Sunday, 13 March 2011

Love and Wrath - The Impact of Blind faith. Part One – Won’t somebody think of the children?

Good evening all, I'd like to depart, if I may, from my usual fiction and today try tackling some non-fiction. This is the first of a series of posts called Love and Wrath - The Impact of Blind faith. In these posts I will try to tackle the subject of religion and the impact of blind faith on our society. The first part will deal with the impact of imposed faith on the children of religious families. Enjoy, and as ever, feel free to comment, regardless if you agree or disagree with my comments.

Part One - Wont somebody think of the children?

In two thousand and eight, eleven year old Madeline Kara Neumann died on the floor of her rural home in Weston, Wisconsin as her family just stood around her and watched. For some time, her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann had watched as she grew steadily weaker and weaker, eventually becoming too ill to eat, drink, speak or walk. This was no sudden accident where the child’s parents had been given no time to act– Madeline’s death had been a long time coming, and rather than seek medical help, her parents decided to stand by her side and talk to themselves as their child died a slow, painful death.
They were praying. Rather than attending to their child’s treatable diabetes, they decided to pray – to put their faith in the fact that ‘the Lord will find a way.’ The lord did not, however, ‘find a way’, and Madeline Neumann died that day as a direct result of her parents’ negligence.

So what became of these parents who watched their child die, knowing they could have easily cured her? What should their sentence be? What should the sentence of any parent who allows their child to die due to negligence be? Surely they would be deemed unfit parents by the state? A prison term for murder?

No, instead, Dale and Leilani Neumann were allowed to still care for their other three children, and were sentenced to each serve only one month in jail a year for the next six years. With the judge simply adding, ‘God probably works through other people, some of them doctors’, implying, it seems, that they were right in what they were doing, but simply took it a little too far.

But the real question is why did this pair get off so lightly with such a heinous crime? The answer… they had God on their side. All over the world, religious beliefs are given a free pass to stomp upon the freedom of others. Whether it be Madeline Neumann’s right to readily available, life saving medical treatment, or Muslim children being denied blood transfusions, religion is untouchable. It is a force unlike any other that takes children from birth and leads them blindly through their life, opposing any who challenge their beliefs.

Imagine for a second that Dale and Leilani Neumann had let their child die as they did, only instead of blaming their faith in God in court they had said that they were waiting for E.T. to appear with his magic healing finger. What would have happened then? Would the judge have said, ‘Well, maybe E.T. morphs in to the shape of doctors sometimes, so maybe you should trust them’? The answer is no, of course he wouldn’t, the whole thing is farcical. They would have been locked up in an asylum and their kids would have been put into care. Religion is somehow different to any other strange belief. If you told someone you had seen fairies at the bottom of your garden, or that you had ridden a unicorn through time, I have no doubt that they would call you crazy, but when someone professes to believe in virgin births and talking snakes, it is seen in our society as somehow virtuous.

But why? Why has an idea that is so far removed from reality earned such a respected place in our society? Well, there is as much evidence to prove the existence of god as there is to prove the existence of E.T. and his magic finger, so it sure as hell can’t be based on evidence. (Note: There is almost definitely more evidence to prove the existence of E.T. (Just sayin’…))
The main factor in this appears to be time. If an idea has been around for long enough, it becomes accepted in society, no matter, it seems, how radical.

For some reason, having the idea of God behind you makes you untouchable, even permitting you to neglect the needs of your offspring. This is hardly surprising, of course, given the examples of terrible parenting that have been glorified in the Bible, like the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his own child at his Lords call.
How can a faith system that teaches its followers that it’s okay to kill your children if your God commands it be a healthy thing?

Labelling children - What’s in a name?

The Neumann case is of course only one example of the way religion abuses the rights of children throughout the world. From the instant they are born, the children of religious families have their freedoms imposed upon.

First of all they are labelled with something that they did not choose, something they could not possibly choose. This child’s a Christian… this child’s a Muslim.

How can a new born baby possibly make the choice to follow the Christian or Muslim faith? They have not yet had the time and do not yet have the skills to understand the complexities of faith systems like Christianity or Islam, so Christian parents (or parents from any other religion) who label their child with their religion, are no different to, say, fascist parents labelling their child a fascist.

This is a ridiculous scenario of course; the child has no interest in or knowledge of politics, so to label it a fascist makes no sense these are the beliefs of the parent and not the child – so why then is it acceptable to label a child a Hindu or a Muslim or a Mormon?

Circumcision - If God wants it cut off, why put it there in the first place?

Another frequently carried out imposition on the freedoms of children is the barbaric act of genital mutilation. There is not one single health benefit to the procedure, any yet still thousands and thousands of infants are subjected to it every year, some within days of birth. And why? Because God commanded it.

Why would God create a human and then ask us to alter it? Why would he ask us to cut pieces off our children when they are days old? Surely if he is omnipotent he could have created us right in the first place?

A warped sense of morality – ‘Cos the bible told me so.

One question that is posed frequently by religious apologetics is – where do you get your morals from if not from the Bible? (or Koran, or Torah etc.) What, they ask, is your moral compass?
We shouldn’t need to be told not to kill people! What does it say about our civilisation that we need to be ordered by a supreme creator not to Kill or steal under pain of eternal damnation? Surely if the only reason we are not going about killing each other is because we are afraid of punishment, then these are not true morals. These are rules imposed upon us. As a society, we should not want to go about killing one and other – not because we are afraid of Hell, but because we have a respect for life.

Religion has a long tradition of imposing morals upon its followers using fear. Thou shalt not kill… or you’re going to Hell for eternity. This is clearly not a healthy way to teach children right from wrong – in fact it’s nothing short of terrorism.

Wikipedia describes terrorism as ‘…the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.’ For thousands of years, religions have been coercing their followers to follow their rules using the fear of Hell.

Creationism – making a monkey out of science.

In nineteen-sixty, Stanley Kramer released a movie named ‘Inherit the Wind’, which documented the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’, a court case held in Tennessee in nineteen-twenty-five, which saw Teacher John T. Scopes up against the state of Tennessee for violation the ‘Butler Act.’ The Butler Act forbade the teaching in any state-funded educational establishment in Tennessee of "any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.’ Scopes and his lawyer, Clarence Darrow (portrayed wonderfully in the film by Spencer Tracy), lost the case, and Scopes was ordered to pay a fine of one hundred dollars.

Watching ‘Inherit the Wind’ today should be a nostalgic reminder of how backwards our society once was, however, the sad truth is – it is still shockingly relevant. Still in this day in age, in the year two-thousand and eleven, parents are still trying to stop teachers from teaching the tried and tested, evidence-based theory of evolution, asking instead that they tell our children about devils and virgin births and magic apples and a whole range of things that have no basis in fact. To tell a child that something is fact, without any evidence to back it up is a lie, and our children don’t stand a chance at having any morals if they are lied to from the word go.

Some of these parents don’t want evolution completely eradicated from the curriculum; however they do want to see creationism taught alongside it. So if you are going to teach creationism and evolution side by side, why not teach the creation stories from all religions as fact? Why stop at the Christian creation story? Why not the Ancient Greek creation story? Or the Scientology one?

Science classes should only teach science, and religion should remain in the religious education class, where it is taught objectively.

Conclusion – I blame… the parents?

But who is to blame? Who is really to blame for all of these crimes committed against children in the name of God? One’s first thought is to blame the parents – but are they not just a product of what their parents taught them? And are their parents not just a product of their parents? It seems that no one can be held truly accountable.

The most terrifying truth of all, is that the parents who are subjecting their children to things like circumcision, fear of Hell etc. genuinely believe that they are doing the best by their children. To return for a moment to the Madeline Neumann case, I have no doubt that her parents truly believed that they were doing the best thing for their daughter, but at the end of the day that doesn’t excuse what they did. A man may kill his best friend because he believes that his body has been taken over by a shape-shifter from a parallel universe who has come to destroy us all, and he may do it in the best faith and with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t depart from the fact that he’s almost definitely wrong, and in the middle of a psychotic episode.

The Neumanns are probably not bad people, but they were negligent because their faith in a six thousand year old fairy tale was stronger than their desire to protect their daughter – they let their Madeline die and that was not their choice to make.

1 comment:

Can't wait to hear what you have to say! I will read all comments, no promise of a reply, though! Thanks for commenting.