What should anyone think when confronted with reported claims of miraculous healings? From time to time a commentator on this blog emphatically claims to have witnessed miraculous healings. Naturally, credit for these magical interventions of divine health is attributed to a moving of the Holy Spirit in some religious meeting, or perhaps by some special "anointing" that spontaneously falls on someone. One believer in supernatural healing commented on a letter posted here: You have a little mind.
But are Christians the only people laying claim to supernatural healings?
Here are some excerpts from the Deccan Herald published in India:
Gopi Malhotra down on holiday from the US says, "Sure I do believe faith heals, not just physically but mentally too. One does not have to put down ones crutches and walk to be healed. Mentally and emotionally too we can be healed through faith."
Pratima Mathias readily answered the question. "Yes! I do believe very strongly that faith heals. There is a power in faith that can move mountains. I personally have felt the healing power of faith in Shimoga where I come from. I had an abscess on my arm that was painful and gave me a lot of trouble. Then I attended a meeting in Shimoga where a faith healer prayed with a big group and the cure was not a miraculous cure, but the abscess just disappeared over a few days."
Walking along MG Road, conspicuous in his saffron robe was Giridhar, an Iskcon follower. "I come from Finland and I believe very strongly that faith heals. Of course, it depends on God's desire if he wants to heal you or not. In all religions, whether the Koran, the Bible, or Hindu texts, there is the fact that faith is a great healer. I used to have a lot of acne all over my face and back. Nothing would cure it. Only when I began to practice my faith, the acne just cleared up rapidly."
In case it wasn't obvious, these three "believers" weren't Christians.
Here's more, from an online article about Daya Mataji :
The stories about Mataji's healing prowess are legion. Tales of curing incurable cases of cancer, making the blind see and the lame walk are avidly told and retold among her followers. Indeed, as with many other gurus and cults, the hope of obtaining relief from a physical ailment or a distressful emotional condition is one of the two primary motives for becoming a member of the cult; the other being a hidden wish for siddhis, or magical powers, which are interminably talked about by her followers even while they are being overtly decried. The gurus themselves would look at healing of sickness as necessary bait for their proper task of leading a person toward self-realization. Perhaps they regret the fact that skepticism is a child of well-being and deplore the perversity of man who is otherwise so little interested in mystical bliss, even when it is so easily and so painlessly provided as by Mataji. As a healer, Mataji is undoubtedly effective, though again, as with other healers, a number of her cures are little more than provision of temporary relief. A typical example is a woman who suffered from excruciating "back pains." After exhausting the resources of modern medicine she went to see Mataji at a friend's house. At that time Mataji was still developing her mystical technology of kundalini raising and had yet to complete the transition from healing to holiness. Mataji asked the woman to put her head on her lap and be still. After a few minutes the woman felt the pain leave her while at the same time there was a strong scent of jasmine flowers in the room. The pain came back when she returned home and though she faithfully attended Mataji's discourses on the following days, that first experience of a sudden disappearing of pain was never repeated. The cult members of course consider such temporary cures as showing a lack of faith in Mataji and her divinity. Given their premise that faith in Mataji can permanently cure the most intractable disease, a patient's persisting symptoms "prove" that he lacks faith, which in turn "proves" the correctness of the premise.
Notice the statement about temporary cures being considered signs of a lack of faith. I can't count the number of times I heard this exact same statement repeated in Charismatic circles.
Manaism is another religion that believes in supernatural healing. According to Wikipedia, Manaism is a belief in a supernatural force that travels swiftly like an electric current around the world and suddenly enters other people and objects giving them powers which they previously lacked. Visions, premonitions, sudden strength in people, faith healing all are part of this belief. This so-called supernatural force is known by several names:
(A) WAKAN IN AFRICA
(B) MANA IN AMERICA AND AUSTRALIA
(C) Qi (or Chi) in China; Gi in Korea; Ki in Japan
(D) SING-BONGA AMONG MUNDAS AND HOS OF MADHYA PRADESH
Faith healing has not scientifically been proven effective. What few controlled studies have been performed have evidenced no beneficial effect. Its practitioners can only cite anecdotal evidence of cases where it has been successful, ignoring the far more numerous cases where the patient dies despite the efforts of faith healing. Doctors often ascribe any success to the placebo effect or to spontaneous remission: some people will heal with or without treatment, and it is generally natural to credit the most recent treatment for the cure.
Prominent 1980's-era faith healer and televangelist Peter Popoff was publicly exposed by noted skeptic James Randi working together with popular TV host Johnny Carson, when it was discovered that the apparent healing miracles and prophetic acts performed by Popoff were in fact part of an elaborately stage-managed setup including planting of audience members and broadcasts to an in-ear radio receiver. Other faith healers such as Benny Hinn (who was videotaped by hidden cameras and profiled on an episode CBC's The Fifth Estate) have also been hit by allegations of fraudulent activity.
To close this little rant, here is a quote from "Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking" by Warren H. Jones (page 35).
It is possible to accept the fact of recovery from a severe illness or handicap without medical intervention and at the same time discount claims that recovery was caused by a supernatural force. Many recoveries can be explained by known physiological and psychological principles. Others cannot be so explained. To equate the unexplained with the miraculous, however, is unjustifiable. Unexplained only means unexplained.
So, what do you think?
For further reading, see:
"Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking" by Warren H. Jones.
An overview of magical thinking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking
Previously posted video:James Randi on Faith Healing.