The article on Yahoo News about the death of Madeline Neumann, the 11 year-old girl who died because her parents opted for prayer over medical treatment for her diabetes, has been updated. The family's other three children, ranging in age from 13 to 16, have been removed from the home while police conduct an investigation into Madeline's death. This is good news. I'm glad to hear this.
On the other hand, there's some bad news. At the bottom of the article, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin, whose department is handling the investigation, said his final report will make no recommendations on charges for the parents, leaving that up to the District Attorney, adding, "There was no intent. They didn't want their child to die. They thought they were doing the right thing."
As I wrote on Friday, their intent is irrelevant. I don't believe these people willfully murdered their daughter. She died of neglect. The girl spent the last month vomiting, not eating, not wanting to get out of bed, and instead of taking her to a doctor, they sat around and did nothing. They prayed for God to heal her. They thought they were doing the right thing, because our society is far too tolerant of religious beliefs that are demonstrably false. Religious liberty should not protect you from making irrational, stupid choices that result in the death of another person.
God didn't heal Madeline Neumann. God never heals anyone. The question the Neumann's should really be asking themselves is not "Why didn't God answer our prayer?" Instead, they should be asking "Why doesn't God answer any prayers?" Some would reply that God doesn't exist, but that's not what I'm saying here at all. I respect the belief in God. I share it. But religious belief must be made to fit within objective reality.
If you believe that there is a literal devil, and that he's a tall guy with goat legs, red skin and horns on his head, I say you're entitled to that belief. The existence of the devil, or God, is not a scientific question; it can neither be proven nor disproven. It's exactly the sort of thing religion is good for.
If you believe that your prayers will heal your dying child, I say you are not entitled to that belief. I say you are wrong, that prayer has been studied incessantly over the past few decades, and it has been demonstrated time and time again very convincingly that prayer alone does absolutely nothing to aid in the recovery of a sick person. God doesn't answer prayers. In the Bible, Jesus tells us that our faith can move mountains. Jesus is wrong. Pick yourself out a mountain and pray for God to move it. Take all fucking day, the mountain won't budge.
Whether they intended to kill Madeline or not, that's exactly what the Neumann's did. They should lose their children and go to prison for that. And the rest of us should take this tragedy as a wake-up call and an opportunity. No free society can restrict religious speech and remain free, but no responsible society can allow irresponsible, misleading, dangerous religious speech to go unanswered. When anyone, be they a parent or a pastor, preaches that God's healing power is all you need — or is even worth anything at all — they need to be refuted with the facts. It might not change anyone's mind, but at least they'll be informed. After that, it's their funerals.