In light of recent headlines such as this one that appeared in the June 3, 2016 issue of the Colorado Springs Independent, stating, “Parents prayed for two hours as their son lay dying before calling ambulance, court hears” (2016), referring to the Canadian couple charged with the murder of their 15 year old son, maybe it’s time to get real for a minute. Medicine works, prayer does not.
And let’s stop insulting doctors, shall we? Let’s give credit where credit is due. Every time you say, “It’s a miracle,” or “God showed up,” you are diminishing the years of hard work that a doctor or scientist put forward in finding a cure, practicing how to save people, perfecting treatments, etc. If God was going to show up, why didn’t he do it before you lost your house because of medical bills, before you destroyed your body in chemotherapy treatments, before you had triple-bypass surgery? Why would God need triple-bypass surgery to fix you anyway? Every cure attributed to God, undermines truth, reality, common sense, innovation, and hard work.
Every disease that has ever been defeated has a natural explanation. In addition to the expert hands of wonderful physicians, it is a well-known fact that our bodies have amazing self-healing abilities. You know what the human body can’t do? Re-grow limbs. When is the last time you prayed over an amputee, and their limbs grew back? Right, because medical science can’t perform that little miracle, and evidently, neither can God. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
There are examples of spontaneous healing, though rare, and these examples span the religious and the non-religious, and do not depend on whether or not anyone was praying for these people. For most, eventually the reason was validated with medical science. For the rest, a solid non-supernatural theory is in play. Although spontaneous remission happens, it is quite rare, much more rare than prayer for the ill. If prayer worked, you’d think it would have a much higher percentage of success. But, you can always say, “God works in mysterious ways” or “It wasn’t his will.” Either God takes a lot of days off, he doesn’t have the will to heal very many people, or this is just another escape clause believers perpetuate to let God off the hook for doing nothing to intervene in, apparently, almost anyone’s life.
According to an article in Science-Based Medicine, so-called spontaneous cures for cancers are usually discovered to fall into one of a few categories and “most alleged cancer cures are [explained by]:
- The patient never had cancer. (Was a biopsy done?)
- A cancer was cured or put into remission by proven therapy, but questionable therapy was also used and erroneously credited for the beneficial result.
- The cancer is progressing but is erroneously represented as slowed or cured.
- The patient has died as a result of the cancer (or is lost to follow-up) but is represented as cured.
- The patient had a spontaneous remission (very rare) or slow-growing cancer that is publicized as a cure” (2010).
But what’s the harm in believing God heals? Doesn’t belief act as a placebo effect if nothing else? To this, I would say that belief does much more harm than good. Even if you don’t have radical and dangerous ideas about killing those who disagree with you because of something men wrote a couple of thousand years ago, there are more common dangers. On a daily basis, Americans (and not just the extreme cases as in the Independent article) refuse treatment or wait too long to get treatment because they believe God will intervene. When God does not show up, not only do they suffer emotional damage, but often they or their innocent loved ones pay the price through a sickness that has been left too long untreated. If they get lucky enough times, they rely more heavily on prayer or faith healing, and sooner or later they won’t be lucky when it really matters.
According to Carrie Wiesman from Alternet.com, there are numerous examples of children dying due to faith healing beliefs, wherein, timely medical attention was foregone in lieu of prayer, and rationalwiki.com cites numerous cases as well, stating,
“The organization Children’s Health Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) estimated that around 300 children have died in the US since 1975 due to people putting too much faith in faith healing. CHILD identified 172 cases between 1975 and 1995 in which a child died and evidence suggested medical care was exempted for religious grounds; of these, CHILD estimated that 140 would have had a 90% survival rate with medical intervention and an additional 18 would have had a 50% survival rate “(updated May 9, 2016).
And these are just the known cases with more and more popping up with greater and greater frequency. What about the ones whose parents did not admit that they had known the child was sick? What about adults who die quietly without ever telling anyone that they were counting on God?
At the very least, we stand by uselessly when we offer prayers for the ill, and believe we have done our part, rather than taking physical action or even giving useful advice. As Madalyn Murray O’Hair said, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand hands praying.” The same could be said for any situation, problem, or tragedy. Why sit around talking to an imaginary being, who, if he does exist, does not seem to be in any hurry to help us out, instead of actively doing something when it is clear that this God is not willing to help, is not capable of helping people, does not act equally among people, or most likely, just does not exist?
So, stop praying, and start supporting science and medicine, which has a proven track record in saving lives. God, not so much. And next time you want to say “sending prayers,” realize that your actions would be a lot more helpful and appreciated.—Christina Knowles
Hall, Harriet. “Faith Healing.” Science-Based Medicine. 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 June 2016.
Samuels, Gabriel. “Parents prayed for two hours as their son lay dying before calling ambulance, court hears.” Colorado Springs Independent. 3 June 2016. Web. 17 June 2016.
Weisman, Carrie. “Shocking Numbers of Children Die in America When Their Parents Turn to Faith-Based Healing.” AlterNet.com. 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 June 2016.