Some Thoughts On Faith-Healing

… because I saw The Atheist Pig’s cartoon today. It takes something I don’t have to be able to convey so much in 4 panels with simple drawings.

Anyway, it reminded me of an old verse of mine:

(Every word of this is true.)

A friend of mine, some thirty years ago,
The eldest son, a farming family’s pride,
Was gone from school, about a month or so
Before we heard the truth—the boy had died.

He’d fallen from a tractor in a field,
Though whether he was dead first, we don’t know;
The coroner’s exam? Too late to yield
An answer; there was nothing it could show.

His parents tried to cure the boy with prayer–
They brought him home, and put their son to bed.
Devout and faithful, hope turned to despair;
It broke their hearts, admitting he was dead.

Their church—to whom they turn when times are rough—
Blamed them, and said they had not prayed enough.

Now, from the comments there, I have to include here another bit–I could edit it to make it a bit clearer, but I’d rather not take the time today.

oddly enough, what is bothering me right now is that I cannot remember his name. For some reason, that really saddens me. I remember his sister was named Sarah; I had a real crush on her. He had a younger brother too, who was also my friend; the younger brother was going to be the first in the family ever to go to college, until my friend died. The younger brother understood that it would now be his duty, as it was to be his brother’s, to stay and take over the running of the farm.Brother and sister both kept going to school for the month while their brother, my friend, lay dead in his bed. They simply did not talk about it; I am sure they must have been asked where he was. Perhaps they just said he was sick… it was 30 and a bit years ago, so details are fuzzy.This was a good family. Nobody deserves something like this, but it is particularly hard when the family is this good, and so reliant on their faith, and their church takes their devotion and uses it to crucify them.Podblack, you know that I am absolutely of the belief that one can be a skeptic and be religious. Skepticism is a process, not a result; the results you get from critical thinking will (and must) depend on the available evidence. This family was doing what they fully believed was right. They were not stupid; they were not gullible; they were not bad. They were fed lies, from people who had earned their trust.And dammit, he deserves for me to remember his name.

What I’m wondering today is, how many of us have some similar story, of a friend or relative? I lost an office-mate to ovarian cancer; toward the end, she got all sorts of advice, and took most of it (just in case), no matter how bizarre it seemed (“drink everything out of a blue glass”). My sister turns to her prayer groups (fortunately, also to her doctor) for her many illnesses.

With my friend, it was really by accident that we learned the truth; his family wouldn’t have broadcast the information. With my office-mate, you had to be close enough to be one of the people she opened up to (quick test–did she feel she had to put her scarf back on and cover her bald head? If so, you’ll never hear all the details) to know how many desperate cures she was willing to try, and how many more she turned down (she had no shortage of people telling her to quit chemo, but chemo is what bought her more years with her young son).

In other words, the cases we know about are not the full picture. But how many do we know? How many do you know?


  1. Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare says

    I certainly know a couple–the most memorable a business colleague – christian scientist with breast cancer, who just didn’t do anything about it until it killed her. Horrible, slow, painful death.

  2. Jennifer says

    This may not strictly qualify. That said, my cousin for a few years has reportedly (by her) suffered a series of illnesses, all seemingly life-ending ones, and all healed by prayer or by miraculous “alternative medicine” interventions. At this point, even my mom is becoming very doubtful, and she has no skepticism for this sort of thing. I think it’s some kind of religious Munchausen’s thing. That in itself might be just a distressing series of possible dishonest situations which – short of fraud – hurt nobody. However, what really kills me is that she seems to be dragging her teen son through it, encouraging him to profess (strangely for a family of Catholics) evangelical proclamations on faith and so forth on Facebook, and she actively encourages him to grow ever more obese in an evident attempt to fulfill her strange fantasy that he’ll become an NFL star, ideally a Bronco modeled on Tim Tebow.

  3. grumpyoldfart says

    Maybe it was a good family. Maybe the prayer leaders really do love their victims, but that is not the reason for their idiotic behaviour.

    They are ego driven arseholes who think that they have the power to decide who lives and who dies. If the victim dies it’s god’s will, but if the victim survives they head straight off to the chapel to enjoy back-slapping congratulations from their gullible peers.

  4. BillG_SD says

    When I was a child (age 10), I was told by several people from our church to pray harder so god could cure my diabetes. After much “laying on of hands” prayer and “anointment of oil” upon my head yield no effect, Of course I was crushed and angry. But the incident prompted me to think. If no amount of prayer could cure disease (as promised in the bible), then maybe I’m the one who’s right and I’m actually praying to no one.

    Turns out I was right after all ;-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *