Religious faith leads to the death of children

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Zimbabwe reported a measles outbreak in part of the country in which 157 children died. They weren’t vaccinated. Why? Because they are members of a Christian sect that opposes vaccinations for religious reasons.

A measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed 157 children and the death toll has nearly doubled in just under a week, the information minister said on Tuesday.

The government last week blamed sects of the Apostolic Church for the spike in infections, saying measles was widespread among those who had not been vaccinated.

Most of the reported cases involve children between the ages of six months and 15 years old belonging to religious sects who do not believe in vaccination.

“It was noted that most cases were not vaccinated to protect against measles. The government invoked the Civil Protection Unit Act to deal with this emergency,” Mutsvangwa said.

This is the kind of stuff that I find infuriating about religions. Based on nothing but their unfounded beliefs or a nonsensical reading of ancient texts, some criminally irresponsible people in the hierarchy of a religious group decide that banning vaccinations is a good idea and demand that their followers obey this arbitrary edict, claiming that their faith will not only protect them from disease but also make them prosperous. This is never the case.

Bishop Andby Makuru, leader of the Apostolic Sect Johanne Masowe, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Zimbabwe, some apostolic religious sects forbid their followers to be vaccinated or undergo medical treatment. The churches attract millions of followers with their promises to cure disease and deliver people from poverty.

Vaccines are available free of charge in the country but getting vaccinated is not mandatory. The sect organizes large gatherings attended by thousands of people, perfect for spreading viruses. Thus, children are dying of a disease that we have long had the ability to prevent.

In 2007, British comedian Marcus Brigstocke in an audio clip on the three Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), after a diatribe on the evils caused by religion, said that religious moderates, who would be horrified by this story of measles to what they see as a perversion of religion, cannot escape some responsibility for being part of the problem.

I know most religious people are moderate, kind and reasonable, wear neat sweaters and eat cheese like real people. And upon hearing this, they will mostly feel pity for me rather than issue a death sentence. But they must accept that they are the power base of the madmen. Without their passive support, the lunatics in charge of these religions would just be lunatics safely locked up and cared for, in a nice place, you know, with a view of some trees, where they can pretend they have a direct channel towards God between tapestry coaster making sessions, watching Teletubbies and talking about their days in the Hitler Youth. Ordinary worshipers make these vicious tyrannical thugs what they are. See I get real mad showing like Big Brother and Celebrity [insert title of wretched show here] still fill our lives with a useless, tasteless void and I wish producers and devs were crawling under the rocks they came out of, but the truth is they’re selling things that people consume. Without the public to back it up, Heat magazine and fundamentalist religious fanaticism go away. Imagine what humanity could be capable of if we had so much free time. We could explore space properly, take a decent look at the sea, find a cure for James Blunt, anything.

Sadly, the kind of tragedy that happened in Zimbabwe never seems to influence large numbers of people to abandon these groups and beliefs.

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