News Recap: Fundamentalist Edition

The Followers of Christ church is a fundamentalist Christian cult renowned for killing children, and sadly they’ve added another to the death toll: 16-year old Neil Beagley died in June of a urinary tract blockage that can be fixed with a simple procedure. Neil’s parents murdered him by knowingly withholding the life-saving medical treatment because they believed that prayer would convince a god to save him. Often in cases of faith healing not working, the death is attributed to the god teaching the family a lesson, or punishing the deceased for not having strong enough convictions.

To summarize: a boy died because of his parents’ uncritical acceptance of religious doctrine.

The parents have just pled not guilty and will face trial in January 2009. Read more about the FoC on Rick Ross’ comprehensive site.

In other news, gangs of ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel are beating, kidnapping, and hospitalizing people who do not meet their standards of modesty. Though not all the fundamentalists say they approve of the violence, few have the temerity to speak up.

Also, last month fundamentalist Muslims fire-bombed the house of a publisher because he plans to print The Jewel of Medina, a book about the prophet Mohammud that no one has read yet.

Finally, somewhere, some time in the past week or so, a fundamentalist atheist was told that without religion we’d have no moral compunction to be good. The fundamentalist then shrugged and went back to his book.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Rebecca, this happens so often that I’m surprised that the MSM even covers it any more. It sickens me that another innocent kid that happened to be born to someone with no common sense has died of a perfectly treatable disease. :-(

    I see no difference between the fundamentalist Islamists beating people to death for “affronting” their religious beliefs and the fundamentalist, ultra-orthodox Jews doing the same thing. They are both way-y-y off the common sense scale. Too bad some liberal Jews don’t return the favor by beating the crap out of the ultra-orthodox Jews beating others. Sometimes, I think fundamentalists pull this crap because they can get away with it. It might be far different if they, too, had to look over their shoulders in fear.

    I don’t buy the idea that one must have “religion” to be moral. Why is it so hard for some people to accept that many are moral people simply because it’s right, and that “Following the ‘Golden Rule'” is merely another term for “altruistic behavior?”

  2. Hi Rebecca, first I want to say I am a devoted Skepchick reader and I did not miss any SGU episode for more than 2 years. Keep up the good work!
    I am from Israel and wanted to post a follow up about the ultra-orthodox jews.
    these kind of actions really do happen from time to time. These are stupid mind-washed teen-agers that scout their neighbourhood for mainly religious girls that dress too provocative by their standarts. It happens only in the ultra religious neighbourhoods. These actions are condemned by everyone. The police is working really hard to catch them. In the last two weeks the police arrested 6 or more suspects engaged in these kind of actions, two of them are thought to be leaders of that group. They will face really hard accusations and many years in jail. Forever I hope.

  3. Damn you, Rebecca, you got me riled up. Next time I hear someone spouting that “militant atheists are as bad as fundamentalists” crap, I’ll punch him.

    Ok, I won’t punch him. I’ll just link to these cases and ask for the atheist counterparts.

    And if he starts babbling about Stalin, then I’ll punch him. Please?

  4. I militantly explained Confirmation Bias and vague predictions to a former co-worker during a discussion about astrology, and she said I had a point. My moral compass is clearly all kajiggered.

  5. @Lucci: Thanks, it’s interesting to hear the perspective of someone in the area. It’s also great to hear that they’re rounding them up . . . let’s hope they get to the root of the problem soon.

  6. The people who say “militant atheists are as bad as fundamentalists” are intellectually lazy and beyond reasoning with. I give up on them. Just as I give up on those who shrug at destructive cults like $cientology and say “Well, everyone has a right to believe in what they want” — as if that excuses every action a person and her/his church takes.

    Er, but I encourage you more patient atheists to keep on trying to reason with the intellectually lazy. Somebody has to.

  7. Speaking of… I saw Religulous last night. It’s a really good movie as long as you aren’t expecting a critical documentary. It’s entertaining as hell though and some very valid points are made.

  8. Nicely written. Even though the subject is frustrating, my appreciation for the way it’s presented here makes this a nice way to start my day.

    And to continue my day, I’m off to see Religulous. I expect to agree with Detroitus. Bill Maher is capable of making serious arguments about religion, but it looks like the purpose of this movie was more to just be funny.

  9. Isn’t this a logical fallacy(straw man maybe)? This kind of sounds like the logical fallacy mentioned on the SGU podcast a week ago when you criticized the study that said that religious people were likely to hold other pseudo-scientific beliefs. Is it that atheists are less likely to be violence prone, or is it that they use other reasons to violent (e.g., racism or just good ole’ fashion hate)? This appears to be more about education,which I have not seen a study that demonstrates one group is smarter than the other.

  10. Well I image the christians will try to try this case in the media and will howl that they are being persecuted because of their religous beliefs.


    Is it that atheists are less likely to be violence prone

    I can’t speak for other atheists only for myself. I have deep well of violence inside me. I have always been able to control it. I’ve never beaten a child or a woman but I will always fight. I have worked in violent professions in the past but don’t any longer. I don’t seem to choose between fight or flight. It is always fight. I am doing much better the older I get. I am less like to beat the crap out of some jerk than I used to be. I can just laugh a lot of it off now. With all of that said what these people have done is beyond anything I would ever have considered doing. You don’t attack those weaker than you. That is just being a bully. There is nothing lower than a bully.

  11. @jreedgt: It’s not a logical fallacy, as I’ve made no argument. I’ve presented some news stories and you’ve assumed an argument that may or may not be fallacious.

    I certainly haven’t claimed that atheists are less likely to be violent. I have (not-so-)subtly referenced the fact that believing fervently in something that makes no sense can lead to serious harm. Often when we discuss things like Bigfoot, people wonder what’s wrong with believing in fantasies. Here are a few examples, and for a few more, see

    While it may be about education, I do not think that it means atheists are smarter. Education should be about teaching people how to think critically, something everyone needs.

    Also, the study we talked about on SGU was warped to seem as though religious people held LESS superstitious beliefs, not more.

  12. Gabrielbrawley,

    I didn’t mean to imply that this isn’t bullying. Of course, these people should be punished and severely. But I think it conceals the real problem when we point to a belief in some sort of deity as the cause. Jerks can believe in anything and sport a cause. Even people at peace rallies have been known to throw first punches. In this case, I don’t think it’s religion that causes this type of behavior because if there were no religion of any type on the planet I have no doubt they would have found some other justification (in their mind).

  13. Having worked as a social worker for over twenty years and investigated dozens of cases of medical neglect rooted in religious beliefs and physical abuse that was reportedly sanctioned by god I can tend toward being snarky and pissy when it comes to this topic. Conversely I have many Christian friends who would immediately take their sick child to a doctor or ER and do their praying while on the way.

    It should also be remembered that substance abuse, mental health issues, stupidity or any combination of the three leads to more child deaths and injury by neglect in western countries that all religiously connected cases.

  14. @jreedgt: I see what you are saying and I don’t disagree with what you say. Also I just reread my post and one thing really bothers me. I sound like I am proud of my capacity for violence and I am not. But it is a part of me and I work hard to control it.

  15. @jreedgt: It’s hard to tell if religion is a cause, per se, but it does provide cover for those who wish to engage in such behavior. For often their religion implicitly encourages such actions in their sacred texts (Deuteronomy, for example). If these people were atheists they would probably find another way to bully people, but as orthodox Jews they can say that Yahweh is on their side, and point to passages to back that up. In the eyes of those taught that God is always right, this provides justification to their actions, and ameliorates guilt. Religion isn’t the only thing to blame, but it should not be exonerated because of a desire for tolerance.

  16. In other news, gangs of ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel are beating, kidnapping, and hospitalizing people who do not meet their standards of modesty. Though not all the fundamentalists say they approve of the violence, few have the temerity to speak up.

    I remember, while in Israel, walking past a community of ultra-orthodox and having some ultra-orthodox woman screaming at all the women in my tour group for not dressing appropriately. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that the reason most of the ultra-orthos won’t come out against the violence is because they approve of it, and not out of any fear. They have been known to throw rotten vegetables at people walking through their communities who do not meet their standards of decency or follow some religious guidelines. However, they are only technically allowed to do that (uh, sort of I suppose) within their communities and are basically told to deal with it when dealing with the larger Israeli community. Apparently some have decided deal with it in a rather nasty sort of way.

  17. Ah, just one small correction. My understanding is that it wasn’t a ‘fire bomb’ attack on the house of the UK publisher of Jewel of Medina. That’s probably Daily Mail editorialising (or more accurately, scare-mongering). It was a less dramatic ‘small fire’ attack. No doubt the intention was the same, but the means rather less exciting than a fire bomb. I don’t think the property sustained much damage, either.

    Story about the arrests here:

  18. All I can think of when I hear about the stories where children are allowed to die (or are left with permanent, unrepairable damage to some aspect of their body) is a quote by Galen.

    I know this quote because it’s one my father – a physician – always found to be a riot, yet somehow, he thought that pharmaceutical companies pitched their marketing this way. My sister actually made up a sampler with this quote for him – he hung it in his home office, thinking his patients might not appreciate it ;)

    All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. Therefore, it is obvious that it fails only in incurable cases.

    The thing that saddens me the most about these cases is that parents put their faith before their children. So many people in this country (and across the globe) can’t have children and these are basically thrown away as martyrs to their parents’ faith. Because I find it absolute BS that the *child* suffers to test the *parents’* faith – while I’m sure it’s trying for any parent to watch a child in pain or near death, the fact remains they are not the ones going through physical suffering.

    What saddens me about this particular case is that the young man apparently died alone. How horrifying that must have been for him.

    Belief is fine, and some belief systems are stricter than others. I am actually (and usually) in awe of those who peacefully choose to follow their belief systems in our increasingly secular world.

    But at the root of most religions, isn’t there usually a version of The Golden Rule? If the parents were the ones suffering in pain, wouldn’t they want someone beyond their god to help them?

  19. If anyone else saw Where in the World is Osama the Morgan Sprulock doc, that died at the box office earlier this year, there was a scene where he went to an orthodox neighborhood in Isreal just to talk and could not get anyone to speak to him and almost right away a mob started to form and they were threatening to kill him started shoving him and throwing things. The police had to get him out. This was after he had been all over the middle East talking to people that openly hate Americans, but were perfectly willing to sit with him and tell him why with out violence. I never knew the distrust and hatred of outsiders was so deep.

  20. Since I define myself as a former fundamentalist, current atheist, and blog about this, I’m ever more aware of how loosely the fundie term is used. I lucked out to be the brand of fundamentalist christian that would NEVER consider this brand of faith healing as legitimate. Christian Scientists and many brands of Pentacostal/Charasmatic christians are most likely to engage in faith healing. And though I consider all christianity a cult, and fundamentalism especially, faith healers fall even further into cult territory.

    Regardless, it is very not okay when children are abused within their religious homes to this degree… and my recurring theme is that, whether they like it or not “fundamentalists” are Evolving, to the point where this type of behaviour is less and less acceptable.

  21. Off topic: LOLKate, what is that creature that you use as your avatar? That’s the most fascinating pair of ears I’ve ever seen on a feline! :-o

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