Slow learner

A man has died of a snake bite in West Virginia.  Apparently he had gotten a hold of a book that says, in very clear language, what powers will be granted to those who believe its absurd tale: they would be able to handle poisonous snakes with impunity.  So where most people would put distance between themselves and such a snake if they ever saw one, this guy picked them up.

But there’s a part that makes this unnecessary death even more mind-boggling.

“Wolford’s own dad was a serpent handler who died from a snake bite in 1983.”?

Jesus H. Fucking Christ on a Crutch.

This is what faith does: it makes you disbelieve your own eyes.  For most people seeing their own father flopping around on the floor dying from a snake bite would send you a message that doing this shit is dangerous, and if the bible says it isn’t, the bible is fucking wrong.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • John Eberhard

    The amount of dumbass it takes to do this is mind boggling.
    When goofy shit like this goes on, how can people deny that faith screws up your ability to reason? It is just a matter of degree.

    • sumdum

      The genes have nothing to do with it so let’s not say stuff like that. We’re not genetically superior, or smarter.

      • Zengaze

        I must have missed the part where John declared the dumbassery was genetic.
        I would place a nice little wager that if you read that bible verse to an xtian, after confirming they think the bible is the infallible word of the big dick, then offered them the chance to test it with a pissed off ratler, 90 per cent of them would refuse.

        Why? Because they don’t really believe it, they just like to think they do. The other ten per cent, are really just dumb fucks.

        • Zengaze

          Disregard, I see you made a stack error, as you were replying to Steve’s comment.

  • Steve

    Natural selection at work :)

    I think I read somewhere that he was survived by “stepchildren”, so there may be a chance that he hasn’t passed on his defective genes.

    Also note that another line in the same verse says that god will protect you when you drink poison. Why aren’t they testing that?

    • WhiteHatLurker

      @Steve presseth digits to keyboard and writeth:

      Also note that another line in the same verse says that god will protect you when you drink poison. Why aren’t they testing that?

      And lo, as Steve had writ, the first article saith:

      At church, they’re also known to ingest a mixture of strychnine – a highly toxic powder often used as a pesticide – and water, often from a Mason jar. These same believers will bring Coke bottles with oil-soaked wicks to the church so they can hold flames to their skin.

      And yet the article continueth:

      [Wolford had] gotten sick from strychnine a handful of times. “I was up all night struggling to breathe and move my muscles and repeating Bible verses that say you can ‘drink any deadly thing and it won’t hurt you,’ ” Wolford told me, recounting one episode. He said a voice in his head taunted him as he struggled to recover.

      And yet did Wolford disregard these warnings, and continue to drinketh of the poison and pisseth off the serpent and followeth the signs, and in general ignore the warnings of his Lord, God word of Steve.

      And yet did @sumdum tempteth the unworthy, saying: “We’re not [...] smarter,” to which the congregation replieth “Fuck yeah, we are! I ain’t drinking that shit. It’ll kill ya.

  • Brian Boyer

    I may be wrong but I thought I read somewhere, probably in a Bart Ehrman book, that the snake handling bit from the bible isn’t even in copies of the earliest texts. Although it’s not shocking that a religious group doesn’t know stuff about there own holy book.

  • geocatherder

    The problem, of course, is that snakes can’t read.

    • PhilMay

      geocatherder – Your’s is the best comment on this subject I’ve seen on many web sites. It does not insult the dead but it does make its point. By the way does anyone know how the poor snake is handling all of this?

      • kraut

        And why shouldn’t those who die of utter self chosen lunacy not be insulted?
        I have no patience for those idiots, neither living or dead.

        • PhilMay

          I use the following analogy to arrive at that position:

          I wouldn’t insult a soldier who died in a war I believed was plainly immoral and which served an evil or wrong purpose. I would view this person as a victim of those who started and maintained the immoral war whether it be a political group, religious group or a military industrial complex.

          In this case I believe the man who died was someone who honestly believed in what he was doing. I believe him to be a victim of the mental illness called religiosity. He followed his belief bravely and it cost him his life.

          The fact that we hold his actions to be absurd does not diminish the courage and bravery it took for him to follow his deluded belief. He should be criticized because he actively encouraged others to participate in his dangerous activities but I am not able to bring myself to ridicule him.

          • kraut

            Your analogy stumbles and falls for the simple reason (as you yourself pointless out) that the soldier is obeying order, but that this priceless idiot was a leader of his community.
            Bravery alone does not demand respect for anybody, if the bravery is based on faulty premises with the added insurance that there will be an afterlife. Within that believe system the follower cannot loose.
            I also strongly disagree to label religiosity as a “mental” illness.
            Within the available options ranging from no believe to strongly believe people can make a choice, the evidence is there but willfully ignored.
            Willful ignorance in my book asks for ridicule and derision.

          • Zengaze

            TRIGGER WARNING….. Talk of war and such other horrible stuff.

            “just obeying orders” line doesn’t fly with me. Each and every individual has a responsibility as a human being, just because you are part of the machine dos not excuse you of that responsibility, we each have to take responsibility for our own actions, and appealing to be a moron and pointing to someone who has stripes on his arms and saying “he made me do it” does not nor should it excuse you of your actions.

            It is an Afront to the civilised world that the US are not full participants of the international criminal court, precisely because it doesnt want to have to find itself to the situation where it’s war criminals are called before the world to answer for their crimes, it demonstrates a sickening hypocrisy in its attitude to world affairs.

            Ultimate responsibility always lays with the person who presses the button or pulls the trigger.

            Watch Charlie Chaplin at his best below:


          • Catwhisperer

            Courage is when you do something that you’re afraid of doing. If you absolutely believe that something is safe to do – whether it’s brushing your teeth, because nobody ever dies doing that, or handling venomous snakes, because god won’t let you come to harm – you don’t need courage to do it.

            (First person to link to a story of someone impaling himself on his toothbrush or something like that wins a cookie.)

          • PhilMay

            My analogy was not intended to apply to a soldier who was “Following Orders” but one who actually believed what he was saying, having been manipulated into his belief by strong societal and government propaganda. As an extreme example; the Japanese Kamikaze pilots and the Japanese civilians who threw their children from cliffs before jumping themselves were more what I had in mind. While we could laugh at and ridicule these people for being stupid enough to believe what they did, I can’t find it in myself to do so.

            You may question whether religious people should be considered in this group or not and I would agree that most do not. However, with the right early childhood conditioning and immersed in a group which reinforces the doctrine, (and especially with a possible burden of having to defend and justify his father’s death) it is possible that Wolford was simply not equipped to make the rational decisions which could have prevented his death.

            The loss of the ability to reason and make rational decisions whether due to outside or internal causes is to me a form of mental illness. When one drinks the kool-aid they are not sane.

            The more immersed in religion an adherent is (especially while young), the fewer reasoning skills the individual develops. All of their cognitive dissonance is handled by pushing the issues off on God and they don’t learn how to reason their way through conflicting and potentially dangerous situations.

            I have stated that the religious ones are the ones with the impairment, but it could of course be turned around to say that those who rely solely on reason are the ones with the illness. If humans evolved the susceptibility to religion as a direct adaptation with its own benefit to the species, then the ones who don’t practice religion are the outsiders. If religion is a parasite on other adaptations developed to facilitate social interaction, then the religious ones are the ones with the problem.

            As to the issue of bravery and courage brought up by Kraut and Catwhisperer, I am compelled to change my view and agree: Crazy Trumps Courage.

            After carefully considering all of the above I must conclude that yes, the guy was a dumb-ass.


  • kraut

    I like it, the more religious nutters participate in stupidities like that, the faster they go extinct.
    Good riddance, and maybe the Aussies should send them some Inland Taipan snakes.
    With the caveat of course that the snake should not be harmed before, during or after the handling.

  • H.H.

    It’s funny, though, because when you hear the family talk about the practice, none of them actually deny that handling venomous snakes is dangerous. They seem to think of it more like doing a dangerous thing which glorifies god, except I don’t really see how they get from A to B on that one.

  • Steerpike

    Any cigarette smokers on the blog today, criticizing this individual for doing something he knew or should have known was deadly dangerous? Just askin’

  • arakasi

    I ran across this story on Dispatches and I’ll repeat here what I said there: rattlesnake bites are just not all that lethal. Out of the 7-8,000 venomous bites in the US every year, there are only about 5 deaths.

    There is a reason why there aren’t very many snake-handlers in Australia