The Second Coming of J.C.

resAfter almost two months of being on hiatus, The Word of J.C. is back!  Now that life has settled down a little bit, and I have more time to write again, keep on the look out for new posts, which will be coming out at least every two days, throughout the summer.  For now, let’s review a few of the top stories that were missed during the break:

In April, Catherine and Herbert Schaible were charged with third degree murder, after losing their second child to a preventable illness.  For those of you who don’t remember them, the Schaibles were charged with involuntary manslaughter and placed on probation in 2009, after another of their children died from pneumonia. The couple had refused to seek medical attention for him, opting for prayer as treatment, which eventually led to the child’s death.  This time, another of their children, an eight month old infant son, suffered through two weeks of diarrhea and breathing problems while the couple once again refused to take him to a doctor, watching and praying as he wasted away.

Sylvia Browne, the widely acclaimed psychic, was once again exposed as a fraud this month, after Amanda Berry was found and rescued from her captor’s house, where she had been abused and held prisoner for a decade.  Browne told Berry’s parents that Amanda was dead and “on the other side” in 2004, during a taping of the Montel Williams Show.  This is not the first time that Browne has wrongly predicted the death of a missing child.

Pat Robertson told a female caller to his show, last week, that cheating is a “tendency of man,” and to stop focusing on her husband’s transgressions.  He continued, telling her that it was her duty to “make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander,” implying that her husband’s infidelity was the result, not of his own choices, but of her inadequacies.

So far, over forty people have been killed in Myanmar, as a result of religious violence between Buddhists and Muslims.  Around 1200 Muslims are now taking shelter in a monastery, while the government attempts to quell the violence.

In Louisiana, lawmakers have voted to uphold a bill that requires creationism to be taught in any school that includes evolution in its curriculum.  A move to repeal the bill, which has been on the books since the 1980s, was shot down, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has determined it to be wholly unconstitutional, as it requires religious ideals to be taught in public school classrooms; a clear violation of the establishment clause.

These are just a few of the many examples of religion, science denial, and charlatanry causing direct harm to both individuals and society as a whole that have occurred in the short time that I have been on break from this blog.  This, more than anything else before, has convinced me that humanists, secularists, skeptics, and all of their like MUST continue to speak out on a regular basis about the dangers posed by those who would choose to hold religious and supernatural ideas in higher regard than scientific advancement, the good of others, and the protection of constitutional principles. It is time that we as a society stop tolerating injustice and death on the grounds that we cannot infringe upon the beliefs of others. These are not issues of freedom of belief or religious liberty, but issues of safety, health, and law, and they must be addressed as such.

-J.C.

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Two Infants Contract Herpes After Barbaric Circumcision Ritual

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On Monday of this week, it was reported that two infants in New York had been confirmed as having contracted type 1 herpes, after being subjected to an ultra-orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual.  CNN reported on the details:

In the ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh, after removing the foreskin of the penis the person performing the procedure places his mouth briefly over the wound, sucking a small amount of blood out, which is discarded.

To begin with, let me say that this is a barbaric, repulsive ritual that has no place in modern society.  Aside from the disturbing implications of an adult engaging in mouth to genital contact with an infant, this ritual is known to be extremely dangerous, carrying a high risk of disease transmission to the unwilling infants involved.

The health department says the procedure is dangerous because the contact with the mouth could transmit diseases such as herpes.  Most adults are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1, and while they may have no symptoms, the virus may be present in their saliva, according to the health department.

To make matters even worse, this is not the first time that infants have contracted herpes as a result of being subjected to this ritual.  Many other cases have been documented in the past, some of which even resulted in the deaths of the infants involved.

Since 2000, there have been 13 reports in New York City of infants contracting HSV-1, two of whom died from the virus.

CNN also reports that the New York Department of Health has enacted measures to attempt to alert parents to the risks of the ritual, although it has faced opposition from Jewish groups.

The DOH passed a regulation in September requiring all those who perform the ritual to get parental consent on a form stating that the procedure can lead to health risks. Several Jewish groups and three rabbis filed a lawsuit in federal District Court in Manhattan arguing that “the government cannot compel the transmission of messages that the speaker does not want to express — especially when the speaker is operating in an area of heightened First Amendment protection, such as a religious ritual.”

So, not only are these groups supportive of a procedure that is known to carry serious health risks to infants, but they are attempting to stifle the dissemination of information regarding those risks.   This reaction shows an even more atrocious lack of regard for the lives, health, and safety of others than their condoning of the ritual in the first place.

Dr. Thomas A. Farley, commissioner of the city’s health department, claimed the consent requirement was “lawful, appropriate and necessary” in a September press release. “The city’s highest obligation is to protect its children; therefore, it is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice,” he said.

While I applaud Mr. Farley for his support of informed consent, I can’t help but call bullshit on this statement.  If the city truly considered the protection of its children to be its highest obligation, then the health department would outlaw these practices altogether.  Mr. Farley’s next statement serves to prove this:

“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn.”

The fact that these dangerous practices are allowed to continue, out of tolerance for religious belief, says that the appeasement of religious groups gets a higher priority than the protection of the innocent, unwilling children who fall victim to them.  And, to those who might say that outlawing the ritual would violate the freedom of religious practice, I call bullshit a second time.  While circumcision may take its roots from religion, it is a medical procedure, and should be treated and regulated as such.

The point to all of this is that when we allow religious tolerance to take precedence over protecting the health and safety of those who cannot protect themselves, it is a massive failing of society.   Just as we don’t allow communities to stone women who have premarital sex or children who curse their parents to death, because the bible commands it, neither should we allow a child’s health and life to be put in jeopardy, simply to satisfy the requirements of an ancient religious ritual.

-J.C.

New Reality Show Aims to Exploit Children, Family Members of Deceased Loved Ones

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If my daughter suddenly came up to me one day, claiming to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra, I would assume that she had been watching a bit too much television, and sit down to have a talk about reality vs. fantasy.  After all, every parent knows that sometimes, children’s imaginations can get a bit carried away, and that it would be unhealthy to encourage such delusions.  Right???

Well, maybe not quite every parent, and a new reality television show aims to capitalize on that fact.

In the tradition of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, Ghost Inside my Child, a new show by producers Joke Fincioen (not taking this one, too easy), and Biagio Messina, will rely on parents who place potential profit over the mental well-being of their children, in order to fill their casting calls.

A Los Angeles production company is currently holding a nationwide casting call for children who claim to have, or have had, past life memories for a new reality series, “Ghost Inside My Child,” scheduled to air on the Bio Channel later this year.

What’s even more disturbing is that not only will the show be encouraging these fantasies in children, it will attempt to pull the family members of those deceased folks who they claim them to be reincarnated from into the delusion along with them.

As part of the show, Fincioen and Messina arranged a meeting between Leininger [one of the children featured in the pilot episode], and a member of Huston’s [the man who the show claims Leininger to be a reincarnation of], family, a woman now in her 90s.

The woman felt a connection with this young kid and, now, they hope to do similar bits of “closure” with the new crop of past life preteens…

Fortunately, some prominent members of the skeptical community are already speaking up about the dubious premise of the show, as well as its potential harmfulness.  D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, voiced some of these concerns to the Huffington Post.

“Unfortunately, people use anecdote and stories as proof of these supernatural claims, and this is not dissimilar to ghost stories, or accounts of supposedly accurate psychic readings people will tell,” he told HuffPost by email.

He also has problems with the idea of going to family members of deceased people and telling them that a kid just might be a dearly departed loved one.

“The people who lost a loved one have to re-experience the loss, are told outlandish claims about their loved one being alive again and stuck in the body of a child somewhere,” he said. “I think this is a crassest manipulation of belief and of the fear of death merely for the sake of reality TV ratings.”

As for my two cents, the producers of this show, as well as any parents who would encourage their child to maintain fantasy as reality by submitting them for casting, are placing that child’s future development and mental health at risk, for profit.  In my view, this makes them some of the worst kinds of charlatans, and if there were an afterlife, I like to think that there would be a special place of unpleasantness reserved just for them.

-J.C.

A Word on Childhood Indoctrination

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I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty to all who believe.

Picture, if you will, 15-20 small children, huddled around a Christian flag at the front of a small church, droning these words out in a thrall-like monotone.  This is the scene that I was unfortunate enough to witness at the start of a church service, a few months ago. For numerous reasons, this was one of the most disturbing things that I have ever witnessed.  Let’s start at the beginning:

I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands.

Now, this may not be the most popular idea that I have ever expressed, but I dislike the concept of children being required to pledge their allegiance to anything.  The idea that any of these children (some who were as young as 4, and none who were older than 9) have the mental capacity to truly comprehend the implications of taking an oath of allegiance is almost as ludicrous as the religious ideas that their parents are forcing them to pledge to, here.

Additionally, if someone is going to teach their children to pledge their allegiance to something, I can think of many other things that are much more deserving of it than a flag, or a religious figure.  How about a pledge of allegiance to the human race, or to all life?  Perhaps a pledge of allegiance to the planet that sustains all forms of life that we know of?

One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again…

So, now we get down to the fairy tales.  The fact that these ridiculous notions of resurrection and immortality are being taught to these kids as factual events is sickening, in and of itself.  That these kids are forced to recite a weekly pledge, in which they must assert complete belief in these stories, under the pressure of doing so in front of a large group of adults and authority figures, makes me angrier than I have words to express.

…and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.

And, to hell (literally) with all who don’t believe, right?  As a parent, this one gets to me the most.  How anyone could possibly think that teaching their children that anyone who does not think, believe, or live as they do is undeserving of life or liberty is a positive thing is completely incomprehensible to me.  Have we, as a species, not seen enough of the harms that are caused by notions such as these?  Are the parents of these children so ignorant, as to be unaware of the fact that millions of people throughout history have been enslaved, tortured and murdered, because of this very concept?  To be honest, I truly hope that they are that ignorant, because the only other possibility is far more disturbing.

The bottom line to all of this is that this kind of childhood indoctrination is brainwashing, no matter how you look at it.  Taking these children to church every Sunday, and forcing them to affirm belief in a religion that they cannot yet even fully comprehend or understand cannot be viewed under any other light.

Parents, here’s a novel idea: instead of teaching your children what to believe, why not try teaching them how to think?  Rather than teaching them to accept whatever they are told by those who hold authority over them, try teaching them to examine things, ask questions, and draw their own conclusions.  Granted, there’s always the possibility that they may not end up seeing things as you would like them to, but would you not prefer to raise a thinking individual, who decides things for his or herself, rather than an ignorant follower, who accepts whatever he or she is told by authority?

And, if you’re going to force your children to pledge their allegiance to something, please allow me to suggest this alternative to having them pledge to a flag, or belief system:

I pledge allegiance to the Universe, and all the life which it supports. One cosmos, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for ALL.

-J.C.