Prayer is neglect without the shame.

Another child has died because prayer doesn’t work.

Two faith healers who shunned modern medicine let their 16-year-old son die in agony rather than take him to hospital.

Russell and Brandi Bellew chose to ‘pray away’ their son’s burst appendix instead of getting him emergency help.

Their son, Austin Sprout, suffered with excruciating appendicitis for a week before he passed away, reported the Eugene Register-Guard.

However, Austin’s mum and dad escaped jail after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.

Instead, they were put on probation for five years after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

They had been charged with second-degree manslaughter after authorities learned thatAustin’s death could have been prevented if his parents had simply taken him to the hospital.

The couple, who are in their late thirties and who had seven children before Austin’s death, are members of the General Assembly and the Church of the First Born in Cresswell, Oregon, which shuns modern medicine and teaches parishioners that faith healing and prayer will cure disease.

I will bet $100 that their beliefs won’t change one bit.

Bad intent was not their crime: they wanted their son to get well.  They didn’t want him to die.  Their crime was failing to be reasonable enough to make the elementary conclusion that medicine works and prayer does not, and their failure cost the child, not the perpetrators, his life.

It doesn’t matter how nice you are or how liberal your faith, if your position is that irrationality under the banner of faith is acceptable, you are wrong.  Period.  The same faith that lets you believe Jesus rose from the dead is what lets others believe that prayer heals the sick.  Irrationality is not only irresponsible when it kills someone just like drunk driving is not responsible just because you made it home safely.  If you are spreading the idea that unreason is acceptable or good, then you are gambling with our good intentions.

That boy didn’t have to die.  He didn’t!

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.

  • Art Vandelay

    I can’t stand seeing this shit happen. The bottom line is that, it really doesn’t matter how “liberal” of a Christian you claim to be or what the particular version of your God thinks of medicine. It’s right there in the Bible…”ask and ye shall receive.” Those who believe without seeing are the truly blessed. Faith is rewarded over and over again. If you think that book has some sort of divine origins and you go around promoting the idea that God heals people through prayer…your part of the problem. That blood is on your hands too because you’re just helping to breed an environment that allows for this shit to happen. Sorry “Liberal Christians,” you don’t get to condemn these assholes.

    • Loqi

      Not that the liberal christians would actually condemn them anyway. They’d say something like “yeah, this is bad, but this doesn’t represent all christians/isn’t real christianity (cites contradicting bible verse).” Because what’s important here isn’t the life of a child, it’s that nobody makes them feel bad about believing 99.9% of the same shit these child murderers believe.

      • Chris

        I’m a liberal Christian, and I absolutely condemn this. These people should be thrown in jail for a long time. When “religious freedom” begins to step on the rights of people to live, or live within their rights as a human it is time to step on religious freedom. A satanist, or cultist, cannot practice human sacrifice under the guise of religious freedom, so these folks shouldn’t be able to either.

        • Art Vandelay

          But they’re not practicing human sacrifice…they’re practicing Christianity. They’re practicing the direct commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. How can you call yourself a Christian and condemn that? You’re gonna tell them that John 3:16 are words to live by but John 14:13 is bullshit?

          • Cory

            Yeah. These religious assclowns claim to be all moral and good yet use the bible like a bag of trailmix. They pick out the parts they like and ignore the rest. Hate to break it to you delusional morons, but that’s not how it works. If you wanna claim that you’re religious, and that the bible actually is the word of god, you get the whole thing and everything that comes along with it. I’m so happy that this country is in religious turmoil. People really need to wake the fuck up and realize that abrahamic religions are just as much bullshit as greek mythology. Or the other 2800+ claimed gods throughout humanity.

          • Dana

            These people are not following anything that anyone could possibly think is commanded by Jesus.

            The Bible never does anything remotely close to prohibiting people from getting medical care. Furthermore, it explicitly prohibits testing God’s providence by doing stupid shit on the belief that he’ll then protect you. The beliefs of these people are thus prohibited by the holy book of Christianity and have never at any point been part of its mainstream practice.

            No, liberal Christians should not feel guilty for every group of batshit crazy people that makes up a bunch of crazy beliefs and calls them Christian. There are legitimate things to worry about in mainstream Christianity; pick one of those.

        • Cobes

          Even as a liberal Christian you are still helping add fuel to this fire.

          What does liberal Christian actually mean? You don’t follow ALL of the Bible literally but you still think it is Gods word? You don’t think any of it is Gods word, but a device written by man to make humanity better so you can follow SOME of it as it applies to the world today?

          If you still think it is Gods word, but you don’t buy into all of it then you are a SINNER. If you think it is written by man and parts of it can be applied to the world today then you have picked the WORST source to get those life lessons from. Today most Christians neglect most of the Bible. I saw a man with the anti-homosexual line from Leviticus tattooed on his arm. He obviously hadn’t read Leviticus because a little farther in it also condemns GETTING TATTOOS. He hath sinned just as much as the gay man…. he probably also ate lobster or clams sometime that year, which is a Leviticus no-no.

          The Bible is, supposedly, Gods infinite truths. If you aren’t following all of it, do the right thing, drop the rest of it, and start investing your time and faith into things that matter to you. You can still believe in a divine force, but why share a God with someone who interprets him so differently? A god that people use to teach negatives hand in hand with the positives. Morality is in nature. It has nothing to do with God. Humans are lucky enough to be able to experience incredible emotion and have immense intelligence. Our morality comes from the desire to learn and experience better and greater things… also we get a better feeling chemically when we are nice to people than when we are mean. Being calm is better for our health than being aggressive and our body and mind know it.

          Normally I don’t rant like this and try to respect peoples faiths. I love everyone. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Gays… you name it. If I could see a version of myself brought up Christian and I had been taught to be even slightly more intolerant of anyone (non-extremist) in this world because of their personal beliefs/feelings, then I would consider it an utter failure and I am certain it would happen. I know religion does a lot of good for some people struggling emotionally too, but there are so many other options out there. Those people would still get the help and support they need one way or another.

          So in conclusion, 2870 gods have been created by man. You don’t believe in 2869 of them.

    • Bobs your Uncle

      Plant the seed, let them believe that medicine is evil. Let them believe thier invisible friend will provide saftey from all dangers, tell them that if they really believe they should jump without a parachute and have gof catch them. Quick way to thin out the herd.

      • James

        If only it were the believers only who were harmed here, but this is children being harmed, children who have had no chance to form beliefs of their own or to look at life through a different set of eyes.

        If it were a cult of only 18+ year old people who truly believed that jumping out of a helicopter into the grand canyon would bring them divine enlightenment then I would pilot the chopper, but this is children being hurt.

    • Nina Pie

      If a Christian said the same thing about another religion or lack thereof, they would be called an intolerant and immature asshole. And rightfully so. Tell me again how you’re getting a free pass for being a dick?

      I get it, you’re angry and I would be too. What those people did was bullshit and they should be held responsible. At the same time there is no point in using generalizations like that or insulting another. You will get nothing out of your behavior and no one but the jerks who agree with you will like what you have to say. All you’re doing is being whiny and rude, and therefore every Christian that sees your comment will get pissy. They won’t denounce their God, they won’t stop going to Church and they will probably just see you as another hater and pray for you or something. Because that’s what you are. A hater. Now tell me, how does that solve anything at all? It’s actually pathetically ironic, as it just continues a vicious cycle that keeps everyone involved outspokenly bitchy.

      Look, you’re not contributing anything positive or productive to the religious debate; You’re god-awfully annoying if not more so than the Christians you so wholeheartedly preach against. That doesn’t make you smarter than them, in fact that actually indicates quite the opposite. So just calm the fuck down and remember that most likely no one cares about your personal believes, whatever they may or may not be. Enough with the preaching. That includes everyone.

      TL;DR Everyone’s annoying when they bring up religion, no matter what side they are on.

      • Nate Frein

        A boy is dead. Because of faith. Because of a culture that worships faith and unreason as good and righteous things in themselves.

        This culture does more than anything else to contribute to bigotry, oppression, to stunting scientific growth and to hurting children. Because faith.

        He gets a “free pass” because his lack of faith in invisible sky men doesn’t get people killed. Your tone trolling does nothing to stop these stupid deaths. Your angry pushback does nothing to solve any of this. Your tone trolling does nothing to bring that boy back.

        That boy who is dead. Because faith.

        • Nina Pie

          So his parents’ names are Faith, and religion has sprouted a tangible body? Oh wait, no. That’s what we call people. Hmm, interesting. For a second I thought you were talking about abstract ideas having the ability to kill people, which is weird because you’d need at least one working appendage to cause death to any living entity on this planet.

          People do stupid shit all the time that results in death. We like to find all these different kinds of reasons to justify/blame it on except for the most plausible one: people do stupid shit. If we got rid of religion right now, people would still die for dumb/preventable reasons. What’s your explanation for that?

          Oh and shut the fuck up about trolling, you dipshitted moron. I’m so fucking tired n00bs like you running around screaming “troll!” at anything that twitches the “wrong” way. Just because I’ve expressed my feelings and you disagree with them doesn’t mean I’m a troll. Sorry, that’s not how the internet works. You would do well to learn the rules quick before you mess with the wrong person and end up on suicide watch. That’s not even a joke either.

          • Nina Pie

            Edited: tired of n00bs*

          • JSC_ltd

            Clearly, abstract ideas do have the power to kill people. This case is about exactly that. Two parents, convinced of the impossible, certain in their faith, did nothing to help their desperately sick child. Their faith is an abstract idea. It caused them to abdicate their responsibility to their son to provide him with medical care. Appendicitis is a treatable condition. He would have been out of the hospital in less time than it took him to die in agony, had these dimwits been able to cast aside their foolishly mistaken reliance on the supernatural. Their faith killed him as surely as if they had used their human appendages. While you are correct that getting rid of religion would not end all stupid activities that result in death, it would eliminate at least one stupid activity–or inactivity–that results in death. That is surely a step in the right direction, at least.
            Equally clearly from your shrill, reason-free responses comes the conclusion that you are a vile person uninterested in thoughtful discourse. AKA a troll. Please figure out how to apply the process of logic and the requirements of rationality to your dialog or leave because you are boring.

          • Nate Frein

            Why don’t you wipe that rage-spittle off your monitor so you can read better?

            No worries, I’ll wait.

            Done? Okay.

            You are, quite simply, a tone troll. You’ve crashed the party to rage at us that our disapproval is impotent with a post that, honestly, adds nothing to the conversation. The people reading your posts are probably dumber for it, unfortunately.

            A burst appendix should not be a death knell. It hasn’t been a death knell for a hundred years, thanks to science and rational thought. But this boy died of it. Of appendicitis. Because his parents put their faith in bronze age mythology instead of a century of medical science that says that he will almost certainly die if he isn’t treated, and he would almost certainly have lived if he had been treated.

            This is not an isolated incident. This is not the first child to die because his parents chose to pray instead of getting medical attention. I do not give one single fuck if a person wants to refuse medical treatment because of their own faith, but nothing gives them the right to force that on an innocent child. These people are getting off with a slap on the wrist, and that’s simply not enough to get the message out that this is wrong. This is NOT something people should get to do to their children. And tone trolls like you help this nonsense continue because you’d rather sit and blather ignorant nonsense at people who actually do care about the child who died because of the same bloody book that over half of America purportedly believes in.

            No, removing religion won’t “fix” the world. But it would definitely help clean the place up. Saying that something isn’t worth doing because it doesn’t fix the whole problem is disingenuous. People have a responsibility to fix what they can.

      • Amyc

        “TL;DR Everyone’s annoying when they bring up religion, no matter what side they are on.”

        • Anonymous

          I can’t decide if a failure to think and tacitly not stand up against negligent and dangerous religious beliefs is worse than actually turning inward and believing in them. But nonetheless, you contribute nothing and are negligent of your duty as a human in society to work to eradicate noccuous ideology.

        • gigglesworth

          I can’t decide if a failure to think and tacitly not stand up against negligent and dangerous religious beliefs is worse than actually turning inward and believing in them. But nonetheless, you contribute nothing and are negligent of your duty as a human in society to work to eradicate noccuous ideology.

      • Chris

        Yeah. Let’s just never talk about the problems caused by ignorance disguised as faith because it “annoys” you. What else annoys you Nina? Just so we make sure not to tread that ground.

    • Warren

      Regarding “Liberal Christians:”

      I think it may be okay for a “Liberal Christian” to condemn this, depending on their overall philosophy. If you are liberal enough to disregard the most irrational claims in the Bible, but still try to follow its most valuable positive messages (i.e. helping people who need help), and you wish to shift the meaning of the term “Christian” (possibly with some qualifying adjectives) to refer to people like yourself, then more power to you. Indeed, if all Christians were this rational, such disasters would rarely happen. I don’t consider myself Christian, but several members of my family might well fit what I just described.

  • flugel

    “I will bet $100 that their beliefs won’t change one bit.”
    I’ll take you up on that, actually. I’d be willing to wager that their beliefs will become STRONGER as a result of this; these are of a kind of person who will cling harder and harder to their religion as the world gets harder and/or scarier, or as their beliefs are conclusively disproved (both of which have happened here).
    (I’ll also raise you fifty that their church will step up its proselytizing shortly.)

    • JT Eberhard

      Ack! Didn’t consider that alternative! No bet! No bet!

    • invivoMark

      Sure. They’ve got the confirming evidence right there in front of them: God just didn’t want their son to live. See? The fact that their son died is therefore incontrovertible proof of the existence and benevolence of God!

      • Rowan

        They just didn’t believe ENOUGH, or something was wrong with them or their son…I bet he didn’t even really want god to heal him enough. Best believe harder, get more faith, that’ll fix it.

    • LevelUpLeo

      Willing to bet that, if asked for a comment, they will say one of the following:
      “It’s God’s plan”
      “He’s now in heaven.”
      “God wanted our boy with him”

      • Cory

        Sadly this is probably exactly what happened. Yet one more life killed by religion.

    • iknklast

      To be totally fair, sometimes belief does change. Rita Swan had a child die because she prayed for it instead of getting treatment; she started the group Children’s Health Care is a Legal Duty (CHILD)

      But mostly, I think their faith is strengthened or unchanged.

  • DT

    If prayer worked the way WE wanted it to, everyone would have everyhting they WANTED and have need for nothing more, whether they live a day or for eternity. These are cold words of comfort for those suffering a loss. These are warmer; That child was created by God, but destroyed in a worl fallen to sin, however nothing which God created can be permanently destroyed (the child will again walk the earth- post rapture- read revelation w/ study guide). Additionally NOTHING (including death) can seperate us from the love of God.

    • BalRog

      Your “warmer words” are more disgusting than your “cold comfort”. I don’t think the idea that he will live a zombie life after the “rapture” are any improvement on the situation. His parents are still criminals.

      The reasoning would be the same if a madman blew up a church during Sunday services. All those christians would presumably “walk the earth again- post rapture” [sic]. And yet that changes the culpability of the bomber not one iota.

    • JSC_ltd

      100% pure, unadulterated BS.
      “If prayer worked the way WE wanted it to, everyone would have everyhting they WANTED and have need for nothing more, whether they live a day or for eternity.” Even assuming the Bible isn’t just bad fiction (which it is), John 14:13-14 say otherwise. The rest of your comment does nothing more than illustrate your delusion, and is not worth further comment. It wasn’t even worth reading.

    • Rob

      Additionally NOTHING (including death) can seperate us from the love of God.

      Evidence for that statement? (First requirement: Evidence for God)

      • pjmaertz

        Oh, you didn’t get the memo? Christians can say whatever the fuck they want without it being subjected to scrutiny, because bible. I though that was common knowledge.

    • kagekiri

      “Additionally NOTHING (including death) can seperate us from the love of God.”

      Have you ever actually read the Bible? Do you know what “hell” is? You know, eternal separation from God? Eternal torture? I think that’s worse than annihilation, by a large margin.

      And you know that bit about no one being sure of their salvation, and how most who think they’re saved probably aren’t, and sheeps being separated from goats at judgment day even though everyone thought they were saved? So yeah, not really a comfort at all. If you can’t really know for sure your own salvation status, you definitely can’t know other people’s.

      Related note: if you’re going to try and preach at atheists, try and at least know your own position/scripture. It makes things a little less embarrassing.

      Christ on a stick, half the time I argue with Christians, I have to make Christianity’s best arguments FOR them, because they really just haven’t thought things through as much as I did when I was Christian.

      And they’ll still say I’m just not reading enough of the Bible, even when I’m bringing up more verses than they are. Or they’ll deflect and try to bring up “there are other interpretations” or “it’s different in the original language…probably” without giving the true meanings, defending why they’d follow a Bible that’s poorly translated, or making any real arguments. They just try to ad hominem me (or all of humanity), praise blind willful ignorance, and disavow “logic” or “consistency” as if it’s some evil thing from the devil. It’s truly pathetic.

      Keep running from the truth, buddy, but it’ll get you nowhere. If you insist on it anyway, well, at least try to know your end of the “debate” by learning your own religion’s stupid position.

    • LevelUpLeo

      You MISS THE POINT! This isn’t about whether Prayer works or not, or when it works, or if there is a God. This is about two parents that let their son die and didn’t do the most logical thing to save him because they were blinded by faith. Their son is dead thanks to how little they were willing to listen to reason, and no amount of prayer will bring him back. He didn’t have to die; a process done almost daily could have saved him if the parents just had a small moment of reason or doubt and said “What if this doesn’t work?”
      Believe and pray if you want, but when you become unreasonable and it hurts those around you, that’s when there is an OBVIOUS PROBLEM.

  • Tom

    Well, despite the fact they somehow escaped jail, there is some good news at the end of the article:

    “Social workers removed the other six children from the Bellews home.”

    I doubt life in care will be the best, but at least they won’t die of easily cured problems. Hopefully they’ll find the kids a nice foster family.

  • DJE

    I do not understand faith healers.
    Do they not see that God may very well have brought the knowledge and skills of the modern medical establishment to be specifically to heal them?

    Sure, pray, and have faith, but please take advantage of the tools God has laid at your disposal and make use of modern medicine instead of letting your child die.

    You are Abraham on Mount Moriah, without sense enough to see the test and meet it appropriately.

  • Estevan Pinto Sousa
  • Gustavo Cavalcanti

    You can have faith, but don’t test God on it. See Luke 4:12, “Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” There’s always a rationalization for nonsense like this unfortunate event.

  • David

    Half of being is believing

    • JSC_ltd

      Half of being a terrible parent is believing that prayer will heal your seriously ill child?

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Odd. Half of being is “be (and half of i)” or “(half of i) and ng”.

      Maybe you mean half of believing is being. Because that is twee but true (from a strictly letters standpoint), and also meaningless. You might as well say “God” and “Ego” have two thirds in common. Or that “God” is 3/5 of “Geode”.

      Come back when you have more than twee catchphrases that don’t even make sense.

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        Bonus points: “Believing” is “Being” plus “evil”.

  • Ibis3

    They ought to have been found guilty of murder and got jail sentences. Mark Emery is in prison for years for selling pot seeds and these two get away with probation for killing their own son. It’s crazy.

    • Steve

      And the leaders of their “church” should be in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. It’s unbelievable how an allegedly civilized society can let people get away with this stuff.

  • Anonymous

    i do not understand how something this idiotic can exist. i dont care what youre religion or beliefs about modern technology. if your child is in a life threatening condition you take him/her to get medical treatment. bottom line, the parents should be jailed for this. that child didnt need to die.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t they feel bad for their child who was suffering? I mean if I had a child who was suffering, regardless of my religion’s stance on medicine, I’d take him or her to the hospital. I would then begin questioning my religious views because they were clearly wrong. It seems like they don’t have compassion, or “feels”, for their fellow humans. I could never watch someone suffer from anything. (I can’t stand to watch people cry.) I don’t know maybe I’m wrong about the compassion thing. At least I hope I am. I don’t feel sorry for the parents moreover I feel sorry for the loss of a child. I am not a troll and I don’t want to incite an argument. I’m just wondering what’s going on with people and I have heard of things like this happening pretty much all of my life. I wish everyone would just stop being mean to each other and accept each and every person for who they are. Not because religion says so but because they genuinely want to out of the kindness of their hearts.

    • Rick

      The problem here is that the “Faith Movement” always has an “out” no matter what happens. If someone lives through an ordeal like this, it is answered prayer and a healing miracle, and they say “See, we told you this works! Once again you evil doubters have been manifested as liars!!” But, when the prayer and faith don’t work and the person dies, they shift gears, change their tune and go into their “God’s ways are mysterious and beyond our ability to figure out” mode, and say that the death of the person happened for the greater good – to teach us something, or to bring someone to salvation, or because “God was lonesome and wanted another little angel up there with him” or they will start the “Who are we to question things like this?” stuff. So no matter what happens, they have an excuse, and they are always right.

  • phhht

    There is a long history of faith-killing in Oregon. There are more than seventy bodies of children in the graveyard in Clackamas County. See this link for pointers:

  • Judy L.

    It’s not “faith healing” if there’s no healing going on. Let’s call it what it is: Faith Harming. Intecessional prayer has no effect on the health outcomes of the person being prayed for, and the praying that a person does for themself has no effect on acute disease, injury, or infection.

    “Faith Healing” and prayer-instead-of-medical treatment need to be called out for what they are: Religious abuse and criminal neglect.

    I rather think that this kind of child murder should be a capital offense, and I can’t imagine why Faith Healer parents would mind being given the death penalty…all they would have to do is pray really hard and get others to pray really hard for them and the legal injection won’t kill them, right?

  • True

    God doesnt exist. period! Just look at the world. innocent hard working people suffering. people living rich and in sin and only getting richer by their selfish ways. the world is messed up. if there is a god, he is not doing his job. I used to believe hard. and i hung on to gods every word. until one day i woke up and realized what was real.

  • A Woman of Science and Faith

    Here is the problem with what these neglectful parents did. They did not understand what scripture was saying at all. Yahweh made it very clear that we must do the possible for him to do the impossible. God gave us intelligence and the ability to understand basic science and logic. If we are sick we are to seek a doctor. I am well aware of the scriptures that talk about us have the “authority” to heal through Jesus and its greatly misunderstood by folks who don’t understand what they are reading. It’s extremely complicated.

    • Glodson

      If we are sick we are to seek a doctor. I am well aware of the scriptures that talk about us have the “authority” to heal through Jesus and its greatly misunderstood by folks who don’t understand what they are reading. It’s extremely complicated.


      The basis for faith healing, Mark 5:25-29:

      And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

      Matthew and Luke have similar passages.

      And, directly form the Bible as well, I give 2 Chronicles 16:12:

      And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.

      Finally, James 5:14-15:

      Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.

      How are people doing the faith healing getting this wrong? If god didn’t mean this, why is it in the book?