Dale and Leilani Neumann prayed over their suffering daughter, instead of procuring medical treatment for their condition. Their 11-year-old daughter died. Now, the Neumanns have been sentenced -- one month a year for the next six years, an unorthodox penalty which the judge hopes will give them time to "think about Kara and what God wants you to learn from this."
I want to view this as a Parthian victory of reason over superstition, but this judge's comment sets me straight. The conflict here was not between modernity and religion but between a religious couple that failed to do what their religious neighbors all do: dilute their faith with enough practical technology so as to avoid the unfortunate and inevitable fallout that occurs when one places one's fate in the hands of nonexistent beings. "Think about what God wants you to learn from this" -- not, "Your child died because you were playing make-believe."
An interesting point was made in the comments section:
And The Lord Said: don't eat shellfish. Because it's easier to say a god disapproves rather than telling people not to s**t in the water near where the bivalves are filtering the water and ingesting the toxins.The implication here seems to be that religion is a way of spoon-feeding common sense to human beings that prefer to spit out their spinach all over their bib. Faced with such options -- a religious majority that uses just enough science to get through the day without upsetting their mythological sensibilities, and a secular minority that employs religious doctrine to save the great mass of humanity from their own self-destructive impulses -- I yearn for a third way.
More views at The New York Times, The Friendly Atheist, and BBC.
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