Damn You! Damn You All To Hell!

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.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Damn You! Damn You All To Hell!

  1. The Gadfly

    I’m sure this woman loved her daughter as well as many parents.

    Curmy, you are right, it’s all the same denial of reality. And it’s denial and not using what they would say is God’s gift – your brain and reason.

    These people have never grown past the stage of “I want it to be this way”, i.e. they are psychological children. It is shown in the religious zeal “if we pray hard enough God will hear us and give us what we need”.

    It’s a shame that these people have never grown up past the level of a 5 year old.

  2. The Gadfly says: “I’m sure this woman loved her daughter as well as many parents.”

    I respectfully disagree. She hated reality more than she loved her daughter.

  3. longshadow

    She hated reality more than she loved her daughter.

    The perversion of religious belief in service to an interventionist deity has a long history in opposition to reality, and dare I say, Enlightenment values.

    In 1764, Ethan Allen allowed his friend, Dr. Thomas Young, a well known proponent of Enlightenment philosophy, to perform a crude form of smallpox innoculation on him, on the steps of the church house in Salisbury, CT., without prior consent of the town’s leaders. This was in violation of both the law and the strict fundamentalist religious views that were widespread in the colonies, which deemed diseases to be visited upon the victim by The Deity. Thus, it followed in the minds of those who denied reality, than no man-made intervention (other than prayer, of course) should be permitted to prevent infection, for to do so was to attempt to thwart the will of God, and was considered heresy.

    (IIRC, that on the same anti-reason grounds, lightning rods were similarly rejected by the colonial fundamentalists.)

    250 years later, we see the same rejection of reason in favor of the same fundamentalist notions clashing with reality, this time costing a child her life.

    In 1764, Ethan Allen could fend for himself against the forces of darkness, but a child hasn’t chance at the hands of brain-washed parents.

    Worthy of footnote, Ethan Allen’s book was entitled: “Reason: the Only Oracle of Man.” He was a hero not only of American Independence, but also of the Enlightenment, thanks to teachings of his friend, Dr. Thomas Young.

  4. Longie says: “… this time costing a child her life.”

    But anyone can see that it’s Darwin’s fault!