Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, has seen children die of treatable diseases, and of diseases that vaccines could have prevented in the first place. Years ago, Offit witnessed a devastating—and deadly—outbreak of measles in Philadelphia. At the center of the contagion was a group of children whose parents belonged to a church that eschewed the use of vaccines and other modern medical treatments. To a man like Offit, who has dedicated his life to the health of children, these preventable deaths must have seemed utterly wasteful and unconscionable—proof that religion is a force for evil.
Indeed, when he set out to write a book about religious belief and modern medicine, Offit assumed that he, like a number of authors whose disdain for religion has landed them on bestseller lists, would conclude that religion is harmful to children and other living things.
That’s why Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine proves such a pleasant surprise. Glancing at the provocative subtitle, one might assume that the book belongs on a shelf alongside Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and likeminded skeptics. But Offit comes to praise religion at its best, and not to bury it. Unlike so many non-religious (or unconventionally religious) people writing about religion today, he is unashamed to celebrate all the good that has been done in the name of God—and by Christians in particular. The book unequivocally praises “Christian missionaries who have brought the latest medical advances to every part of the globe.”
What caused this shift from foe to friend? “Somewhere during the process of reading large ...1
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