Faith Healings

Sometimes I miss faith healings.

I don’t miss watching them and seeing the hope and despair of individuals as they cry out for healing.  I don’t miss the shame and discouragement of those who didn’t get what they wanted. 

But I do miss the possibility of miracles unexpected. 

I never liked ‘healing services’ where people had to walk up long isles and have small groups of men ask their deep problems and pray loudly for them in front of the whole service.  Not at all.

I don’t miss travelling to churches overseas and being swarmed by locals asking to recieve healing.  It is heartbreaking to see people starved and overworked looking for salvation where it doesn’t exist.  I, having studied nutrition, wanted to talk to them about their diets and water supply, not sprinkle oil on their heads.  Dealing with parasites and sanitation seemed to be a better use of time.  They wanted none of that, just a miracle, like Jesus.

But they did get some miracles.  I’ve seen them.  I have seen paraplegics walk.  I’ve seen crippled arms grow. 

I do miss small encounters, quiet and unexpected.

As I and a few other friends were touching a woman with a bad back, she felt shoots of hot air and her back straightened- completely better.  I knew her and could tell she was not putting on a show.  No one would perform heavy labour with a crooked back for weeks so in a quiet prayer meeting she could pretend a miracle.

I do not know what caused those things.  Placebo effect?  Certainly part of it.  Is it worth dangling a carrot in front of so many that only a few can access? 

I don’t know.  There are people who seem to have healing gifts, like those who have psychic gifts.  The skeptic community often derrides these topics as irrational. 

I think there is something to them.  I have no explanation, but I cannot dismiss what I’ve seen as lightly as mass hallucinations.

I don’t think a bearded sky god is the cause.  I can’t even concieve of a diety that makes sense to me.

It seems like the athiest/agnostic community has no place for this type of discussion.  Certain New Agers and Christian groups do have a revered spot, but the attempted explanations are anywhere from laughable to dangerous.

Maybe there are more people who are willing to talk about it without pure mockery, but maybe they are shy.  Or maybe people just hear about such things and have never experienced them.

6 thoughts on “Faith Healings

  1. I know what you mean, prairie nymph. I like the idea of something like miracles and maybe even something resembling mysticism but cannot conceive of a deity I would like or relate to; or believe in.

    A well grounded friend of mine recommended a book about creative visualization. She described the book as “somewhat fruity” but swears the process of creative visualization works.

    I know the technique is used in professional sports. It makes sense to visualize ourselves accomplishing the things we want to accomplish — because it gives us a roadmap of sorts to then do it. I don’t understand it either but I think the human mind is much more powerful than we realize.

  2. D'ma says:

    I think CD is right. I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve heard of people being healed through transcendental meditation. I’m not sure if it’s a placebo effect or if it just goes to show how powerful our minds are over our bodies if we have faith that anything is going to heal us. Doesn’t seem to matter what god/inner power/higher power a person is meditating on, it’s a visualization of the healing and then mind over matter so to speak.

  3. They are called miracles because they rarely happen. Better odds of winning the lottery. But like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.

    I don’t know. I still believe in God but certainly not the one promoted by any religion or offshoot thereof. When we try to describe God or understand God, we think far too small, which is natural, as we are humans, with a very small window on the universe. Try to get your head around infinite or eternal. Both scare the hell out of me, so to speak.

  4. grasshopper says:

    I am absolutely open to conversations of this nature. I wonder if miracles fall into the category of things that seem magical but which science will be able to explain sometime in the future.

  5. theo(il)logical says:

    For a good history of faith healing in Canada, or at least it’s modern beginnings, see James Opp’s book: http://books.google.ca/books?id=TFaBjxzN1dAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=lord+for+the+body&source=bl&ots=St7MQgjIP_&sig=CfK575DKZr5HH8fJWKFK4bP2vos&hl=en&ei=y7JfTeOfFMK78gbY0ICSDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false. The introduction should suffice to sum things up (and only 13 pages). What the author does a good job of documenting is: the gendered practice of faith healing; the conflict between faith healing, the emerging modern medical establishment, and the state (especially the law); the cultural construction of discourse around proof and evidence; and the cultural-linguistic difference in meaning between being “cured” and “healed.” In short, it’s a good “history of the body’s representation.” (Your husband may be particularly interested; the book deals largely with the early history of the Christian and Missionary Alliance church.)

    Re: Above comments
    I’m a little critical of this idea of “mind cure,” or more generally that positive thinking can change the world around oneself. (To clarify, I am not discrediting the placebo effect or making a call to pessimism, so let’s not carry the conversation down that path.) I think that telling people that the state of their mind can change their circumstances is psychologically harmful at best and abusive at worst! Though this video doesn’t discuss faith healing specifically, it is good for thinking around these kind of ‘”mind over matter” beliefs and arguments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo

    Cognitive Dissenter discusses above visualization by athletes. He confuses this practice with the kind of visualization inherent in practices like TM or which books like The_Secret advocate. Visualization in sport isn’t a way that athletes *attract* success. It isn’t *mystical* at all. Visualization is a way athletes prepare for doing their best. Visualization in this context helps athletes focus or concentrate their efforts on doing their best (and hopefully that best is enough to win). Visualization of this kind is very different from visualization of one’s body healing in which one has no agency, hopes for some external force to intervene, or believes one’s mental energies can affect material reality.

    As for D’ma’s comment that her friend healed herself through TM, I’d ask how she knows if it was TM and not some other variable that is responsible for her friend’s recovery. Personal anecdotes really don’t prove much.

  6. dsholland says:

    Is it mechanical or is it spiritual? By this I mean the process not the result. TM is a mechanical process IMO as is “positive thinking”. I think the healing PN speaks of is mechanical (as in result) and I think that is a prerequisite for a real miraculous healing.

    The question is (with deference to Mr. Lewis) do you believe in ghosts? I cannot claim to have witnessed a real miraculous healing, but (with deference to the cowardly lion) I do, I do, I do believe in ghosts 😉

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