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The Cost Of Authentic Faith


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Yesterday I sent a post to a friend. It was concerning a couple who had lost a child somewhere near the city of Philadelphia. The child had no appetite and went a week without medical care while showing symptoms of sickness. It is difficult to imagine that parents would ignore these symptoms in an infant. It is more difficult to imagine they could continue to do so or a week. The most difficult thing to swallow, one would think, is that the child's life ended unnecessarily. But it's not. The most horrific thing about the incident is that this child's passing was not the first incident of negligence that ended in a child's life cut short.


Four years ago, Herbert and Catherine Schaible lost a child when symptoms of illness were ignored by parents. The parents were placed on 10 years probation after being charged with involuntary man slaughter. However, if you asked the the Schaible's church family; "ignored" might be an incorrect term. You see, Herbert and Catherine Schaible prayed for their children to be healed instead of seeking medical attention.


Churches across the globe believe in faith healing; a physical healing attributed to miraculous happenings. Miracles are, by definition, events that circumvent the observable and measurable laws of our physical universe. Some faith systems are so dogmatic in their beliefs that they encourage members to shun medical attention when confronted with serious illness. They do so because they believe their condition to be a part of a divine unraveling plan. To seek to undo this plan would be to tamper with God's blueprint and to miss the (possible) blessing of a healing that God might perform miraculously.


The year is 2013...just in case you weren't sure.


Yahoo news reported that the parents had taken the child to a court-ordered check up as part of probationary restrictions following the death of their first child. However, whether or not they took their child to a doctor without the full extent of the courts upon them remains unanswered.


The assistant district attorney is quoted as saying: "Nobody argues that these aren't very loving, nurturing parents," she said Tuesday. "Whether their religion had anything to do with the death of their baby, we don't know."


It is my hope that these words were chosen by a public official speaking very careful before all the facts have been gathered. My question is: "How can we even begin to imagine that their religion DID NOT have something to the death of there baby?" To fail to ask this question is to ignore sound reasoning and turn a blind eye to the history of the parents' behavior - you betray this child as well as the last.


I sent a link of the article to one of my friends who has remained a believer while I have left that part of me behind. Her response was that the situation was: "That's just sad, infuriating, and disappointing." My inclination was to respond to her saying: "and made possible completely by religion."


But that may be reactionary.


I have learned that faith is a word in our culture and time that has a broad swath of definitions and interpretations. I've met pastors and lay people who have ridden the fence of literal interpretation of the bible. While people do something ridiculous in the name of faith they say that scripture has to be interpreted and the person was blinded even though they were acting on something they had read correctly at face value. This theological bent is quickly turned on its head often by the same person the same person, often in the same conversation. He can guide you to ultimate truth by quoting scripture - no interpretation needed, or he can walk you through the interpretation so you don't get a silly idea from reading the silly idea as it is written. No surprise to the skeptic that which side selective literalist come down on has a lot to do with justifying his or her own behavior or viewpoint.


"This," Sam Harris says, "is how you play tennis without the net."


I've some to a couple slow conclusions over the past couple days while digesting these thoughts. My first is that I think it's horrible to publicly state that we don't know whether or not the religion of the parents had anything to do with the death of these children. That is the definition of counter-productivity; the prosecution doesn't prosecute, parents go back to parenting in the same manner, children die and the public looks on while we excuse deplorable behavior because of our inability to constructively criticize the obvious harms of unchecked faith. Everybody loses.


My second conclusion is a bit more cynical. These parents are Christians. You would need to be pretty ignorant of the bible to claim that Christianity has nothing to do with sacrificing children in order to prove one's alligiance to God. Abraham and and his son come to mind right away. But even those selective literalists will have a hard time denying that the spirit of the gospel is about a son being sacrificed at the command of "the lord."


So I must draw a line between my friend and me on this issue. I think she should be sad or even infuriated at this loss - but not disappointed. This couple should not be shunned by other believers anymore than they should discount the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in order to show his love and obedience to God. The secular community should be able to say whatever they wish in response to this - they evaluate outside of the fog of belief. But Christians should hold this couple up dearly because in a world of supposed believers professing faith, they have proved their faith not once but twice.


Say what you say about Herbert and Catherine Schaible but one thing should be clear to skeptics and believers: they have an authentic faith in God.

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  • 5 months later...

This is the problem. Where there is religion, there will be extremists. Where there are extremists, people get hurt.


This is what theists don't get. They think we hate god. We don't, for obvious reasons. We hate what people do because of their misguided belief in him. I don't hate god, xians or members of any religion, I hate how religion corrupts their humanity. I hate that people are not getting their children vaccinated. I hate that people with spinal injuries are sentenced to life in a wheelchair because fundamentalism prevents a potential cure from being researched. I hate the perversion of our legal system that is forcing a 16 year old Nebraska girl with an incomplete education and no job to have an unwanted baby. She is supposedly not mature enough to terminate a pregnancy, but she is mature enough to raise a HUMAN BEING. Seriously wtf?


To misquote Will McAvoy, I find myself on a mission to liberate. I no longer want to live in a world dictated by ancient ideals of morality, or what people think those ideal are.

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Sorry if I stepped over the line for this forum. Honestly thought I was posting in rants and replies. My bad..

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  • 2 weeks later...

The cost of authentic faith is too much.  How horrible and saddening that was to read. Though I think thanking God so much instead of the doctors really does take credit away from the doctor, who deserves it- but with these people did it not occur to them that maybe God had placed the baby in this day and age so he could get help? It is sad what some people give up and sacrifice in the belief that one day they will be rewarded by God. Those are two people I'm not sure would do well with de-conversion at all. Most mothers I know would fight to their last breath to keep their child alive even some of the more fundamentalist Christians I know would probably forgo certain aspects of their faith for their child's sake. It is definitely grossly misplaced faith. So sad. 

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