Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

by Paul Offit


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In recent years, there have been major outbreaks of whooping cough among children in California, mumps in New York, and measles in Ohio's Amish country—despite the fact that these are all vaccine-preventable diseases. Although America is the most medically advanced place in the world, many people disregard modern medicine in favor of using their faith to fight life threatening illnesses. Christian Scientists pray for healing instead of going to the doctor, Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish mohels spread herpes by using a primitive ritual to clean the wound. Tragically, children suffer and die every year from treatable diseases, and in most states it is legal for parents to deny their children care for religious reasons. In twenty-first century America, how could this be happening?

In Bad Faith, acclaimed physician and author Dr. Paul Offit gives readers a never-before-seen look into the minds of those who choose to medically martyr themselves, or their children, in the name of religion. Offit chronicles the stories of these faithful and their children, whose devastating experiences highlight the tangled relationship between religion and medicine in America. Religious or not, this issue reaches everyone—whether you are seeking treatment at a Catholic hospital or trying to keep your kids safe from diseases spread by their unvaccinated peers.

Replete with vivid storytelling and complex, compelling characters, Bad Faith makes a strenuous case that denying medicine to children in the name of religion isn't just unwise and immoral, but a rejection of the very best aspects of what belief itself has to offer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465082964
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 815,100
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Paul A. Offit, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The author of several books, he lives in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Introduction: At the Crossroads

1. “The Very Worst Thing”
2. A Fragile Magic
3. A Vengeful God
4. The Faith Healer Next Door
5. The Literal and the Damned
6. Dialogue of the Deaf
7. Do Unto Others
8. Ungodly Acts
9. The Miracle Business
10. The Peculiar People
11. The Divine Whisperer
12. Standing Up

Epilogue: “The Frail Web of Understanding”

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Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bad Faith brings to light the plight of children whose lives were needlessly cut short because of their parents’ religious beliefs.  Faith healing, when it excludes well established life saving medical interventions, is a dangerous practice for children who are unable to choose such practices for themselves.  Dr. Offit skillfully explores the contradictions inherent in such religious thought in both mainstream religious organizations and smaller less known sects in a respectful manner.  He makes a very compelling case that it is time we closely examine our public policy choices that are ultimately putting children at risk by exempting faith healing (and other religious beliefs which interfere with child health and safety) from the legal obligations parents have to protect their children.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a much needed book. It makes it compelling clear how much in jeopardy the children brought up in faith-healing sects are. I was raised in a religion that does not use -- indeed, actively avoids -- medical care and is theologically opposed to vaccinations. I was a kid during the polio epidemic of the 1950s and it was sheer dumb luck that I didn't become a victim. As everyone knows, or should know, the discovery of a vaccine virtually eliminated that disease. Of course, my parents didn't let me have it, and so my "luck" was extended and ensured only by the herd immunity I got because everybody else's kid was getting it. My parents played Russian roulette with my health because they believed that prayer, and prayer alone, would heal me. My parents loved me deeply, and it's a testament to the blinding power of belief that they would play Russian roulette with my life. They believed, in effect, that if they prayed fervently enough, the bullet would either disappear or have no effect on me. That's a very fair analogy as to how disease -- and the threat of disease -- was dealt with in my family. My sister died at the age of 9 that way, the victim of an infectious "bullet" that could not be prayed away. This book does not denigrate religion; in fact, it embraces the value of religion in people's lives. But when parents practice a belief that prevents a child from receiving life-saving care, or illness-preventing care, belief cannot be allowed to trump medical care. If you read this book, you'll understand why. Had my parents been able -- and willing -- to read such a book, my sister would probably still be alive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paul Offit does not present objective information when it comes to vaccines. When his Rotavirus vaccine was introduced into the schedule (and he was on the committee that decided which vaccines would be accepted), he personally made $40million from his patent. He said he felt like he just won the lottery. Unfortunately, vaccines have been shown to fail time and again and in fact, are responsible for thousands of injuries including SIDS, death, autism as evidenced by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (has paid out over $3.1billion as of May 1st, 2015). He has a personal interest in seeing that everyone gets vaccinated and never talks about how it was actually better sanitation that helped decrease communicable diseases like measles.