Death from Faith

October 15, 2009

We of the evidence-based community are well aware of the diversity of religious belief out there, but sometimes the contrary positions within even a single religion are mind-boggling.

Take God’s position on health and well-being for instance. Does he heal us, or should we figure out how to heal ourselves?

Last week, Dale and Leilani Neumann were sentenced to light jail time for 2nd degree reckless homicide in the death of their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara. When the child became ill a year and a half ago and could no longer walk or talk, mom and dad prayed over her instead of seeking medical help. Madeline died from a treatable form of diabetes.

Just for discussion sake, let’s give these folks the benefit of doubt and interpret their actions as stemming from unadulterated ignorance rather than utter cruelty. It’s quite possible they genuinely believed that their entreaties to God would cure the girl. Maybe they now believe that God let the kid die because she was not worthy or pious enough in his eyes. There are some Christians out there like Christian Scientists who think health and piety are closely related.

But what makes that story even sadder is that many (most?) of their fellow Christians would find their end of the belief spectrum unpalatable.

Another recent story confirms this.

Lately, several flavors of Christianity have modified their Sunday services to guard against the spread of swine flu by sanitizing the chalices congregants drink from, by foregoing hand-shaking during the mass, and with other simple health measures most doctors would approve.

So... on one side you have Christians so concerned about the spread of a mild flu that they - using scientific knowledge about how disease spreads - change their very rites because they believe the lord won’t even protect them in church...

And on the other side, you have a couple who let their daughter die in front of them because they were so sure that God will heal her of a deadly disease.

It seems like the health-conscious Christians are closer to us evidence-based folks than they are to their faith-based brethren. They are, after all, acting prudently in the face of indisputable facts.

Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

Now if they could just go a little further and cancel church altogether...