Where Religion and Pseudoscience Meet

If there was a Venn diagram of religious claims and pseudoscientific claims, this would be the intersection: A pastor in Christchurch, New Zealand has been handing out a magical “health juice” to cure people.

Instead of taking their medication.

For $60 a pop.

Registered social worker and trauma counsellor To’alepai Louella Thomsen-Inder said the minister had described the juice as “a cure for everything”.

“The minister claimed this magic water heals the soul and fixes everything, but the water is just water,” she said.

This month, the minister doorknocked a churchgoer and enticed him into buying a $60 bottle of juice the day after he had been released from hospital with serious medical conditions, Thomsen-Inder told The Press.

The elderly Samoan man, who could not speak English, was told the drink would “heal his illnesses”, but only if he stopped taking his antibiotics.

He bought the bottle, did not take his pills and ended up back in hospital with pneumonia days later.

That pastor is using God to make some cash at the expense of harming his own parishioner. And he’s not the only one. The article lists a few other examples of pastors selling fake products.

That’s why pseudoscience and religion are linked together. They’re both the result of a lack of critical thinking. When people are taught to listen to men of faith instead of questioning what authority says, they’re setting themselves up for a disappointment or worse.

(Thanks to Nick for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P4QFA6I7PKYUHIQNOCP6LFVXVY Woody Tanaka

    My only question is why these people are not serving sentences?  They are committing fraud and endangering the lives of people.  They should spend a few years busting up rocks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

      He’ll probably try to pass the toilet water in jail off as a magical elixir too, though.

    • http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/ Liz Heywood

      Guess what? In the US it’s legal in 38 states to choose prayer over medical treatment for your child. Where’s all the outrage here?

      • A Reader

        That’s LEGAL?! D:

  • Frhd

    “When people are taught to listen to men of faith instead of questioning what authority says, they’re setting themselves up for a disappointment or worse.”

    Well, religious leaders ARE authority to them. That’s the whole point. God is seen as the ultimate authority.

  • Onamission5

    It’s not even just a matter of being taught to listen to men of faith who are supposedly wise on “spiritual” matters. It’s a matter of being taught that those men of faith are infallible in either word or deed because they are an earthly conduit to a likewise infallible being or beings. Listening, which implies to me that the hearer has a choice in taking the advice or not, much less a problem than blind trust in all things. Of course one can lead to the other when no other options are presented, and seeking other options is discouraged, which is what this post is about, so I don’t know why I am nitpicking.

  • LesterBallard

    Wasn’t it New Zealand, or maybe Australia (too lazy to check) that had some church offering a cancer cure? Okay, NZ. Big sign on the church that read “Jesus Heals Cancer”. Well, don’t send them here, Kiwis. You already gave us Ray Comfort.

  • OverlordYesh

    Why I’m an Atheist: Now I know

  • Joe Rockhead

    I’m wondering why they scammer tells them the magic water only works if they stop taking their medication. Wouldn’t it make sense to let them keep taking their medication and then they can credit the magic water with their recovery?

    • Tainda

      Maybe waiting on the one person who does get better so they can have “proof”.  Even though they make up their proof anyway

    • http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/ Liz Heywood

      Christian Science declares that its prayer works most effectively when not “mixed” with medical treatment. The church seems to have eased up some (especially with lawsuits over children that died from untreated diabetes etc.)

      It used to be that a CS practitioner (professional pray-er) wouldn’t pray for you in the hospital, under a doctor’s care or taking any kind of meds. In a spin on your point, they were afraid the doctor would get the credit when CS healed…makes my head hurt now. But I grew up believing it.

  • Phil Bellerive

    Several years ago, I was on a tour, which included a two-hour stop in Lourdes, France.  Same general principle applies.  But Lourdes was as a three-ring circus!  It reminded more of a street festival.  It was a nice day, so I stopped and picked up a sandwich, sat in a park near the shrine and watched all the hawkers, hucksters, etc. and enjoyed the scenery and the sun on a warm February day (it was the slow season).

  • jdm8

     Is that even pseudoscience?  It looks like selling based on religious, not even pretending to be science.

  • mxh

    Religion and quackery do go hand in hand. The users, as you say, have a complete lack of critical thinking and the practitioners are con-artists that are tricking a bunch of gullible people into parting with their money. When the two combine, it’s hundreds of times more potent.


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