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Child Sacrifice

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

“I too think that these diseases are divine, and so are all others, no one being more divine or more human than any other; all are alike, and all are divine. Each of them has a nature of its own, and none arises without its natural cause.[1]

[1] Hippocrates, Airs Waters Places c.f. Hippocrates volume  I trans. Jones, W.H.S.; Loeb Classical Library ©1923 London

One interesting facet of the current epidemics sweeping the land is how it unites both far left and far right wackos into one solid group deserving of ridicule. The far left gets their anti-science from an undeserved and absurd distrust of vaccines that is generated from the mind of a discredited doctor and his discredited study made famous by a woman famous for being naked in playboy and hosting a dating show on MTV. The far right gets theirs from one of two camps: the first, and oddly enough, the most reasonable are the libertarians who don’t think the government has a right to protect the interest of its citizens from the spread of disease. I’ll be perfectly clear, I don’t find them reasonable but they are more reasonable than the second group which are the religious extremists.

An interesting irony is that our religious extremists have a lot in common with their cohorts in Pakistan who also oppose vaccinations, even though our version are more than likely to support the war against them. The difference between the two groups is that the Pakistani Taliban opposes vaccines because they succumb to a conspiracy theory that the Polio vaccine is merely a plot by the US to sterilize Muslims. Here, it’s about letting god take care of the sick.

What I would like to know is the difference between killing your child in the name of your god and letting a child die because your religion mandates that medicine is a denial of the role of nature (or in the case of Christian Scientists, that disease is an illusion, as well as medicine). Sure, one is more active but in the end the result is the same as well as the reasoning. There have been court cases regarding the issue of whether or not a person is guilty of negligent homicide when they refuse to treat their children because their religion purportedly claims that medicine is sinful. As of right now 48 states allow for religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations (of those 18 also have philosophical objections).

The worst thing about this, is the double standard that we as a society have. If a child dies because their parents denied them basic care we would think those people to be monsters. However if they deny that care because of their religion we have a qualified revulsion to their actions. Even though, we know, as a people that this is ridiculous. Even if we ignore the children with cancer or other terminal diseases and just focus on this current, easily preventable crisis; we allow people to deny their children the best method of preventing diseases which can be harmful and even fatal. Yet because it is their religion, very few people speak out against it.

What’s even more horrifying is that aside from the Christian Scientists and some members of the Amish communities (who eschew most technology so at least their consistent), there isn’t one major religion whose precepts deny vaccines or proclaim them sinful. Not one. The religious beliefs of most of the people on the planet have no opinion on this simple treatment yet we, as a nation, protect a right which does not actually need to exist–the right to put kids at risk of catching disease. We don’t allow anyone else to engage in behavior that puts other people at risk and use religion as an excuse, why are we doing it here? (Well…almost, in Mississippi a bill has been put forward that will allow any unlicensed person to drive a vehicle provided that the vehicle is being used for a religious organization.)

The thinking here must be that if the disease is natural, thus divine, then the cure must be natural and only god can deliver it. Yet, more often than not, and according to a 2009 Cochrane review, it simply doesn’t work. If there is a god that is listening to these prayers the answer is almost a universal “no.” The Divine being isn’t going to protect these kids from a disease that carries an r18 rating (that means that one person is likely to infect 18 other people for comparison’s sake Ebola is only an r2). This was most apparent when Measles struck the Copeland Mega Church in Texas, which had been spouting its anti-vaccination bullshit based on the old testament.

The point of Hippocrates’ claim was that if one disease is considered divine, all diseases are divine and so are the cures. Not that we are supposed to rely on the whim of the gods to cure us, if he felt that the rest of the book would have omitted his theories on causes and cures, but on our abilities. Vaccinations are not a form of voodoo and guesses, they are the products of our reason, observation, and ingenuity: if you need divine help that’s where you are going to find it.

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