Saturday 18 October 2008

A bit of a rant - Faith Healing

It has been at least a couple of months since I have had a rant and today I will rectify that as I am monumentally pissed off and I have a feeling I may really "go off on one", so consider this a warning and if rants about religion are not your thing don't read the bit in the box below!.

Here we go..
If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I sometimes get a bit cross about not so much "religion" but "religious people". My last rant was about a certain MLA (like an MP but a Northern Irish version) who believes that being Gay in the eyes of God and humanity is comparable to Child Molestation and Murder. This MP is the chairperson of the Health Committee and remains uncensored and unpunished for such dreadful utterances. This rant is not about her this time, another group of "happy smiley people" have raised my ire.

Every Saturday for the last year or so a local church group have set up chairs, speakers and a big banner in the centre of town. This is a large blue banner claiming "HEALING" in large white letters, soothing music plays in the background and lots and lots of leaflets like the one opposite are handed out by "Happy Smiley People"

There are usually only a few HSP leafleting but today there were dozens of them! Some of which would not take a polite "no thank you" as a reply. But it is not my discomfort at their antics that I am ranting about today.

You can click on the image above .. but for those not bothered the leaflet says ...
"Need Healing? God can heal you today!
Do you suffer from Back pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction,Cancer, Ulcers, Depression,Allergies, Fribomyalgia,Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, or other sickness? We'd love to pray for your healing right now!"
... It continues ...
"God loves you and can heal you from any sickness today"
... and concludes ...
"You have nothing to lose, except your sickness!"

Quite frankly this is appalling! Where I to set up in a similar way and give away "Purple Pixie Dust" making the claim that "Purple Pixie Dust can heal you form any sickness today". I would be taken away by the local constabulary and told in no uncertain manner to cease and desist. Yet Saturday after Saturday there they are under their HEALING banner extolling something that has the same efficacy as my imaginary Pixie dust.

J'accuse - Reeling in the sick with well chosen words.

Now lets be clear here, they specifically ask if you have "Back pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction,Cancer," etc , and then claim "... can heal you from any sickness today". This is not a claim that God MIGHT heal you. This is a claim that God CAN heal you and not tomorrow or the next daty.. but today! As there is a time frame mentioned this adds to the implication that it will happen today. For example "I can fix your computer today" would be taken by 99% of people to mean "I will fix your computer today". There are very very few people, if any at all , that would believe I meant "I might fix your computer today"

To most people the verb "to heal" means to make healthy or restore to health and to be free from ailment. Their claim is "to heal" so the public is more than justified in expecting that they will be made free from illness and returned to health.

For misleading the sick - HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME

J'accuse - Peddling the fantasy of efficacy to the sick

Now before I am accused of being "anti-god" I am not! The published claim on the leaflet ".. can heal you from any sickness today" I am not disputing at this time the existence of God what I am disputing is the claim that by whatever method actual measurable things will happen today. There is zero supporting evidence on the leaflet and only anecdotal "Oh I saw [someone] cured of [something] " evidence.
Which is fine but when I inquired about the "Morbidity and Mortality" figures which any orthodox treatment or medical practice would have, I was met with blank looks. M&M statistics record the details of both the successes and the failures. These are very important for the continued development of treatments and ability of a Doctor to give an accurate prognosis but sadly missing from this group's mindset.
Would you feel safe if a doctor treated you on the basis of his cleaning lady telling him"Oh I saw another doctor in a different practice do this and it works".

Were there even the slightest shred of truth in this claim or any noticeable efficacy on the ill why is the NHS not rushing people to the prayer ward rather than ICU? Why do the legions of oncologists not prescribe prayer as the cure for cancer before starting chemotherapy or radiotherapy? The answer to both these questions is because "prayer therapy" to whatever supernatural entity has never had any demonstrable effect! It is simple market forces.

People want to be well
When they are ill they want to get better
They go to the place most likely to make them better

If prayer therapy had any demonstrable, reliable, repeatable effect people would go "Oh that works really well" and all of a sudden we wouldnt need the hospitals we have now.

People have voted with their feet with the option that works most of the time.

For peddling this fantasy of efficacy as truth - HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME!

J'accuse - Gross Medical Ignorance and Misconduct

Before I am accused of ignorance of my chosen subject I was a nurse for many years before becoming a geek and I come from a family of Doctors, Nurses and Therapists so I am very familiar with medicine. Should this group ever have taken an interest in the ethics of orthodox medicine they might have come across the medical bon mot, primum nil nocere (First do no harm) or the more recent addition "and to avoid attempting to do things that other specialists can do better"

They do not do a review of your medical history, they do no diagnostic tests, they sit you down, accept what you are telling them at face value and then ask an invisible supernatural being to make the illness go away. That is all there is, no more no less.
And this in my opinion is dangerous.

For example a man approaches the group one Saturday and presents himself to be cured of Asthma. Unknown to the people praying he is suffering from a psychotic disorder, one of the symptoms of which is very low self image. The prayers don't work. The patient is then left wondering why the treatment did not work or worked with less than a total cure. Since he has low self image he naturally blame themselves rather than God or the people praying for the failure, thus reinforcing his own pathology and making him worse! How does this fit in with primum nil nocere. Do these agents of a supernatural healing entity even care that this might be the case? Do they do even a rudimentary medical check of who they are treating? Are they treating someone with Münchhausen's syndrome? Are they aware that when treating a person with sore shin for pain they in fact may need to be treating for cancer as the pain is caused by a spinal tumour in the sacral area?

It certainly appears they do not!

Do they wash their hands between patients as anyone with half a notion of basic hygiene would do?

It certainly appears from my observation that they do not. I do hope none of the patients has MRSA or C.Difficile!


J'accuse - willfully making a spectacle of the sick in their time of need.

Do they treat the person with the respect and dignity they deserve by treating them in private out of the public gaze. You would expect a doctor, nurse or even an agent of "WooWoo" magic like a homeopathic practitioner to do?

No they do not!

You are perhaps desperate for relief so you sit down on a chair in the center of town on a crowed Saturday morning and allow yourself to be surrounded by people who lay hands on you and pray. In doing so you become the focus of the attention of not only the people praying, but of the passing public who can if they so desire watch as the patients sit clutching their handout hoping that they will be the case that proves the claim for a cure today just like the handout implies.

Like some awful form of "Big Brother" or "X Factor" the town center has for 3 hours on a Saturday become "Coleraine's Got Diseases!" I half expect a preacher with a microphone to declaim "Debbie with the Arthritis in your knees COOOMEEEE ON DOWN!"

For treating the people in need of help with less decency and dignity than a carnival show man. HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME!
If you have not realised that the people who come to you for help are regarded as objects of public spectacle. HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME!
If you are doing it deliberately you are without doubt loathsome attention seeking whores who use the sick for your own proselytizing purposes - HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME!

Is it just me? Am I the only one that finds this horribly wrong and a ghastly abuse of those in need of real help and medical support?

I think that you (the group) should

a) WASH YOUR HANDS BETWEEN PATIENTS if not for their sake for your own!

b) At least pay lip service to the fact that you could potentially be causing harm and offer proper non-religious medical counseling for the cases that God chooses not to cure

c) Take the process of praying inside NOW and allow their "patients" the dignity of privacy afforded by every orthodox medical practice and the lion's share of the alternate ones too.

d) Be considerably more honest about the prognosis in your leaflet.

"We will pray for your healing, however while we believe that God can cure you, this claim has not be substantiated by the same rigorous methods and standards you demand from other medical practitioners. These methods and standards are enshrined in law for your protection - we do not offer these standards as part of our service.

Indeed it would be dishonest of us to say that God Will Cure You. Likelwise we do not mean to suggest in any way that a cure will happen today or in fact any time soon. God may or may not help you or he may help you in a way that you don't expect, (this may include death - we just can't say at this time). In short we just don't know if this will work for you.

If you do get better we reserve the right to claim that our prayers cause it but should you not be healed or get worse ... well we are sorry but God moves in mysterious ways. These ways may seem entirely arbitrary but we just don't know the mind of God. Please don't ask for the number of people who were NOT cured today as we don't appear to know that either. We don't keep medical records like other more orthodox medical practitioners so we don't know which prayers work best if at all.

***PLEASE NOTE*** God at this time chooses not cure amputees or people afflicted with genetic disorders"

This would at least be a more honest approach! Oh and while I am on "honest approaches" One would hope that the earthly agents of a supreme being would at least aspire to honesty. But I now know this is not the case, I was approached by a group from the same church whilst out for a walk by the river not long ago. They approached me initially saying they were on a "treasure hunt" and needed my assistance in finding some of the stuff on their list. However after some beating around the bush what they REALLY wanted was to find out if I had any illnesses.
Yes one of the items on their list was
I was gob-smacked at the temerity of it!
The group consisted of 5 or 6 some of whom where young children, such a good example of "ethical" religion at work, but hey! it is lying for their buddy Jesus and that makes it fam-dabby-fecking dozy!

If I complain, which I have, there is an inertia inherent in the powers-that-be to get involved in something to do with "religion" the police believe it to be a council matter and the council believe it to be a police matter. So I am left with having to cope with a status quo that stinks of all that is wrong with religion.

Disqus for Domi-No-Yes-Maybe