I recall I was ten years old when I saw my first King Cobra - came within five feet of it, in fact - at the Miami Serpentarium, in March, 1956. The 11 -foot long lethal reptile had been brought out of the 'snake house' to be "milked" by snake expert Bill Haast. As Haast managed to first snare the snake out of a bag, then gently place its fangs to pierce a rubber covering on a glass, my brothers and I watched transfixed. There, before us, as the snake bit wildly, venom seeped into the glass container. This would then be dispatched to labs where antivenin serum would be prepared.
When my middle brother Jerry asked Haast how many times he'd been bitten, he answered "At least twenty". But that was part of the risk of the job when one sought to handle such snakes in order to procure venom.
Less understandable is why some ordinary mortal would deliberately choose to handle a poisonous snake based on some quote in the Bible. (Mark 16: 17-18). By now virtually everyone not inhabiting a cave knows the sad story of one Jamie Coots, a third-generation snake-handling Pentecostal preacher. Coots, one of the stars of “Snake Handlers,” a reality show on the National Geographic Channel, handled his last snake Saturday night after being bitten by one of his serpents. He died after refusing medical treatment, expecting that as in the Mark verse, the 'Lawd' would save him if he was righteous.
According to Christianity Today, “Emergency workers tried to convince the minister's family to let them take him to the hospital, but his wife and son refused.”
According to son Cody Coots:
"He always said, 'Don't take me to the doctor. It was totally against his religion."But what kind of religion preaches nonsense? Well, sadly, 99% of them do. They make insane claims that violate common sense, reason and logic - then wonder in the aftermath how so much harm could have manifest. Much of this hinges on whacked out beliefs, that aren't supported by any kind of science.
For the Materialist, this registers as insane. As much so (ok, not quite) as believing no energy is needed to support end of life perceptions. In this case, that a poisonous reptile can be 'charmed' and handled by one's belief if it is just strong enough. Don't laugh though! There are actually people who believe Noah was swallowed by a whale and lived 3 days in a vat of hydrochloric acid before walking out. But hey, at least believers don't try to emulate that!
Coots who was 41, was a pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky. He had been bitten nine times over a period of 22 years and he claimed to have recovered each time through prayer. Of course, this also is irrational nutso jabber. He recovered likely because the bites weren't lethal enough - and maybe he had some first aid handy or at least a venom suction kit. There's also the element of luck. But no Materialist will accept or believe he just magically recovered because of prayer! That's like believing prayer can heal people in hospitals - a trope long since exposed as bunkum.
Last year he told NPR that "I feel in my heart, because God opened it up to me, if I stopped taking up serpents I would die and go to hell. It is in the Bible, and we tell people because it's in the Bible you must believe it."
This also is the babble of a guy as hooked on his brand of balderdash as Pastor Mike used to be on his. Recall ol' Mikey had condemned my niece - then with breast cancer - to "Hell" because she chose to find solace and comfort in the spirituality of Eckanckar instead of being "saved by Jesus".
Just like Coots, Pastor Mike also used to yelp : "It's in the Bible!" Well, there's a lot of bullshit in the Bible - in fact I estimate 90 percent is BS, so are you going to follow or believe ALL of it? Well, only if you're nuts or deluded. One need only peruse Leviticus, Chapter 20, to see how an insane believer might justify a host of atrocities simply because "God said to do it! It's in the Bible!"
Consider just verse 8:
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. "
And dutifully following this, a 78-year old grandma in Colorado some ten years back dragged her 8 year old grandson into a hot boiling tub because he had cursed her. Fortunately, the kid's mother arrived in time to stop the final act, though she did assist in holding the boy down at least until he got a good scald to 'teach him Bible law'!
Other choice Leviticus passages:
(10) "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."
(12)"And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them."
(13)"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them"
The last, especially taken literally, would give any fundie nutwhack a putative basis for going out and slaying homosexuals. "Hey man, the Bible God said to do it!"
Again, clearly, the Bible - KJV or any other, can't be taken literally. Further, the fact that fundies don't carry out these injunctions shows they don't take the verses literally. If they did take their bibles literally, they'd be out on the streets every night executing homosexuals. So this begs the question of why some small sect or cult would engage in snake handling. I surmise it's to set them apart from other fundies, and also because they have little or no insight into the science of reptile behavior - and why a snake like a rattler can't be induced to take God or human belief seriously. It has only a rudimentary consciousness, after all.
The other aspect is the media also plays a role, NAT Geo providing a stage for this bollocks - merely to get 'eyeballs' - just like A&E did with its Duck Dynasty farce. See e.g.
The National Geographic Channel promoted the show by describing it thusly:
“In the hills of Appalachia, Pentecostal pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin struggle to keep an over-100-year-old tradition alive: the practice of handling deadly snakes in church. Jamie and Andrew believe in a bible passage that suggests a poisonous snakebite will not harm them as long as they are anointed by God’s power. If they don’t practice the ritual of snake handling, they believe they are destined for hell. Hunting the surrounding mountains for deadly serpents and maintaining their church’s snake collection is a way of life for both men. The pastors must frequently battle the law, a disapproving society, and even at times their own families to keep their way of life alive.”
Keep their "way of LIFE" alive? How about keep their insanity alive? Keeping a collection of rattlers and other poisonous snakes? The whole blurb reeks with conferring gravitas on guys that ought to be confined to an institution with ECT administered thrice daily along with thorazine.
Meanwhile, Christianity Today reported that: “Snake handling has seen a small-scale resurgence among young Pentecostals in Appalachia, spawning a reality show and a religious freedom case. The New York Times even noted how Hamblin and his supporters hoped to become a ‘new front in the battle for religious liberty.’
Ah yes, once more appeal to the bogus meme of "religious liberty". Like the Catholic FOCUS kids - just as deluded - appealed to have birth control stripped from the Affordable Care Act - why else? To preserve their "religious liberty". How about protecting the rest of us, the sane people, from religious bollocks!
To me, as a long time lover of reptiles (having kept assorted snakes, iguanas, gator, and Anoles, Racerunners, Skinks) one of the other appalling aspects is how the animals have been abused by these bible -beating fools. In mid-November of last year, the New York Daily News reported that Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency seized 53 venomous snakes and noted: “Some were old and sick. Others were young, as tiny as 4 inches and easily capable of slithering out of their containers and into the pews. Some snakes that the officials found were already dead."
So not only do these numb skulls think they're protected by God from snake bites, but they also have no clue how to care for the snakes in their possession. When they therefore yap and yelp about "religious liberty" they are really demanding the right to do with the snakes as they damned well please. And the nonsense that the seizures were “unconstitutional” doesn't even pass the most basic laugh test. There's not a damn word in the Constitution about any right to keep snakes in horrific conditions, for the purpose of entertaining human idiots. And don't even try to put this crock of crap under the "religious liberty" mantle!
In a statement Sunday, National Geographic TV said:
”In following Pastor Coots for our series ‘Snake Salvation,’ we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Let's hope if the NAT Geo bunch is serious, as they also purported to be about a "lost bullet" in the JFK assassination, they will cease and desist from actively promoting and participating in this side show nonsense - which is what it is. As for the snake-handling congregations, they need to find other avenues to express their devotion and sincerity of belief.
Say like setting up a food kitchen for hungry fellow citizens, or helping the poor in general. Make your religion a vehicle for expressing the most sincere elements of your Book - like taking seriously:
"Whatever you do for these, the least of my brethren, that you do unto me".
As opposed to turning your beliefs into a Carnival side show.