How Religion Does Not Save

Quite frequently when I speak out against faith-based thinking or “ways of knowing,” I get the response, “What other people believe is not your business, it doesn’t hurt anyone, why do you care?” Of course the easy response is simply to say “9/11” or point a finger toward Mecca, but the insidious nature of absolute faith infects us at home, just more quietly and behind closed doors.

This New York Times article highlights an example of our own, homespun, religious tragedy:

About 300 children have died in the United States in the last 25 years after medical care was withheld on religious grounds.

That’s death. Can you imagine the thousands of kids who merely suffer — but do not die — as a result of their brainwashed parents’ prayers to an unseen and mysterious God? Not to mention the times, all fired-up on holy ghost and righteousness, they may decide just to whip the devil out of some unruly child:

“Many types of abuses of children are motivated by rigid belief systems,” including severe corporal punishment, said Ms. Swan, a former Christian Scientist whose 16-month-old son, Matthew, died after she postponed taking him to a hospital for treatment of what proved to be meningitis. “We learned the hard way.” 

Yes, it matters what people think. Whether they are chauvinist, racist, or monotheist — I see no harm in challenging other people’s positions. We are free to think what we want, sure — but we are not free to remain unchallenged for it.

One Response

  1. What you’ve written is, unfortunately, true. However, it’s not the whole truth.

    It’s possible to compile statistics on the number of children who die due to religiously motivated medical neglect. But no one is keeping statistics on the number of children who benefit (including those whose lives are saved) as a direct result of religiously motivated activity.

    I personally know several Christian medical professionals who have cared for sick and injured children in Haiti, Papua New Guinea, or northern Asia. The Salvation Army in my town provides emergency housing for families with children. Other Christians whom I don’t know personally, but whose blogs and websites I follow, have adopted orphans in Uganda and elsewhere, helped build village wells for dalit ( “untouchable”) families in India, or performed similar service for children and their families.

    An accurate picture of religion’s effect on children has to include both sides of the story. Perhaps, in your experience, the bad outweighs the good, but who’s to say that the many people, for whom the good outweighs the bad, don’t hold an equally valid position?

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