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June 23, 2009

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Written with alot of passion. Agree that such folks are absolutely clueless.

I think the cut-off point comes where a belief system is likely to do harm to someone else. Many religious beliefs are not so fundamental, they do allow modern medicine to intervene.

I am a big fan of Richard Dawkins, but I think he often targets the extremes of religion, which are easy targets. Most christians have no problem with modern medicine, its the fundamentalist who are plain mad.

The problem is one one of tolerance, or more specifically a lack thereof. Its this lack of tolerance which has characterised religion in the past, but i am not sure seculists and/or scientists should be doing the same.

People should be allowed to believe what they want or do what they want, this is central to the concept of freedom, the cut-off point comes when these beliefs harm others. If the beliefs harm themselves that is their own right to do so, but not others.

This case is an extreme one which rightfully highlights the barbarity of fundamentalists who are plain mad. On the other hand, there are other cases in which religion is not harmful, if anuthing its a blessing.

For example, if you have ever experienced a loved one dying from an incurable painful disease (which medical science can neither diagnose or treat), and they turn to religion to get them through it, even if you are the greatest atheist in existence you will be absolutely thrilled that something, anything, helps that person in some way during such an ordeal.

Everybody (well most people) believe in something and that includes atheists. So are you responsible when some nutty person, who is an atheist, does something horrible? If you were in their group and talking to them about doing horrible things, yes; otherwise, no. To me this sounds like a cult and I hope as you do that the parents pay with the maximum sentence. The leaders of these groups should have responsibility too for aiding and abetting.

I don't have any use for religion either but to blame those in a different religion for what these people did doesn't make sense to me. I know quite a few church goers and they (incidentally nice people) all go to doctors.

George and Rain, I agree that people should have the right to believe whatever crazy thing they want to, so long as they don't harm others.

The problem is finding the cut-off point between "no harm" and "harm" that George talked about. Here, my argument in this post follows along Sam Harris' lines in his "The End of Faith."

Namely, that the open-minded tolerance of religious moderates creates the cultural ocean in which dogmatic fundamentalists like the parents of Ava can swim and thrive.

Sure, belief in prayer and God usually is benign. But these parents also believed in prayer and God. That is why they allowed their child to die a horrible death: their beliefs in prayer and God made this sensible. Required even.

Rarely, if ever, do I hear of an atheist who kills or seriously harms someone in the name of No God. If a non-believer in religion does this, it usually is in the name of some other belief system (I'm thinking of Charles Manson), Lack of belief is pretty darn innocuous. Where are the Zen Buddhist terrorists?

At the moment I'm re-reading Camus. As an existentiallist, a non-believer in God, he talks about the absurdity of life (which I'm inclined to call "mystery," being more optimistic). To Camus the primal choice is between suicide and living. Not between killing others and living, as is the case with so many religious zealots.

So I'll stick with my contention that religion is harmful. And that athiesm isn't, expect maybe to one's own peace of mind. And that those who have unfounded religious beliefs, even if they don't harm others because of them, are supporting the cause of those who do go to an extreme and kill or hurt in the name of religion.

Brian,

Yes I think that its good to make people challenge their view of religion and ask themselves is it a good thing to have these beliefs or tolerate them.

However, what makes religion harmful as opposed to say the beliefs of Zen Buddhists or Tai Chi adherents? Is a follower of tai chi any less likely to refuse their children medical care than a follower of anglicanism?

I dont think the belief system is as important as to whether it entails principles that harm others. The cut-off point is grey, but whereas most practice tolerance towards those of other beliefs, its those that dont practice tolerance who actually become harmful, they;re the fundamentalists who harm others in the name of their beliefs.

George, yes, I'd say that a Tai Chi practitioner is much less likely to deny a child needed medical care. The reason: Tai Chi and Taoism doesn't have any divinely revealed texts, or a religious hierarchy that commands certain actions.

When people are encouraged to think for themselves, as in Taoism, this is a benign sort of spirituality or religiosity. It is blind acceptance of dogma ("don't use medical care!") under any and all circumstances that is dangerous.

Brian,

Not sure about that.

In fact, don't Tai Chi or Taoism often come with strong links to accupuncture and other alternative healing beliefs? You dont think an anglican is more likely to go to a medical doctor than a taoist?

Possibly when an atheist does something horrible based on their belief there is no god and no accountability, you don't hear about the connection because the media doesn't draw it. How many serial murderers are unbelievers? The whole thing gets a little silly, don't you think?

That church which teaches not going to a doctor based on a scripture which says nothing about not going but only what you should do in addition to going, that church is a cult and should be identified as such. It's not typical of Christian believers to think that way.

I don't want to defend religious nuts. I speak out often against religions period for the problems they cause, but you are tarring a lot of people with a brush and saying if someone believes at all they equivalently are responsible for killing that child.

On the other side of this, there are those who say that not believing is causing all the problems in our world. They think if all believed, there would not be greed, lust, murder, etc etc. People can believe or disbelieve and be good people but you are lumping all into one box just as the believer would do. I call that fundamentalism.

I am not sure that believing or not believing is so much a choice as just how we are. Some of us have gone through religions and come out of it seeing it as a mistake but we didn't think that when we were in it.

George, seemingly we both agree that adults have the right to get, or not get, any sort of health care they want -- whether this be traditional or alternative. So what an individual adult does isn't the question here. My focus is on whether Taoists are more likely than Christians to engage in what amounts to child abuse, by denying their children necessary treatment.

This is an empirical question. I've never heard of any cases in which a Taoist (or Buddhist) has been accused of either child abuse or domestic abuse committed in the name of his or her religion. But this is common among Christians.

I have personal knowledge of this, because my wife was a psychotherapist in private practice for quite a few years. She had numerous female clients who were married to devout Christian men who believed that wife and children basically are their property. God commands Jesus, Jesus commands men, and men command their family. That's the theological link-up.

Some brief Googling supports my contention. Here's a link to a book about child abuse being much less prevalent in traditional Chinese culture, apparently partly owing to Taoist influences:
http://www.springerlink.com/content/p61461w28314k65v/

And here's a link to an article about Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome. I challenge you to find an article about Taoist Battered Wife Syndrome.
http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/124174/biblical_battered_wife_syndrome:_christian_women_and_domestic_violence_/

George wrote: "In fact, don't Tai Chi or Taoism often come with strong links to accupuncture and other alternative healing beliefs? You dont think an anglican is more likely to go to a medical doctor than a taoist?"

--There is an implication here that accupuncture and alternative healing is inappropriate or inferior to mainstream medicine.

Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Example: One time I had a chronic bronchial infection that would not go away despite all the antibiotics the allopaths would throw at it. I was pretty debilitated and sick.

Eventually I consulted a Chinese herbalist who used pulse diagnosis. I was sent home with a pile of herbs to boil. Tasted terrible, but after a week or two I was much better.

Another example: I used to have chronic nasal congestion. Not gobs of snot, just swelling of the nasal passages. Allopathic methods failed. I consulted with a naturepath who used electro-accupuncture diagnosis. It was determined that soy, tofu in particular, was the culprit. My vegetartian diet was heavy in soy. I got rid of the soy and away went the stuffy nose almost immediately.

However, when it comes to emergencies like trauma and severe infections, M.D.'s are the way to go.

Too bad those people couldn't see it was god's grace there was a hospital down the road. Their kid would probably still be alive.


I think some of you guys here are somehow missing the point, and you are making this far more complicated than it really is.

Brian was very quite clear about the point of this. The parents had denied their child the necessary medical treatment that would have saved the child's life. The child DIED because of the parents RELIGION and RELIGIOUS beliefs. They did that all because of their religious beliefs. The parents killed their own child, but it was their RELIGION that was the underlying cause.

If the parents had not been influenced, by religion, to act ignorantly and irrationally and detrimentally, then they would not have interfered with their child's welfare, and the child would likely not have died. At least the child would have had a far better chance to live with modern medical treatment, but because of the RELIGION of those parents, the child was denied that chance. It wasn't only just the parents fault. It was both the parents and RELIGION that caused the child to be denied needed medical treatment, and thus the child's death was due to the parents AND their religion. The parents acted badly, but they were that way primarily due to their religious beliefs, which came from... RELIGION!!!

As far as other types of spiritual persuasions such as Taoism and Buddhism, those do not tell people not to go get medical treatment if they (or their children) really need it in a life and death situation. Taoism and Buddhism may sometimes tend to lean towards natural healing methods, but they never tell people not to go to mainstrem medicine or hospitals if it becomes necessary. This is the all important difference.

So the commenters here who seem to want to defend religion, based upon saying that not all of religion is bad, are missing the point. Religion IS bad because it tells people to believe and act irrationally and detrimentally... and in this case the detriment was destructive to the welfare and life of a defenseless human being - a child.

People certainly have a right to believe in religion if they want to - and people have a right to believe in ignorant, irrational, and stupid stuff - but NO ONE should ever be allowed to impose their religion and their religious beliefs upon another human being, especially a child. That is where the line is, and it is not "grey". The Law should never allow religion to go beyond the individual. Religion and religious belifs should never be allowed to be imposed upon children.

So this has nothing to do with the fact that other religions, or more moderate religious believers, are not a threat. As Brian has rightly pointed out, its actually the moderate religious culture that allows and tolerates the irrational fundamentalists and allows them to thrive.

Religion and religious belief is clearly a bad thing when it is allowed to overstep the rights of others, especially children. Religion should be firmly kept in its place and confined to the individual by secular Law and the State. Religion and religious belief should never be allowed to be imposed upon any children. The Law and the State should protect all children, and severly prosecute any parents who violate this principle by imposing ANY of their own religious beliefs upon their children.

It is the religious moderates (mostly christians) who are the ones who are actually allowing these other religious fundamentalists nuts to get away with their insane beliefs and life-threatening behavior... all in the name of 'freedom of religion'.

It's certainly not the non-religious Atheists or the ahimsa-oriented Taoists and Buddhists.

It is RELIGION that is the cause here... and mainly the monotheistic RELIGIONS (belief in one God) which is the Jews and the Judeao-Christians and the Moslems (rather than the more polytheistic Hindus, or the Jains, or Vedantists, etc).

Religion IS the root of this problem (regardless of what some commenters want to think). And especially fundamentalist religion. You don't see Atheists refusing to take their children to the doctor or the hospital when the children are sick. Of course there are religious Buddhists and Taoists, but you don't ever see Buddhists and Taoists depriving their children of necessary (and especially life-saving) medical treatment. There is nothing in Buddhism or Taoism that says NOT to go get professional allopathic (or naturopathic) medical treatment if it is necessary.

Basically, it is RELIGION that puts religious beliefs above the health needs of adults and children. And so it is RELIGION which is destructive and evil. And it is only God-believing RELIGION that does that, not atheism or buddhism or taoism.


Couple of things, since i am not a natural defender of religion, but:

As i understand it, there is no mens rea on the part of these parents. Presumably, they believed they were acting in their child's best interests as deluded as those beliefs might be.

This is not to excuse the act itself, which is abominable, but i am looking at the basic philopshical proposition of this article which appears to be that all religion is harmful and lends support to fundamendalist beliefs such as this one.

There are beliefs which are deluded but relatively harmless. A person who believes in fate or superstition or myth or cultural tradition or benign religion - all unsupported belief systems - yet they do not make the believer any better or worse a parent. Nor do such belief lend support (implicit or otherwise) to whats been done here.

Religion is primarily concerned with subjective belief, most christians would be equally horriied of this story as a taoist or a secularist.

If unsupported belief (religion) is held as being harmful and giving support to such a tragedy; then all unsupported beliefs including budhism, taoism, tai chi, nonduality must all be lumped into this category since they too are unsupported beliefs, which must be harmful by the implication posited above. One persons dogma is another's spritual practice or cultural norm.

If all religions are harmful, then it would seem you are suggesting that the state steps in and makes them all illegal.

If one is going to talk of unsupported beliefs, which are potentially harmful, then I would suggest alterntive medicine fall squarely into this bracket. It may be that the magic potion given to us by the traditional healer or witch doctor or alternative practioner does have some curative properties, but it may also be that these may be toxic, the point is that there is no way of telling since there is no supporting evidence.


George wrote: "If one is going to talk of unsupported beliefs, which are potentially harmful, then I would suggest alterntive medicine fall squarely into this bracket."

-- This statement could only be made in extreme ignorance and prejudice as there is more than ample evidence that traditional and alternative methods can be effective for many conditions.

"It may be that the magic potion given to us by the traditional healer or witch doctor or alternative practioner does have some curative properties, but it may also be that these may be toxic,"

--The toxic side effects of the drugs of mainstream (allopathic) medicine is well documented even by the manufacturers of these drugs and the doctors who prescribe them.

"the point is that there is no way of telling since there is no supporting evidence."

--My mother died an agonizing death from vaginal cancer which was exacerbated by the oncologists "treatment" at Cedars Sinai Hospital in L.A. There certainly was no "supporting evidence" that inserting radioactive rods into her vagina and excoriating the tissue into a burning mass would result in anything positive. There are quacks in all fields.

Tucson,

lol, i dont mean to disrespect you and you are welcome to imbibe any substance you wish, but none of these alternative therapies have been onbjectively proved to any proper degree, which is why they are termed 'alternative'. You are welcome to dispute that, but you are wrong imo. At such time that they are proven, they will cease being alternative and enter into modern scienticic medicien.

I am sorry to hear of your mother, i know the feeling only too well and the anger involved and the seeming hopelessness of the medical profession, but that is the best supported knowledge available at the time. Ppl can believe in whatever they want, there is a reason why western medecine is infintely superior to any other quackery like magic potions or dousing children with oil.

These parents did not act like this because of their belief in god or because of religion. They acted like this because of their belief in a god that would definitely answer their prayers. There is a difference. I would turn my attention to the direct problems, to oppose those. Their belief in an answering prayers kind of god is the reason for their actions, not belief in god, not religion. Also, rationality is a dangerous idea, there can be "rational" ( whether done by atheists or religious ) reasons for eradications of minorities, mass murders and suppression, these things have nothing to do with religion or atheism, but strictly with ideologies that become more important than life itself, than what is on the surface - relationships among individuals, groups, attitudes towards other living things. I also have belief, though not in god, but belief in worthiness of compassion and goodwill towards living beings. This has been and can be opposed with rational arguments but this is where I put my analytical mind to a stop and say that compassion and love is beyond rationalising. Which means that you have to be suspect of any ideology, no matter how rational it seems to you. Especially how it affects humans in their actions, which means suspecting even what seems the most rational system of thought. Even one that is supposedly based on compassion. Yes I would say that a certain element of constant distrust is necessary in life. This is why I am also suspect of ideas that say all religion is bad, this dialectic of religion versus rationality can ( without one realising ) turn into a dialectic of us versus them.

Perhaps "[t]he Law and the State" should outlaw ignorance and irrationality. But, then, cf. the "atheist" state under Stalin.

Maybe human nature is the problem - and "RELIGION" is just one manifestation of it.

Robert Paul Howard

George,

Why should I take offense? Say what you like.

There are many who feel as you do, but they simply are not informed. However, many doctors ARE informed and incorporate alternative therapies in their practice or work in concert with alternative practioners. Smart doctors on both sides of the fence know their limitations and defer to others when necessary.

Alternative therapies are termed "alternative" because they are alternative and not necessarily because their effectiveness is not documented.

I am grateful for modern surgical technology. The knee arthroscopy I had a few years ago was a success. I doubt the Chinese herbalist could have fixed my knee. On the other hand I doubt the orthopedist could have fixed my bronchial condition.

"....Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people." Marx said. I think a lot of people in this blog would agree with him...that doesnt make you marxist by the way (at least out of the US it doesnt).

I will quote from Raines "...Remeber, for Marx the essence of religion is its voicing of "suffering" - its crying against the realities of exploitation and degradation. And as we have just seen, the essence of being human is a passionate suffering, a struggle to take back into our hands a word we have made but which is then taken away from us.
Why then, since our species life is precicely one of suffering, does Marx in the end rejects religion? Because, as he said " The abolition of religon as the illusory happiness of the people is the deamand for their hapiness. To call them to give up their illusions about their conditions is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

This was the social role of relgion acc. to Marx. Its trancendental claims are answered by him here:

(Paper by Cyril Smith for Hegel seminar 18th June 1999.)

"....Marx’s Doctoral Thesis, which he worked on between 1839 and 1841, was on ‘The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophies of Nature’. His way of dealing with these two Greek atomists contradicted the opinions of Hegel – and almost everybody else – in that it emphasised the originality of Epicurus. Marx declares that his aim is to find the source of human self-consciousness and ideas in material reality. The other is his contention that philosophy must ‘turn outwards to the world’. Finding that existence does not measure up to essence, it must become practical, and ‘turn its will against the world of appearance’. (I: 85.) Moreover, ‘the world confronting a philosophy total in itself, is ... a world torn apart’. (I: 491) This gives the direction of Marx’s critique of religion. In opposition to Kant, Marx contends that religious belief is not just an illusion.

'All gods, the pagan as well as the Christian ones, have possessed a real existence. Did not the ancient Moloch reign? Was not the Delphic Apollo a real power in the life of the Greeks?' ( Marx I: 104)

I dont agree with him even if in my social role i consider myself a leftist.

What if these folks weren't using religion as their reason for avoiding conventional medical care?
Would the outrage be the same?

"An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company." http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/11856.php

One can always make a good case for avoiding medical doctors. This entire tirade against these parents and other parents who decide to forgo medical help is based on the hypotheses that the doctors could, in fact, solve the problem.

If docs wanted to give me chemo I would no doubt flee too http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-king/mom-and-son-flee-to-avoid_b_206699.html

I'm uncomfortable letting "the state" decide what medical treatment is appropriate for me or my family.

Randy says:

"What if these folks weren't using religion as their reason for avoiding conventional medical care? Would the outrage be the same?"

-- You don't see or get the point. Its not about conventional treatment versus alternative treatment. Its about the religion of the parents which caused them to refuse ANY medical treatment for their child.

"An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors"

-- Yes, and that is a big problem... but thats not the cause of this child's death. The child died because the parents and their religious beliefs prevented the child from getting medical treatment. Just because there are a percentage of people who die or are harmed by treatment in hospitals, is not not the reason that this child died. It was the religion (the religious beliefs) of the parents which obstructed the child from getting any medical treatment that was the cause of the childs death. The issue of people who die or are harmed by treatment in hospitals has nothing to do with this. You are just attempting to put up a bogus diversionary smoke screen to justify the parents refusal 9based upon their religion) to take their child to a hospital. Wake up dude. The parents and their religious beliefs is what caused the death of this child, not any hospital.

"One can always make a good case for avoiding medical doctors."

-- We understand that, and I agree, but that is no reason not to have at least tried medical treatment to save this childs life. If the hospital had killed the child, then we would blme the hospital. But the fact remains that it was NOT a hospital that likkled the child, it was the childs parents and their religion which denied the child the chance to get mediacl treatment that would have likely SAVED the childs life, not killed her. It was the parents RELIGIOUS beliefs that killed this child. If you can't see that, then you are an idiot.

"This entire tirade against these parents and other parents who decide to forgo medical help is based on the hypotheses that the doctors could, in fact, solve the problem."

-- No. The doctors were never even given a chance to "solve the problem" - to save this childs life. The child should have been given any and all possible help. Whether you accept and understand it or not, the medical doctors represent a far greater possibility and ability to save the childs life than simply doing nothing, which is what the parents did. It wasn't the doctores that treid and failed, it was the parents who did not even allow the doctors to try. If you cannot see that blatant fact, the you truly are an idiot.

"If docs wanted to give me chemo I would no doubt flee too"

-- I too might chose not to receive chemo either, as I am against chemotherapy, but YOU and I are not children. We are adults and we can make the choice for ourselves. The child was given no choice or chance.

"I'm uncomfortable letting "the state" decide what medical treatment is appropriate for me or my family."

-- I agree, but this was not about YOU or I. This was about a helpless child whose life could most likely have been saved if the child had simply been allowed to receive proper medical treatment. But unfortunately for that poor child, the parents stupid religious beliefs got in the way.

All you have done here is to show us that YOU are really only thinking about YOUR OWN SELF and your own reluctance to trust in hospitals, medical doctors and allopathic medicine, and not about that poor child who was clearly a helpless victim of her damned idiot parents and their stupid backwards religious beliefs. And because of them, that child is now DEAD. So don't go to doctors and hospitals if you don't want to, no one is forcing you to. But don't deny children the right and the chance to receive live-saving medical treatment if they need it. I mean thats just commom sense.


I think some of you might find this interesting. This is from "The Stories of My Experiments With Truth," the autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi.

"Scarcely had I moved into my new house when my second son Manilal, who had already been through an acute attack of smallpox some years back, had a severe attack of typhoid, combined with pneumonia and signs of delirium at night.

The doctor was called in. He said medicine would have little effect, but eggs and chicken broth might be given with profit.

Manilal was only ten years old. To consult his wishes was out of the question. Being his guardian I had to decide. The doctor was a very good Parsi. I told him that we were all vegetarians and that I could not possibly give either of the two things to my son. Would he therefore recommend something else?

'Your son's life is in danger,' said the good doctor. 'We could give him milk diluted with water, but that will not give him enough nourishment. As you know, I am called in by many Hindu families, and they do not object to anything I prescribe. i think you will be well advised not to be so hard on your son.'

'What you said is quite right,' said I. 'As a doctor you could not do otherwise. But my responsibility is very great. If the boy had been grown up, I should certainly have tried to ascertain his wishes and respected them. But here I have to think and decide for him. to my mind it is only on such occasions that a man's faith is truly tested. rightly or wrongly it is part of my religious conviction that man may not eat meat, eggs, and the like. there should be a limit even to the means of keeping ourselves alive. Even for life itself we may not do certain things. Religion, as i understand it, does not permit me to use meat or eggs for me or mine even on occasions like this, and I must therefore take the risk that yiou say is likely....

....But the temperature persisted, going up to 104 degrees. At night he would be delirious. I began to get anxious. What would people say of me? What would my elder brother think of me? Could we not call in another doctor? Why not have an Ayurvedic physician? What right had the parents to inflict their fads on their children?"

The passage begins in chapter 22 on page 219.

tAo, I agree with you that there is a huge difference between a parent foregoing an unproven, possibly dangerous treatment for his or her child, and passing up a proven, safe treatment -- in this case, antibiotics.

If a child is in the middle of the road and doesn't see a truck bearing down upon him, a parent doesn't think, "Gosh, if I push him out of the way suddenly, he might fall down and scrape his knee on the pavement."

Dying is a heck of a lot worse than skinning your knee, just as suffering a few side effects from antibiotics is a heck of a lot better than dying. Which shows that the parents need to be convicted and spend their six years in jail, thinking about this.

Another case of religious craziness, another instance of modern medicine working to save a child's life from religion:

The chemotherapy that Daniel Hauser was required to get by a judge is shrinking his tumor:
http://lacrossetribune.com/articles/2009/06/23/newsupdate/16chemo.txt

Brian and TAO,

You don't swallow religious cool-aid but seem to gulp heartily of the medical flavor!

Re: shrinking tumor, don't believe everything you read in the paper...
1500 folks die of cancer each day in spite of our highly hyped medical system.

Get the kids ready to take their swine flu shot whether your religion disagrees or not. Don't allow your child to be a helpless victim.

Brian,

This is a difficult topic to discuss rationally as there are fewer facts than opinions.

I agree that this little child should have had medical treatment. However, I don't think the state or legal institutions should take on the responsibility for resolving problems like this. The family went to THEIR community which happened to be their church. It was certainly a tragic decision, but if these parents were in a different church and different community, the religion would have fully supported medical treatment of the child: in which case we cannot say "religion is guilty." Therefore, the rationale that religion as a whole is guilty is simplistic stereotyping.

If "religion is guilty" then "medicine is guilty," is quid pro quo for this line of reasoning. As Randy rightly points out, doctors kill or are responsible for killing many many people every year but we don't give up medicine. Likewise, though I don't like religion, I don't think it is something that can be blamed with such a simplistic generalization for such tragedies as the death of this little girl any more than medicine can be blamed for a secondary infection acquired during a hospital visit.

If the parents and church are compassionate people, they are suffering and need our compassion not our condemnation for their tragic loss. Compassion has a binding restorative quality to a person as well as a community but condemnation induces fear, anger, hate, violence and all the other aspects which bring great ugliness to our lives.

I would not wish to see a state institution come into the individual and community life and dictate as a matter of scientific policy what is right and wrong - who is an idiot and who is not. Many (if not most) of the most intelligent people on this planet were never educated through the state institutions. Science doesn't know right and wrong, only superficial behavioral appearances of a few obscure facts. I think science/medicine provide good guidance but it/they should remain as a guidance not a dogma.

This little child will never grow up. Had she lived, she would likely have become a believer in the very faith healing religious group that you are condemning, (with some measure of confidence). At some point in her life, she may (or may not) have come to the realization that religious dogma is bogus. Even if she had become a faith healing religious idiot, who am I to say she is less than I am because she was religious at some time in her past? After all, many (if not most) of us who visit this blog have believed rather idiotic things at one point in our lives. We are very fortunate indeed that survival of the fittest doesn't only give a person one chance to get it "right" whatever "right" is.

I cannot say I am a very compassionate person (usually I'm not) but it seems to me that the rational thing to offer the parents is compassion, not guilt and condemnation.

Jayme, I disagree. We aren't talking about unproven medical treatment here. We're talking about antibiotics that would almost certainly have saved the child's life. Failing to act to save a savable life may not be murder, but it definitely deserves a lot of jail time.

A letter in the Oregonian recently asked if the parents would have prayed to God if their child had a knife stuck in her chest, or a broken bone protruding from her skin. The letter writer doubted it.

I appreciate your reluctance to have government intrude into personal decisions. But children have to be protected from abusive parents so they have a chance to grow up and become adults who can make personal decisions.

Oregon law demands that a psychotherapist (which my wife was) report child abuse to the authorities. No choice about it. So society had made the decision that parents do not have the right to harm their children. That's why I disagree with your overly tolerant stance.

There's no excuse for child abuse. None. Not religious. Not anything. None.

Now: where is the point that "abuse" begins?

I don't know.

Robert Paul Howard

Robert, you can conduct your own legal research at your question. Like I said, psychotherapists have pretty clear guidelines on what constitutes child abuse.

Obviously killing a child, or letting a child die, is abuse -- as in the Ava case. That's the main point I've been trying to make in this post. Amazingly, some commenters seem to be defending the right of a parent to take the life of a child.

I don't get it. This may indicate how deeply religious ideas are embedded in people, that irrationality and abuse is tolerated in the name of religion.

Dear Brian,

I disagree with this anti-abortion viewpoint which you seem to be taking.

Robert Paul Howard

Brian from what I understood nobody here was defending the right of a parent to take the life of a child. Mostly the comments were aimed at your reasoning where you took a specific case and applied your conclusions of it to the whole of religion. That is the same type of reasoning as when people say that videogames make people violent, that marxism is bad because of Stalin, that satanists eat babies, that institutions are evil because they are nothing else than a vehicle of absolute control for those in authority...

Although the Followers of Christ have a questionable history and the law they're being prosecuted under, and not yet convicted of by the way, seems to have been directed at them, this whole discussion is grabbing wildly at a very slippery slope. If a parent doesn't have the right to make health care decisions for their child based on their beliefs and or experience, does a woman have the right to choose to have an abortion?
Both are a form of parental decisions. (I will leave aside the argument about when life begins and move quickly on).
I mentioned swine flu vaccines in an earlier post. There is much indication that these vaccines may become mandatory. What if a parent decides, based on their personal experience or "beliefs" that vaccines are harmful or unnecessary? Does the state have the right to compel them be vaccinated? Should the state charge them with murder or manslaughter if the unvaccinated child dies of swine flu? After all, our medical folk appear to believe that vaccines are necessary. (They would discount, for example, the argument that polio vaccine is responsible for more cases of cancer than the polio cases the vaccine eliminated:See "The Virus and Vaccine by Bookchin and Schumaker). Actually, in Oregon, one can opt out of mandatory vaccinations using one of three reasons—medical, religious or philosophical.
In the Followers of Christ case they made a law to eat away at the religious exemption but it still exists for vaccinations. And, for readers of Church of the Churchless, if you are opposed at all to vaccinations, you would have the philosophical reason to fall back on.
There is great debate on the efficacy of vaccinations. (By the way, there's also lots of debate on the macro value of antibiotics too).
But let's change the details of this case around a bit.
A parent, based on a philosophical objection to vaccines refuses all vaccines for their child. Let's also say they are a Follower of Christ or just a follower of Christ. The child subsequently dies of swine flu, polio or whatever. Do we charge them with manslaughter? Do we rage at religion?

Hi Brian,

The bacterial toxins killed the girl. Inaction on the parent's part through advice of the church prohibited access of this helpless child to potentially life saving measures.

Is inaction abuse? This seems to fit a "witness law" legal category. I don't know the specifics but I think under this category of law: if a person witnesses a crime being conducted and does nothing about it, that person is guilty of a crime themselves. Very interesting.

If there are hundreds of thousands of people dying for no reason except lack of food and simple medicines and there is sufficient food and medicines in wealthier nations of the world to feed and make them well: who do we throw in jail? We spend more on cosmetics each year in the United States than would be required to bring back to health the tens of thousands of children dying in Africa each year.

Maybe you are right Brian. Maybe we are all guilty of murder or at least some form of criminal negligence. This is something to think carefully about and take action where possible. However, I don't think religion has much to do with the starving children in Africa. I think that much of this is driven by state power and made worse by community ignorance (scientific and medical).

I wish I could give you a link but I think I heard Thich Nhat Hanh relate a story about a Vietnam veteran who killed many children in a Vietnamese village during the war and was so grief struck by his actions that his life was paralyzed. To help the veteran resolve this internal conflict, a teacher (perhaps Thich Nhat Hanh?) told the Veteran not to be concerned about the lost children as they were dead and it did them no good. However, the veteran could do something to help the living. The veteran wanted to go back to Vietnam but was told that that is not necessary as there are children in his own community who were in need and to help these children. This is right.

I suppose the moral is to do what you can: where you can: when you can: and do it out of right action because this will produce the best results. This will be a tough one to think on. How does one do right action?

I still don't think mandating laws are sufficient to solve any problem if a community is without the compassion needed to ensure these laws don't become a stone on the back.

Respects,

Amaranth said:

"Brian {...] Mostly the comments were aimed at your reasoning where you took a specific case and applied your conclusions of it to the whole of religion. That is the same type of reasoning as when people say that videogames make people violent, that marxism is bad because of Stalin, that satanists eat babies, that institutions are evil because they are nothing else than a vehicle of absolute control for those in authority."

-- Amaranth, you are way the hell out to lunch on this one. You have missed the point entirely. Namely...

A child is now DEAD.

A child DIED because her parents were idiots.

They were idiots because they would not just take their daughter over to a hospital to receive some simple basic medicine (antibiotics) that would have SAVED HER LIFE.

They did this because of their... RELIGION, and their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.

So a poor helpless little girl DIED - DEAD for no other reason than because of her idiotic parents and their idiotic RELIGION.

Capiche?

Is that really so god-damn difficult for all you religious bastards to understand?

Get a friggin clue why don't you.


Randy said:

"If a parent doesn't have the right to make health care decisions for their child based on their beliefs and or experience, does a woman have the right to choose to have an abortion?"

-- Are you stupid or what? A woman with an UNBORN fetus is a far cry from a young girl who was forceably denied life-saving medicine simply because of her idiot parents and their idiotic religious beliefs.

I will say to you the same thing I said to Amaranth:

Randy, you are way the hell out to lunch on this one. You have missed the point entirely. Namely...

A child is now DEAD.

A child DIED because her parents were idiots.

They were idiots because they would not just take their daughter over to a hospital to receive some simple basic medicine (antibiotics) that would have SAVED HER LIFE.

They did this because of their... RELIGION, and their RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.

So a poor helpless little girl DIED - DEAD for no other reason than because of her idiotic parents and their idiotic RELIGION.

Capiche?

Is that really so god-damn difficult for all you religious bastards to understand?

Get a friggin clue why don't you?


Tao or +ao

You are my favorite troll.

Jayme,

You said:

"The bacterial toxins killed the girl. Inaction on the parent's part through advice of the church prohibited access of this helpless child to potentially life saving measures."

-- Thatb is what happened.

"Is inaction abuse?"

-- You can't be serious. What the hell do you THINK? If the girl DIED because her parents denied her medicine that would have kept her from dying, then wouldn't you say that is abusive? Is causing her death not abuse, severe abuse, extreme abuse?

"Maybe you are right Brian. Maybe we are all guilty of murder or at least some form of criminal negligence."

-- NO. That is taking this TOO FAR. If a starving man comes to my door, I will feed him and try to keep him from dying. But I simply cannot feed millions of people on the other side of the world. I do not have the ability to do that. As you say: "take action where possible". And those parents DID have the ability to "take action" and give their daughther some simple medice that would have kept her from dying. THAT is the difference Jayme. So get some reasonable perpective here.

"I don't think religion has much to do with the starving children in Africa."

-- Perhaps, but I don't recollect Brian saying that it did.

"I suppose the moral is to do what you can: where you can: when you can: and do it out of right action because this will produce the best results."

-- It's not all that complicted Jayme. Its simpler than all that. Its simply about not denying someone's right to life because of some religion, some stupid religious idea or belief.

"This will be a tough one to think on."

-- It's not really a "tough one" at all. Its just simple common sense and having respect for the lives of other human beings above mere personal religious beliefs.

"I still don't think mandating laws are sufficient to solve any problem"

-- Well, there is a law (namely the Constitution and Bill of Rights) that protects people's right to have freedom OF religion, so there should also be a law that protects all people (including children) FROM (being harmed by) religion as well.

"if a community is without the compassion needed to ensure these laws don't become a stone on the back"

-- You can't just leave it up to "community" and "compassion". People need to be protected from other people's stupidity... and in this case, of being harmed by the stupidity of other peoples religion.


Randy,

If that's all you can offer, then unfortunately (for you), you just showed the rest of us here what an real idiot you are.


Tao I have not missed the point at all. Where have I defended the actions of these parents? I also blame their religious belief for doing what they did, which was certainly wrong. A girl is dead although she could have been saved - very sad. I was saying that we shouldn't judge religion as a whole while judging a specific religious belief. Also I am not religious in any way. I don't think Randy and Jayme are idiots, they have raised some concerns about state interference which are completely valid and should not be dismissed at first sight. Especially the vaccination issue.

Tao said:
"You can't just leave it up to "community" and "compassion". People need to be protected from other people's stupidity... and in this case, of being harmed by the stupidity of other peoples religion."

And I completely agree with this, (unfortunately) I just don't see communities can ever become a perfectly harmonised group of people with compassion for all and understanding for minorities, so yes laws of this kind are necessary.

OK Amaranth, I guess I mistook you and the gist of your comment. I just don't have much patience when it comes to this particular issue.


tAo,

am sorry, but i dont think amaranth has missed the point at all. his/her post is a very good one.

You and Brian are justifiably outraged, but all the passion in the world does not help to consider things objectively, and often merely clouds judgement.

I generally would tend to agree with you that the world would perhaps be a better place without religion, tho i do not know by an stretch if this is correct, it may very well be completely wrong.

+Ao,

Your points are accepted.

I intended to say that inaction in this case is inappropriate and the parents (and probably the church) are guilty as such.

I used the African example to indicate that it is not solely a religious issue that we are dealing with. I certainly think that the parents are guilty of negligence and perhaps a crime under Oregon law. I don't think the general argument that "religion is guilty" extends to ALL religion but only this specific case where faith healing is concerned.

+Ao said:

"It's simply about not denying someone's right to life because of some religion, some stupid religious idea or belief"

-- I agree.

I also agree that protection and freedom are good laws to have. I think the framers of the constitution were intimately familiar with the oppressive European monarchies at the time and could apply good rules of reason by experience when they wrote the constitution.

I think that the only "rule" of morality or ethics that I've ever been convinced is meaningful is the golden rule: "do unto others as you would have them to do unto you." I suppose this is what I mean by compassion. The mushy emotional appeal of compassion is as phony as most religion - imo. Laws do, in many cases, help protect against the inequities between people and permit a greater distribution of justice and protection for those underprivilaged such as Ava.

I concede that the parents and their church are guilty of the death of this child. However, as much as I dislike the institution of religion, the general accusation that "religion" as a general category of fault for the specific death of this girl is false or at best an insufficient case. It is likely that a broader case can be built by which we can rationally deconstruct the religious institutions and it may involve a number of emotional (yet factual) arguements such as Ava's or the Catholic priesthood molesting young boys as well as a laundry list of other problems... but as a singular point about the death of this little girl, this topic inflames the emotion (as if sufficient) more than presenting a solid case of reason against the entirety of religion. And, as you pointed out, freedom of religion is a constitutional right but religious institutions are not guaranteed. I think the laws are already in place which theoretically can protect cases like Ava's but I don't know if there are laws which hold the institutions liable for their stupidity. The state may be too fearful of enacting something that might be considered "anti-religious" which is often misconstrued as unconstitutional: typically, by reason of emotionally based nationalistic or religious arguement.

If Ava lived: is this stupidity a punishable offense and how would a church be punished? I don't know the statistics of how many people go through the "faith healing" process and come out alive versus how many die. Any law defined by any study or set of studies must allow new concepts to be included. This is how the scientific method works so well and perhaps should be the way legal systems can be made to work more fluidly with societal knowledge. All of the factual evidence would have to be examined so as not to over state the case against religion based upon a single incident and impose a generalized law based upon evidence for a specific case. I mean, what is the death rate for children within religious institutions versus children outside religious institutions? (I don't know.) What is the death rate of faith based healing or herbal healing practices versus medical methods. (I don't know.) We often only hear the formal institutional statistics which in general exclude rigorous consideration for alternative methods of care. I think the specific case of Ava can be readily addressed but the general case, I think, is more complicated. This is clearly not a civil case but a criminal case with a victim and perpetrator(s).

Anyway, I do respect the experience and wisdom of those who built the institutions and implemented the laws but am skeptical about the need for new laws based upon a specific case. There are probably already criminal negligence laws on the books which may require only minor changes to hold guilty religious institutions accountable for such inaction.

I don't know who said something to this effect, "never tax a burned out village." (Perhaps Rumi?) I don't know what the proper punishment would be for the parents of this child and the church that fostered the belief system that brought about her death. I don't know them and it would be meaningless for me to say. I would simply wish that the punishment not be a tax on an already burned out village.

In conclusion:

1) parents and church are accountable for their inaction. There are probably existing laws by which the parents can be judged. The laws are probably much weaker or uncertain for the institutions of religion and should be changed (within the constraints of the U.S. Constitution). Addressing the parents and church are separate issues of negligence. The punishment should be according to the sufficiency of evidence to support the fact that "faith healing" does indeed produce a greater risk of death than modern medical treatment. There may be mitigating circumstances in the final judgement and penalty.

2) The general institutions of religion should have laws which protect the individuals within and the society at large. The institutions of law may consider using a more scientific (rational) method for implementation of collective wisdom rather than individual emotionally charged cases when establishing new laws. Laws should be based at their core on the golden rule as their measure of what is right and good and just.

Respects,

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2009/07/final_witness_in_worthington_t.html

This turns out to have been a case with apparently a strong defense. At least the reporter of this story seems to give it fair play. It will be interesting to see what the verdict is and how the verdict affects this discussion.

I'm late, but I'm just finding this.


To start: "Do you believe in prayer? Do you believe in God?

If so, you helped create the cultural foundation that supported Ava's death." This is accusing many people of something which they honestly had nothing to do. There are many different "Gods" and many different beliefs about them and medicine, and so to claim that all people who believe in God contributed to this is just...for lack of a better term, "lame."

Also, this statement:
"...And so many others who suffer from religion. Religions keep people ignorant, prejudiced, delusional, uncaring, and egotistical -- to name but a few deleterious effects." seems to directly contrast what you are preaching in your "Creedless Creed":
"...Thus morality also is an individual affair. There are no absolute laws of right and wrong as there are absolute laws of physics. Subjectivity rules in ethics."
The article makes it seem as though you are stating that it is obvious that religion is a bad thing, that not believing in modern medicine is a bad thing, and that "Case closed. Religion is guilty."
I am an agnostic with Atheist leanings, and I would never ever not treat my child with modern medicine if they were dying. That being said, if a family truly does not believe in modern medicine, truly believes in God, and truly does not wish for their child to die, then, yes, I think they have to right to explore alternative methods, even if those methods are prayers that I do not believe in. Do I think that this can get to be a very fuzzy and complicated line between intentional harm/murder and alternative religious methods of help? Yes. Does that make what you have said any less contradicting? No.

The saddest part is that, of the Yeshus that the Paul/Constantine Jesus is based on, one was an herbalist and chiropractic healer. He wore myrrh soaked robes that were antibiotic to those with skin infections (hence some could e healed by touching his robes). So the ACTUAL healer Jeshu (the revolutionary was the other one) would have used ANTIBIOTICS!

This is not about religion but control. There is a case now where parents were granted the right to refuse a known cure for their child in favour of a natural treatment which will likely do nothing to save her life.
I think the life of a child outweighs the rights of the parents beliefs when it is a life or death situation.
Religion has some worth and value as well as a sorted history but if people find spiritual support from religion more power to them. There are evil non religious people in our world and I as a none religious person gets tired of seeing the constant trashing of people of faith mostly Christens.
Also although the writer is rightfully passionate I am offended by the vulgarity in this peice. When will people start using real language instead dropping f bombs for effect?

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