Next on FOX: When faith attacks
A hemophilic boy in Pennsylvania bleeds to death over a period of two days from a small cut on his foot. An Indiana girl dies after a malignant tumor sprouts from her skull and grows so enormous that it’s nearly the size of her head. A boy in Massachusetts succumbs to a bowel obstruction. (His cries of pain are so loud that neighbors are forced to shut their windows to block out the sound.)
None of these children benefit from the readily-available medical treatments that might save their lives, or at least mitigate their suffering. Because the tenets of their parents’ religious faiths mandate it, their ailments are treated by prayer rather than medical science. The results are tragic.
It is difficult to determine precisely how many children in the United States lose their lives every year as the result of the phenomenon that has come to be known as religion-based medical neglect. A landmark study published in the journal Pediatrics uncovered more than 150 reported fatalities over a 10-year period – a tally that one of the study’s authors later said represented only “the tip of the iceberg” of a surprisingly pervasive problem. Assessing whether forms of religion-related child abuse pose a greater risk to children than more widely publicized threats, such as ritual satanic abuse, a wide-ranging study funded by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect concluded that “there are more children actually being abused in the name of God than in the name of Satan.”
Across the globe human societies have a certain tendency. If one person believes something absurd people tend to view the individual as being in one way or another mentally off. If 100 people believe in something absurd, people refer to them as a silly and perhaps dangerous cult. If there are a million people that believe in something absurd and they rally together to stop the persecution they quite understandably receive, they may eventually join that elite protected club that our society reverently calls religion. Once an absurd belief achieves the coveted status of religion, new rules apply. Because of secular protections and political correctness, it can be risky to address a religion the same way that many people feel no real qualms about when it comes to cults. When we make special allowances for popular forms of unreason, where do we draw the line? A good place might be when it starts getting people killed. Children, no less.
It is not news that there are a number of religious organizations that forbid medical treatment to ill community members, such as Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather than putting one’s trust in established and proven successful medical treatments, people are to put their faith in God, a doctor who rarely makes house calls according to research on prayer healing.
At what point can we call a spade a spade and just say you’re being ridiculous, stop prioritizing your fantasy world over YOUR CHILD’S LIFE!
I’m certainly not trying to portray religion as having this sort of effect across the board. Absolutely not. While it is true that I am an agnostic atheist who is utterly stupefied by the existence of religious delusion in our society and think that we’d be better off with out it (though we would need to have other types of community organizations in place), I have no interest in simply smearing religion wherever possible. Thankfully, this type of event is an anomaly, and while religion does motivate things that I consider destructive, there’s no doubt that it also motivates wonderful behaviour. But this is unexcuseable.
There is no way that American society would have allowed all of these children to needlessly die if there were only a handful of Christian scientists in the world. I understand the practicalities of the issue. When so many people believe in an absurdity, to a certain extent it might be impractical to be as honest with one’s criticisms than if only a few people had such beliefs. If a politician did this, they wouldn’t be elected. If a business owner did this, they would go out of business and there would be conflict among staff. Society as a whole would be much more conflict ridden. But when people start dying needlessly, it’s time to get real. As it stands, we have parents killing their children and thinking that they’re doing a good thing.