The earlier blog posting (here) regarding the faith healing cult that refuses all medical care for their children prompts me to now step back and think about the entire faith healing concept. Of all the possible spiritual gifts that religious folks claim, this one is perhaps the best hope for yielding solid proof that a spiritual realm really exists outside our current understanding of reality. Many of those who attend healing crusades have officially diagnosed illnesses, so all that is needed is a quick trip back to the doctor to verify that the illness has now vanished. If looking for solid proof, don’t just go for something vague such as back pain. Instead look for something dramatic and very easily verified such as a blind man who can now see, or somebody who turned up in a wheelchair and then walked out.
How many claims of cures do we have? We have countless numbers. At each of the big crusades there is always a huge queue of people ready to testify that God has worked a miracle for them, so it should be easy to cherry pick the best of the best, the top one or two most dramatic, and verify the facts.
Many have done exactly that, so in that context how many truly measurable, credible and fully verified cases can we point to? The answer is simple … none. In all of human history there has never been one single credible and fully verified miracle cure. This is a very important fact to grasp, so let me repeat it. After all the investigations and scrutiny of the numerous claims, not one single credible and fully verified healing by God or any other non-existent deity has ever been successfully identified.
So what on earth is going on if it is not real?
Holding a healing meeting is not only a great crowd puller, it is also a terrific show. I’ve sat in many and been totally convinced that God was moving amongst us (Yes I was indeed that crazy once). Looking back on it now with a more critical frame of mind, I realise that nothing actually happened; it was all smoke and mirrors. I’m not suggesting deliberate fraud, though there is indeed some of that about, but rather self-deception, we are all so easily fooled by ourselves when we want it to all be real.
There are amazing claims. How can somebody who is blind suddenly see? How can somebody in a wheelchair get up and walk? It all works on the audience making an assumption. If somebody is led into the meeting and has a white cane you naturally assume total blindness. Many blind people can often see a little, just not very well. A lot of wheelchair bound folks often do have limited mobility. So when the wheelchair user stands up and takes a few faltering steps, the crowd goes wild, not realising that nothing has actually happened. In a similar manner when the blind man can point people out it looks real, but once again it is just the limited vision that he always had. They specialised in this at the infamous Popoff crusades by cherry picking people who could see a little or had some limited mobility.
Time and time again when the famous evangelists, who claim thousands of healings at their huge crusades, are themselves asked to pick their best examples of miracles, they are unable to come up with a single credible case.
One of the most common forms of healing I often saw myself were described as “Inner healings”. That translates into “Nothing happened, except I’ve had a bit of attention and so now I feel a lot better”.
It might be very tempting to dismiss this as a bit of a harmless show, but it has a far more sinister and lethal side to it. Not only does it falsely set expectations and take advantage of people at a crises point, but sometimes tips them over into a lethal delusion. There are numerous cases of individuals who are convinced that they had been cured, and to prove their faith stop vital medication or treatment, often with fatal consequences.
A lady called Audrey Reynolds stopped taking medication for epilepsy after she believed herself to have been healed during a Morris Cerullo rally in the UK. She subsequently died following a seizure in her bath.
What about famous Catholic shrines such as Lourdes, don’t they have real documented proof of miracles? No they don’t, they might lead you to believe they do, and that keeps the crowds coming. It is a very profitable scam, but as verified by the American Cancer society, it’s not real.
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that faith healing can cure cancer or any other disease. Even the “miraculous” cures at the French shrine of Lourdes, after careful study by the Catholic Church, do not outnumber the historical percentage of spontaneous remissions seen among people with cancer.
[Faith Healing.” Making Treatment Decisions. American Cancer Society. June 15, 2009. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3X_Faith_Healing.asp]
Louis Rose, a UK based psychiatrist spent many years extensively studying claims of healing. In his book [Faith Healing – Penguin Books 1971] he writes “I have been unsuccessful. After nearly twenty years of work I have yet to find one ‘miracle cure’”.
Are you still convinced that healing is real? If so, pause and consider that when proper scientific analysis is carried out, not one single credible case has ever been found.
Some suggested further reading
- Randi, James. (1989). Faith Healers. Prometheus Books, (has a nice forward by Carl Sagan)
One final thought … please oh please … do not come back with something like, “Ah but there are real miracles, for example case X”, and then fail to provide any evidence. If you wish to make a claim, then you need to also provide credible evidence. In fact, if you can indeed provide irrefutable proof, then $1 Million is yours. That offer has been around in one form or another since 1968, and so far the number of successful claimants has been zero.