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QUESTION How the Photographer of a Snake-Handling Pastor Handled the Bite That Killed Him – Friendly Atheist

Pastor Mack Wolford was a legendary figure in the Pentecostal snake-handling community, but that didn’t stop his rattlesnake — called Old Yeller – from killing him during a church service and photoshoot.
Photographer Lauren Pond, who also happened to be a friend of Wolford, was taking photos of his sermon when he was bitten. He denied treatment until it was too late, because his religion opposes legitimate medical intervention.
All of this occurred several years ago, but the story recently gained traction in the media again because the photographer released a book called Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation.
Lauren Pond began photographing Wolford and his congregation in 2011, overcoming her own fear as she shot rattlesnakes and copperheads being coiled around the arms and necks of worshippers as they reaffirmed their faith in the divine. On 23 May the following year, just before his 44th birthday, Wolford posted this message to his followers on Facebook: “Praise the lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother.”

RELIGION : We Are Fighting For A Cure ! ! ! ! !

By Dougy7
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LOL! Yeah,seems dumb to me.

If people choose to risk their lives or even kill themselves, that's their business, but coercion of other church members to endanger themselves, and their children, should have legal consequences.

But nobody from those churches is likely to sue their leaders, or press charges.


The concept of consent includes the idea that the person in question understands the consequences of their course of action. Did Pastor Wolford's beliefs, and his family's beliefs, interfere with that understanding? Can you truly give consent if you believe a non-existent entity will save your life?

Not only is there Freedom of Religion , but the Inviolability one's right to their own anatomy . It's their body , if you want mutual respect , you have to let them do what they want . Otherwise , they can dictate what you can & cannot do with yours . This opens up a can of worms that contains , Abortion Rights , Euthanasia . . . (it can get ugly) smile003.gif

HI Douglas, I am certainly not advocating limiting Wolford's choices, just asking a thought experiment. But as far as inviolability, as a society we do set limits on what people can do with and to their bodies, it is against the law to commit suicide in California, certain medications are off limits, etc.


Whatever floats your boat!!


Would anyone consider this a suicide?

No . Reckless Endangerment , Mayhem , I would definitely say yes .


Such a shame. It's a complete waste of human life. Awful for the man's family and friends that he should die at all, worse that he should die of his own volition when it could have been avoided, prevented, or cured through (perhaps not simple but readily-available) scientific medicine.

The people who ought to understand the real message -- GOD WON'T SAVE YOU FROM POISONOUS SNAKES -- will instead do intellectual backflips to reconcile the painful evidence of their own direct experience with the obviously false braggadocio of an ancient book whose reference to poisonous snakes was no doubt selected in part because it rhymed in the vernacular. They'll console themselves that his fictitious soul is in a fictitious heaven in proximity to a fictitious God.

It's testament to the astonishing power of religious delusion and a demonstration of how otherwise good and/or intelligent people (let's give him the benefit of the doubt) can be made to do evil or foolish things.

Not to mention, snake handling is probably cruel to the snake, which ought to be set free to live its life as a predator hunting wild animals and thinning out the population of wild mice and rats and such.


If only more of these people would handle poisonous snakes.


I prayed to god to take my pain away and he told me he was a total bunch of BS . So now I have no pain since he is not real.

EMC2 Level 8 Jan 28, 2018

Eccentric ways to clean the evil out of you. Religion allows self beating in repentance , it allows genital mutilation, it allows denying science and all other sorts of stupidity, But to win the most stupid prize playing with vipers is truly award winning.

EMC2 Level 8 Jan 28, 2018

Another one bites the dust... but there will be others to take his place.

whoHearer Level 5 Jan 28, 2018

i agree with her action. he would have refused treatment even if paramedics came and was competent to do so

btroje Level 9 Jan 28, 2018

this is stupid, just plain stupid.

Lots of religious crap is.


If there really was a Gawd, he/she/it would cause those snakes to go into a biting frenzy every single time they were being abused like this!


Four days later, Pond followed him deep into the Appalachian hills. She shot several frames at an outdoor service as Wolford held, and then walked on, a timber rattlesnake called Old Yeller he had owned for several years. “Gone was the benevolent energy I had felt the previous year,” Pond later wrote, “and in its place an odd sense of urgency.”

As she shot, “suddenly an eerie stillness fell over the picnic site”. The cause quickly became clear: Wolford had been bitten. Eight hours later, he died, his family and followers having respected his steadfast refusal to send for medical treatment until it was too late — so strong was their belief that his fate was solely in God’s hands. smile010.gif

Dougy Level 7 Jan 27, 2018
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