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Against the Grain

November 8, 2012

Almost two months ago, Russel and Brandi Bellew were sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Brandi’s biological son, Austin Sprout. The family belongs to the General Assembly and Church of the First Born. Being members, they believe in “faith healing”, based on a passage in the book of James. With this faith healing belief, when their son was in need of medical attention, they chose to pray rather than seek medical attention for their son. Many atheists are not satisfied with the ruling given to the parents. Many atheists seem to think that this was too lenient and that these people deserved jail time by means of serving justice. Unlike many atheists, I agree with the original punishment.

Many who read this, especially atheists, may have dropped their jaw at the fact that I don’t wish for a harsher punishment on this family. One of the problems I see when in discussions with atheists is we have a tendency to seek vengeance on the religious, and when something like this shows up in the news, we will unleash our fury. I believe that the fury can sometimes be misdirected however, and it leads us to wish for things like parents being sentenced to prison in situations like this.

One of the things that keeps me from agreeing with the atheists’ response to this story rests on my belief in free will, or should I say lack of belief. I don’t believe we have free will (and yes I plan to write about this eventually). I believe that our actions are the result of prior causes that influences the choices we make. These choices, one would come to realize, are made before we are consciously aware of them (I will digress from the free will talk here and leave further description in a later post). From these beliefs, I look at the intentions of an individual. This is where my mercy towards the Bellews arrives.

Something that must be realized is that Russel and Brandi Bellew did not intend to kill their child. They truly believed with all their heart that prayer would heal their child and that their faith would prevail. These people are not dangerous to society, in that they are not psychotic murderers. Aside from this belief they hold, which is dangerous in reality, they have no intentions to hurt anyone. This is why the punishment that they did receive suits their actions so well. In compliance with their probation, they are to notify a doctor whenever any of their remaining six children is sick for more than one day. The only people who were in danger, though remember that this danger is unintended, are now protected under this probation requirement. Something that I would like to add here is that I am unaware of the ages of the children and would hope that their youngest child is at least 13. I think they should be required to report to a doctor until their children are adults.

This is what I believe is to be the purpose of our justice system. Though I do not believe it is always about justice. It is about the safety and well-being of the people. This family does not intend to kill. Their beliefs however have made them a liability, and thankfully, their punishment alleviates the problem.

Beyond the family however, there are some glaring problems with which I am probably back in line with my fellow atheists. My anger lies with the church. As stated in the article that I link you to above, the church leaders and members have been taught that if you seek medical sources for healing, you are going against God. This pressure that is placed on the families, who sadly believe this garbage, put themselves, their children, and many others of which they have an influence, in danger. Again, nobody (I hope) intends to hurt anyone, but this church and those of the like have become a liability.

This shows some problems in the constitution with regards to separation of church and state. It is this that allows a church to demand of its followers to not seek medical treatment, but only to seek prayer to heal. This is where the problem really lies. This is where we need to direct our attention. I think this shows that if we can sometimes set aside our differences, look at what is, and find the real solutions to the real problems, we will take another step towards progress and a better society.


From → Morality

One Comment
  1. Kevin permalink

    Free will is the liability of many atheists (in addition to most people). While many atheist think we have free will, I would assume that most atheists would still look at religion as the main problem in this case. At the same time, they may still want a stiffer punishment for the parents. Free will really is the issue of anyone who thinks the parents deserve a greater punishment. I look forward to the free will post.

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