Speaking of faith

Over at Slate, William Saletan asks a provocative question:

Should parents go to jail for believing so devoutly in faith healing that they don't seek lifesaving medical treatment for their children?

Yes. Yes, they should.
Leilani and Dale Neumann of Wausau, Wis., will soon find out. Their 11-year-old daughter died of diabetic complications after they relied on prayer rather than doctors to heal her.
I am all for religious liberty. Wanna handle snakes? Go for it! Prefer to dance around a decorated pole by moonlight instead of getting vaccinated? OK, though I would prefer you not mingle with the rest of us. Keen on venerating Asherah on the steps of your local state capital? Fine, but you and I will probably never be close friends.

However, there is a clear distinction between what one does on one's own behalf and inflicting one's religious beliefs on one's children. If you're a full-grown adult and would prefer to pray to Thoth rather than take insulin, then follow your bliss. But your kid's welfare should not be subject to the dictates of faith.

Faith, as the author of Hebrews wrote, is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. It cannot be objectively verified. The deteriorating health of a child in need of medical attention is seen, and there is a duty to respond when there is a disconnect between what one hopes for and what one sees.

What strikes me most about cases like these is the profound selfishness of the parents involved. (And yes, one must have a certain degree of sympathy for them considering the loss of their child.) They would rather jeopardize the life of their children than the possible fate of their souls. Leaving aside the question of what kind of God would require this kind of austerity, what kind of parents would live by it?

If your faith is worth sacrificing your child's life, then it's only fair to expect it to be worth a jail sentence.

PS> In a supreme irony, the web-based "ministry" to which the Neumann's adhered uses the translation service Babel Fish. Clearly, the crackpots at Unleavened Bread Ministries are not familiar with Douglas Adams.

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