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Feb 17 2014

Religious snake handler dies of snake bite

Over a year ago, I had a post in which I wondered why it was that snake Pentecostal snake handlers, who regularly handled poisonous snakes because Jesus promised true believers that they would not be harmed, seemed to be bitten a lot less than one might expect. Various suggestions were offered.

One of the leading practitioners that I noted in the piece was Jamie Coots, the star of a reality show called Snake Salvation on the National Geographic TV channel who had said in one episode “When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church.”

Sadly, news has emerged that Coots died of a snake bite at his church on Saturday night.

He had previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand. Instead seeking medical attention for the gruesome injury, he let it rot to black, exposing a quarter inch of bone before it broke off.

Coots was just as resolute on Saturday, according to police.

Cops and medical crews were called about 8:30 p.m. to a church for reports of a snakebite victim, but Coots had already left, police said.

They later found Coots at home and tried to talk him into medical treatment, but he wouldn’t accept it. The crews finally left about 9:10 p.m.

They returned about an hour later with the Bell County deputy coroner and found Coots dead.

Here’s a clip from the TV show that features Coots.

At best you can say that Coots was a true believer and not a hypocrite, having faith to the end that Jesus would save him. But such senseless deaths are infuriating. The only possible good that can emerge from the tragic consequences of people who take such risks to ‘prove’ their faith and then refuse to accept life-saving medical care to prove their faith even more is that others will see what can happen and realize that it is insane behavior.

Will this result in people who are believers in this practice thinking twice about whether this is such a good idea? I hope some will draw the obvious lesson but I fear that others won’t and will claim that his demise was due to not having enough faith.

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  1. 1
    machintelligence

    Another likely nominee for this years Darwin Award.

  2. 2
    raven

    This happens a lot, snake handlers dying of snake bites. Coots was bitten 9 times before.

    Some families have lost more than one member to snake bites. A lot more are bitten but survive, often with permanent tissue damage.

    I really don’t see the point. The bible also says prayer can move mountains. But no one has ever done it. What does move mountains is humans with heavy earth moving equipment and explosives.

  3. 3
    Argle Bargle

    I fear that others won’t and will claim that his demise was due to not having enough faith.

    That’s the built-in excuse. Coots didn’t have enough faith that Jesus would save him and so Jesus didn’t.

  4. 4
    Menyambal

    My question is why all the Christians aren’t doing it. It’s in the Bible, phrased as a commandment, said by Jesus, as one of his last words on Earth. It isn’t optional.

  5. 5
    Phillip IV

    I must admit I was surprised to hear that – I had always assumed that those snake-handling pastors are basically con-men using mithridatism to immunize themselves. Seems at least some of them are true believers. I’m not sure if that’s less or more appalling than my original assumption.

  6. 6
    Crimson Clupeidae

    But such senseless deaths are infuriating.

    I disagree (well, I mean I don’t find them infuriating or even senseless). There are 7 billion people on the planet, we could do with culling out some, even if the methods are not necessarily pleasant.

    We are no longer really subject to natural population control via predation, and we, as a species have eliminated the worst of the diseases that kill us (so far). We have no other real population controls like just about every other species on the planet. We lack the self control (again, as a species) to limit our own population. In that sense, it’s good that we also lack the self control to refrain from wars or otherwise killing each other off en masse.

    In my utopian world, we could gain that self control, and be able to direct it to possible off-planet expansion such that population control would be less of a necessity, but I fear we could become like the aliens in ‘Independence Day’. =P

  7. 7
    Pierce R. Butler

    Will this result in people who are believers in this practice thinking twice about whether this is such a good idea?

    While doing this gets them on the teevee?!?

    Ha, ha. Next question!

  8. 8
    corwyn

    Couldn’t someone have pointed out that that verse is a forgery?

  9. 9
    Nick Gotts

    Wylann,

    There are 7 billion people on the planet, we could do with culling out some

    I take it you’re volunteering to be among those culled.

    We lack the self control (again, as a species) to limit our own population.

    The global population growth rate has halved in the last 50 years. Population growth is likely to halt around 2050. We know how to bring it down faster – primarily by improving the status and education of women. It is primarily those in rich countries, where the birth rate is mostly below replacement level, that are causing global environmental problems such as climate change.

    Why is it that those keen to advocate “culling” other people are invariably so ignorant about the actual facts of demography?

  1. 10
    This week at FreethoughtBlogs | Evangelically Atheist

    […] the death of Pentecostal preacher and snake handler Jamie Coots, I said that true believers would probably draw the wrong lesson and infer that it was because his faith […]

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