A wide variety of healing powers have been attributed to religious figures. Most famously, Jesus was supposed to be able to heal people. Less famously, various saints and holy people were said to have the power to heal. Even religious relics were supposed to have healing powers.
Today, some folks still believe in this sort of divine healing. However, there seems to be no evidence that anyone today has this sort of ability either individually or collectively via prayer. Interestingly, it has been subject to scientific testing (see, for example, my essay on powerless prayer in my book) and has always been found to be lacking. In some cases, the folks who claim such power are sincerely mistaken. In other cases, they are con artists and charlatans. In any case, there seems to not even a single properly investigated and documented case of divine healing.
While people do attribute healing and recovery to divine sources, these recoveries and healings always fall well within what is to be expected without any divine intervention. Also, as noted above, evidence of a divine power at work is always lacking. For example, a person might allege that her recovery from cancer was the result of divine healing. Laying aside the obvious problem of why God would allow her to get cancer if He is so concerned about her health, people recover from cancer spontaneously without there being any attempt at divine healing. Without any solid evidence of divine action, it is most logical to regard such claims as mistaken. After all, the fact that a person believes that she was magically healed hardly counts as proof.
Naturally, given the alleged volume of divine healing in the past, I wonder why it does not occur now. One possible explanation is that divine healing has never occurred and this is why it is not occurring now.
Another possible explanation is that no one alive today has the necessary traits to be a divine healer (or to be healed by divine healing). In other words, perhaps we are all too corrupt or lacking in faith to have those magical powers. Of course, this would seem to be inconsistent with God’s love and His mercy. After all, a doctor does not refuse to heal the sick or injured simply because she thinks they lack moral purity. Surely a loving God would not just stop dispensing healing powers and hence there should still be such divine healing going on. However, there is no evidence of this.
Perhaps it is happening in secret and only to a select few people who also keep silent. Obviously, when I had my quadriceps tendon torn apart, no one came forward to magically heal me, but perhaps that is because I write blog posts like these. If this is the case, then God’s love (and the love of these folks) must be very selective indeed-and that seems inconsistent with being a loving and good God.
I am open to evidence for divine healing and would be happy to assist a divine healer in setting up a controlled experiment to establish that s/he has such powers.
On a lighter note, I think it would be great if divine healing was real. After all, in D&D and WoW I often play classes that can do such healing (in the game) and find that incredibly useful. Like most gamers, I have often thought it would be great if that worked in real life (I think the same about fireball, but that is another story). It would have been very useful when I tore my tendon-a quick lay on hands and I would have avoided all those bills and down time.
Well, even if you don’t get healed by believing, it seems there are tons of other benefits:
More calm in bad conditions:
Survive longer when terminally ill:
“The 2004 General Social Survey showed that 43 percent of religious people said they were very happy with their lives compared with 23 percent of the nonreligious.”
More honest and nice to people:
There’s tons of studies showing all of the above. Doesn’t this just burn your cynical, academic butt?
SPARTAN-367 (PAT) says
I neither agrees or disagree. I am confused and ignorant in this world just as you or anyone else.
I want to share something… Have you ever watched or read Peaceful Warrior? If not give it a shot. I have never read the book, but I watched the movie. I would like to hear your thoughts on it.
Never give up and keep moving forward.
My last comment got sucked up in your span filter because of my deluge of links.
Anyway, there a re tons of studies showing the benefits of religious belief, happiness not being the least of them.
It’s one thing that’s always driven me away from liberalism: The grotesque pessimism and downright unhappiness of its adherents. Many of todays libs make arthur Schopenhaur look like a ray of sunshine.
T. J. Babson says
Magus, the only reason to believe something is that it is true. No other reason matters. In other words, you shouldn’t believe something because it makes you happy.
This is of course, debatable. Aristotle said that our goal in life is be to be happy. And I see everyday that people believe in comforting lies.
I do prefer hard truth to soothing falsehoods, for the most part. But as I grow older, for some reason, I find myself becoming more of an optimist. Odd really. Are not optimists those who comfort themselves with sometimes-false hopes? But pessimists have accomplished little in this world, even those that were geniuses, like Schopenhaur. Our Founding Fathers were unbridled optimists, thank goodness.
That being said, I believe there is much truth in the Bible (though of course no written text could contain all truth), if not in every Jim Jones that steps to a pulpit.
Ive seen articles written by humanists stating that humans are hard wired to believe in gods or the supernatural. The humanist would say: You believe because you have to. The believer would say: God made me this way, so I have to.
Michael LaBossiere says
Oddly enough, I found about 4 of your comments in the spam holding pen. I can only assume it has a liberal bias. 🙂 I released the comments into the wild. I’ll have to check more often to see what’s in the trap.
Whatever happened to ghosts?
Michael LaBossiere says
Ghost Busters. That’s what.