Image from the Star Tribune
This boy will likely die soon as a direct result of a false belief. His mother doesn’t want to give him chemotherapy because it’s against her religion.
I’ve been debating a number of people via email (and here) recently about the distinction between “moderate” and “extremist” religion. They agree that that it’s ok to attack extremist beliefs, but argue that I should give respect to the moderate believers in religions like Christianity and Islam.
Well, this case is an example of how “non-extremist” beliefs can harm people. This mother would most likely not agree to fly into a building and kill people, yet a human will die because of her beliefs (that the creator of the universe will personally save her son).
Belief leads to action.
The way to counter this type of belief is to ridicule it the same way we ridicule any other preposterous belief that can cause humans to die, e.g. that standing in front of cars on the freeway is a way to ear favor with God through a display of faith.
Keep in mind–if this person had her way, I’m fairly sure she would implement public policy to keep others from doing the “ungodly” thing of using medicine. I don’t know that for sure, but it’s a safe guess. And all based on a belief. The reason we aren’t subject to this in the public arena is because we have enough sanity, as a group, to call bullshit. We need to find that courage at a public discourse level as well, to prevent precisely this sort of Sharia-type public policy from flaring up in the future.
Belief does cause damage–even if it’s not a belief in 72 virgins after martyrdom. It incubates extremism in a silent petri dish of “moderate” religious insanity. Many say that moderates and extremists don’t share similar beliefs: I disagree. Consider Christianity put in this light:
Given that, the belief that you’ll get extra shit if you kill non-believers isn’t really much of stretch.
The Bible is full of hideous extremism waiting to be extracted and wielded at any point in time. Slavery, the death of unbelievers at God’s hand, horribly treatment of women and gays–it’s all there. The way to counter this is not to accept that it’s MOSTLY correct, and that it’s ok to believe MOST of it (but not the bad stuff). The way to counter religious extremism is to call it for what it is–insanity. And that means addressing head-on the foundation of “moderate religion” that supports it. ::