Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

By Edd Doerr | 27 April 2015
Americans for Religious Liberty journal, Voice of Reason

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine, by Paul A. Offit, M.D. Basic Books, 2015, 253 pp, $27.99. A review by Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty.

Faith can and does kill and injure children. In this important new book pediatrician Paul Offit spells out in abundant, shocking, documented detail how Christian Science and other faith-healing cults actually cause death and injury to countless defenseless children. Equally damaging are Jehovah’s Witnesses’ opposition to blood transfusions, the current opposition to vaccinations by both conservative religious parents and others, and the opposition to abortion by Catholic and other religious officialdoms. (Before proceeding, let’s note that Offit is a mainstream Christian and is not attacking religion generally, which actually strengthens the book.)

Offit shows that American (though not British or Canadian) oversensitivity about not interfering with faith-based opposition to modern medicine has been obstructing efforts to rein in “religious freedom” justifications for allowing parents and cult leaders to deny medical care to children, though Republican and conservative opposition to women’s rights of conscience and religious freedom on abortion and contraception goes too often unchallenged. The author makes clear the damage wrought by Nixon henchmen, and Christian Scientists, Haldeman and Ehrlichman when they succeeded in attaching to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) a provision giving a free pass to Christian Scientists and other believers in faith-healing. Offit also criticizes the US refusal to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which President Obama calls “embarrassing.” (The only other country not to ratify is Somalia.)

Offit also slams the Supreme Court’s narrow 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling that allowed employers to impose their “sincere religious belief(s)” on their employees. He asks, “What if companies run by Jehovah’s Witnesses refused coverage for blood transfusions; or Scientologists refused antidepressants; or Muslims, Jews, or Hindus refused medical products containing porcine gelatin, such as anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or pills; or Christian Scientists refused vaccines; or Catholics refused AIDS medications or services for same-sex couples?”

One hero stands out in this must-read book, Rita Swan. Swan is a former Christian Scientist whose son died because of that cult’s bizarre opposition to medical science. Swan has for decades headed Children’s Health is a Legal Duty (CHILD), which has fought hard for legislation to protect children from the preventable death and damage from the various forms of faith-healing and too often indifference of lawmakers and ordinary citizens.

This great page-turner easily merits five stars.

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

Paul Offit
Publisher: Basic Books ((March 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0465082963
ISBN-13: 978-0465082964

Edd Doerr was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He has been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982. A former teacher of history and Spanish, he is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights. He served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973 until 2004 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications. For over ten years he has been writing a column in the journal Free Inquiry from the Council for Secular Humanism.

Paul Offit – Communicating Science to the Public

Bill Moyers Essay: Are Immunization Exemptions Fair to All?

Christian Faith Healers Have Killed 12 Children Since 2011

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