WE frequently say that at this blog we neither promote nor criticize either religion or atheism. What one believes in that regard is his own affair. That is still our position, but this little essay is different.
We’re writing today about a disturbing news story, which — although it won’t be immediately obvious — is very much related to the evolution-creationism controversy. At the website of Fox News we read Jury Convicts Mother Who Prayed for Daughter Instead of Treating Her Fatal Diabetes.
We’ll give you a few excerpts without our usual Curmudgeonly commentary between paragraphs. That won’t be necessary. Then we’ll discuss what we think. The bold font was added by us:
WAUSAU, Wis. — A jury Friday found a central Wisconsin mother guilty of killing her 11-year-old daughter by praying for her to heal instead of rushing her to the doctor.
A Marathon County jury deliberated about four hours before convicting Leilani Neumann, 41, of rural Weston, of second-degree reckless homicide. No sentencing date was set.
Neumann’s daughter, Madeline, died of untreated diabetes March 23, 2008, surrounded by people praying for her. When she suddenly stopped breathing, her parents’ business and Bible study partners finally called 911.
During closing arguments, Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad described Neumann as a religious zealot who let her daughter, known by the nickname Kara, die as a test of faith.
Neumann’s stepfather, Brian Gordon of San Diego, said he was disappointed by the verdict and the jury was mistaken. He said his stepdaughter did nothing wrong in trusting in God to heal her daughter.
Gordon also said he was angered by Falstad’s description of his family as religious extremists. “We definitely are not terrorists,” he said. “We are Bible-believing, God-believing, Holy Ghost-filled people who want to do right and be right.”
Neumann showed no reaction when the verdict was read. Before the jury took the case, she and her husband clutched each other and silently prayed with another man.
Horrible, isn’t it? What do we make of it? Others will disagree, but in our opinion the problem in this case isn’t religion. Millions of people — probably most people — are religious; but they don’t kill their children like this woman did. What went wrong here? There’s clearly more involved than mere ignorance or stupidity. Lots of ignorant or stupid people willingly benefit from modern medicine.
What we think went wrong is that this woman was somehow trained to deny reality — and that’s not religion. There’s a vast difference between: (a) having faith in something that is unevidenced; and (b) denying the existence of something that clearly is evidenced. The latter is reality denial.
Reality denial was this woman’s failing. It’s more than a philosophical issue, it’s an affliction. One might even call it a perversion. It led her to follow an irrational course that resulted in her daughter’s death.
What causes reality denial? Was it because of some birth defect that this woman didn’t possess the faculty of reason? Is it merely that her mind is more primitive than ours — like that of a dog? No, that’s not it. A dog can’t do geometry, but when faced with a clear choice of caring for or neglecting its pups, a dog will do the right thing. This woman not only chose to avoid the right thing, she deliberately rejected its very existence.
This is beyond sick. It’s beyond crazy. What could be more horrible than spending one’s days denying the very existence of the world in which one lives? Reality denial is the ultimate epistemological crime, and in extreme cases, as here, nature imposes the ultimate penalty.
Trivial forms of reality denial lie at the heart many bizarre belief systems — moon landing denial, flat earth belief, etc., and although this may distress some of you, it’s also quite evident in those who — despite a century of unambiguous evidence — persist in advocating socialism. The behavior exhibited by all such cults is the insistence upon a dream, despite the evidence which contradicts it.
And now — as promised — we’ll bring matters around to the principal topic of this blog. Reality denial is unquestionably at the core of creationism.
So how shall we end this distressing essay? What can be said to reality deniers? The best we can do is repeat the rebuke that Charlton Heston’s character shouted in Planet of the Apes: “Damn you! Damn you all to hell!”
[Follow-up article here: Dale & Leilani Neumann: The Wages of Stupid.]
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