Health Warning: Believing the Bible can cause you serious harm or even death

1945 --- 1945- Lewis Ford is shown as he draped a rattlesnake about he neck of a member of his congregation. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
1945 — 1945- Lewis Ford is shown as he draped a rattlesnake about he neck of a member of his congregation. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

There is a verse within the bible that reads …

they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; – Mark 16:18

… and rather astonishingly there is a strand of religious belief that picks this up, quite literally, and runs with it as a jolly good idea. The result is of course exactly what your common sense tells you will happen – people die.

The Latest news

As highlighted by Raw Story, yet another religious snake handler has been bitten and as a result is now dead …

A 60-year-old worshipper at a Kentucky Christian church died on Sunday after being bitten by a rattlesnake that he was handling as part of a religious rite. 

According to WKYT, the Bell County Sheriff’s Office reported that John David Brock was bitten during Sunday morning services at the Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church. Brock refused medical treatment and died four hours later at his brother’s home in the town of Jenson.

So essentially the belief is that god will stop the snake from biting, but if by some chance the snake does bite, then god will ensure that it does not kill them … except people do die.

Hey wait a second … Kentucky … but snake handling like this has not been legal there since 1942. Well yes, that is true, but since it involves a $50 fine and would cost far more than that to collect, the law simply turns a blind eye to it all, and so today, spread across the Southern states (Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama) there are roughly 300 churches that are into handling snakes as part of their religious practise.

How Many Die?

It is tricky to be precise, but at least 71 have died since George Went Hensley first introduced this snake handling belief. His thinking was that if somebody is truly filled with the Holy Spirit, then they can prove that by handling snakes because the Bible says so. Oh and least you wonder, yes, Hensley died in 1955 of a snake bite.

The Punchline

This entire absurd belief is all founded upon one specific verse within the Gospel of Mark (chapter 16, verse 18), and within the whole of the bible there is no other reference to it.

Now here is the real kicker, that verse was a later addition, it does not exist within the original version of Mark, and I’m not making that up, it is the consensus of the vast majority of bible scholars that Verses 9-20 (which includes this infamous one) were added later.

It may indeed be tempting to write these people off as a few uneducated backwoods hill people, but we should not forget that humans have a tendency to embrace some very strange ideas. Here for example are a couple of mainstream ideas believed by billions …

The bottom line is this: smart intelligent well-educated humans can and do embrace some truly weird ideas that don’t have a jot of evidence to back them up, and some of those ideas can and do cause real harm or even death. We are in essence emotional creatures and so can at times be highly irrational if we don’t stop and think but instead opt to drift with the cultural tide.

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