Following 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 was insufficient.
I was wrong.
What some of his supporters are saying is that his death showed that it was ‘his time to go’. This is a nice way of avoiding blame, if you are willing to ignore the obvious inference that god had decided it was time to kill him. Others have hailed him as a ‘martyr’ for his faith which is also odd since no one was actually persecuting him.
Jeffrey Weiss says that each religious belief looks crazy to outsiders while still making sense to insiders.
To most people, these [i.e. biblical quotations about god protecting the faithful from snake bites] seem like a crazy justification to handle deadly serpents. But I evaluate these kinds of claims through Weiss’ Law of Religious Relativism: Any religion is, by definition, crazy to a nonbeliever.
That’s not to say that someone of one belief can’t appreciate the piety, values or even practices of a different belief. But those areas that depend on faith will seem irrational — crazy.
Is it crazier to believe that the creator of the universe had a son who is somehow also him and required that son to be tortured to death and resurrected to allow his creations to escape the consequences of sin — or that he would protect his faithful believers from the effects of snake venom?
And every one of them would consider the faith claims of the other to be as crazy as most of us consider seizing a poisonous snake. Yet somehow each one apparently does some good for some people.
That’s the problem. When you believe in a closed system that shuts out the external and empirical scientific world, you can make anything seem rational. But beliefs that can kill you if they are wrong seem to me to be crazier to believe in than those that merely make you look silly.