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← Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith

Why I watched a snake-handling pastor die for his faith - Comments

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat

Was it right for me to remain in the background taking pictures, as I did, and not seek medical attention for the dying pastor, whose beliefs forbade it? Or should I have intervened and called paramedics earlier, which would have undermined Mack’s wishes? Finally, what was I supposed to do with the images I shot?

I'm sorry, but if someone wishes to set themselves up as the 2012 prime candidate for the Darwin Awards......I have absolutely no sympathy and can only wish them every success in their effort to rid the planet of their genes.

Perhaps some documentation of this stupidity might discourage others.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 18:47:54 UTC | #945038

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 2 by strangebrew

oh!.. fer fuck sake!!!

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 18:50:20 UTC | #945039

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 3 by Zeuglodon

A man handles snakes because a book tells him to, or at least he interprets it as doing so. He gets bitten. He refuses medical treatment on the grounds that his "beliefs forbade it" - those beliefs also originating from this book. This book being written with a lot of ludicrous events that fit comfortably with other religious myths and which are taken far, far more seriously than the texts' spurious validity can justify.

I really, really loathe having to say this, and I detest the fact that I'm saying it honestly, but... what a sad, pointless waste. The sheer enormity of taking an avoidable life-risking activity and then refusing medical treatment on the basis of such a thoughtless and flimsy excuse is so frustrating no matter how many times I try to put a positive gloss on it.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 18:54:17 UTC | #945041

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 4 by Alan4discussion

I had not heard of this. It seems to be some sort of cult gimmick to impress sheeples or give them a buzz!

I have seen videos of wild-life experts cautiously handling venomous snakes, which normally only attack for food or defence. It can be done reasonably safely.

Even the most skilled and most confident can be caught out by the unexpected, as unfortunately happened to Australian TV personality Steve Irwin in that fatal stingray attack.

Those with a placid friendly cat which is used to being handled, still get the odd scratch!

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 18:58:40 UTC | #945043

Metamag's Avatar Comment 5 by Metamag

Religion poisons everything.

Also someone should do a Festinger-type investigation into this crazy cult. Why did they even call the paramedics, do they think his faith was too weak, was the snake a demon so it sneaked pass the faith barrier...

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:00:26 UTC | #945044

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 6 by rrh1306

“His faith is what took him home,” said his sister Robin Vanover, 38.

That's why religious belief is such a tough nut to crack. Even when it doesn't work (he's not protected from the snake), it works (his faith took him home).

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:05:30 UTC | #945046

Quine's Avatar Comment 7 by Quine

An especially creepy and batshit crazy slice of American cults:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_God_with_Signs_Following

Not very successful, though, as seen along side the megachurch movement. There seems to be some kind of self-limiting factor ...

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:06:13 UTC | #945047

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 8 by RJMoore

It's probably adding insult to (fatal) injury to point out that the verses referring to snake handling weren't written by the author of Mark....

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:13:32 UTC | #945049

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 9 by Neodarwinian

" The practices of the Signs Following faith remain an enigma to many. How can people be foolish enough to interpret Mark 16: 17-18 so literally: to ingest poison, such as strychnine, which Mack also allegedly did at Sunday’s ceremony; to handle venomous snakes; "

Literally?!?!

How can people be so foolish as to interpret this nonsense at all? Figuratively, metaphorically and aphoristically it is utter nonsense as is so much in that three thousand snoozer. Only the articles can pass skeptical review in that disconnected tome.

Accepting such a foolish death as some of his family did just perpetrates this nonsense that as far as I know had claimed two generations of this family.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:22:01 UTC | #945052

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 10 by Peter Grant

Someone should call the local SPCA.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:24:03 UTC | #945053

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 11 by strangebrew

It is a bit of xian nonsense conjured up by envy of the fakir's in India...next Indian rope tricks...the clue is in the name methinks.

How can people be foolish enough to interpret Mark 16: 17-18 so literally: to ingest poison, such as strychnine, which Mack also allegedly did at Sunday’s ceremony; to handle venomous snakes; and, most incomprehensible of all, not to seek medical treatment if bitten?

So was it the strychnine or the snake bite or just plain dumbfuckery?...curious minds wish to know...well not really...it was probably a combination, his dumbness clearly had mental issues! As already mentioned, one more kicked from the gene pool can only be a bonus!

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:27:00 UTC | #945056

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 12 by Border Collie

They seem to have ignored the small fact that they believe their deity gave them a brain and to use it on occasion. They're not even smart enough to be decent con men like the Eastern snake-charming gurus.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:28:55 UTC | #945057

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 13 by Philoctetes

Clearly the dead pastor did not have enough faith.

Dylan's lyric: "You’re an idiot, babe It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe" comes to mind. This individual indeed does no longer know how to breathe. Another proof of the fitness involved in natural selection?

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:46:44 UTC | #945060

Sharpur's Avatar Comment 14 by Sharpur

Phoney hand-wringing crap. Was anybody surprised that she used some of the pictures in the end? No one gets anywhere in photo-journalism without a dose of the ghoul in them.

As for the loony - one of god's little jokes!

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:47:41 UTC | #945061

btheist's Avatar Comment 15 by btheist

I am sorry, but it was absolutely, unequivocally wrong for you to stand by and do nothing when you knew the outcome would be his death. He had his faith, but obviously you didn't share that faith and knew that he would die without medical intervention. Screw you journalistic integrity, a man's life was at stake, and if he was too dumb to admit it, you shouldn't have been.

As much as I deplore the faithheads for their willingness to die for their beliefs, I think standing by and watching, and doing nothing is worse.

Sorry if you are looking for consolation here, there will be none.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:56:59 UTC | #945063

Capt. Bloodeye's Avatar Comment 16 by Capt. Bloodeye

Absolute fool. I will not waste pity on this imbecile, but I feel great pity for his family as they justify an unnecessary death as though it is a source of pride. No, you will not see him again; he is dead. You are all mentally ill.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 19:59:24 UTC | #945064

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 17 by Peter Grant

Finally got the pictures to load (I hate these flash things). Would have preferred a full length documentary highlighting this inhumane treatment of snakes as well as the suffering and eventual death of one of their tormentors. It is not very obvious from the photos how these snakes are mistreated, but in one you can clearly see that the snake is placed in a box on top of a loudspeaker. Snakes are very sensitive to vibrations, so this is presumably done to make the snake riled up for a more interesting performance.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:16:23 UTC | #945067

Metamag's Avatar Comment 18 by Metamag

Comment 15 by btheist :

I am sorry, but it was absolutely, unequivocally wrong for you to stand by and do nothing when you knew the outcome would be his death.

That's accommodationism and cultural relativism for you...you know, respect other people's beliefs no matter how unwarranted that respect is.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:30:33 UTC | #945069

fnostro's Avatar Comment 19 by fnostro

You should have called the paramedics and let the family handle their arrival. If they turn them away and least now you would not be wrestling with this question.

And it also would have been great to see who in that family would have put their faith aside and allow the paramedics in. Not that they could have done anything for a combination of poison and venom anyway, but still, it would have been interesting.

Having the courage of one's convictions is what drives pentecostal snake handlers. It's what also drives the wing-suit base-jumper to leap off the side of a mountain. Does it matter if the base-jumper is Pentecostal or Atheist to the 20 ton boulder he/she slams into because of an unexpected cross-breeze ?

It's a non issue, these are examples of a type of Natural Selection in action and must be allowed to continue. ;)

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:45:31 UTC | #945071

cerad's Avatar Comment 20 by cerad

Wonder how the snake is doing?

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:13:59 UTC | #945079

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 21 by Katy Cordeth

Am I the only one who has a sneaking admiration for Pastor Mack? He seems to have been someone who lived life on its own terms. If we hear that someone's parachute failed to open or they fell off a mountain, we don't call them stupid for having perished in an unnecessary way, and yet skydiving and mountaineering are easily as pointless as snake handling. We may even salute someone who dies in such a manner and say "ah well, he died as he lived" or "it's how he would have wanted to go".

This man presumably spent most of his life handling snakes (and panthers apparently) and made it to the age of 44. Respect.

Give me rockstar preachers and gospel choirs over village fêtes and Jerusalem any day.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:21:12 UTC | #945082

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 22 by Mr DArcy

Maybe we should arrange a battery acid drinking competition between these Christian nutters. After the Olympics and the Para-Olympics, we could have the Poison Olympics? Collect your gold medal at the pearly gates.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:32:45 UTC | #945085

gr8hands's Avatar Comment 23 by gr8hands

Only if he has not already had children should he be a candidate for a Darwin Award.

To make matters more laughable, his father, also a snake handler in this cult, died from a snake bite.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:45:24 UTC | #945089

ras52's Avatar Comment 24 by ras52

I bet he didn't believe in evolution either, which is ironic given that his death is a classic example of natural selection in action.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:53:16 UTC | #945090

Thomas Carr's Avatar Comment 25 by Thomas Carr

It looks like everyone who was present is culpable in his unnecessary death. I'd expect a police investigation to follow.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 22:07:43 UTC | #945091

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

Comment 15 by btheist :

I am sorry, but it was absolutely, unequivocally wrong for you to stand by and do nothing when you knew the outcome would be his death.

Recording the event objectively, is exactly what some wild-life film maker would have done if a predator was killing prey, or a weakling in a litter or nest was dying. It's also what War correspondents do when they are non-combatant observers recording events.

An observer cannot become involved as part of the event if they are to produce an objective recording.

It is a question of role definition. The outcome was the same as if the observer had not been there, which would have been the case if no photography was taking place. Clearly the photographer was not in charge of the group, and they would not have cooperated in any action attempted.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 22:09:22 UTC | #945092

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 27 by Cartomancer

Am I the only one who has a sneaking admiration for Pastor Mack? He seems to have been someone who lived life on its own terms. If we hear that someone's parachute failed to open or they fell off a mountain, we don't call them stupid for having perished in an unnecessary way, and yet skydiving and mountaineering are easily as pointless as snake handling. We may even salute someone who dies in such a manner and say "ah well, he died as he lived" or "it's how he would have wanted to go".

This man presumably spent most of his life handling snakes (and panthers apparently) and made it to the age of 44. Respect.

I haven't even got the slightest admiration for this man. He devoted his life to a dangerous brand of ridiculous nonsense that eventually killed him. And, what's worse, he did so because he was inculcated with that nonsense by his own father - who died the same way. He has a grieving mother and wife and children. It's utterly stupid and pathetic.

Devotion is all well and good, if it's devotion to something worthwhile. But this kind of obsessive, reckless, unreflective faith is one of the most harmful aspects of human psychology there is. And this guy didn't just follow it, he actively PROMOTED it. He tried to instil and nurture and shore it up in others. As his father did before him. That's not admirable, it's monstrous.

And the photojournalist too - she isn't blameless here either. She's contributing to making this tragic madman and his nasty irrational cult into some kind of heroic feat that deserves respect. By choosing to document and publicise what goes on here, she's spinning it into something that is intended to provoke admiration and awe rather than horror at the senselessness and waste of it. The toxic mindset so graphically displayed here must be roundly condemned and shunned, not held up for freak-show gawping. The people who aided and abetted this should be charged with negligent homicide, since the man was clearly a risk to himself and in need of protecting from his stupid faith.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 23:11:37 UTC | #945097

78rpm's Avatar Comment 28 by 78rpm

Re Comment 11 by Strangebrew No, strychnine poisoning has a completely different way of working. It makes every skeletal muscle contract until even breathing is "locked." This guy died of snakebite, and strychnine didn't enter into it.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 23:31:47 UTC | #945101

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 29 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 21 by katy Cordeth

If we hear that someone's parachute failed to open or they fell off a mountain, we don't call them stupid for having perished in an unnecessary way, and yet skydiving and mountaineering are easily as pointless as snake handling. We may even salute someone who dies in such a manner and say "ah well, he died as he lived" or "it's how he would have wanted to go".

There's a huge difference. People engaged in dangerous sports take all manner of extra precautions ( such as a reserve parachute ) so as not to die. They technically weight up the risks, and dont just place their fate in the hands of blind faith. Steve Irwin was mentioned above........I recall an episode of his where he went out of his way to get a snake to squirt venom at him, but..he had anti-venom right there with him and a medic on hand.

There's quite a difference between people doing daredevil things because that is what humans do, and dying as a consequence, and people doing such things and dying because their 'faith' was the only safety precaution they took. The Darwin Awards are for the latter.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 23:39:16 UTC | #945102

silentbutler's Avatar Comment 30 by silentbutler

I don't know what the regional policies and procedures are for the local paramedics out there, but I'm willing to bet that the law would have protected this individuals right to refuse treatment provided he were deemed competent...and I do mean that in the loosest sense here. It's not within a paramedics scope of practice to diagnose anything let alone insanity, though if his actions will lead to death or injury to himself or others, the law can be called in. This is an interesting case and I'm going to bring it up with some of my colleagues. In this situation, the patient has already done the act of harm and is now suffering the effects. He is still "competent" and has every right to refuse even transport, which is considered treatment. While inspecting some policies in my own service...I'm a paramedic, it's clear that a patient of mine has this right even if death is a possible outcome, and he cannot be coerced. But in this case again, death is not simply a possible outcome, it's probable. I'd have contacted my supervisor, to ensure that I covered my ass legally, and called in the 5s, and do as I've done before...watch ignorance die.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 23:45:33 UTC | #945104