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February 17th, 2014
10:29 AM ET

A faithful death: Why a snake handler refused treatment

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - In the close-knit town of Middlesboro, Kentucky, almost everyone knew what was happening inside the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church - including Police Chief Jeff Sharpe.

Despite a Kentucky law that prohibits snake-handling at religious events, Sharpe said he "made a decision not to involve this police department in somebody's church service."

"I'm not going to tell you that I didn't know what was going on. This is a small town," Sharpe said. "But we're not going to bust into anybody's church on Sunday morning."

The trouble at Full Gospel Tabernacle began on Saturday night, when Pastor Jamie Coots, whose serpent-handling religious rituals made him a reality TV star, died after a rattlesnake sunk its fangs into his right hand.

Coots was a third-generation serpent handler and aspired to one day pass the practice, and his church, on to his adult son, Little Cody.

MORE ON CNN: Reality show snake-handling preacher dies - of snakebite

Despite Coots' death, Sharpe said he will not enforce Kentucky's ban against using serpents in religious services.

"The Middlesboro police have their priorities and the State Police have theirs. If they want to come in and investigate that or any other church, they are quite welcome."

A National Geographic show featured Coots and cast handling copperheads, rattlers and cottonmouths. The channel's website shows a picture of Coots, goateed, with a fedora covering his bald head.

"Even after losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services," Coots "still believes he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith," the website says.

Coots belonged to a small circle of Pentecostal Holiness pastors who take this passage from the Bible's Gospel of Mark literally:  “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Since those words are said to be spoken by Jesus, pastors like Coots take them as divine commandments. But there are other spiritual reasons to handle serpents, practitioners say, often describing the dangerous rituals as a mental and emotional rush, as if they were touching the hand of God.

"They almost always use drug metaphors, like 'higher than any high you can experience," said  Paul Williamson, a professor of psychology at Henderson State University in Arkansas who studies serpent handlers.

At the same time, they are extremely careful with the serpents, Williamson said, only allowing those who live sin-free lives and have been "annointed" by the Holy Spirit to handle the snakes. "There's death in that box," pastors often warn the congregation before services start.

"Because serpent handling is not a practice that occurs in the mainstream, people tend to look at it as anomalous and strange, " said Williamson. "But to them, it's really no different from a Catholic who takes Communion. It's a powerful and immediate experience of God that gives meaning and purpose to their lives."

Williamson estimates there are at most 2,000 people who belong to the few hundred churches, centered in Appalachia, that practice serpent handling. Most of the churches, like Coots', are fairly small, with less than 50 worshippers.

Faith in the divine played a role on Coots' death Saturday night, Sharpe said.

"He was very open about his beliefs, that if he was bitten, he did not want medical treatment." Coots had been bitten by a snake a half-dozen times before and recovered.

Williamson said Coots and other snake-handlers generally seek medical treatment for other ailments. "But when it comes to serpent-handling, it requires a belief in God and obedience to the commands of Jesus. If something does happen, they trust God with the consequences."

Sharpe said his department and an ambulance crew responded to a call at the church Saturday night but Coots and his family had already gone home. When they arrived at the Coots home, the pastor was unconscious and "in pretty bad shape."

Medical professionals stayed at Coots' house for half an hour, telling the family about the consequences of not seeking treatment, the police chief said, as family, friends and church members came and went. But the Coots family was adamant that God alone would heal the pastor, if it was divine will.

"Certainly, they were not aware of the danger," Sharpe said. "We have to offer this treatment, but we can't force them to take it."

Coots was far from the first serpent-handler to die from a snakebite. Mack Wolford, one of the tradition's most famous practitioners, was killed by a bite in 2012. His father died in 1983 from the same cause.

The police chief said he knew Coots fairly well and spoke with the pastor several times about being bitten by serpents.

It is not illegal to keep poisonous snakes in Kentucky, but it requires permits from the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Coots' permits were up-to-date, Sharpe said. "He was pretty meticulous."

"They were well aware of what they were doing, that they were handling dangerous snakes and could get bit. Please understand that these are not ignorant people but people with beliefs just a little outside the mainstream."

In February 2013, Coots was given one year of probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes. The state banned snake-handling in 1947 after five people died within a two-year span, the National Geographic Channel says on the show site.

He was previously arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, according to the channel.

(CNN's Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.)

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Death • Prayer

soundoff (1,211 Responses)
  1. Salero21

    Good Lord in Heaven, this is worst than atheism/evolutionism and idolatry. Yet atheism/evolutionism and their sister Idolatry are all Total stupidity. But even I have to admit that this snake handler hillbilly stuff is worst. They must be related to the beer belly church in the beer belly nation or as they say in the fatherland: the church of the beer bellies in the nation of the beer bellies. 😉 😀 😀 😀 I saw the interview on nightline yesterday and certainly, the good old US of A is the biggest nest for all sorts of Falsehood the world has ever seen. Still atheism is Total stupidity!! 😉

    February 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • Salero21

      Nah wait no, atheism is worst than that. Atheism has produced the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Castro among others. Therefore atheism/evolutionism and their sister system, Idolatry are worst than these hillbillies.

      February 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
      • doobzz

        "worst than"??

        Talk about Total Stupidity now and forever™, lol.

        February 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
        • Salero21

          Atheism is Total Stupidity Forevermore™

          February 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • doobzz

          LOL. Right. Is it "worst than" the hillbillies too?

          February 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
        • Creationists say the darndest things

          lol – oh please do tell us when you go public and we can buy stock in "Atheism is Total Stupidity Forevermore™"

          February 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
        • Salero21

          the darndest thing,,

          Ask doobzz first you atheist hypocrite. He/she is the one who use the ™ symbol first. And by the way you could be expelled from atheism by the GRAMMAR GESTAPO OF THE INTERNET for your stupid darndest things!! 😀 😀

          February 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
        • doobzz

          Salero21 is losing it, lol. Doesn't take much to make that happen though.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • Salero21

        Idolatry brought about the Inquisition in Europe in particular France, Spain and Italy. So Idolatry the sister belief cult like system of atheism and evolutionism is worst than the hillbillies.

        February 18, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • doobzz

          "worst than the hillbillies."

          LOL. He doesn't even get why this is wrong.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • Salero21

          Oh no we have doobzz here today. He/she is one of the agents of the GRAMMAR GESTAPO OF THE INTERNET, the legal enforcement branch of atheism. He/she will pick me with toothpicks over and over till I die!! 😀 😀 😀

          February 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
        • doobzz

          LMAO. Nice try, dopey troll.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
      • SeaVik

        Another one who needs a lesson in correlation vs. causality.

        February 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
    • Yoda

      Mmmm. The trolling is still very weak with this one.

      February 18, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
  2. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    I'm shocked! A venomous snake does what its programming tells it to do... bite idiots who get too close to them

    February 18, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
    • Salero21

      Who programmed it? Oh... yeah God the Creator!! 😉

      February 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
  3. thefinisher1

    Throughout history, when atheism got mixed with power NOTHING stopped them from killing religious people. As a result, we should ban atheism as it's evil and murderous. Atheists always speak of the evil done by the religious yet they ignore the evil done by atheists throughout history. 100 million people died at the hands of atheists. Your atheism is brutal and evil. I hope humans in the future leave atheism behind them and put it in the fiction section where it belongs.

    February 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Your argument is nothing but a non-sequitor...congrats on that.

      February 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        So you ignore the evil atheists have caused? Somebody is afraid of the truth!😜

        February 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • otoh2

          @thefinisher,

          The common bond here is that all of these baddies (theist or atheist) were/are HUMAHNS. I say, let the Vulcans take over!

          February 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
        • SeaVik

          You know, Freakonomics is a pretty simple and interesting read that might be able to teach you the difference between correlation and causality. Until you understand the difference, you'll continue to make illogical posts that are easily shot down. Hitler's last name started with an H. Everyone who's last name starts with an H must be evil then according to your thought-process, if we can call it that.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Correlation does not equal causation. You would have to show that the attrocities were a result of their "non-belief"

          Your argument is akin to concluding that since Stalin had a mustache, mustaches should be banned.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • believerfred

        Blessed are the Cheesemakers
        Hey, is this Mike?
        If so you know a bit a physics and I was wondering what your take is on this: "We conclude that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life. Of all the ways that the laws of nature, constants of physics and initial conditions of the universe could have been, only a very small subset permits the existence of intelligent life."
        That is from Luke A. Barnes, Institute for Astronomy ETH Zurich Switzerland. I will give the link for the abstract in case you are interested: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1112.4647v2.pdf

        Anyway, I note a consensus is forming that an alternative such as multiverse or the like is now necessary to explain away the mathematical calculations that continue to rule out the possibility of intelligent life given known natural laws. Hawking is well of this and stated so in the formation of M theory where he recognized an infinite number of universes would be required based on a time constraint of 13.8 billion years.

        February 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          I am not sure why you would ask me this question fred as I am not a physicist. Many physicists and scientists from other disciplines have answered this question. Many have shown that there is no reason to conclude an intelligence is responsible for the universe. Practically the entire universe would cause instant death to most all of the life forms we are aware of. Why don't you check out what Lawrence Krause, Victor Stenger or Neil DeGrass Tyson have to say about it?

          February 18, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
        • believerfred

          Oh, guess your not Mike.
          Anyway no reference to a creator or intelligent design was made as scientists are not allowed to be associated with anyone who believes in an agent of causation that exhibits properties that cannot be fully explained by known natural laws. Regarding Lawrence Krause he basis his entire argument on pure non proven speculation not based on any scientific evidence. Further Krause stated "Infinite numbers of things exist everywhere in nature, you can see lots of infinite collections of things, like jelly beans and bumblebees and invisible pink unicorns. I don’t like the fine-tuning, but if my speculations about the multiverse are proven true, then I won’t have to learn to live with the fine-tuning". Take note that he like Hawking as militant atheists must find a way around fine-tuning because they cannot deny it.

          Victor Stenger and Neil DeGrass Tyson have had their speculations refuting fine-tuning firmly slapped down within their own community. Even the study I provided rejects the specific foundation of their speculations.

          These guys are tops in their field I cannot argue with them but their desperate need to run from fine tuning is obvious. Hawking was straight forward at least to acknowledge the fact fine tuning throws a monkey wrench in their no god needed speculations.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          You did not answer why you are directing this at me.

          There are many reputable scientists that are believers like Francis Collins so your premise is flawed regarding theistic belief in the scientific community.

          You seem to be trolling fred, and a bit dodgy today..

          February 18, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
        • believerfred

          "You did not answer why you are directing this at me."
          =>Your Word Press account is linked to Mike who was in my physics class at University of Colorado.

          February 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Bad link Fred, that is not me.

          February 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
    • jamesxcix

      The people you seem to be referring to just happened to be atheist, but that's incidental to their story. They killed atheists right along with everyone else. Their atrocities were not committed in the name of atheism, unlike so many atrocities which have been committed in the name of various religions.

      February 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
      • thefinisher1

        Never said "in the name of atheism". I'm proving atheists also have done a lot of damage and atheists ignore it but always no matter what, make people for guilty for being part of a faith because of some event thousands of years ago. It's also proving atheists are totally stupid and ignorant when it comes to admitting atheists also can do evil and it doesn't take a religious person to cause it. So...that leaves atheists with a lot of denial😜

        February 18, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
        • SeaVik

          Again, you demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the difference between causality and correlation.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • igaftr

        james
        You can't reason with a troll. Ignore him. He just likes to spend all day attempting to bash atheist with non-sequitors and ad hominem. Just look at a few of the posts and the lies are evident. Clearly someone who hates atheists probably from some childhood incident. One thing for certain, he is also not a christian, since he is clearly violating the 9th commandment on nearly every post.

        February 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
        • jamesxcix

          Got it, thanks.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
        • thefinisher1

          Stating facts isn't bearing false witness. Also stating how atheists have caused the most damage in the past century is a fact. Stating the flaws of atheism is not trolling nor bearing false witness. Try again troll. I've been blamed countless times that I'm part responsible for 9/11 even though I'm not a Muslim. By whom you ask? Atheists. I've also been blamed for the Crausades even though NONE of us were alive. So if I should take responsibility for events I did not partake in, it's only logical to make atheists realize just how much they deny about the evil caused by atheists. The number is really high. So..stating facts isn't bearing false witness stupid troll.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
        • SeaVik

          I assume you're referring to Hitler who was a self-proclaimed Christian. I acknowledge that he made contradictory statements on the matter, some of which make it clear that he was a Christian and others making it clear that he disagreed with religion (not that he was an atheist as far as I'm aware). Bottom line, it is absolutely not a fact that Hitler was an atheist. If anything, he seemed to believe HE was god, which isn't atheism at all.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
        • thefinisher1

          Hilter was a Christian for the public to gain support. Most of his country(besides his army) did not know what was really going on. Something SPARKED the hate towards Jews long before he had power. A verse stating that Jews killed Jesus isn't enough. It's actually a pathetic excuse. The Jews were doing well and his country wasn't. They were an easy target. Atheists ignore ALL the factors but cherry pick one based on popularity alone. It's sad that you don't want to all the factors but just the one you know will make people rage. How idiotic.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Hitler's plan to destroy Christianity:

          http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/13/weekinreview/word-for-word-case-against-nazis-hitler-s-forces-planned-destroy-german.html

          A HYMN OF THE HITLER YOUTH:

          "NO EVIL PRIEST CAN PREVENT US FROM FEELING
          THAT WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF ADOLPH HITLER
          AWAY WITH THE INCENSE AND HOLY WATER
          THE SWASTIKA BRINGS SALVATION ON EARTH"

          February 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • SeaVik

          I was responding to your response that it is an absolute fact that Hitler was an atheist. That is a false statement. The bottom line is you're lying when you state that as a known fact.

          Based on what I have read on the subject, I conclude he considered himself Christian for most of his life and eventually became such an egomaniac that he viewed himself as god. Like I said, I haven't seen any evidence that he was ever an atheist, simply that he came to despise Christianity. Those are two different things.

          February 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      If you are trying to win the 'Stupid Internet Troll Award'... congratulations, you are in the top 10.

      February 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • igaftr

        With the different names, he could BE the top 10.

        February 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”

      – Robert Heinlein

      February 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
  4. jardary

    So I'm curious as to why an article about a stupid man partaking in stupid activities brings out the Christian atheist haters. It's not like atheists told this guy to pick up a rattlesnake and play with it. That was 100% his interpretation of YOUR holy book. It's definitely in there too. It's not like this is some passage that only exists in a couple of translations, it's in pretty much every English translation that exists.

    So, please by all means, tell me how this m0r0n's death is in ANY way my fault because I don't believe in your magical sky daddy?

    February 18, 2014 at 11:29 am |
  5. myweightinwords

    This story reminds me that no matter how far I went as a Christian, there were still others who went farther. It's kind of scary really.

    We never handled snakes, in fact we denounced the practice as "tempting God" and even went so far as to say that those who participated were unsaved (but then we said that about Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, anyone who didn't speak in tongues, etc).

    I'm glad that we never got that far down the rabbit hole. I'm even happier that I found my way out.

    February 18, 2014 at 10:55 am |
  6. ddeevviinn

    Jeffrey Dahmer: Murderer, cannibal, psychopath and self proclaimed ATHEIST.

    You see, evil and stupidity know no boundaries.

    February 18, 2014 at 12:28 am |
    • hotairace

      See http://home.comcast.net/~pobrien48/serial_killers.htm for counter data.

      February 18, 2014 at 12:38 am |
      • Dalahäst

        http://home.comcast.net/~pobrien48/Control_freaks.htm

        February 18, 2014 at 10:48 am |
        • hotairace

          Yes, I suppose the OP or serial killers could be control freaks.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          That was a silly website.

          February 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Well, you are proof about the stupidity part anyway....

      February 18, 2014 at 12:59 am |
      • ddeevviinn

        Well cheese, I see you've taken a turn for the worst since our last conversation.

        February 18, 2014 at 1:19 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          No devin, that was a stupid comment, and I would say it shows you have taken a turn for the worse.

          I didn't even know it was you for sure....but I guess I am not really surprised.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:31 am |
        • ddeevviinn

          The point was that people do stupid things regardless of their ideologies i.e.there are both christians and atheists who do stupid things. The implication of many of these posts is that this guy acted stupidly because he was a christian. I was pointing out that stupidity knows no boundaries, Obviously, you missed it.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:53 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          And that shows the stupidity of the comment. It failed to get that point across and in practice got a completely different point across. Here is a tip, don't assume the readers of your post have read through all the previous comments and will get your inference. Yes I read the post at 'face value'. That is not a 'me' problem that is a 'you' problem.

          There are stupid atheists, plenty. Ever hear of the Raelians?

          And I doubt this preacher was stupid in all areas, but his belief lead to a stupid outcome. And if he was stupid it did not come FROM being chrisian but it sure didn't help. I actually used this example to show my son that faulty beliefs can have very real consequences, I made sure to tell him all of us as humans are suseptible, even the very intelligent.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:16 am |
        • ddeevviinn

          User error, something I've come to expect in light of our previous conversations.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:57 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Thats right devin I am the one who is wrong (sarcasm)...add another stupid comment to the list. Funny how you seem to have a problem communicating your message.

          February 18, 2014 at 9:03 am |
        • SeaVik

          Let me give you a hint here. If you actually want to make a claim that atheists are evil, then you'd have to look at the percentage of "evil" atheists (say, those who murder) vs. the same statistic for Christians. Which one is higher? I'd guess Christians by far, but until you provide that information, this is pure speculation. Even if we have that information, that doesn't prove causality. Until you get that, give it a rest.

          February 18, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
    • theghostofjimjones

      Dahlmers lack of religious belief wasn't a motivating factor in his crimes. This is unlike the snake handler nut who believed in something that turned out to be false.

      On a side note, dahlmer died a Christian. Isn't it odd to think he is now sitting next to Jesus on a puffy white cloud.

      February 18, 2014 at 2:46 am |
      • thefinisher1

        He disproves the notion that only religious people cause evil. Most atheists have a superiority complex because they think only religious people do evil. In fact, atheists murdered OVER 100 MILLION PEOPLE in the past century alone. "They didn't do it in the name of atheism". Never said they did. I said atheists KILLED millions so the atheistic fantasy is destroyed. Stalin hated the religious and killed thousands of religious people including women and children. An atheist ordered the deaths of women and children just for being religious. Wow. You atheists are more messed up than you think.

        February 18, 2014 at 8:26 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          But you'll note that the worst of the atheist dictators aped the forms and functions of religion.
          They built cults of personality with themselves in the Godhead position – as is happening in North Korea right now.
          Their oratorical and writing styles ape those of the Church in being declamatory and repet.itive, with liturgical overtones.
          Many of them were exposed to such methods of persuasion in their formative years in formal, religious educations.
          Pol Pot spent 8 years at a Catholic school in Phnom Penh, Stalin 5 years at a Russian orthodox seminary, Hitler went to school at a Benedictine cloister.
          These leaders wielded their people’s predilection for faith like a weapon.
          They demanded blind obedience and obsequious submission from their followers.
          They tolerated no free-thinkers and enforced dogmatism.
          In other words, the lessons they learned during their religious indoctrinations served them well in their roles as despots.

          February 18, 2014 at 8:45 am |
        • thefinisher1

          Go live in North Korea. Your follow brethren(most of the country is atheist) will welcome you with open arms LOL 😜

          February 18, 2014 at 9:34 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Seems the same could be stated to you. If you don't respect the fact that you reside in a SECULAR country, might we suggest Iraq as a better fit for you?

          February 18, 2014 at 9:48 am |
        • igaftr

          salero
          North Korea is not an atheist country. They are to worship their leader as a god.
          Also, that is the governments position.
          You would have to check with the individuals as to their actual beliefs.
          No reason to go around trolling about it.
          Try a little honesty.

          February 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  7. mojoquasi

    When you get totally wrapped up in any religion your brain takes leave of your body, and you do incredibly stupid things like letting snakes bite you and wrapping yourself in explosives and blowing yourself to smithereens.

    February 17, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well said.

      February 18, 2014 at 12:17 am |
    • Dalahäst

      Or dedicating your life to helping the people of Calcutta and lead a civil rights movement that frees Americans.

      February 18, 2014 at 11:00 am |
      • doobzz

        "Or dedicating your life to helping the people of Calcutta"

        Are you referring to the patron saint of unnecessary suffering, Mother Teresa? LOL. Sure, she was a big help to those poor people. Refused to give dying patients appropriate pain medication, consorted with known felons and dictators to get huge donations, never built a state of the art hospital despite raking in millions in unaccounted for funds, which went into the Vatican's general expense account despite being designated specifically for charitable purposes? The one who told a dying woman that her pain was "kisses from Jesus"?

        February 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          No, the lady that did more than you and Christopher Hitchens ever did combined.

          "So to all the Mother Teresa haters: if you don't like her, that's your right and I respect it. But please, do not waste all this time writing studies or articles on her that have no other value than being controversial enough to be published. Pick your battles. Surely there are a lot worse people than her in this world who deserve your energy! And if Mother Teresa did such a bad job helping others, why not save that time spent criticizing her to instead try to make a difference in this world?"

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/celeste-owenjones/mother-theresa-critics_b_2824776.html

          February 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
        • doobzz

          Refusing to give dying people appropriate pain medication, when it is in your power to do so is an inhumane act. Telling them that their suffering is some sort of gift from Jesus is an abomination. Taking their money while you do those two things is beyond the pale.

          Your sainted mama was a depressed old hag who loved her celebrity status and used the poor to rake in millions for the Vatican. Yet when she got sick, she didn't go to her own facilities. She went to the finest hospitals in the world. She was a hypocrite.

          "No, the lady that did more than you and Christopher Hitchens ever did combined."

          I don't know much about Hitchens so I can't speak to his life. But you don't know ANYTHING about me, so that's a pretty stupid thing to state with such conviction.

          February 18, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Hitchens produced an independent "docu.mentary" on her. And it sounds like you are just parroting everything it said. A lot of it has been debunked. I think that link I gave gives a better understanding.

          She is not my saint or hag. I just admire her for helping and not letting people die in the streets. She did more that most people.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
        • doobzz

          I haven't seen Hitchens documentary, but it sounds interesting. He's not the only person who has been critical of MT though.

          You admire a woman who had the power and means to give dying people appropriate pain medication but refused to do so? That speaks volumes.

          February 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          There are some who claim she was like a saint (she isn't one) and flawless.

          And there are some who call her horrible names and accuse her of heinous crimes.

          She actually is somewhere in the middle.

          February 18, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • doobzz

          "She actually is somewhere in the middle."

          Do you know this from your long personal acquaintance with her?

          She was a scam artist for the RCC.

          February 18, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Do you know this from your long personal acquaintance with her?

          February 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
  8. Reality

    ., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems

    adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals, idiot snake charmers and atonement theology,

    Add it all to the circu-mstantial evidence that there is no god !!!

    February 17, 2014 at 11:24 pm |
  9. perennial2

    Dumb as dirt Bronze Age snake handler killed by snake.
    Proof there is a god and he has a wicked sense of humor.
    Clearly, he wrote that book just to see which morons would take it seriously.

    February 17, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
  10. happyfrenchman

    You can do crazy stupid stuff as long as it is your religious belief.

    February 17, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
  11. dandintac

    This guy should be in the running for a Darwin Award. At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, and while I'm sorry for his family, this sort of stupidity may naturally die out on its own.

    This folks, is the natural consequence of religion. It allows people to believe by the millions what only lunatics could believe on their own.

    Ironically, the passages at the end of Mark that these snake handlers pay such rapt attention to is actually fake. The ending with the bit about handling serpents is not in the oldest copies of the manuscripts of Mark that we have. They were added later. Mark ends rather abruptly, and wierdly, with the women "saying nothing" (!) Someone came along later, realized how absurd that was, and added a whole bunch more to end it. The key passage in question is this:

    "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

    It is forged! It is not in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts we have!!

    Not only did Co-ots die from stupidity in handling a poisonous snake to begin with, he did so out of faith in a forged passage from an ancient text where the forged passages are just one of many problems.

    February 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      "This guy should be in the running for a Darwin Award. "

      Unfortunately, he already has a son (who will be a 4th generation snake handler!)

      February 18, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  12. thefinisher1

    If an atheist who grew up without any type of influence on religion, decided to leave the cult of non-belief and believe (insert any religion), would atheists respond with hate and shun them? Considering how many atheists are so hateful and will call them "fairy-tale believers", they wouldn't react too kindly to this situation even if the person fully decided to leave atheism without any type of human inneration telling them what to believe. So leaving the cult of atheism is worse. You'll get ridiculed by so-called "logicals" until the day you die. The non-belief cult is dangerous. Beware.

    February 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
    • rshultz210

      It's a little bit hard to imagine an atheist apostate...LOL. Well, at least I don't think they would try to behead you....LMAO!!!
      And they can't kill you with insults. I mean "sticks and stones" and all that you know?

      February 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm |
      • rshultz210

        Lookout!! Incoming insult!!....Long whistling noise....."YOUR MOTHER SWIMS OUT TO MEET TROOPSHIPS"!!! .....Bada Bing...Bada BOOM!!

        February 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm |
    • dandintac

      Leaving atheism is worse eh?

      Well, one thing we will never do. We might be disappointed if an atheist becomes religious, and we may start by asking why, and what evidence persuaded them.

      But one thing we will never do.

      We will never, ever tell an atheist-turned-Christian that as a result they are going to BURN IN HELL for all eternity.

      Check out these small children getting brainwashed, then tell me who the "cult" is:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LACyLTsH4ac

      If you can find a clip of a camp like this where atheists are brainwashing their kids in like manner, I'll re-label myself an agnostic just to dissociate myself, because then you might have a case for atheist "cult-hood", although it would not demonstrate the existence of any gods.

      "Cult" – The word followers of larger, older religions use to label beliefs or non-beliefs they do not approve of.

      What is your definition of a "cult"?

      February 17, 2014 at 10:52 pm |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Probably not but most people don't walk away from disbelief after they've come to it...reality is a wonderful thing.
      However, the hate spewed from the christians after I walked away is enough to keep me away.

      February 18, 2014 at 5:34 am |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      "If an atheist who grew up without any type of influence on religion" – I don't think this is possible in our country at least. The christian culture permeates quite a bit of our day-to-day life in the US.

      February 18, 2014 at 10:19 am |
  13. ardvrk

    Why snake handler refused treatment: Because he's insane.

    February 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
  14. ilikestealingducks

    Why did he refuse treatment? Because he's a moron. Religion is a sickness. This is what happens. Unfortunately it looks like he's already taken a dump in the gene pool.

    February 17, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    Darwin is smiling.

    What an ironic way to get the religious lunacy gene out of the gene pool. LOLOL

    February 17, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
    • kevinite

      And here I thought an atheist would never figure Darwin would be smiling because Darwin died and therefore no longer exists.

      February 17, 2014 at 8:58 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        hehe.

        February 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm |
    • the0g0to0the0t

      Probably not. Unfortunately, he was "fit" enough to reproduce before he died.

      February 18, 2014 at 10:23 am |
  16. mariosphere

    Wouldn't this kind of snake handling be considered time-elapsing suicide?

    February 17, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
  17. Apple Bush

    There is no proof of god(s) or miracles. You are incorrect.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
    • bostontola

      If there was proof of God from a different religion, I wonder if religious people would stick with theirs?

      February 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        They would shop around.

        February 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
    • thefinisher1

      There is no proof that you are correct. Atheism is a fairy-tale you must tell yourself constantly is true. How "logical"!😜😃😄😀😊

      February 17, 2014 at 10:25 pm |
      • the0g0to0the0t

        So you are saying there is proof? I'd love to see it.

        February 18, 2014 at 10:24 am |
        • Doris

          Well it has five emoticons to back it up. I'm guessing that represents the unnamed 500 "witnesses". (eyeroll)

          February 18, 2014 at 10:40 am |
      • doobzz

        Right, that's why we have to go to a building once, twice or several times a week to sing songs about being washed in blood and hear a guy give us a pep talk to reinforce our non belief while he takes our money.

        LOL.

        February 18, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
  18. tet1953

    I don't know which is more ridiculous..that the "Good Book" indeed has a passage that instructs people to do this, or that people interpret it so literally.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
  19. maanirantel

    "And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them..."

    Interesting that they will handle snakes, but I've never heard of a single one of them downing a shot of cyanide-laced water or drinking lye. Wonder how well THAT would work out.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm |
    • rshultz210

      Obviously they didn't have Jack Daniels back then either...... And a rattlesnake or any pit viper for that matter that's dehydrated and weak, doesn't have enough water in it's system to manufacture a great deal of venom, and on top of that there are only a very few species of rattlesnake that have venom potent enough to kill a full grown, young, healthy man. Diamondbacks, and Timber rattlers in the east and Mojaves and one or two other California species are the only really dangerous ones anyway.

      February 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
  20. believerfred

    hotairace
    And so it is with the kingdom of God. Can you touch it or can I touch it?
    I cannot see the Holy Spirit only the power it presents and the inner transformation. Saul of Tarsus had a blinding light and Moses saw a burning bush. From Abraham to Moses to Christ no one saw God physically only the Glory of God. Moses and Abraham died long before and never saw the hope in a promise. So it is with the kingdom of God.

    February 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      You are incorrect.

      February 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
      • believerfred

        such as?

        February 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          There is no proof of god(s) or miracles. You are incorrect...

          February 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm |
        • believerfred

          We have the testimony of millions upon millions of believers who have experienced God and miracles..
          Proof of a miracle is the fact we even exist against all odds. i.e. creation itself if a miracle
          Man comprehends future existence thus life in fact extends beyond the physical.
          etc.

          February 17, 2014 at 8:46 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          fred, The fact that we exist is only proof that we exist. The probability may be low but in a universe with trillions of stars, there's a good chance that life also exists elsewhere. None of which is evidence of a creator or that that creator is your god.

          February 17, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
        • believerfred

          In Santa We Trust
          That has been disproven since it requires an infinite number of universes in order that the existence of life becomes a reasonable possibility i.e. all the stars in our universe are insufficient.

          February 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
        • midwest rail

          Disproven by who ??

          February 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          On the contrary, there is very little doubt that life exists throughout the universe. Other universes? Who knows?

          February 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm |
        • believerfred

          Midwest Rail
          Stephen Hawking proposed M theory as possible way to get around the mathematical impossibility of intelligent life (720 initial life requirements) forming in our known universe. Fine tuning of our universe for life is only one of the 720 base requirements. You cannot simply begin with oops here is Carbon and then carry on from there.

          February 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm |
        • believerfred

          apple bush
          Now you are starting to sound like a believer. Remember we have no proof of life other than earth.

          February 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
        • midwest rail

          fred –
          Do you EVER answer a question directly ? Did someone actually present such a proof that is accepted generally in the scientific community or not ?

          February 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          believerfred

          You are wrong. I have no idea if there is life on other bodies in space. I can only verify my own existence. It is absurd to believe that what my imagination shows me is all true.

          Have said that, I hope there are really cool planets and plants and animals scattered throughout the cosmos.

          February 17, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          fred, What are you talking about? How can life be impossible when we're sitting here posting comments? The fact that life exists is not evidence of a supernatural being. Read what Hawking had to say (nothing like you're suggesting):
          http://www.hawking.org.uk/quantum-cosmology-m-theory-and-the-anthropic-principle.html

          February 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm |
        • hotairace

          Despite what fred claims Hawking wrote about various theories, he also determined that the existence of any god is highly improbable, virtually zero, and that no god was required for the creation of the universe.

          February 17, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
        • redzoa

          What is it with ID/creationists and flawed compound probability arguments? And where, pray tell, is this 720 # coming from?

          February 18, 2014 at 12:58 am |
    • evolveddna

      Believerfred..why would a burning bush or light be a sign from god? how would they ever know..is it possible then that the California wild fires are just texts from god?

      February 17, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Archaeology has proven Abraham and Moses were mythical. So there's that. Paul of Tarsus had a hallucination. So there's that. All "religious experiences" exist ONLY in the brains of *believers*. These experiences can b tracked on PET scans, and MRI's. There is a completely physical/chemical explanation for this "glory stuff", believerfred.

      Amazing the utter ignorant stupidity that religion can sanction as "the kingdom" of their deity.

      February 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.