In an apparent showdown between faith and science, we’re seeing more measles this year than in the past 17. Why? Mainly because some people refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children, holding faith in religious dogma over proven medicine.

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 159 measles cases in the United States since January 1, 2013 — exactly 13 years after the measles virus was supposed to be eradicated in the country.

Why? In the majority of cases, the sick patients were unvaccinated; and in most of those incidents, patients had refused vaccination for this highly infectious illness due to religion or ideology.

One of the most recent outbreaks can be traced to a megachurch in Texas called the Eagle Mountain International Church. Parishioners have reported 21 cases after being exposed by a man who had contracted the disease in Indonesia. Because of the congregation’s low vaccination rate, the measles spread like wildfire.

Despite offering on-premise vaccinations after the outbreak, church leaders put more stock into their faith than in medicine. Founder and televangelist Keith Copeland told NPR, “You don’t take the word of the guy that’s trying to give the shot about what’s good and what isn’t.”

Lead pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons, Kenneth’s daughter, echoed the anti-science sentiment, saying, “So I’m going to tell you what the facts are, and the facts are the facts, but then we know the truth. That always overcomes facts.”

Here are the facts: Nearly 40 percent of kids under 5 who get the measles will need hospitalization, and one-to-three of every thousand children (of any age) will die. I wouldn’t put my money on Jesus coming back to save those poor kids.

You may say, “fine, if their belief tells them not to vaccinate, let them suffer the consequences.” But the parents, not the child victims, made that decision, giving yet more credence to Richard Dawkin’s belief that inflicting religion onto youth is child abuse. And their decision not only imperils their own kids, but endangers any other people who, for whatever reason, could not access a vaccine.

So here we have a measles outbreak that never should have happened, and another strike against following blind faith instead of looking at the reality of the world. I wish the best for the sick, and hope that this example spurs people of all creeds to protect their health with the best tools they have — leaving religion out of the picture.

Image by: VCU CNS