More on Belief

Belief can be dangerous, let’s not kid ourselves.  In the news today, there are a few articles that highlight the dangers of putting too much stock in the subjectivity of your own beliefs.  First:

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas  — A tip from a supposed “psychic” that dismembered bodies were on a rural property caused law enforcement officers to descend upon a Texas farmhouse Tuesday, but they found no bodies.

Liberty County Sheriff’s Capt. Rex Evans said there was no evidence of foul play at the home.

Liberty County Judge Craig McNair told reporters at the scene about 8:15 p.m. that tips had come in Monday night and Tuesday morning from a supposed psychic of dismembered bodies on the property.

McNair said an initial visit on Monday by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies found nothing amiss, but the psychic called back and said the deputies looked in the wrong place. McNair said deputies returned later Tuesday and detected a foul odor.

Evans said investigators had “found some circumstances that have raised some questions” and a search warrant was requested. Texas Rangers arrived before 9 p.m. CT Tuesday with a warrant.

After the search, Evans said that some information provided by the anonymous female tipster about the property was very specific and accurate. He said authorities would attempt to find the tipster and question her.

Aside from wasting time and drawing investigators away from real evidence, real data, real investigative work, the beliefs of a few ended up wasting the time of the whole department, disturbed a family going about their business.  In this instance the damage was only in wasted time, more grief for the family, but belief can and has led to real serious consequences:

An Oregon jury took just an hour Tuesday to convict a couple of felony criminal mistreatment for relying on faith healing instead of taking their infant daughter to a doctor.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland’s daughter Alayna, born in December 2009, developed an abnormal growth of blood vessels that covered her left eye and threatened her vision. Now 1 ½ years old, she has improved under state-ordered medical care. She remains in state custody but lives with her parents.

The Wylands belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City congregation that relies on faith healing. Rather than taking their daughter to a doctor, they relied on prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

The couple testified during a juvenile court custody hearing last July that they wouldn’t have willingly taken Alayna to a doctor because it would violate their religious beliefs. Jurors heard a recording of that hearing.

Timothy Wyland slipped his arm around his wife’s waist as the verdict was read, The Oregonian reported. The couple made no comment as they walked from the courtroom, surrounded by about 20 supporters from their church, some of them crying. Defense lawyers Mark Cogan and John Neidig declined comment.

People that put their trust in things they have no evidence for will continue to hurt others; it may not be intentional (I’m sure these parents, in their minds, were doing what they thought was best for their daughter), but in the end they could have caused their own child to go blind.  Or like in the case of this other Oregon faith-healing family, if their child ever got sick, they might have killed her.

An Oregon couple have been convicted of criminally negligent homicide for not getting medical treatment for their 16-year-old son, who died in 2008 of a urinary-tract blockage. Instead, Jeffrey and Marci Beagley engaged in so-called faith healing.

Beliefs are fine.  Everyone has beliefs, often about innocuous subjects (I believe I’m a fairly good cook).  But it only takes a belief in something inane or terrible or ignorant to create a dangerous or deadly consequence.   Last but not least, this individual held such a strong belief that God wanted him to swim to Liberty Island, he was willing to try despite nearly dying.

A man rescued by U.S. Park Police after diving into New York Harbor claimed God told him to swim to Liberty Island and that’d he’d rather die than fail his mission, reports The New York Post.

The 29-year-old man stripped down to his swim trunks before horrified onlookers and leaped into the icy waters from a Liberty State Park footpath to embark on the three-quarter of a mile swim to Liberty Island, reports the Post. The man has not been publicly identified.

A witness spotted the man roughly 45 minutes into his “divine-ordered swim” and called police, who dispatched a rescue boat and caught up with the man about a quarter of a mile from the island.

“When we got to him he was shivering like a leaf and the tides were taking him away from Liberty Island,” U.S. Park Police Officer Kurt Zeil, who helped respond to the call, told the Post. “He said God told him to swim to Liberty Island. He said he would rather drown than get on the boat.”

There are reasons society moved away from fundamentalist religious thinking; society just couldn’t take the injustice of it any more.

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