because without her opening my eyes I would have missed out on some great friendships.

    We just have to remind PGP that if you meet one ||type specific group identifier here||, you have met one. And not the rest.

  59. #59 Politicalguineapig
    May 28, 2013

    Shay: What al kimea said. Also, doctors in the US can deny patients any type of medicine if their religion opposes it.

  60. #60 Calli Arcale
    May 28, 2013

    Eric Lund — I certainly can’t argue that family court cases are often pretty arbitrary, and disturbingly discriminatory. Minorities are far more likely to lose their children, for instance, when all else is equivalent, as are the poor of all races. In times past, this sort of thing was used so egregiously against Native Americans that a law had to be passed *specifically* to prevent overzealous seizure of native children because it had become a new way of destroying their culture — stealing their children away. The miscarriages of justice, on all ends of the spectrum, have been quite spectacular, and this makes me wary of anything that gives more power to CPS and the like. Sometimes they need it, but sometimes……

    Truthfully, I don’t see the fact that many parents are unfairly jailed as justification for jailing these people. I consider *both* cases a failure, ultimately.

  61. #61 Alain
    May 28, 2013

    doctors in the US can deny patients any type of medicine if their religion opposes it.

    Fortunately, it’s not the case here in QC. From the Code of Ethics of Physicians (which is codified into regulation):

    The physician must practice his profession according to scientific principles

    Isn’t that the case in the states too (one would wish so)?

    Alain

  62. #62 Narad
    May 28, 2013

    Also, doctors in the US can deny patients any type of medicine if their religion opposes it.

    Yah. Have I mentioned that I’m a former member of a clergy?

  63. #63 Sastra
    May 28, 2013

    To believe, you have to shut down your critical thinking facilities, and that makes you more susceptible to other belief-based quackeries.

    Yes, this.

    If a well-balanced person needs to have faith in what makes no sense to worldly reason, then where do you draw the line between ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme?’ The idea that having an open mind to any possibility is equivalent to humility makes rational checks and balances from outsiders impossible. Every case is unique and beyond objective analysis.

    “It works if you believe in it.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told this by pro-alt med advocates who know I am an atheist and thus without the metaphysical OR epistemic resources to evaluate their claims. I don’t believe in the power of the Spirit, you see — so evidence is just wasted on me. I live in a different paradigm.

    Reiki, homeopathy, “natural” cures. Denice certainly has it right with the fetish concerning “purity” — of mind, body, and spirit. Yet they keep insisting they are doing science “in (their) own way” and so I keep insisting, like a broken record, that no, they are not. They do not get to call it “science.” I don’t accept their ‘paradigm’ talk in the first place — we are all human and live in the same reality — but even if I did, they’re not re-defining the terms on my turf, dammit.

    Faith-healing has a love/hate relationship with the empirical world. When push comes to shove, though, it seems that even death can be counted as a form of “healing,” since the soul only transforms. I would want to know this before I started a treatment, though. It counts against.

  64. #64 maydijo
    another aussie
    May 29, 2013

    I would also add re: compulsory voting in Australia that pretty much the only way to pay the fine, is if you actually want to pay the fine. My husband’s missed a couple of elections; upon recieving a letter from the government informing him that he will be fined if he can’t provide a reason for his abscence from the polls, he’s written, “I was out of the country” or “I was sick” and the fine has been waived. Every election there are a handful of people who pay the fine or spend a short time in jail as a way of protesting mandatory voting; but for people who really just couldn’t be bothered, it’s easy enough to get out of with any old excuse.

  65. #65 herr doktor bimler
    May 29, 2013

    But, Dr. Daniel is not a religious extremist—- her rubes are. There is nothing easier to feign than piety.

    No way could Dr Daniel have been under any religious delusion about the efficacy of the product she sold, while she was mixing the Bovril herself.
    That said, I can imagine someone in her murderous career engaging in some self-exculpatory arguments like “Well, I’m only taking money off them that they otherwise would have given to doctors, and it’s not as if the chemotherapy they would have received works any better than my beef-tea mixture… after all, Mercola and Mike Adams tell us that oncologists are all equally fraudulent.”

  66. #66 herr doktor bimler
    May 29, 2013

    To believe, you have to shut down your critical thinking facilities

    Sounds like you have a lot of assistance these days from politicians who want “critical thinking” removed from school curricula and generally discouraged in every way possible.

    Religious fervour and “Credo quia absurdum” fideism as one of the shibboleths of political-tribe membership! What more could snake-oil dealers ask for?

  67. #67 herr doktor bimler
    May 29, 2013

    Have I mentioned that I’m a former member of a clergy?

    You have certainly displayed thorough knowledge of the catechism and doctrines of the Boo-Hoo Bible.

  68. #68 lilady
    May 29, 2013

    It’s not the first time…or second time…that children whose parents are members of that church, have needlessly died:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/16/us/measles-and-faith-combine-in-5-deaths-in-philadelphia.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    The members of that cult and their children are completely isolated from the community. Their children (and they have quiverfulls of them), are born at home, attended by a lay midwife, attend a church-affiliated unlicensed school until 10th grade, where the “teachers” are part of the cult and not educated beyond the 10th grade.

    If you assume that cults exist only in isolated backwater areas of the country, you’re wrong.

    Cripes I despise these ignorant parents who would rather see their children die than provide basic medical care for their children.

  69. #69 Narad
    May 29, 2013

    You have certainly displayed thorough knowledge of the catechism and doctrines of the Boo-Hoo Bible.

    Unlike Shannon, I cannot protest that I was not technically defrocked.

  70. #70 Chris,
    May 29, 2013

    hdb:

    You have certainly displayed thorough knowledge of the catechism and doctrines of the Boo-Hoo Bible.

    Actually, Narad has demonstrated much that makes him/her quite scary. We all hope that Narad’s purposes are against evil. But we cannot be certain. ;-)

  71. #71 Narad
    May 29, 2013

    In any event, with luck I will soon not have the opportunity to maintain an apiary in my bonnet, and without luck I won’t have a bonnet in the first place. PGP, I would impose upon you: Do you find a qualitative difference between “Join Together” and “The Congo“?

  72. #72 The Danish Salmon of Doubt
    In Ireland
    May 29, 2013

    #32 PGP and #48 Al Kimeea
    As a Dane and Atheist living in Ireland for more than 17 years I find the Irish law governing abortion outdated and regret the strong religious influence there has been on it. There is discussions in the Irish parliament to change this, but what they are suggesting changing it to is almost even more hopeless. The suggestion is that if a woman is truly suicidal she may be able to get an abortion, but it will need to be signed off by at least three doctors, six in some instances. The uncomfortable truth is that more than 3000 predominately young girls take short trips from Ireland to the U.K each year to get an abortion, so effectively Ireland is exporting its problem, and I find it shameful.

    Having said that, I do not think your comments are accurate. If Ireland did not have these backward laws Savita would have gotten her abortion earlier, but that part is not the hospitals fault per say. Besides that, the hospital failed in its care of the patient, and that was recognised later in the inquest. The case has caused much anger in Ireland, as it should, and to my mind religion manifested in an Archaic and difficult to manage law is partly to blame. The rest of the blame sits with the hospital and its staff and the less than stellar treatment extended to Savita.

  73. #73 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 29, 2013

    IIRC a woman lost her job at a religious hospital in the US because she counseled a woman with 4-5 kids already that it would be best to end this pregnancy because it would kill her.

    At what point does the number of in-doctrinaires reach the critical mass for bonafide belief?

    Why is it the appeals to authority, popularity and antiquity become so great they transform woo into religion, but not reiki into medicine?

    Make no mistake, being committed to a mythical magical garden with talking animals and an angry wizard who loves you is woo. It also makes one a creationist.

    $500M/yr in this province for kids to be indoctrinated with the idea that at this point in evolution, doG inserts the soul.

    Our Mandarin for Science and Tech, Gary Goodyear is a quackupuncturist, chiroquacktor and very likely a creationist of the young earth kind. Most of his party, including the PM are evangelical Christoholics. So now we have a science policy that will only support profitable science.

  74. #74 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    @Salmon – Raped Irish children have been denied abortions, time and again, despite being “genuinely suicidal”. If you can’t afford a trip to England then you’re forced into birth,

    Also, the whole symphisiotomy disgrace was perpetrated by the Church in Ireland, and taught to doctors heading to developing countries. Barbarism is not strong enough a concept.

    As someone who suffered greatly due to prayer being substituted for actual medical/surgical intervention, as someone still suffering more than thirty years later, I’m in tears for those babies. Gradually suffocating to death must have been terrifying.

  75. #75 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    Tired and emotional earlier, as well as pre-fent, so I meant:

    The term ‘barbarism’ is not strong enough to describe what Ireland has done to women.

    Denied contraception and abortion, forced into birth, and then mutilated during birth (without consent) in such a way that their mobility was permanently sacrificed, and their babies were often born dead. Every pregnancy that followed was agonising and terrifying.

    This is not from the dim and distant past either. It’s no doubt still being practised on women all over the developing world who are not even catholic, not that any woman deserves to be the recipient of such disgusting brutality.

    Nobody should ever underestimate the risks of being a pregnant woman in a catholic hospital, Irish or otherwise. There are too many named victims, let alone unnamed and uncounted ones.

    Saving souls should be restricted for ministry, not medicine. Medicine is about saving lives.

    I’ll be back with links soon.

  76. #76 Denice Walter
    May 29, 2013

    Preoccupation with ‘purity’ translates into dietary taboo :
    if you regard woo orthorectic toxo-phobia as a form of ritual, rather than SBM, you might see how ( they believe) modern food processing contaminates the pure and holy fruits of the earth with additives and extracts their natural, life-enhancing essence- thus making them taboo.

    GMOs and non-organics are ritually unclean- in addition, some view meat and/ or any animal products as similarly forbidden fruit. Natural food advocates ( Adams, Mercola amongst others) reject processed meats/ eggs/dairy as tainted, preferring organic, free range, natural and raw. Possibly also cooked at temperatures before 115 F.
    As g-d intended them to be.

    Indeed, Mikey and Gary often resort to claiming spiritual superiority** above us heathen:
    invoking the supernatural is the ultimate appeal to authority.

    Other forms of ritual purity include:
    avoidance of pharmaceuticals, fluoridated/ chlorinated water, vaccines, microwaved food, EMFs, cleaning products, skin/ hair care and cosmetics, “chemicals”, mainstream media, mainstream universities, popular entertainment, governmental influence etc etc,
    And we haven’t even gotten to sex yet.

    ** governmental agencies, universities, corporations, media etc are all rife with corruption, malfeasance and greed.
    Or so they tell us as they maintain natural but moneyed lifestyles which we can all see over the internet.

  77. #77 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    Sorry, had to dredge up my links from an older device. Wish I could still use a computer!

    Here goes:

    /www.thejournal.ie/a-history-of-symphysiotomy-the-impact-of-catholic-ethics-on-irish-medicine-685296-Nov2012/

    http://www.irishtimes.com/debate/symphysiotomy-injustice-requires-lifting-of-legal-bar-1.532428

    Off-topic @ Denice Walter – Have you seen the reports about Avatar Therapy for alleviating auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia?

    It seems almost too good to be true, but I hope further research can back up the promising early findings.

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0513/29052013-Avatar-therapy-helps-silence-voices-in-schizophrenia-Leff

    Is it just me or does the first one resemble Julia Roberts?

  78. #78 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    Oh weird, there you are!

  79. #79 janet
    May 29, 2013

    kultakutri @ 45
    I WISH I had thought of worshipping Baal! I’ll use that next time (f there is one–I also have “beware of dogs” signs.) The dogs sacrifice rabbits all the time, so a goat wouldn’t be a big upgrade.

    I once had to change my OB/GYN doc because of change of insurance. I asked the new guy to write me a script for birth control pills. He said he didn’t believe in them.
    So, when I went to new insurance company, I had to give a reason WHY I wanted to change docs. I said, “He believes in ‘go ye forth and multiply’ and I don’t.” Lady at insurance company almost fell off her chair laughing, and then recommended a more compatible doc.

  80. #80 Denice Walter
    May 29, 2013

    @ elburto:

    I’ve seen a little about it- who knows?- it might help some.

    A while back I “mentored” a guy whose adult son had severely treatment recalcitrant schizophrenia ; the son used music and conversations about sports to ‘quiet’ the auditory hallucinations.

    One of the things the father did was to leave phone messages/ e-mail reminding his son to not believe the voices, to go for a walk, etc.- he thus served as a form of executive functioning for a person who had very little of that capacity. Eventually a better med was prescribed and the voices diminished.

    I wonder if a mobile system of prompts/ distractors might function for some people?

    Avatar app ( portrayed by Helen Mirren);
    “Please don’t listen to those voices-
    Listen to me.You’ll be alright”.

  81. #81 Denice Walter
    May 29, 2013

    @ Narad:

    Should we address you as ” the Ex-reverend Mr” ?
    Or just Baby-cakes?

    @ janet:

    Sacrifice doves, it’s much neater than ((shudder)) goats.

  82. #82 novalox
    May 29, 2013

    A bit OT but oh well:

    As one who had to butcher a goat for a anthropology/archaeology class, I say that goats are a mess to butcher properly, to get ready for cooking, and they do leave a nasty smell in your clothes.

    Goat meat does taste good with lemon juice and vinegar marinade, however.

  83. #83 Shay
    May 29, 2013

    Sacrifice watermelons. Messier, but less stomach-churning.

  84. #84 Krebiozen
    May 29, 2013

    elburto,

    Raped Irish children have been denied abortions, time and again, despite being “genuinely suicidal”. If you can’t afford a trip to England then you’re forced into birth,

    Even if they can afford it, it doesn’t end there. A few years ago an Irish friend of mine living in London killed herself because she could not live with the guilt of having had an abortion (don’t know why, didn’t ask), which greatly saddened me. Some religious indoctrination runs very deep.

  85. #85 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    Yes, kill melons, they’re evil!

    @Denice – It seems a lot like the whole “Don’t feed the trolls” stance, the belief that ignoring annoying intruders will make them go away. As you can see in any open web forum, trolls often get more p¡ssed off and escalate their behaviour to get attention. OTOH, engaging trolls can have positive results. Even if the troll in question remains steadfast, lurkers can often learn from what they read. And when trolls can be won over by showing them that their arguments were fallacious? That’s great!

    Maybe the voices work along the same lines as trolls. Perhaps trying to ignoRe them just enrages them? It would be so empowering for patients to be able to a) engage with the voices and turn that into a positive in their lives, and b) know that they actively contributed to their own progress.

    The handful of people with schizophrenia that I’ve known who discontinued meds, often spoke of the feelings of helplessness and disempowerment they associated with antipsychotics.

    Obviously you know the awful side-effects with the more common medications, especially things like tardive dyskinesia, gait abnormalities and cognitive difficulties. Perhaps restoring some sense of control or empowerment, especially through an ongoing process that’s drug-free and personalised, could help enhance compliance rates in other facets of therapy.

    I’m all Pollyanna about this, because of what I’ve witnessed first hand. I want to feel that anything properly supervised, studied and tested to death and proven to be effective, can ease the pain of certain aspects of SMIs for both patients and their families.

    The prompting idea could be really helpful too, in grounding the patient and, I suppose, giving the person a voice that can nurture/support them. Audio tech is now cheap, small, and advanced enough that some sort of portable and personalised system to drown out the negative voices could be of real help. That goes not only for PWSMIs, but for those who suffer from disabling and disturbing intrusive thoughts associated with OCD.

    Hail science!

  86. #86 elburto
    May 29, 2013

    @Krebiozen – I can understand that. I still occasionally succumb to thoughts that certain bad things are happening to me as a punishment, that I’m not a good person and that’s why our car got wrecked/ a beloved pet or person died/one of us became ill(er!) etc. Tied in with my OCD it can be relentless sometimes, especially as my mother is still very religious and some of the things she says can trigger guilt and self-doubt.

    I’m luckier than your poor friend of course, such a pointless loss.

  87. #87 Scottynuke
    May 29, 2013

    @ Shay: I had no idea Gallagher was such a high priest and excellent sacrificer… :-)

  88. #88 Politicalguineapig
    May 29, 2013

    al kimea: That was in Arizona. I’ll dredge up the links, but as I recall, she not only got fired, she was excommunicated from her order. She was a nun.

  89. #89 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 29, 2013

    Politicalguineapig – yes that’s the one

    Interesting, my better half had an ectopic pregnancy, just like Savita.

    Unlike her, my wife didn’t have to wait for days for the operation to save her life, despite the fetal heartbeat. Less than 24 hrs in fact.

  90. #90 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 29, 2013

    I find deconversion stories interesting, having read many over the years at various places, for what it was that popped on the bulb.

    It varies from person to person with introspection invariably involved. For some education, others distance from the environment and even mockery in many cases. For many it was simply reading the holy book.

    A particularly haunting story came from someone whose P&M subjected them to a rapturous Biblical childhood.

    They lived in a semi rural area and so the houses were a wee distance apart. Out playing alone for several hours, the youngster returns to find the home silent. Everyone gone, including the dog.

    The screams of horror as the wee bairn realized everyone else had been lifted up by the love of Jebus brought his family running from the neighbour’s place a klick or so away…

    The Clergy Project started a couple of years ago for religious leaders trying to deal with faithlessly leading their sheep.

    So, most of the clergy are obviously not socio/psychopathic any more than the flocks are. Most have no choice, being bathed in it from infancy via culture/society/family. But it is a choice, unlike eye/hair colour at birth. As The Clergy Project shows, an understandably difficult one for many.

    That thing they worship on the other hand is as nasty piece of work as any in fiction. In reality, it seems no better than indifferent.

  91. #91 Pareidolius
    In awe of the Salmon . . .
    May 29, 2013

    So you’re the famous Bradán Danmhairge amhras my people speak of . . . we are honored by your presence. And you speak the truth, o doubtful one.

  92. #92 Calli Arcale
    May 29, 2013

    Kreboizen:

    A few years ago an Irish friend of mine living in London killed herself because she could not live with the guilt of having had an abortion (don’t know why, didn’t ask), which greatly saddened me.

    Have you considered the possibility that she had post-partum depression? I don’t know how long it was after the abortion, but abortion is the termination of a pregnancy, and that has the same chemical impact no matter how the pregnancy ends (live birth, still birth, abortion). It’s because the placenta is no longer pumping pregnancy hormones through the body. There’s also the fact that in countries without easy access to abortion, the process may be very traumatic, which can lead to PTSD. I don’t know how long after the abortion your friend met that tragic end, but I will say this: depression is a very serious thing, and more than just “religious people can be jerks sometimes”.

    Anti-abortion activists like to use this as an argument against abortion, but of course actual childbirth does the same thing, so if a person is already pregnant, then that particular bus has left, so to speak. Whether they abort or carry it to term, they will have that risk.

  93. #93 Politicalguineapig
    May 29, 2013

    Calli Arcale: that has the same chemical impact no matter how the pregnancy ends..

    Can we not indulge in the oxytocin argument? It’s simply a made up hormone, invented to guilt-trip women.

  94. #94 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    May 29, 2013

    PGP –

    Can we not indulge in the oxytocin argument? It’s simply a made up hormone, invented to guilt-trip women.

    Wikipedia begs to differ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

    Additionally, identifying chemical causes for post-partum depression should have the effect of reducing guilt-trips. Assuming the depression occurs, then refusing to acknowledge means that people decide it’s the woman’s fault if she doesn’t feel good. Saying it’s depression suggests that it could be purely psychological, which unfortunately has its own stigma. But how can you guilt-trip someone for a chemical reaction within their body that they didn’t create and can’t control?

  95. #95 Chemmomo
    Acquatinted with both motherhood and biochemistry
    May 29, 2013

    PGP @93: Drop the shovel NOW.

    You are someone who has complained that her own mental health issues have not been handled appropriately. But you think it’s a good idea to diminish problems encountered by others?

    Your statement – which is so insulting dismissive I refuse to quote it – shows that you are completely ignorant of the biochemical changes involved in pregnancy, and completely ignorant about post partum depression.

    You owe every woman who ever reads this thread an apology.

  96. #96 Politicalguineapig
    May 30, 2013

    MOB and Chemmomo: “Oxytocin” has nothing to do with depression. At all. Depression is a deficit of serotonin, which is a hormone. Pregnancy can affect serotonin production.
    I am not dissing women with depression, and I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

  97. #97 The Danish Salmon of Doubt
    In sunny Dublin
    May 30, 2013

    Thanks for the links, Elburto, I learned something new today. I hope I made it clear above that I am very much against the current state of affairs. My concern is that the suggested change of law really doesn’t address the issue, meaning that Ireland unfortunately will stay in the dark ages for the foreseeable future. This in a country where the state has paid out more than 1.3 billion euro to victims of religious orders (the orders in comparison have only paid around 120 million euro) over the last years, so there is much wrong in the land of poets and scholars.

    Anyway, back to the silent lurking

  98. #98 herr doktor bimler
    May 30, 2013

    Depression is a deficit of serotonin
    There is room for disagreement there but the pros and cons of the serotonin theory would be even more of a digression than usual.

  99. #99 Calli Arcale
    May 30, 2013

    PGP — oxytocin is real. I did not mention it in my post, however, so your accusation of “indulging in the oxytocin argument” is as ridiculous as it is ignorant. There are in fact *many* hormones associated with pregnancy, and oxytocin is more to do with labor than with pregnancy.

    Guilt-tripping women isn’t telling them that their body is undergoing chemical changes. Guilt-tripping women would be telling them that post partum depression and post partum psychosis aren’t real, which would imply that any depression they’re feeling is some sort of personal failing. It’s not. Depression is real, depression is not normal, and it is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. It’s a real thing, and knowing that is the first step towards handling it appropriately.

  100. #100 Chemmomo
    May 30, 2013

    PGP: Apology accepted.

    Callli: Thank you.

  101. #101 Denice Walter
    May 30, 2013

    Altough I don’t want to get into the neurotransmitter and hormone issue ( which is huge) and I have an appointment as well- let’s just say that-
    oxytocin and serotonin may have other functions beyond the most obvious ones cited and
    that we can’t understand people’s experiences purely by knowing what is occuring chemically in their brains. Other things happen- thought, language, habit, learning,social mores, environmental facilitation/ interference etc.

    And about stigma:
    if anything exists beyond what is average, those who experience it can be rebuked about it in some way by others who don’t. Being average may also be stigma to some folk.

  102. #102 Krebiozen
    May 30, 2013

    Calli,

    Have you considered the possibility that she had post-partum depression?

    This was several years after the termination, so I don’t think it was that. I have lived with someone with severe post-natal depression, so I know just how serious it can be. I knew that my friend’s family couldn’t forgive her for having an abortion, so she felt she couldn’t return to Ireland, but I had no idea she was struggling so badly. I wish I had known so I could perhaps have helped. It was a closer friend of hers who told me after the event that she was determined to end her life, despite his attempts at dissuading her, and her reasons.

  103. #103 Calli Arcale
    May 30, 2013

    There have been cases of post-partum psychosis going undiagnosed for several years (with one famous case involving the tragic murder of the children by their mother), so it’s still not entirely impossible. But given what you’ve added about her history, you’re probably right that those factors likely had more to do with it. PDD wouldn’t have helped, of course, but I think having a bad family situation combined with the physical circumstances of pregnancy and its termination (by whatever means, abortion or birth) can be extremely traumatic. Feeling exiled would make it even worse. It’d be like post-traumatic stress disorder. Horrible.

    I have personal experience with suicidal depression, so I know how hard it can be — and, so you don’t blame yourself for not realizing how hard she was struggling, I also know what lengths a depressed person will go to in order to seem normal. There’s a nasty, horrible trap, a self-perpetuating loop where a depressed person feels pain, pretends to be fine in order to feel a bit less bad for a while, and pays for it by feeling even worse later because their sorrow remains unexpressed. One of my classmates, an enormously popular girl, shot herself in my junior year of high school. Nobody’d had any clue she was depressed. *HUGGLES* It’s hard knowing a friend has been suffering in silence and you haven’t noticed. But societal expectations and the cruel nature of depression itself drive them to hide it, so don’t blame yourself for not noticing.

  104. #104 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    May 30, 2013

    I saw on the news today, the El Salvadoran supreme court has ruled the woman I mentioned upstream must carry a brainless fetus to term because – MIRACLES!!

    This will likely kill her, but that is the sacrifice receptacles of the sacred sperm must make to atone for The Fall.

    The filthy hands of the Irish Catholics reached into the pants of Newfie kids @ Mount Cashel to the the tune of at least $11M for the general public. A pittance compared to he 1.3B Euros Erin had to pay, but why is the public always paying for such a private matter?

    Tax the salvation sellers now. As mentioned on a thread somewhere else discussing this most pernicious of woo, “there are 10 pages of tiny type in the local phone book listing churches, yet the food bank/shelter go begging every year”

  105. #105 Krebiozen
    May 30, 2013

    Thanks Calli. It was a few years ago now, but I still often think about her, and alternate between grief and anger. She jumped off a railway bridge under a train, so there’s probably a traumatized train driver somewhere too.

    I’m not blaming Christianity for her death, since it is supposed to be all about love and forgiveness, but some people seem to forget that, and it was her decision, though I’m not convinced she was in her right mind. As another Irish (lapsed) Catholic friend of mine said, the great thing about being a Catholic is that you can do whatever you want, as long as you go to confession afterwards (he was being a bit sarcastic when he said that, I suspect).

  106. #106 al kimeea
    June 3, 2013

    Could you forgive the right hand man of doG who caused your 3 year old son to hide his bloody underwear in the back of his closet on the pain of hellfire if the toddler told anyone?

    Or if your little girl was deflowered by a professional representative of the “loving God” using the magic water sprinkler.

    These revelations, and many like them, caused a religion reporter for a mid-west US paper to lose his faith altogether.

    He was seriously considering converting to Catholicism as he wondered why all the huge $$$ payouts for “sexual assault”, and all the other less inflammatory, and accurate, terms favoured by the press.

    Then he read the victim impact statements detailing these many other rapes…

    Jerry Coyne had a recent post aboot an article that asked Is religion a mental illness?

    While it certainly may seem like one, I wouldn’t go that far. However, I have no doubt that it causes psychological damage in many followers well beyond the ubiquitous cognitive dissonance.

    Large dollops of guilt are involved in Catholicism, not to mention the cannibalistic aspect.

    At least somebody in El Salvador with power can reason against The National Catholic Dogma and has ordered the life be saved of the woman I mentioned – Beatriz.

    They’ll go through the motions of a normally induced/caesarian birth to satisfy a bunch of nipple headed men in dresses at the Vatican.

    We know someone who had an abortion. Not particularly religious, the decision caused great anguish regardless. On top of all this, there’s the personal particulars of the situation which would detonate their families.

    So in this fragile, highly distracted mental state, she makes her way to the appointment. Obviously searching for an address, she’s accosted by a woman on the street who appears to be from the clinic and is kind and supportive.

    The woman leads our friend into what she thinks is the clinic, but is really a christian anti-abortion group who then proceed to lay even more guilt on her.

    It is at this point in the re-telling that our friend dissolves into a sobbing heap. It all looked legit to her, until the liars for Jebus sprang their trap.

    “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

    “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    - Jesus H. “Tap Dancing” Christ

    God has the best job. All the responsibility and zero accountability.

  107. #107 Narad
    June 4, 2013

    Should we address you as ” the Ex-reverend Mr” ?
    Or just Baby-cakes?

    It has just indirectly come to my attention that my lay styling is “Mother.”

  108. #108 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    June 20, 2013

    Thanks to Jerry Coyne, here’s an interview with ex-preacher Jerry DeWitt, the first to join the The Clergy Project. Jian Gomeshi is a paid acolyte of the socialist CBC.

    The loving and forgiving christoholics in his home town revile him. Same with his kin, That he still resides in this bed of love is testament to his courage of conviction of acceptance and the power of fear on which the ancient, popular charade is based.

    We inhabit the same demon haunted world of our fossil record forebears with better toys

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