High-Risk Religion

Margaret Pabst Battin

in Ending Life

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195140279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850280 | DOI:
High-Risk Religion

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In some of the more colorful groups on the American religious spectrum, the religious faith of believers involves a willingness to take substantial physical risks — risks to health, physical functioning, and even the risk of death. This chapter takes a closer look at the influence of religion on high-risk decision making that can result in death. In addressing these issues, it casts a morally inquiring eye on the way in which religious institutions engender these sincere, devout beliefs. This chapter discusses informed consent in faith healing, serpent handling, and refusing medical treatment, along with risk budget and risk style. It also examines three religious groups that participate in practices that impose varying degrees of indirect risk of death by refusal of medical treatment or some component of it: Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Faith Assembly. The practices of a fourth group impose, in addition, a direct threat of death — the various serpent-handling, strychnine-drinking pentecostal groups within the Holiness churches.

Keywords: religion; religious groups; pentecostal groups; informed consent; faith healing; serpent handling; Christian Science; Jehovah's Witnesses; Faith Assembly; Holiness churches

Chapter.  22112 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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