I am often asked during my frequent rants against religion, "If it makes somebody feel better, what does it hurt?" It hurts many thing. It hurts a child to be taught to believe what they are TOLD to believe instead of being an independent thinker. (Can a child REALLY be a Catholic or a Lutheran any more than they can be a Democrat or a Republican?) It hurts society when one religion wants to kill or convert all who don't believe and end up flying planes into buildings. (Don't pretend your shit doesn't stink Christians -- remember The Crusades? The motivation was the same and the tactics equally brutal.) I could go on, but I've found another tragic example from one of my favorite writers/thinkers, JamesRandi.
In his weekly SWIFT column he writes about the totally unnecessary death of a little girl and the hypocritical reaction from the media. He writes:
Madeline Kara Neumann, 11 years old, died a horrifying death recently. She died from ignorance.
No, not her own ignorance. She was an innocent victim of her righteous
parents’ unknowing error. They were led to believe that there exists an
invisible deity – somewhere in the sky – who has absolute power to
subvert the laws of nature that govern our real world, and they chose
to believe that strange notion because everyone they knew and trusted
had similarly opted to accept this mythology that has created and
supported a vast network of priests and organizations that depend upon
the public’s naivety and ignorance. It’s called religion.
The parents’ blind belief was that by pleading for a miracle from
this demonstrably capricious, jealous, arrogant, vengeful, deity, they
could reject medical assistance that is very capable of successfully
treating the ailment from which Madeline suffered. This sort of
perverse notion persists among the religious in spite of the plain
historical fact that millions of humans were tortured and killed by the
Nazis in World War II, by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, by the Holy
Roman Inquisition, and by literally hundreds of other mass atrocities.
Those people died despite the earnest, desperate, prayers of the
victims – and of those who loved them – directed at this deity in whom
they invested their faith.
The power of prayer is clearly described in the Holy Bible. There’s no
doubt about that. In Proverbs 10:24, it is simply stated: “…the desire
of the righteous will be granted.” Oh, but it goes on and on:
Matthew 7:7 – Ask, and it shall be given you.
Matthew 21:22 – And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
James 5:15 – The prayer of faith will heal the sick.
John 14:14 (quoting Christ) – If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
John 15:7 (quoting Christ) – If ye abide in me, and my words abide in
you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
John 16:23 (quoting Christ) – Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
1st John 3:22 – And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him…
This is just a brief selection from Holy Writ. But it’s wrong. It’s all mythology.
The media have grabbed their scythes and torches, and assembled
against Dale and Leilani Neumann, Madeline’s parents, whose actions
they have described as “unforgivable,” “willful negligence,” “child
sacrifice,” and “parental negligence.” Nonsense. Madeline’s
long-drawn-out death – involving nausea, vomiting, unbearable thirst,
weight loss, and weakness – due to diabetic ketoacidosis – was
something that the majority of the rest of our species had been
drumming into the Neumanns as an example of what prayer could and would
solve, just by applying it. They believed that claim, firmly and
absolutely. So who’s really to blame? The Bible-thumpers who convinced
the Neumanns of this claptrap, that’s who. They’re the people who are
allowed to ignore tax laws, to operate freely any time or any place
they want to, to screech their delusions in public and to manipulate
their own children like helpless puppets in this monstrous Morality
Play that our species so adores. Other parents do not own their
children, as these zealots do – and should be prohibited from doing.
What's even more alarming in this calamity is exemplified by one of
the ambivalent media headlines: "Ethicists say case unclear."
Bio-ethicist Dr. Norman Fost of the University of Wisconsin Medical
School is quoted as saying that we should not to be moralistic or pass
judgment on parents who think they can heal a child through prayer, an
opinion that I share. BBSNews [see tinyurl.com/33j6c6] expressed my own stance very clearly:
The fault lies in society's laudatory attitude toward a "holy book"
which teaches superstition and faith-healing, whose passages are
latched onto by Bible literalists, and whose obedience to such
injunctions has been given a pass in the criminal statutes of many
states. The mother, Leilani Neumann, of Weston, Wisconsin, publicly
announced: "We need healing. We are going through the healing process."
What about the healing process her daughter required? This helpless
dependent of a middle-class family had last seen a doctor at the age of
three, and recently had been pulled out of public schools for religious
home-schooling, possibly to cover up symptoms of her illness, which,
according to medical experts, would have surfaced at least six months
As a memorial to the painful, frightening and needless death
of Madeline Kara Neumann, the Wisconsin Legislature needs to finally
show some gumption, and remove from the statutes its callous exemption
sanctifying child homicide in the name of faith.
However, that last paragraph, I must admit, makes me uncomfortable.
No law is ever going to affect the decisions of religious zealots who
fear damnation for not accepting and believing every word found in a
badly-translated set of writings that originated in the ignorance of
two thousand years ago. They will continue to treat their kids like
chattels and pets, subjecting them to poisonous ideas and substances,
and denying them proven life-saving measures. I am philosophically
adverse to seeking a cure for ignorance through legislation rather than
We can easily say that Dale and Leilani Neumann were simply stupid.
Perhaps so, but more importantly, they – and we – have been swindled by
the priests, and society continues not only to tolerate them, but to
support them by granting them exemptions from the regulations and
ignoring their folly and arrogance.
I couldn't agree more, James. I would highly recommend to anybody who dares to have their beliefs challenged or needs a fresh point of view to take a look at randi.org. You may not agree with all that is said, but at least you are thinking.