Religious faith leads to the deaths of children

Zimbabwe has reported an outbreak of measles in a part of the country in which 157 children have died. They were not 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 with the death toll nearly doubling in just under a week, the information minister said on Tuesday.

The government last week blamed apostolic church sects for the surge in infections, saying measles was largely prevalent among those who had not received vaccinations.

Most reported cases are among children aged between six months and 15 from religious sects who do not believe in vaccination.

“It has been noted that most cases have not received vaccination to protect against measles. Government has invoked the Civil Protection Unit Act to deal with this emergency,” Mutsvangwa said.

This is the kind of thing I find infuriating about religions. Based on nothing but their unfounded beliefs or some absurd reading of ancient texts, some criminally irresponsible people in a religious group’s hierarchy decide that forbidding vaccinations is a good idea and demand that their followers obey this arbitrary edict, saying their faith will not only protect them from diseases but also make them prosperous. It never does.

Bishop Andby Makuru, leader of Johanne Masowe apostolic sect, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Zimbabwe, some apostolic church sects forbid their followers from taking vaccinations or any medical treatment. The churches attract millions of followers with their promises to heal illnesses and deliver people from poverty.

The vaccines are available for free in the country but getting vaccinated is not mandatory. The sect holds large gatherings attended by thousands, perfect for spreading viruses. And so children die from a disease that we have long had the ability to prevent.

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

I know that most religious folk are moderate and nice and reasonable and wear tidy jumpers and eat cheese like real people. And on hearing this, they’ll mainly feel pity for me rather than issue a death sentence. But they have to accept that they are the power base for the nutters. Without their passive support the loonies in charge of these faiths would just be loonies safely locked away and medicated, somewhere nice, you know with a view of some trees, where they can claim they have a direct channel to god between sessions making tapestry drinks coasters, watching Teletubbies, and talking about their days in the Hitler youth. The ordinary faithful make these vicious tyrannical thugs what they are. See I get very angry that shows like Big Brother and Celebrity [insert title of wretched show here] still fill our lives with vapid pointless emptiness and I wish the producers and development executives would crawl back under the rocks they emerged from but the truth is that they sell stuff that people consume. Without the audience to prop it up, Heat magazine and fundamentalist religious fanaticism goes away. Imagine what humanity might be capable of if we had that much spare time. We could explore space properly, have a decent look in the sea, find a cure for James Blunt, anything.

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


  1. consciousness razor says

    I kind of expected you to also bring up the recent polio outbreak (see here or here) from Rockland County, New York, which has a sizable Orthodox Jewish population, many of whom are anti-vaxxers. It was the first case in the US in almost a decade and only the second case of community spread in 43 years. They also had a measles outbreak there a few years ago. It’s especially dangerous when it’s so close to a huge city like NYC, which also acts as a major transportation hub within the country and internationally.

  2. StonedRanger says

    You dont have to leave the states to find dead children because of religious beliefs. Right here in Oregon City, Oregon there is a religious group who have a cemetery full of dead children (and adults) who died because the group believes in healing the sick and dying through group prayer and anointing with oils instead of taking them to doctors. The last time they were in the news here was because they let a child die who had diabetes and they refused to let a doctor give the child insulin. This has been going on for decades here. They did prosecute a couple of parents for letting their kids die, but they got a sentence of months and not the years they deserved. The funny (not so funny) thing is all of the republicans and the religious right said not a damned word. They didnt condemn this in any way. Prolife means nothing when you let your living children die of things they didnt have to die from.

  3. raven says

    I ran some numbers on the faith healing cults in the USA a while ago, the no modern medicine ones.
    The death rate for children, age 0 to 18 is around 25%.
    It is 50 times higher than normal people who take care of their children.

    They know that faith healing doesn’t work.
    They’ve got cemeteries full of dead children to show for it.

    I found several families that had not just one but two children die from treatable causes.
    I found one family that had lost five people to preventable causes.

    Most of these faith healing cults are small.
    Each church is usually 3-4 highly intermarried families.
    I’ve seen photos of them. They all look eerily the same. They are most likely inbred by now.
    Some of them are inbred as shown by high levels of recessive genetic diseases.

  4. Matt G says

    I have a coworker who morphs back and forth between being an anti-intellectual, bigoted Christian, and a compassionate, generous Christian. Too often the hateful, selfish Christians try to take credit for the things the good Christians do.

  5. brightmoon says

    And I used to think that only the Jehovah’s Witnesses were problematic with their idiotic views on blood transfusions. I got a cuz-the-Bible-sez explanation from one of them once but it was so vague and incomprehensible that I don’t remember it now.

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