Popular Delusions III: Faith Healing

A frequent point of contention in debates over religion is whether God’s existence is a topic that can be addressed by science. Interestingly, this is one of the few issues where various people on both sides take both stances. Some scientists, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould and his principle of “nonoverlapping magisteria”, hold that religion is in a separate realm from science and addresses different questions, and never the twain shall meet. Other scientists hold that God’s existence is a topic that can be scientifically investigated, though they go on to draw different conclusions from that premise; some, such as the indefatigable Richard Dawkins hold that theism has been tried and found wanting. Other groups insist that God’s existence can be proven by scientific study, most notably creationists, though they engage in precious little science themselves.

The best way to cut through the confusion is this: Science can address specific claims of religion, but not the general claim. It is true that the bare question of whether God exists or has any effect on the world is not a question that can be definitively answered in the negative by science; one can always postulate a deity sufficiently subtle that its influence can never be ruled out. (This, of course, leaves unanswered the question of what reason one could have to believe in such a deity.) However, there are many specific religious claims which can be used to derive concrete predictions about what we should see in the world if those religious beliefs are true, and these predictions can be put to the test. One such is the phenomenon of faith healing.

Faith healing takes two major forms: the carnival-like revival shows staged by famous preachers who promise dramatic and miraculous healings before the audience’s eyes (I have written about one such before), and the less spectacular phenomenon of intercessory prayer, in which the prayers of relatives or strangers are claimed to speed the recovery of the wounded and the sick. This post will address both.

First, consider the phenomenon of intercessory prayer. One of the most basic, and eminently testable, religious claims is that prayer has a measurable effect on the workings of the world, and many researchers – often theists seeking support for their own beliefs – have embarked on studies of this claim. The evidence is in, and the verdict is clear: intercessory prayer does not work. Large, well-controlled studies invariably find no measurable improvement in the recovery rates of patients who are prayed for. Studies that claim otherwise always turn out to have some methodological or statistical defect such as poor controls or cherry-picked data (as usual, Skeptico has the goods on these malfeasants).

As an example of the former category, take the 2003 MANTRA study, run by Duke University. 750 participants undergoing angioplasty were split into two groups, one receiving prayer from Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, one receiving no prayer. There was no statistically significant difference in outcomes between the two groups. A follow-up study published in July 2005, MANTRA II, replicated this result by finding no benefit to randomized intercessory prayer.

Similarly, an even larger study published in March 2006 in the American Heart Journal found no difference in outcomes among 1,800 coronary bypass patients who either did or did not receive prayer from three Christian congregations. No difference, that is, save for one: patients who knew they were being prayed for experienced a higher rate of complications. This is very probably due to a sort of performance anxiety among prayer recipients who felt that they were under pressure to do better.

Examples such as the above notwithstanding, what some studies have found is that people who are being prayed for and know it do sometimes do better. This is no surprise: it is another example of the placebo effect, where positive thinking and expectation can stimulate physical changes in the body that speed healing. But this effect can be explained without invoking God or miracles, and is therefore no proof of either. What would constitute evidence of the miraculous would be if intercessory prayer had a statistically significant effect in a randomized, double-blind trial, where participants do not know if they are being prayed for or not. This should not present a problem for God, if he exists, but it does prevent the placebo effect from biasing the results. Again, no such study has ever shown a reproducible, significant curative effect. As far as the evidence shows, intercessory prayer does not work.

Naturally, this result has provoked bitter complaints from many believers who assert that God should not be put to the test. In response to the MANTRA study, an English bishop said, “Prayer is not a penny in the slot machine. You can’t just put in a coin and get out a chocolate bar.” Similarly, in a New York Times article on prayer studies from October 10, 2004, Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence Jr. of New York-Presbyterian Hospital is quoted as saying, “There’s no way to put God to the test, and that’s exactly what you’re doing when you design a study to see if God answers your prayers. This whole exercise cheapens religion, and promotes an infantile theology that God is out there ready to miraculously defy the laws of nature in answer to a prayer.”

While I share the reverend’s opinion regarding the plausibility of miraculous suspensions of natural law in response to prayer (how could prayer convince an omniscient deity to do something he was not already going to do anyway?), I think these complaints are less than sincere. Had any of these studies produced significant positive results, I do not think that theists would dismiss them as unimportant. Quite the contrary, I have no doubt whatsoever that these theists and many others, in such a scenario, would trumpet this proof of God’s existence to the high heavens. When a preliminary study in 2001 (later refuted by the larger and better-designed MANTRA study) seemingly found some benefit to prayer, we saw just that. Similarly, churches such as the Anglican church have declared the evidence of prayer’s efficacy to be “overwhelming“. Yet when well-designed studies find no evidence that prayer works, these very same believers quickly retreat to excuses about how one must not test God. Tests are acceptable to these believers, it would seem, only if they produce the results that were desired in advance.

Despite their failures, at least these studies do no real harm: the participants always receive competent medical attention along with their ineffective dose of prayer, and no one is convinced to forsake their doctor’s care. The same is not true of faith-healing revivals, where evangelists deceive supplicants into believing their ailments have been cured, often encouraging attendees to abandon traditional medical care in the process and causing them to suffer terribly or even die as a result. One particularly horrifying case:

Helen Sullivan could walk only with a back brace, due to the cancer that had weakened the bones of her spinal cord. But when faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman told her that her cancer was cured, Sullivan threw off her back brace and ran across the stage several times as the audience applauded and Kuhlman praised the Lord. For the rest of the evening, Sullivan felt no pain, but by early morning, the pain had returned, only more intense than before. Without the support of her brace, one of her vertebrae had collapsed. Two months later, Sullivan was dead of the cancer that Kuhlman had “cured” her of.

Another example, from the powerful 2001 documentary “A Question of Miracles” by Anthony Thomas:

And one woman who we were very close to, suffering from lung cancer, so wanted to believe that she was cured that she never saw her oncologist again. He heard about her death through us.

A common trick used by religious con artists is to encourage people who do not really need them to use wheelchairs or crutches, so that they can dramatically rise at the appropriate moment and throw their paraphernalia away, to the amazement of the audience. Even when such blatant scams are not used, the intense emotional atmosphere of these circus-like events induces a kind of euphoria from the release of natural opiates – a placebo effect on steroids – often causing people with painful but non-crippling conditions such as arthritis to feel temporarily better. Of course, since faith healers invariably do not keep follow-up records, the fact that most of these people begin to feel worse again after the revival is never reported. Faith healers will sometimes claim that they have “healed” a completely internal ailment, such as cancer, so that there can be no evidence disproving their claim until the revival has ended and there is no chance to demonstrate its falsity. Some will even announce healings without even naming a specific individual (“Someone is being healed of cancer in this section!”), thus making their claim impossible to disprove and removing altogether the need for them to present any evidence. And in the rare circumstance that a healing can be shown not to have taken place, the evangelist can always blame it on the recipient’s lack of faith.

Their lack of medical effectiveness notwithstanding, these events often turn out to be very effective indeed at swelling the bank accounts of their wealthy evangelist organizers. Faith-healing rallies by famous preachers such as Benny Hinn or Reinhard Bonnke often draw thousands of attendees desperate for miracle cures, who are willing to hand over huge amounts of money in exchange for even the smallest bit of hope, and do. Again from Thomas’ documentary:

Preaching in Portland, Ore., Benny Hinn performs 76 ‘miracles’ on stage before an adoring, ecstatic crowd. In order to make an independent assessment of the results, the filmmakers ask for the names of the healed. Thirteen weeks later, the ministry produces five. None of these turn out have experienced lasting healing. Among the devotees who sought a miracle from Hinn that evening was 10 year old immigrant Ashnil Prakash, afflicted with two brain tumors. Although his impoverished parents pledge thousands of dollars to Hinn, Prakash dies seven weeks after the Portland event.

An interview with Prakash’s mother and father following his death shows the parents continued an undeterred allegiance to the faith healer. As the couple discuss their child’s succumbing to the tumors, no allusion of any measure is expressed of Hinn being culpable of perpetuating false hope. The couple sees themselves, not Hinn, as a possible cause that their son did not receive a healing. The father suggests his son’s death may be a result of generational curses or sin of either himself or his father. When the HBO interviewer asked where he arrived at such a notion, the father responded, “Pastor Benny.”

To people such as this, questions of theology and evidence are irrelevant. These people are desperate for hope; they want a miracle, and will go to any lengths to try to obtain one. It is heartbreaking to see these lost souls, many of whom are poor and needy, willingly hand over their money – millions and millions of dollars in total – to powerless charlatans who offer nothing in return but false hope and empty promises, when they could have given that money to the scientists and doctors who might actually be able to use it to find a cure for their afflictions. How many dread diseases could we have cured – how much human suffering could we have ended – if all the resources that have been wasted on faith healers and other popular delusions had instead been given to fund scientific research?

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Interested Atheist

    Thanks, Adam! Another great post!

    What a happy coincidence – I’m dialoguing with a Christian at the moment, and she sent me an article proving that intercessory prayer works. I’m still reading through it and considering it, and I hope she won’t mind me posting it here:

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prayer.html

    Myself, I’m not that good at statistics and studies, and I’m not sure if there is any extra information not given in the article that would shed a new light on it. But what I’d think of first is that there may have been some bias in reporting the studies; if they were successful, it’s strange that we don’t see more of them; and also the slight margins of success reported seem strange as well; although it’s good for a Christian argument to be able to any show successful result, you’d think that with God’s help, they would get more decisive results.

    I also found the article by Skeptico, and I’ll be directing my Christian friends attention to it and this post.

  • Interested Atheist

    Also found this, which you might find interesting!

    http://members.aol.com/garypos/prayer.html

  • http://corsair.blogspot.com corsair the rational pirate

    I originally thought the headline was “Pope-ular Delusions.”

    My bad.

  • andrea

    I think the Rev. Lawrence forgets that his Bible does say that prayer should indeed work and you should get what you ask for, no qualifications, no “the answer might be no”. Here’s a whole bunch of verses: http://www.topical-bible-studies.org/07-0007.htm

  • http://vishnuvyas.wordpress.com Vishnu Vyas

    The faith-hailing has seemed to caught in India to..which is a very bad thing, because many people here are often lured into alternative medicine scams as is.. but with faith healing things are getting worse..

    I think public health is something that should be a matter of concern for the government.. and “faith” healers should be prosecuted for fraud.

  • Alex Weaver

    A common trick used by religious con artists is to encourage people who do not really need them to use wheelchairs or crutches, so that they can dramatically rise at the appropriate moment and throw their paraphernalia away, to the amazement of the audience. Even when such blatant scams are not used, the intense emotional atmosphere of these circus-like events induces a kind of euphoria from the release of natural opiates – a placebo effect on steroids – often causing people with painful but non-crippling conditions such as arthritis to feel temporarily better.

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to just lace the communion wine with Ecstacy or LSD? Or do these denominations not do communion? *eyeroll*

    I agree with the “prosecution of faith healer frauds,” but that kinda goes without saying.

    A couple asides: first, how do people here feel about being prayed for? I know I find it obnoxious when people pray that I’ll find Jesus, implicitly or otherwise (saying “I’ll pray for you” at the end of a discussion of my atheism), but in matters unrelated to religious belief, IE praying someone will get well…granted, it won’t have an objective effect. But on one hand, it’s superstitious nonsense; on the other hand, it’s very meaningful and important to the person praying (usually). How do other people feel about those sorts of situations?

    Second, can anyone link me to a good, objective discussion of the placebo effect? My most in-depth education on it came from an anthropology teacher of mine who, in retrospect, seemed to be hijacking a class on tribal/”traditional” religion to subtly promote his overpriced new-age-y seminars and such, and I suspect his presentation of it was rather skewed…

  • lpetrich

    I recall Bede in IIDB saying about a study that found zero effect that he was glad that “God had not played along in that little game” or some such. I find such smugness annoying, but it seems all too typical.

    A good question to ask is why God doesn’t restore amputated limbs and other removed body parts. For more, check on Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?

    It can’t be that hard for an allegedly omnimax entity, and doing so would be a VERY impressive sort of miracle.

  • andrea

    how do I feel about being “prayed for”? I don’t like it because it sounds like they are doing all they can to force me to do something by “magic” since they aren’t brave enough to try it by physical force. I’d like to have the nerve to say “well, you must be doing it wrong or “deity of choice” intends me to be an atheists because IT ISN’T WORKING!”

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet J

    The father suggests his son’s death may be a result of generational curses or sin of either himself or his father.

    Ugh. Gag me with a spoon.

    how do I feel about being “prayed for”? I don’t like it because it sounds like they are doing all they can to force me to do something by “magic”

    Yea verily. I’m sure many of these folks honestly want God to facilitate a peaceful reconciliation and are praying for that. But I get the sense there’s also a little demographic lump who actually mean, “I’m going to pray against you.”

    Rev. Lawrence forgets that his Bible does say that prayer should indeed work and you should get what you ask for, no qualifications, no “the answer might be no”

    Right-O. The Elaine Pagels/Susan Armstrong/Tony Campolo/Ann Lammott view of prayer–that it’s a sort of metaphysical, good-for-you-even-if-nothing- happens, meditative exercise–has a lot of internal philosophical consistency, but not a lot of accord with what most religious people believe or have ever believed in history. Do they really think that’s what the Aztecs thought when they were cutting their enemies hearts out on top of the Temple of the Moon?

    Sorry, but no: I’d say 99% of the people in the world who pray do so because they expect some sort of earthly reward for it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Skeptico deals with the studies in the link cited by Interested Atheist, but I’ll add some comments of my own.

    1. “Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population”

    As one can see from reading this page, the authors of this study didn’t announce in advance what specific effect they were expecting prayer to have – instead, as you can see from the chart, they measured dozens of different variables. Although most of them showed no statistically significant difference between the prayer and non-prayer groups, a few did, which is what you’d expect by chance, and the study’s authors then decided that those particular variables were what they had been looking to test all along. This is called the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, since it’s like firing dozens of bullets into a barn, then picking the largest cluster of holes, drawing a circle around it and declaring that to be the bullseye. In particular, as Skeptico notes, there was no difference either in recovery rate or in mortality between the prayer and control groups despite the fact that the people praying had been explicitly asked to pray for rapid recoveries and prevention of death, which means that this study actually demonstrated a failure of prayer.

    2. “A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Remote, Intercessory Prayer on Outcomes in Patients Admitted to the Coronary Care Unit”

    Again, this is the Texas sharpshooter fallacy in full view: test literally dozens of different aspects of treatment, pick out the only one that demonstrated any kind of apparent significant difference, and assume that that’s what you wanted to find in the first place. Note, also, that the variables which showed significant change in the first study did not show significant change in this one, which is the exact result you’d expect if these studies were simply measuring random fluctuations.

    Want definitive proof that this study’s authors don’t understand statistics? Take a look at the one variable they cited as significant:

    Swan-Ganz catheter 172 (32.8) 123 (26.4) .03

    That last column is the P-value – roughly speaking, the probability that the difference observed was due to chance. It’s 0.03, so there’s a 3% probability this difference occurred by chance. On average, in a study of 33 variables, you’d see one with this P-value by luck alone. How many variables did this study’s authors test? Thirty-five. This result is exactly what we would expect if prayer did nothing whatsoever.

    3. Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial.

    This study strikes me as by far the most bizarre. Read that title again: retroactive prayer. These people were praying to affect the outcome of an event that had already taken place. Unless we are to believe the notion that the future can causally influence the past, I think that alone says it all.

    But again, watch the cherry-picking in effect! “Mortality was reduced in the intervention group (28.1%) compared to the control group (30.2%) although the difference did not reach statistical significance. However, length of stay in the hospital and duration of fever were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control group (P = 0.01 and P = 0.04, respectively).” All of these studies share the same fundamental statistical flaw: the researchers keep testing different variables until they find one that shows the kind of change they want. And again, the particular variables that showed significance in this study did not show significance in the other studies. Just what you’d expect from random chance – emphatically not what you’d expect based on belief in an omnipotent supernatural god who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

  • Alex Weaver

    I repeat: I’m specifically wondering how people feel about prayers from theists for positive changes in one’s life, as understood by the theist, other than one converting to the theist’s religion. Like when they respond to notification of a family member’s illness with s/he has our prayers. That sort of thing.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet J

    I repeat: I’m specifically wondering how people feel about prayers from theists for positive changes in one’s life, as understood by the theist, other than one converting to the theist’s religion. Like when they respond to notification of a family member’s illness with s/he has our prayers. That sort of thing.

    I’d be generally indifferent. Prayers for anything mean nothing to me. Prayers don’t cure illness. It comes across to me as being akin to public figures who proclaim “support” for charities like the American Red Cross or the Boy Scouts without actually giving money to them: Something sweet-sounding but really an empty gesture.

  • andrea

    I find it to be just as annoying to have someone say “they’re in our prayers”, and still wish to give the same ansewr, “well, it sure doesn’t help” etc. Also, wouldn’t a Christian pray for the well-being of everyone all of the time? I used to do that when I believed.

  • Tommykey

    People telling me they will pray for me irks me, but I mostly keep it to myself. I suppose it makes them feel like they are doing “something” that is better than nothing.

  • Mags

    Recently my niece was still-born, many of my parents friends sent sympathy cards saying that our family was in their prayers. I know my parents found it comforting but, despite knowing it was well intentioned, I found it quite creepy.

  • http://hollowbelief.blogspot.com Supervisor

    I always want to tell people to “save it” when they say they will pray for me. I don’t like it, I think it’s fake, and a cheap way of helping someone.

    Time would be better spent finding a cure, than hoping your God will find you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I recently got an e-mail from a Christian who wrote the following:

    Heaven father, in Jesus name, I pray for my friend who has written this atheistic article. I pray that You will bless him physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

    I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being offered a bribe. (And no, that conversation didn’t last very long: I terminated it when the Christian in question made it clear that they were interested in praying for me, but uninterested in responding to any of my arguments or presenting any positive reasons why I should believe anything they said.)

  • Shell Bell

    Religion remember, is human driven. I know that logical explanations are quickly dismissed however. Night after night, day after day, I see paid programs on tv selling wonder drugs…drugs that can cure cancer, drugs that can cure weight gain, hair loss, etc. We all known, scientifically speaking, if it sounds too good to be true it is. Does that mean my doctor whom I have built a relationship of trust through the test of time administers medications is also phoney? No, of course not. It is illogical to condemn an idea, a theory, or a belief based solely on the actions of a few. Statistically speaking, african american’s are the majority in state prison, by you’re logic above, I can say conclusively african american’s are criminals. That is illogical. I will admit I cannot prove to you that God exists. I also cannot prove to you that atoms exist. 500 years ago, nobody could prove atoms existed…but some people believed in the existence of tiny unseeable particals that make up the entire universe, but scientists had to wait for technology to catch up. well…why is it so far fetched to believe that some day even though we can’t prove it right now, that we will be able to prove the existence of god? Historically speaking, an idea is concevied first…with many human misconceptions…but eventually proven or disproven through technology.

  • Alex Weaver

    why is it so far fetched to believe that some day even though we can’t prove it right now, that we will be able to prove the existence of god?

    It is a possibility, one which we do not regard as credible for the same reason we don’t regard UFO abductions as credible. If convincing evidence is ever produced for the existence of a god, I at least would certainly change my position. But are you actually suggesting that we change our positions NOW simply because evidence for god might be discovered SOMEDAY? The absurdity of this line of reasoning is, I think, self-evident.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    well…why is it so far fetched to believe that some day even though we can’t prove it right now, that we will be able to prove the existence of god?

    If that’s your position, fine. But what that implies is that, until such time as additional evidence is discovered, we should not believe in God. After all, you’re basically saying there’s no evidence now, and it is irrational to believe in something for which no evidence exists because you hope evidence might be discovered in the future.

  • Alex Weaver

    Dangit. I was hoping you’d address that ridiculous prisoner analogy so I wouldn’t have to x.x

  • Polly

    Alex W.

    I repeat: I’m specifically wondering how people feel about prayers from theists for positive changes in one’s life, as understood by the theist, other than one converting to the theist’s religion. Like when they respond to notification of a family member’s illness with s/he has our prayers. That sort of thing.

    Depending on the person and the spirit in which the offer is made, I would take it as a kindness offered, in the absence of anything indicative to the contrary.

    Prayer takes effort. To pray, one has to find time, quiet their mind, and focus. Most people have enough worries of their own to pray about. Giving my troubles (or their concern for me) equal time in the fray of life is a generous sharing of mental space and energy.

    Again, though, it really depends on the person making the offer.

    Your thoughts, Alex?

  • Polly

    @Shell Bell:
    It will NEVER be possible to prove that there are such things as married bachelors or a perfect circle with variable-length radii. The God(s) that are hypothesized today fall nicely into a similar class.

    The only god that that you can logically hope to prove the existence of is one that couldn’t care less whether you believe in him or not.

  • susan

    My sister Patty went and seen a Evangelist and thay told her she was healed and not to go see a doctor. Well her cancer spread and by the time she decided to go back to her doctor he told her it was to late the cancer spread and she died.
    Love and miss you Patty.
    No one should have the right to tell people they should not see a doctor.

  • Susan

    My sister Patty went and seen Evangelist and they told her not to see a doctor she was healed well when she decided to go back and see her doctor he told her it was to late and she died few months later.
    Love and miss you Patty.

    NO ONE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL PEOPLE THE SHOULD NOT SEE A DOCTOR.

  • Doy

    A group of christians said they started to pray for me (I’m an atheist!)years ago, and that they should continue until I was “healed”. So fare I’m still an atheist and did not at any time feel any difference.

  • http://www.cathetel.com Amyobus Key

    We seem to have limited choices when pursuing cures. There are the showmen who allege to represent a God Force. Not much success there. There are the miracles from sightings and saints (marian sightings, and gentle beings who later are usually proclaimed saints). We are always testing faith and acceptance of higher forces through the bargain – “i am sick, heal me, then i will believe”. We have the wrong perspective, perhaps. In our illness, our decision that we have been robbed of normal happiness, our pursuit to escape the trial, we do not see the trial for what it is. Will you be a better spirit for the trial and the suffering and the pursuit? You will, if you accept that your body is a short-term rental. You will appreciate it all, once it is done. It is not about the cure. It is about how you pursue it.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    You will, if you accept that your body is a short-term rental.

    This is actually counter-productive. What incentive do I have to continue to live if I’m really only looking to join the heavenly afterlife?

  • goyo

    Amyobus Key:

    In our illness, our decision that we have been robbed of normal happiness, our pursuit to escape the trial, we do not see the trial for what it is. Will you be a better spirit for the trial and the suffering and the pursuit? You will, if you accept that your body is a short-term rental. You will appreciate it all, once it is done. It is not about the cure. It is about how you pursue it.

    And if I don’t accept that my body is a short term rental, then I’m not going to appreciate the suffering and pain that illness brings.
    It’s this very attitude that prevails among xtians that somehow suffering is good for you and is in god’s plan for your life that hinders the advance of medical research to cure those very illnesses that cause the pain and suffering.
    Do you refuse medical treatment for illnesses you come down with?
    Maybe the flu, or cancer, or heart disease is the illness that god chose for you to suffer through. Do you accept them, or do you go to the doctor for a cure?
    Be honest.
    After all, the sooner you die, the sooner you will be with the lord. And just think of the admonitions your god will give you as you pass through the pearly gates: “Welcome my good and faithful servant. You chose not to use one of those sinful cures that those humanistic scientists came up with. You get a special mansion on yonder hill.”
    Yeah, right.

  • http://www.cathetel.com Amyobus Key

    Your incentive to live is your experiences. Unless you are on the level of a dog looking for doggy biscuits, and everything is measured in the physical. It is not about acquiring more stuff, more rewards. It is about expanding what you are. It is about what you will always have with you, not about gathering stuff that you will only shed when you advance. But for those of you who do not believe in the spiritual state, sit and watch and wait for the lightbulb to go out. Surprise! You’re still somewhere, and no more body and possessions to drag around.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Though I fear that this might get quashed for going off topic, I must ask: How do you know that “you’re still somewhere” when the light bulb goes out?

    (I would strongly urge you to read this before arguing for a soul. It contains a lot of stuff that I had already worked out for myself, and then some, in a nice and well supported package.)

  • goyo

    Amyobus: So, answer my question: Do you refuse medical treatment when you are ill, so you can temper the soul in the fires of tribulation?
    You specifically mentioned illness, not acquiring more stuff. I agree life is about living, but I don’t need a belief in an afterlife to do that.
    About the afterlife: What proof do you have that it exists? Because your good book says it does?

  • OMGF

    It is about what you will always have with you, not about gathering stuff that you will only shed when you advance.

    Again, what incentive do I have to live if I get to “advance” when I die? My experiences? My experiences will be much better when I advance, right? So, why would I not want to obtain those experiences as soon as possible?

  • Gypsy David

    I am a Christian,but I agree with what you are saying about these “faith healers.Somewhere out there,there may be a sincere one,where people really do sometimes get healed..but 99% of the time,it is not real.I was brought up on faith healers,but was greatly harmed psychologically by a well known one on TV.He teaches that to not believe in his miracles…is an unforgivable sin.Naturally,I dont accept anything without being given undeniable proof.I became terrified that I had now comitted this”unpardonable sin”,by not just accepting as true the claims of the “healer.”I cant begin to tell you the suffering this caused me.Did you ever notice how all these guys hide behind frightening Bible verses,taken out of context?I call this practice “Spiritual Terrorism.”

  • Larry

    Many years ago my family had some friends with a severely handicapped child which the doctors had given up any hope of keeping alive. The parents in their struggle eventually sought out the help of one of those Faith Healing Churches. They inquired how much the “Healing” would cost and the church said they did not charge for their services however a large contribution would be in order. They made a sizable contribution and the service was held, a week later the child died, and they went to the healer for consolation, His response was, “Maybe your contribution was not enough to please God”

    True Story.

  • Niklaus Pfirsig

    Back in the 60′s, one of my neighbors, a teenager at the time, was in a motorcycle accident and received an injury that severed the nerve fibers to his right arm. After a few months, his arm had atrophied to a limp, useless appendage that he kept in a sling to keep it from flopping around.
    His parents had consulted all manner of specialists, and were told repeatedly that nothing could be done. Aparently, out of desperation, they decided to get help from Oral Roberts.
    They contacted Robert’s organization and received an application for tickets to his tv ministry program. They thoght it a bit odd that the application required them to provide considerable information about their finances, including bank account balances, and even the current value of their home. A few weeks after sending the completed application, they received a response. The letter stated that for a “donation” that was about three times their total net worth, Dr. Roberts would heal their son.
    That was when they stopped believing in televangelists.

    It may be possible, however, that in some cases a true believer in a marginal state of health may see some omprovement. If the person’s condition is stress-induced, a strong belief in the power of prayer may actually reduce the stress and improve the patient’s outlook. Such cases are probably quite rare.


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