Anti-vaccination—old religion writ new

I’m rather angry.

Strike that.

I’m furious. Indescribably outraged. Disgusted.

The rise of the antivaccination cults is finally affecting public health. If you want details, go and read Orac, or Steve Novella, or some of my other writing. I’m too angry to deal with details today.

Infectious diseases have stalked us across the millennia. Centuries of advances, from sewerage to inoculation to vaccination have saved billions of people from death and disability due to infectious agents. Having a child used to mean joy tempered with fear—fear that one of the “men of death” would come for your child, leaving them scarred, paralyzed, deaf, mentally disabled, or dead.

We’ve been largely liberated from these fears. We are now free to fear obesity. We are free to worry about good schools, the environment, poverty. Infectious diseases aren’t the scourge they once were. Who would wish it otherwise?

There is a cult of infectious disease supporters out there, and they are winning. Before the days of vaccination, we could let ourselves believe that childhood diseases were acts of God, to be accepted as part of a normal life. Perhaps they were even deserved. Disease and death became integral to religious beliefs about sin and its wages.

The language has changed, but the message is the same. Infectious disease prevention is to be feared. It is against the natural order of things. Instead of “vaccines are against God’s will”, it’s now “vaccines are against Nature’s will.” They’re “unnatural”, not “green”. In the old vernacular, interfering with God’s will could lead to “bad things”, like flood, famine, or other divine punishment. In the new language, it leads to “autism”.

It’s the same old song. Anti-vaccination is simply a cult, with cult beliefs that stretch back thousands of years and are tied to a fear of interfering with the “natural order of things”.

If it were just a matter of these cultists endangering their own health it would be a moderate outrage. But their cult of infectious disease promotion is spreading disease. And their leaders are dangerous. In fact, they are more dangerous than a madman with a gun.

The health care community needs to speak up, but more importantly, politicians, preachers, and other leaders need to call these folks out, and show them for what they are…a bizarre, fringe religion who’s goal is the spread of infectious disease. The voices of the cultists must be drowned out by the voices of the rational. Perhaps then we can reverse the damage they have done to public health.