Living with a Corpse for Religious Beliefs

Posted: May 10, 2008 in Atheism, Crime, News, Religion
Tags: , , , ,

Some people have been put on record on saying such things as even moderate religious beliefs are dangerous.  Not only because they provide a foundation and support for more radical (and insane) beliefs but also that they provide a mechanism so the gullible and uneducated can be so easily led astray from simple common sense.  This story really does have to be read to be believed simply because it contains so much stupidity.

Kids, mom lived with 90-year-old’s corpse for weeks in Wis.

Two children and their mother lived for about two months with the decaying body of a 90-year-old woman on the toilet of their home’s only bathroom, on the advice of a religious “superior” who claimed the corpse would come back to life, authorities said Friday.

The children — a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy — cried hysterically Wednesday after a deputy who came to their Necedah home looking for Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth ordered them out because of the stench from her body.

The children were in foster care Friday. Their mother, Tammy Lewis, and self-described “bishop” Alan Bushey remained in custody on felony counts of being a party to causing mental harm to a child.

“It’s a sad case, and we’ll continue to investigate it and try to ascertain just what occurred up there,” Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson said. He said he had no further information on Bushey’s religious affiliation.

According to the criminal complaint, Middlesworth’s sister called sheriff’s officials Wednesday and asked them to go to the home about 80 miles north of Madison to check on the woman, who had not been heard from for some time.

When Deputy Leigh Neville-Neil arrived at the house, she encountered Lewis, also known as Sister Mary Bernadett, the complaint said. Lewis, 35, initially refused to allow the deputy to check on Middlesworth, telling her that Middlesworth was on vacation and saying she had to check with her “superior” first.

But she eventually let the deputy in. The house smelled of incense and burned wood, and had religious materials everywhere and hymns playing on the stereo, according to the complaint.

When the deputy opened the last closed door, she smelled “decaying matter” and noticed something piled on what appeared to be a toilet. Lewis told her it was Middlesworth’s body, the complaint said.

Lewis told the deputy that Middlesworth had died about two months earlier, but that God told her Middlesworth would come to life if she prayed hard enough.

She said she couldn’t say anything more until she spoke with her “superior” — Bushey, 57, also known as Bishop John Peter Bushey.

When Bushey (pronounced “boo-SHAY”) arrived, Lewis told the deputy that Middlesworth had appeared to pass out as Lewis helped her into her underwear.

She said she propped Middlesworth on the toilet and left the room to call Bushey, who told her to leave the woman alone and pray for her, the complaint said. He said he had received signs that God would raise her from the dead with a miracle.

Lewis went on to say she thought Middlesworth was still breathing when she put her on the toilet and called Bushey, instead of an ambulance. She later told a detective she put the woman on the toilet on March 4.

An autopsy has been performed, but results won’t be available for some time, Oleson said.

“At this time we don’t know what the cause of death was,” he said. “Quite frankly, it might have been natural causes.”

He described the one-story home in the town of Necedah as in decent repair, although the residents had been using “makeshift” toilet facilities because of the situation in the one bathroom.

The boy at the house told a detective he had considered running away because he was uncomfortable with the situation. He said Bushey told him that demons were trying to make it look as if Middlesworth wouldn’t come back to life, and that if she were to be discovered he and the girl would have to go to public school and get jobs because Middlesworth paid the bills.

The boy referred to Middlesworth as “grandmother,” the complaint said.

Oleson said Middlesworth was unrelated to Bushey.

“She believed in the same faith as self-proclaimed Bishop Bushey, and that was the connection there,” he said.

Oleson said that Middlesworth and Lewis lived at the residence with the children since fall of 2004, and that Bushey lived elsewhere.

Bushey and Lewis are scheduled to make an initial court appearance May 19. Aside from the felony counts, Lewis also was charged with obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor.

The sheriff said cash bond was set Friday at $50,000 each, but Lewis was allowed to post 10 percent for her release.

Computerized state court records had no attorney listed for either suspect on Friday.

Seriously … what the feck?

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Comments
  1. kingtuesday says:

    That is by far one of the strangest things I’ve read in a long time.

  2. J. R. Miller says:

    agreed… but I have seen similar stuff (but not that often).

  3. Jens says:

    Lewis went on to say she thought Middlesworth was still breathing when she put her on the toilet and called Bushey, instead of an ambulance.

    Does this remind you of any other stories from Wisconsin lately?

    http://tinyurl.com/5t4rw7

    I’ve been following this story since I read the post on Pharyngula and just put up a post about it earlier today but this is the first time I had heard that the woman was possibly still alive when they left her in the bathroom. How sick.

  4. 100goalsin1000days says:

    Wow. I live in Wisconsin and I find this story disturbing on a number of different levels. This is not ‘typical’ behavior for the majority of citizen who live here, regardless of their faith, belief, or creed (or lack thereof).

  5. mclassen says:

    This whole thing goes beyond me. I really have a hard time comprehending this on any level. I’m endlessly amazed at how people are taken in by religious wackos. I also included this on my blog, Midnight Ramblings because it baffled me so. Where does gullibility like this come from?

  6. WriterWriter says:

    That “gullibility’ comes from any contact with any religion that tells little children that horses fly and regular guys who die come back in three days and then float off into the sky or that people can turn into towers of salt or that some dude can walk off into the ocean and walk on water or that there’s some old white dude that lives in the sky and directs the daily activities of what? 7 Billion people? and who is so masochistic that he changes the rules all the time and lets other old white guys change the rules too and who….

    Ahhhh forget it. If rational people can believe that crap, it’s no surprise that desperate, sad, illogical people will also.

  7. J. R. Miller says:

    Uh huh.. and so does that make all Atheists killers like Matthew Murray who said…

    “You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray reportedly wrote on a website for people who have left Pentecostal and fundamentalist religious organizations, shortly before the second of his two attacks.
    “I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. … God, I can’t wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or die in the shoot-out.
    “All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/12/2116199.htm

    Should I judge you and your atheist faith based on this guys words?

  8. Matt says:

    Not at all.
    Mainly since he did those acts, as the evidence indicates, because he was so very deeply mentally scarred; not according to any doctrine of Atheism (not that Atheism has any doctrine or dogma).

    Your logic here is about as bad as trying to blame Stalin’s actions on Atheism.

  9. Peg says:

    The point is both cases involve madmen. Insanity can be found in any group of people and it’s hardly fair to judge an entire group based on the actions of one deranged person. To do so is prejudice, plain and simple.

  10. Matt says:

    I don’t see anyone blaming members of a group for the above actions. I see (myself) noting that religion is often used as a mechanism for such acts, there is a definite difference.

  11. Matt, your case is tenuous at best, and more likely it is absurd. While it is convenient for you that religion was involved, it is obvious that it was not the root cause of this event. These people were not mentally normal, religious or not.

    You said you were not blaming members of a group, and yet you clearly are labelling anyone with a religious faith as at best, irrational, uneducated, stupid, and guillible, and at worst, criminally insane. I’m sorry, but trying to appear like an even handed, objective, rationalist will not work at this point. You apparently have a very low tolerance for anyone who is not an atheist and who does not share your personal beliefs and faith system. Rationality has little, if anything, to do with this.

  12. Matt says:

    You misunderstand my point of view, just like Peg. I have not argued (in this case, at least) that religion was to blame for it. I argued that it was a mechanism USED so this incident happened.

  13. I think your point of view is rather obvious. That aside, does the abuse of something makes it bad? Drunk drivers kill people in cars; does that mean cars are bad and we should stop driving them? Of course not. Again, this was a weak attempt to vilify religion.

  14. Matt says:

    That’s a case of comparing apples and oranges. You can not compare a purely physical act (driving) with a belief system that (more or less) controls many aspects of someone’s life, even when that belief directly contradicts common sense and scientific fact.

    Your analogy also fails by trying to specify the blame to cars, when the fault would lay with the drunk driver in question. For the analogy to work, I would have to be blaming all religion for this incident, when I have not. Indeed, all I have argued is that it was used as a mechanism against rather stupid and gullible people.

  15. You are contradicting your self. You said that religion was not to blame, and yet you have said that it “controls many aspects of someones life.” This implies that religion was the cause of this incident. Your title also implies this, as it essentially says “Religion made these people live with a dead corpse.”

    My analogy works just fine, considering you have just said that religion is not to blame for this, it is just a mechanism. Religion = vehicle/mechanism. Drunk driver = criminally insane people. Both people are abusing instruments. All I’m saying is, if you want to attack religion, do so in a more rational, and les ad hominem/guilt by association, fashion.

    On another note, I have been glancing through your blog and you seem to be quite an atheist apologist. Would you be interested in a debate? I promise not to bring any of the arguments you address on your “argument responses” page 🙂

  16. Matt says:

    You are contradicting your self. You said that religion was not to blame, and yet you have said that it “controls many aspects of someones life.”

    That’s a link (and assumption) you’re making, not me. Religion does control many aspect of peoples lives, to various extents depending on their specific faith/denomination and how fundamentalist they are about it. In this particular case, faith seems to have played a rather major role in the participants lives which led (and thus acted as a mechanism) to the events outlined in the article. Is religion as a general concept to blame for the incident? No, of course not. Is the gullibility of the participants and their insane levels of faith to blame? Yes, obviously. As I stated, their religious beliefs was used as a mechanism but is not the root cause.

    Your title also implies this, as it essentially says “Religion made these people live with a dead corpse.”

    They did it as part of their religious beliefs, since they believed that praying hard enough would bring the woman back to life. The mistake you’re making here is taking a headline rather literally, which is never wise, instead of examining the actual context of what is written in an entry.

    Religion = vehicle/mechanism. Drunk driver = criminally insane people. Both people are abusing instruments.

    Again, it’s a false analogy since one controls many aspects of a persons life while another is a purely physical act. To phrase it another way, one’s worldview can shaped by the belief in a supernatural creator being but it can’t be shaped by driving a car.

    Would you be interested in a debate?

    Debates on the internet are, quite bluntly, dull and achieve little to nothing. That being said … if you wish to ask some genuine questions to better understand the rational reasoning being Atheism, go for it.

  17. Debates on the internet are, quite bluntly, dull and achieve little to nothing. That being said … if you wish to ask some genuine questions to better understand the rational reasoning being Atheism, go for it.

    To some extent, I agree. Most of the debates I have participated in have gone nowhere. But if you are not open to defending your beliefs, then why post provocative articles on your blog? If the term debate sounds to formal, we could call it more of a discussion. You asking me questions about what I believe, I asking you questions, and both of us giving a calm, reasoned, well thought out response to these questions. If we can’t answer it, we would just say so.

    I suggest an organized series of blog entries on our respective blogs that would begin with each of us presenting our cases in a post or series of posts. After the introductory posts, we could begin to present and respond to eachothers arguments and questions. Comments would be disabled, as it would be to easy for 3rd parties to chime in and distract with extraneous arguements and comments. I would want it to be very focused.

    My goal in engaging in this discussion would not be to persuade you. I don’t think that is possible as you have very much made up your mind what you believe, regardless of proofs. The point would be to present to the public why we believe what believe, and to allow each other to respond fairly and equally. If nothing else is accomplished, it would show that we are truly open to discussion, and not simply in making each other look bad. What say you?

  18. Matt says:

    But if you are not open to defending your beliefs, then why post provocative articles on your blog?

    You’re making assumptions again. I am all for defending what I hold to be true but I have little interest (or, more importantly, time) in going through the rather droll steps of a blog based debate. If I wished to go through such things, I would go join alt.groups.religionvsatheism or somesuch.

    Again, if you wish to ask any questions … feel absolutely free and I’ll do my best to answer them.

  19. S Keita says:

    Atheism is great. Just look at how free people are in communist countries. Especially in N. Korea.
    & we’ll see more of the freedom of atheism in China in the run-up to the Olympics.

    I suppose earthquakes are a good thing. They help survival of the fittest. (Which, of course, means anything but what it says.)

  20. J. R. Miller says:

    Matt, thanks for making yourself more clear. While I do agree, to some extent, that religion is used to manipulate people, I think you are confusing religion with Faith in Jesus (most people do). Faith in the Grace of Jesus does not lead to such actions as you cite in your story.

    But religion, or anti-religion like the story I cite, do lead to destruction. It goes beyond the scope of this post, but science plays no role in proving or disproving the historicity of Jesus or any miracle, but that is an unfortunate byproduct of your public education which has distorted the purpose of science.

    I know we cannot solve that issue here, but I will read along at your blog if you read along with mine and maybe in time we can come to some better understanding.

  21. AV says:

    Atheism is great. Just look at how free people are in communist countries.

    Moustaches are great. Just look at how free people were in Stalinist Russia, Czarist Russia prior to the Revolution, and Nazi Germany, all ruled by men with moustaches.

  22. AV says:

    I think you are confusing religion with Faith in Jesus (most people do).

    I think you are trading too heavily on the ambivalence of the term “religion,” which is predominantly used interchangeably with the term “faith” (i.e. faith in a supernatural and divine being or beings). You obviously have a different sense of the word “religion” in mind, and if so, you should spell it out , but you have no grounds to accuse anyone of “confusing” religion with faith, if the two terms are generally regarded as having the same meaning.

    Faith in the Grace of Jesus does not lead to such actions as you cite in your story.

    This is heading into No True Scotsman territory, since there is no evidence yet that Bushey and Lewis did not also have “faith in the grace of Jesus,” even if they do not share your understanding of the concept. As a non-Christian, I’m not going to pass judgement on which of you is correct, but neither do I see any reason to take your word over theirs. Obviously having “faith in the Grace of Jesus” does not prescribe the actions Bushey and Lewis took–otherwise there would be a lot more dead grandmothers rotting on toilets–but it doesn’t preclude them either.

  23. J. R. Miller says:

    AV, a couple points to help you out.

    First, I have plenty of grounds to make the assertion. The validity of my point is not rooted in what you know or don’t know. Your ignorance of the grounds undergirding my point does not invalidate their existence or invalidate my usage. What is “common” usage to you , is not to others.

    Second, I present my view on the topic for consideration. If folks are interested in further discussion, then that is good. But just like your post is full of unsupported assertions, obviously neither of us can present a full fledged argument with documented reasons on a blog response of 500 words or less.

    Finally, since you do not know Jesus, nor have a personal experience of his grace, your opinion about the implications of grace has no reliable context. If you were smart, you would ask questions from me; a person who has a deep understands the concept instead of simply saying, “your opinion does not count.”

    I wont steal time here to outline my definition or religion and Grace, but if you have a genuine interest in understanding, please free to interact on my blog where I us the term and make the distinction quite clear. You are also free to listen to my talks through the entire book of Luke where I discuss frequently Jesus’ view of religion.

  24. Matt says:

    My impressions from that last comment is that you’re trying to move the proverbial goalposts by using your personal definitions of ‘religion’ and ‘faith’ as opposed to the definitions used by wider society.

    I also object to your line of argument stemming from the ‘since you do not know jesus…’ line. If one did have a ‘personal experience of his grace’ that would probably mean that they would be rather accepting of that particular faith by default – and thus not be in a disagreeing viewpoint to begin with.

    It seems akin to a follower of Zeus claiming that unless you’re a follower of Zeus (and thus know Zeus as only a follower can know him) then you have no right to disagree with the concept of Zeus. Which, of course, is logically absurd.

  25. AV says:

    Finally, since you do not know Jesus, nor have a personal experience of his grace, your opinion about the implications of grace has no reliable context. If you were smart, you would ask questions from me; a person who has a deep understands the concept instead of simply saying, “your opinion does not count.”

    Strawman. I didn’t say that your opinions don’t count. All I said is that you haven’t provided sufficient reasons (or any reasons, actually) for me on anyone else to accept your views on who counts and doesn’t count as a True Christian (TM) as authoritative.

    On the other hand, I am fully prepared to acknowledge that the vast majority of Christians are sane enough not to regard what Bushey and Lewis did as acceptable behaviour.

    Whether or not these people are “True Christians (TM)” is beside the point. The problem with this case is the idea that faith trumps reason, that ignorance trumps knowledge and that unquestioning obedience trumps skepticism. Bushey and Lewis exploited these notions to convince the children in the house that grandma wasn’t really dead, that fetid, decomposing carcass on the toliet seat was just Satan trying to make the kids believe she was dead, and if grandma only prayed harder, God would restore her to life.

  26. Do believe logic is universal?

  27. I meant to say, do you all believe logic is universal?

  28. Matt says:

    That depends on the given value of ‘universal’ and if you’re assuming the supernatural exists or not. It does seem to be rather a vague and open question.

    If you’re asking can logic be applied to the observable universe … then yes. Do we completely understand the observable universe? No, there are still quite a few things being worked out and looked for but all indications are so far that logic can be applied to examine all conceived aspects of reality as we know it.

    If you’re asking if everything in the Universe is logical, then the answer would be no. You just have to look at human reactions and a lot of human beliefs for that one.

    I’m now left wondering what the point you were trying to make with that question was, if you were trying to make one at all. It doesn’t, somehow, seem to ring of genuine enquiry but instead trying to lead somewhere.

  29. AV says:

    I agree: it’s a very vague question.

    If you are asking whether logic can generate new truths about the universe, then the answer is no. Conclusions in logical arguments are only as true as the premises. (In other words, garbage in, garbage out.) And that’s all good logical arguments are, really: arguments which preserve consistent relationships between the statements of which they are composed. Logic serves our purposes (it works, bitches!), and that’s all that matters (AFAIC).

    Regarding “truth,” a distinction needs to be drawn between absolute truths and proximate (or tentative) truths. There are no absolute truths other than those which are true by definition (i.e. we have defined them to be true) e.g. “2 + 2 = 4”, “All bachelors are unmarried,” “There are no square circles,” etc. To put this another way, if there were absolute truths apart from the kind just mentioned, there is no way of proving them to be true. Scientific facts and theories about the universe are tentatively true, given that they are based on evidence gathered using methods and equipments which may not be perfect, and they may be altered or overturned upon the discovery of new evidence. And logic and mathematics help scientists to systematise this tentatively-true knowledge in consistent and useful ways.

    Further reading: “Uses and Misuses of Logic“, Donald E. Simanek

    It doesn’t, somehow, seem to ring of genuine enquiry but instead trying to lead somewhere.

    I can probably save us all a great deal of time by hazarding a guess as to where it leads. It starts with a “G” and ends with a “d.” 😉

  30. AV says:

    I might add that religionists and ideologues of all stripes will tell you that their dogmas are the “absolute truths” we are looking for. They can tell you this until they are blue in the face, but until they can prove it to you, you are under no obligation to accept their assertions. (Indeed, you shouldn’t.)

  31. J. R. Miller says:

    AV, I do see where part of your confusion lies. I did not say the folks in the story were not “true Christians” as you put it. They may well be saved, and I cannot judge that. What I said was that their actions did not fit with the grace of Jesus Christ.

  32. AV says:

    What I said was that their actions did not fit with the grace of Jesus Christ.

    Nor, for that matter, do their actions fit in with common sense or decency.

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