Thursday, 24 April 2008
Religious free riders
The outbreak center of the most recent measles epidemic in Europe has been identified: Muttenz, Switzerland, a couple of miles away from the headquarters of Anthroposophy. This is not quite a religion of its own because most Antrhoposophists consider themselves as Christians. But in my view it is sort of a compound religion with a mix of Christianity and eastern religions such as Buddhism.
Center of the measles outbreak that has expanded to Austria, Germany, and Norway meanwhile is the Rudolf Steiner School of Muttenz. Outside of Switzerland, such institutes are called Waldorf schools.
Anthroposophists reject the idea that children should be vaccinated. They have managed to gain much influence: Switzerland has become the antivax center of Europe, nowhere else is the immunization rate so low. The health officials of European Union are concerned and have become diplomatically active.
Rejecting science but profiting from it
This example is typical for the free riding behaviour that can be observed in many religious or spiritual people. They profit from the benefits of science in our modern world but are not willing to pay the price, that is, respecting science. Not enough with indifference, no, they reject science. They are against it.
The fact that their unvaccinated children mostly stay free of measles is due to all those parents and children who have been vaccinated. They profit from a behaviour that they reject. Not only are they free riders, but free riders of a very deliberate sort.
This is enough reason for an anti-religious rant
After some tolerant, kind-hearted posts about respect for religious beliefs, common traits with theists, and looking for sense in religion, it may be high time for this rant: Religious beliefs can undermine the coherence of our society, they can be bad for health and may even kill children.
My rant is not about all religious people but only about those who are anti-science: Anthroposophists, spiritualists, creationists, idealists, mind-matter dualists, reincarnationists, (un)intelligent designers, evangelicals, and the like.
What these people do is taking advantage of a world that could not have been developed without the progress of science, that is, by applied freethought and by eliminating the influence of religions on everyday life. Not only are they technological free riders. They are also moral free riders because the modern human rights are achievements of secular political processes that have restricted the influence of religions. That's it for today, I'm going to take up the issue of moral and religion later.
Photo credit: Wellcome Images