I just read this article Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous: Scientific American and, while I agree with his general point I think he glosses over the story of Margaret McBride and it's implications.
I had actually heard this story recently, while driving home, on NPR. Sister Margaret McBride was an administrator at a Catholic church in Phoenix AZ. I say she was because, after a recent decision she made she lost her position and was excommunicated from the church.
I imagine to most catholics that sounds like a pretty harsh punishment. So you might be wondering what heinous thing she did to warrant such severity. She favored the mother's life over that of an 11 week old fetus and authorized an abortion.
Let me be clear here that it wasn't a decision she entered into lightly. The mother, a 27 year old who already had four children, was suffering from severe complications of pulmonary hypertension that were putting both her, and the fetus's, future at serious risk.
The youngest surviving premature fetuses ever was 21 weeks and six days old. Significantly older than the age of the fetus in the Sister Margaret scenario. Thus, had the good sister denied the abortion that was determined to be essential for the mother to survive neither the mother nor the fetus would have survived. Yet, the catholic church still punished this woman who had devoted her life to the church with excommunication for saving the mothers life at the expense of the fetus that was already on death row.
I understand that the church has huge problems with abortion and, in general, I can understand their position, but condemning the mother to death in order to save an unsavable fetus is a barbaric act of cruelty.
I feel just as strongly when someone denies their child or spouse medical attention when it is necessary because their religious beliefs hold that "faith healing" is the only option. It is a dangerous and irresponsible way to handle the health of another human being.
I think Lawrence Krauss (author of the initially linked article) does a fine job of focusing on the insidious ways that religious beliefs can be dangerous to society - however, I think it is just as import to focus on how they can also be dangerous to individuals.
This isn't to say that I have a problem with faith or religion in general - I don't. However, I do feel that it is important to call out and question ideas that are inherently dangerous to both their adherents and those who are affected by them.