Many people say that the influence of religious beliefs in a person’s life is beneficial and may even make a person more morally sound, but I would argue that it can be disastrous. It can cause them, in some more extreme cases, to believe that snake handling is a safe practice or that praying to a deity is better than seeking medical assistance. If that is your belief, by all means follow your beliefs. I will even go so far as to wish you luck. At worst, you will be helping to clean out the human gene pool. However, once these crazy religious beliefs, and their inevitably dire outcomes, are pushed onto someone else and they are the ones forced or coerced into receiving the effect of your ludicrous ideas, you have crossed a line and need to be stopped.
This should be beyond obvious in the examples of Islamic organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc, where their actions are directly causing the death and suffering of others. However, what is more easily overlooked in the U.S. is how Christian beliefs are being forced onto other people, especially when these otherwise insane (if not for the guise of religion) beliefs are being forced onto a child who is helpless to defend themselves from their persecutors. Until the age of 18, a person is considered a minor and a ward of their parent or guardian. It is both the right and duty of the custodian to care for and make decisions for their child. It is commonplace and even expected by most people that the child will be raised with the same beliefs as their parents and indoctrinated into their faith. This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when the beliefs of the custodian endanger the life or well-being of the child, it should be obvious that an outside force needs to step in and remove the child from a dangerous, possibly even deadly, situation. It SHOULD be obvious, but for all too many Americans, it is not.
In recent years we have been seeing a wave of news stories about “Religious Freedom” being trod upon. If that were actually the case and there were actually people trying to prevent a certain religious belief system, I would quickly side with those being oppressed. However, in most cases where the phrase “Religious Freedom” is used in the U.S. media, what they actually mean is “Religious Oppression” is being repressed. That is, people are using their religion to restrict the rights or freedoms of others under the guise of “Religious Freedom.. Even now we have a congressional representative who is fighting for the certain Christians to use their beliefs in a way that directly endangers their children’s lives.
Rep. Christy Perry, ironically a Pro-Life Republican, has taken the stance that it is the parent’s right to allow their child to die (of course only after its birth). She has even gone so far as to say, “If I want to let my child be with God, why is that wrong?” Well, Congresswoman Perry, it is wrong because the child does not have a choice. Being born into a cult, indoctrinated from birth and possibly even home-schooled before achieving the age of reason, a child has no defense from the sadistic ideas and beliefs of their parents. I am not trying to say religious believers are intentionally cruel and sadistic to their children. I’m sure they believe their God will step in and save their child, or if not, provide a paradise for their child to reside in the afterlife. However, ignorance and belief that the supernatural should not and cannot be an excuse for the suffering and death of a child. If a mother were to starve a child to death and claim that she believed Elvis had returned from the dead and was taking care of their child, she would be locked away. The notion that the same story could be told, but that the mother would be justified as long as she substituted the name Jesus for Elvis is simply repulsive.
But, while morally repulsive to an atheist like myself, these acts of faith healing or simple medical neglect still seem to be occurring at an alarming rate. A book entitled To Train Up A Child has been responsible for multiple child deaths, not to mention the suffering of an untold number of children. This book advocates the use of cold baths, starvation and beatings with a plastic tube, calling these “biblical child raising techniques.. Parents of nine children from my home state of Pennsylvania were charged with third-degree murder, but only after the death of their second child due to their faith-healing practices. There has also been an outbreak of idiocy regarding the vaccination of children, which in turn is bringing back diseases that should have been eradicated, because of an argument which I had thought was settled in the 1950s.
Whether it be a Christian cult like the Followers of Christ that Rep. Perry defends, or parents who would rather watch their child die than seek medical attention, child vaccinations, or even a case where Roman Catholic bishops nearly cost a woman her life as they decided that the completely non-viable life of a fetus is more important than the survival of the mother, arguing for religious freedom needs to end when that freedom surpasses the individual.
(surpasses the individual?? surpasses the rights? or value? of the individual??)
At first glance, the above scenarios may appear to be extreme. We have also seen that, as with the case of Congresswoman Perry, someone who is a Christian may let slide some heinous acts due to their religious wrappings. Just as we expect moderate Muslims to condemn against terroristic acts, we should demand that Christians speak out against the more fundamentalist actions of their Christian brethren. What we are actually seeing in the media is quite the opposite and that we atheists are being branded as impeding on religious freedoms, when what we are doing is speaking up for the children who cannot do so themselves.