The Mindset of Faith-Healing Parents

We’ve seen a lot of stories about children — like Kara Neumann and Ava Worthington — who died because their parents trusted a god instead of modern medicine. They let their children suffer because they wrongly thought a god was going to save them.

John Worth knows what goes on in those parents’ heads… because he used to be one of them:

It breaks my heart to think about that poor little 11-year-old girl, dying so young of such a curable illness. But when I think about her parents, it fills me with horror — makes my blood run cold and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Because, if not for a lucky roll of the dice, it could have been me standing before that jury.

I believe Dale and Leilani Neumann deserved their conviction — their daughter died through their inaction, and the law must be followed. But I don’t for one minute believe that I am better than them; that four short years ago I wouldn’t have done the same thing…

You can read his story here. Thankfully, his daughter led a healthy childhood or else John’s names would possibly be one we see in the headlines.

  • jemand

    interesting one of the catalysts to his literal faith in the verses was the very high emergency room bill he was slapped with when taking his daughter to the hospital after a seizure…. one he could not pay and had to beg money from relatives to pay off, and after “terrible tests” were run nothing was found amiss.

    I wonder how many OTHER parents are driven on these beliefs because they are less embarrassing than being unable to afford health care for their children.

    Call your senators! Reform health care!

  • mikespeir

    And if any of you harbor any beliefs–no matter how small or innocuous–that you do not constantly subject to reasoning, thoroughly examining them without hesitation or trepidation, do not imagine yourselves better than the Neumanns, either.

    That’s the money quote, in my opinion.

  • nani

    interesting. i wonder if the embarrassment of high costs of medical bills actually factors into these parents decisions or not (consciously or subconsciously).

    i’ve seen the “look, everything turned out fine so we should just trusted god and waited instead of doing something on our own” attitude before, though. the severity doesn’t even come close, but i went to costa rica for a homestay trip when i was in high school. i had troubles obtaining my passport. my parents had been issued an abstract when i was born, and when i applied for the passport i was notified that the abstract was not valid. we sent to get the full certificate (i was born in california, currently living in wisconsin) and received a notice that it could possibly take months to get my certificate. this was a problem, i didn’t have that much time. my parents and i tried to figure out how to expedite the process, but eventually everything just fell into place so i had my passport and was good to go.

    my mom’s comment was “see? we shouldn’t have worried at all. god wanted us to trust that he’d work everything out.” my reply at the time ran along the lines of “but how could i know if god was testing my trust, or if the devil was trying to stand in my way?” i was told that if i was close enough to god i would “just know.” for me at the time it was just another strike in my flimsy faith. scary that such thinking can be a factor in a child’s life or death.

    i really liked john’s post though. i thought the end was rather important.

  • JulietEcho

    I think that philosophically and intellectually, everyone who doesn’t subject their beliefs to reason stands on equal ground. Legally (and one might argue ethically), they don’t – and for good reasons.

    I’m glad the blogger in question had a healthy kid, and I imagine he’s haunted by all the possibilities he was fortunate not to face.

    I think it’s most important to challenge the specific bad ideas that cause harm to others – like to the children of parents who believe that faith heals. You can encourage an overall rational mindset as well, but I think that caring skeptics/humanists should almost use a “triage” approach to challenging ideas rationally. This one almost tops the list of critical cases.

  • Dan W

    So… basically, lack of skepticism toward John’s beliefs caused him to, for a time, be one of these faith-healing-only nuts? Being indoctrinated to not question, to not use reason, to not be skeptical, seems to be the main explanation for why people continue to belief in this sort of ridiculous religious nonsense. I guess I’m lucky to have not been born to extremely religious parents. I came to value reason and skepticism because my parents did nothing to quash those values.