Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Faith Healing

Brian over at Primordial Blog has just concluded his excellent four part series on faith healing. (one two three four). Brian was a fundamentalist before his deconversion, and spent some time faith healing himself. Reading about this from an inside perspective is illuminating. The failures of faith healing sound like they were an influential element in his deconversion.

Another good faith healing story is this YouTube video, where James "The Amazing" Randi debunks the TV Faith healer Peter Popoff.




I've also seen this story on a few TV specials. Popoff was using a wireless earpiece and was getting his information from his wife, who was reading them off of prayer cards. Honestly, did it never occur to these people, "Wow, he just told me exactly what I wrote on my prayer card fifteen minutes ago! What a coincidence!"

An amusing anecdote related to the Randi/Popoff case was how Randi first publicly played the evidential tape. It was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Randi made sure the show manager didn't tell Carson about the tape, just so he could see Carson's face when he played it! There was apparently an expletive that had to be edited out for the broadcast.

Daylight Atheism also has a good article investigating faith healing. These faith healers are nothing more than con artists. The only question seems to be whether or not any of them believe in themselves. In the case of Popoff, clearly no. But I've heard that many faith-healing recipients do briefly convince themselves that they are healed. If the faith healer only sees them when they believe they are healed, maybe he really can believe in himself. It's an enforced delusion.

Unfortunately, as the Primoridal Blog series shows, most people who come to realize that they aren't cured after all, blame themselves. They decide that God had taken aware the healing out of spite, because they didn't have enough faith. Some are even estranged by friends, under the conclusion that they must be harboring secret evils. So now it's a self-reinforcing delusion. It's not evidence that God doesn't exist, because he does exist, so it must be something else.

Anthony Thomas's documentary A Question of Miracles (which I would like to see, if anyone knows how to find it on DVD) included some follow-up with people healed by faith-healer Benny Hinn. One of which was a brain tumor patient, who died a couple of months after being "healed." The parents were later interviewed:


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."

Now it isn't just a self-reinforced delusion. This is an actively enforced scam! It sounds like Benny Hinn might be another 'faith healer' that doesn't necessarily believe in himself. Another note: this is after they pledge several thousand dollars to Benny Hinn.

8 comments:

Naomi said...

David, are you a Benny Hill fan? You seem much too young to have watched it, back in the day...

You might want to edit the last paragraph a teeny bit.

Poor suckers! Every bit as gullible as they can be. Faith-healing must bring out the PT Barnum in all of those "showmen", although there have been a few very pretty women, too.

David W. said...

Haha, I knew that Benny Hinn sounded close to somebody else's name, but I didn't realize I had figured it out by accident. I never saw the Benny Hill show -- the only tv I watched in the 80s was Sesame Street, Square One, and Transformers.

Naomi said...

Well, your parents were wise not let your little eyes see the naked and near-naked babes Benny chased all over the place.

But since you're a big boy now, maybe YouTube has some. After all, Monty Python seems to take up a great big place in YT's archives...

However, from a woman's viewpoint, most of it was just the same sophomoronic humor from male daydreams.

Half-hearted apologies to men everywhere...

Terra said...

How about both, indeed.

http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/163890

Brian said...

The sad thing is that Popoff is back on TV, as popular as ever, flogging his little bottles of miracle spring water. People are so annoyingly stupid sometimes.

By the way, thanks for the plug. I'm glad you enjoyed the series.

David W. said...

Terra: too funny! It's much more tolerable to watch when you don't see the blind adoration mysteriously bestowed on these scam artists.

Brian: Sigh. I heard that he did have to file for bankruptcy, so I was hoping that would have been the end. Talk about a good example of forgetting history, therefore being doomed to repeat it. I really loved your series, it's so good to hear about that kind of thing from the inside!

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