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Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  650 ratings  ·  105 reviews
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 thre ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Basic Books
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Start your review of Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine
If you have been following my reviews at all, even say... the last five, then you'd know that I'm not a religious person. Up until right now, and with few exceptions, I would say that I'm tolerant of others' beliefs... but I've found my line in the sand, it seems. That would be where some people or religions, like Christian Science for example, choose to use belief or prayer as their only method of healthcare, and it causes people to suffer and die needlessly. This, to clarify, since it was poin ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't always finish a nonfiction book in one day, but when I do, it's really good.

Fair warning though: this is an emotionally difficult read. Lots of descriptions of children dying awful, painful, totally preventable deaths. But if you can handle it, it's an extremely important issue to get yourself informed about, and Offit is a very compassionate and engaging writer.

He also changed my mind about the usefulness of laws. I went into this thinking that there's no way it would work to simply m
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who like science based facts
Written by Paul A. Offit, M.D.
2015; Basic Books (272 Pages)
Genre: nonfiction, medicine, religion, science

Rating: ★★★★

I was just going to read the Introduction of this book before I turned to my current read (legal thriller); and the next thing I knew I was halfway through the book and a little past my bedtime. I had work in the afternoon so I was able to finish the book just before lunch. Bad Faith is a hard book to rate…it is well writt
May 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
All in all, this book sets out to do what it aims to: highlight the dangers of following faith-healing practices over sound medical advice. The examples highlighted in this book are both harrowing and heartbreaking. They provide insight into an important and often overlooked topic.

Yet, in several places, Offit's arguments "jump the shark." Especially in Chapter 8, where he seems to be specifically addressing/speaking to the faith healing crowd. His analyses of the Biblical stories of Job and Abr
Jaclyn Day
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you want to feel some serious outrage, grab this book. It’s a scathing look at the relationship between religion and medical care, encompassing everything from Christian Scientists who let their children die of preventable illnesses because they fear medical care to anti-vaccine movements among some fundamentalist Christian groups. Offit attempts to be somewhat fair to the earnestness of the beliefs that would allow parents to essentially murder their children in their own homes in the name o ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars but not rounded up. I guess that's an awkward way of saying 3.5 stars rounded down to 3.

I like Dr. Offit's work a great deal and appreciate that he goes head on against thorny issues (the anti-vaccine crowd, faith healing and alternative medicine). He's a man of science, and in the field of medicine that's paramount.

I'm not sure why but I'm beating around the bush in saying why I liked this book but didn't love it. The scientific backing is there, as it always is, so that's not the is
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Thank you for the advance copy from First Reads.

In the introduction Dr. Offit begins with many stories that will break your heart and make you grind your teeth. He ends this introduction stating that this book is about using faith and religion as a source of information to convince the reader to seek a medical professional and not just prayer alone. This grinded my gears at first. Then I realized this book isn't for me. I don't need convincing that science based medicine is the best alternative
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
This is a book about compassion. It's also a chronicle of how well meaning people can loose sight of compassion. It covers the dire consequences of and legal battle around faith healing. That is, neglecting medicine for religious reasons. Many of the cases involve cults. Worst offenders are members of the so-called "Christian Science" who's practices are neither Christian nor scientific. Offit writes with compassion for both the victims and perpetrators of medical neglect.

He doesn't vilify relig
The author definitely engaged in cherry picking at times. For example, he used bits of information about circumcision while ignoring other bits that were just as important include if one is to provide a balanced and critical argument. However, I have to say, this book was so good, that I don't even care about some cherry picking here or there. I was blown away by almost every story.

This author did a great job of relating the details of the events (what illness did each child have and what actio
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Two things I've always said you just don't discuss on social media is politics and religion and now I read a book that has a religious theme. The author states at the beginning of this book that that in beginning this book he would have assumed that in uncovering the stories of medical neglect that he would find religion illogical and potentially harmful but states instead that he found himself embracing religion. I really didn't see that part of the book. He does impart his findings in an engag ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. Despite Offit's obvious knowledge and passion, this book is overtaken by his need to tell stories rather than the ability to develop an argument. If you're looking for a list of tragic, faith-motivated deaths and superficial philosophical digressions,then this will do, but it's not a rigorous analysis or argument on the topic. ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful, sympathetic book that seeks to understand the beliefs of those who deny their children medical care in the name of religion while still demanding that children be protected and given a chance to live.
Todd Martin
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine is not an easy book to read unless you can stomach the idea of parents helplessly standing around spouting religious platitudes while watching their children suffer and die from a treatable illness. Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholic Church (through their opposition to abortion even where the life of the mother is at stake) and faith healers of every stripe reject some form of modern scientific medicine to instead p ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dr. Offit tells the stories of family after family who count on faith to heal their children. The children die. It does not shake their faith. The damage can extend beyond the children unlucky enough to be born to parents who count on Jesus for medical care. A measles epidemic in Philadelphia in the early 1990's was centered in the members of two churches, killing 6 children in those congregations. Measles also killed 3 children who were not members. If not for the large reservoir of unvaccinate ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a Pennsylvanian, if I drive drunk with a child in the car, I can be sent to prison. If I can show a "serious" religious belief in the power of faith "healing," however, then I could watch a child of my own die slowly in agonizing pain from a treatable illness, and be confident that I will avoid prosecution. This does happen, and the cases make for extremely uncomfortable reading. Most states have religious exemptions to child abuse and child neglect laws, in fact (partly another terrible lega ...more
Jodi “Rose”
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is probably not an easy book for most people to get through. I already knew many of these stories. But the way it is compiled here makes it a MUST READ.

This is an incredibly good book and a necessary book. I am so grateful this book was written. And I am so glad a documentary is currently being made about it too.


Updating my review:

This book is chock full of stories that most people I know probably have never heard of.

It is time for America to WAKE UP and realize that "Freedom of Re
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really love this author, although there wasn't a lot in this particular book I didn't already know. I guess I've read a fair bit about cults and the like, lol. I loved the first book I read from Offit regarding vaccines. I still think this is a great book too, although it's unlikely that anyone who doesn't already share his views on this one would read it, so it's mainly preaching to the choir. Still, an interesting read, well researched and points well made, as I have come to expect from Offi ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very difficult to read the stories of children who's parents refused medical treatment in favor of prayer. Offit casts his net too wide, though; he tried to venture off into abortion and it really doesn't fit with the rest of the book. I found his portrayal of St. Bernadette extraordinarily dishonest and really wish he had taken the time to consult a bishop or a group like the NCBC regarding abortion/Catholicism bit (because he's demonstrably wrong in his claims) b ...more
Audra Murzycki
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting a book that scrutinized religion and was information-heavy. Dr. Offit, however, wrote a book that was extremely easy to read and separated harmful religious traditions, such as faith healing, from the benign. I give this book my highest recommendation for non-fiction.
J L's Bibliomania
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, medical
Dr. Offit has written at length about the anti-vaccination movement. Interesting anecdotes about families that refuse medical treatment, but no solutions offered. Was a bit thin at book-length. Probably would have been better as an article.
Elizabeth Merchant
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: our-library
The story of how the religion I grew up in made it legal to medically neglect children, and the ramifications.
Portal in the Pages
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was rather good, simple to read and interesting case studies spoken about. The content wasn't new for me however, so can't be higher than 3 stars. ...more
Vanessa Rogers
Wow, I really hated this book. I dreaded reading it, but since I was chipping away at it while waiting for clinic and other appointments, I felt like it'd be a waste to just abandon it.

Essentially this was written by someone who is anti-religion, and their attempts at supporting their views seemed extremely lazy. I was surprised to notice that they were a doctor, because a lot of the flaws I picked up on were because of my neuroscience and medical background.

Examples: 1) Claiming that highly rel
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Offit hits you with some pretty tragic accounts of events that will break your heart right at the beginning of this book. The overall point and purpose of this book is to find out why Heavily Religious faith healers are able to sit back and let there kids suffer in agony and die. Where does this level of faith come from? He also touches on a few other overlapping subjects like laws, the history of religion and foreign religious policies. The book starts off following Rita Swan, a Christian scien ...more
Ayman Fadel
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
formatted text here:

Dr. Offit reviews a series of incidents in which children died of treatable illnesses due to the pursuit of their guardians or parents of spiritual healing through supplication in lieu of standard medical practice. He then gives an interpretation of Christianity which rejects spiritual healing as a substitute for medicine. Then he provides an overview of the historically recent development of state protection of children from abuse by t
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've always enjoyed Paul Offit's writing, and this book was no different. I'm not sure I learned much more about religious justification for medical neglect, as the ways people justify that sort of thing have always seemed clear to me. However, the glimpses into how and why politicians have chosen to allow medical neglect to continue unabated was very educational--deeply frustrating, but educational. The section on child abuse as it occurred in history was horrific, and I'd loved to have seen a ...more
Mikey Will
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Every year, tens of thousands of Americans refuse medical care for their children in the name of god."

Insular religious communities throughout the US exhibit disproportionate rates of preventable disease, child disfigurement and death. These children, deprived of antibiotics, insulin and basic medical care, experience slow, painful deaths (or the "lucky" few, permanent disfigurement) while parents and religious leaders eschew medical care in favor of prayer and "faith healing;" these irrespons
May 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is essentially a set of case studies profiling horrible tragedies caused by people ignoring medical advice and denying treatment to their children because of their religious convictions. But the author begins with an apologetic "but religion is great because it encourages people to do good things and be nice to each other". Which makes little sense when what follows is story after story of people doing very bad things in the name of religion. And it blithely overlooks that there are many co ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With Trump about to sign (2-2017) one of his edicts that will exempt religious organizations (like Catholic hospitals) from laws that conflict with their faith, readers should understand why belief is dangerous. there simply is no god, no matter what you believe. Religion is taking over politics and may soon be able to endorse candidates while they remain tax free. While this book only deals with the issues of faith interfering with medical treatment, it provides insight into the programmed mind ...more
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.

A compelling and well researched book that opened my eyes to how certain religions (and certain sects of religions) intersect their faith with modern medicine. While Offit makes no apologies for calling out abuse when he sees it, he brings notes of compassion to the stories of parents who allow their children to die often horrible and painful deaths at their own hands while they pray for God's healing powers rather than accept medical intervention.

Truthfully, I could have read 200 more
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Paul A. Offit, MD is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is a recipient of many awards including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence ...more

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42 likes · 7 comments
“Any group that allows children to die unnecessarily is sinister. And if these groups invoked the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster instead of God, their children would likely be put in foster care and their adults in an institution. But because they claim to act in the name of God, public officials often turn a blind eye. Another” 1 likes
“Almost two years after the outbreak in Philadelphia subsides, CDC investigators submit their final report. The Faith Tabernacle Congregation and the First-Century Gospel Church were at the center of an outbreak in Philadelphia that affected more than 1,400 people. Among church members, 486 people were infected and six were killed by measles. Among non-church members, 938 people were infected and three were killed. All nine fatalities were children. Because they hadn’t been vaccinated, the attack rate among church members was a thousand times higher than that in the surrounding community.” 0 likes
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