Faith Healing

by Sarah Hutchinson

Faith healing is the practice of, well, healing through faith. Believers in this practice have come to the understanding that their diseases and ailments can be cured or relieved through, prayers, belief, and good intentions. This can be done by going on a pilgrimage, having a “spokesperson” for God heal you on His behalf, or just through having extreme faith that you will be healed. A large subset of those who believe in this practice are Christians, especially those who believe in Cristian science. There are churches all around the world and numerous “healers” who claim to have the power to cure cancer, give people the ability to walk again, and relieve arthritic pain. This can be a great source of comfort for some, but it can keep believers from seeking real medical treatment, which can be incredibly dangerous, especially for those without a voice, like children or persons with disabilities. This practice is one that is incredibly prevalent in today’s society, and many people of all ages, classes, and races believe that God can cure what medicine cannot.

Why do people believe this? Just typing “faith healing” into a Youtube search engine yields thousands of videos of extraordinary instances of these miracles. Often people find themselves witnessing impressive feats such as those bound to wheelchairs walking again. They consider what they witness and others’ testimonials of God’s healing to be proof of concept. There is also evidence that symptoms are relieved through faith healing. The flip side to this argument is that often these symptoms are relieved either through the body naturally healing something within its realm such as a common cold, or through the placebo effect. Many people experience the relief of their symptom in the heat of the moment, only to find themselves feeling as before when they get home, or later that week.

There are a lot of reasons one might believe in this pseudoscience. The first is that it is promising the impossible to desperate people. The people who go to faith healers can have everything from headaches to terminal illnesses. Some of them have tried everything. Often what they are suffering is incurable. Offering any form of hope can definitely cause them to overlook rationality, and confirmation bias can be a huge factor here. Disconfirming evidence is also ignored here largely due to retreats to the supernatural. Often, if it doesn’t work, a believer uses the excuse that their faith needs to be stronger or that God has a reason for making them wait. They believe that God’s work is beyond understanding, and that is why they aren’t scared off by the instances when it doesn’t work. It is also why they keep trying.

Believers come from religious communities. These communities are central to their lives, giving them an endless supply of influence. When everyone they are close to holds the belief that faith healing works, it is hard to challenge the notion. They also have a great amount invested in these beliefs themselves: their religion, their concept of how the world works, and their view of themselves. These beliefs make up who they are, and often they have grown up in this faith. Changing one’s views is a challenge when the world is telling you to, but when you are involved in such a close knit community, even if the thought were to cross your mind, it would quickly be pushed away.

In summary, social influence and unfalsifiable beliefs can lead someone to do crazy things. Even ignoring proper medical care at the cost of your own or your child’s life can seem justifiable in the name of religion. Often confirmation bias can keep disconfirming evidence at bay, and retreats to the supernatural are a given when it comes to the unreliable nature of faith healing. It can be a fairly dangerous belief. While the “healed” many feel better in the moment, the consequences can be high for those who need real medical care.

For more information, the sources I used and found helpful can be found below.

7 thoughts on “Faith Healing

  1. I feel like faith healing is more popular with older generations. I liked how you pointed out that for a lot of faith healers, their religion is Central to who they are. I also liked how the fact that the community that surrounds them can have so much effect on if a person can believe this was pointed out because I feel like that can sometimes be over looked.

  2. I find this topic so interesting! I am a religious person indeed but I also believe in medicine and doctors and believe that God ordained special people to help the sick- doctors especially. It blows my mind that people turn away all of science because they believe ‘Gd will heal everything’ and that type of thinking is so sad. My father is a Jahova’s witness and I have sickle cell. When I was a baby I needed a blood transfusion and my dad was against it and said it is against his beliefs and his religion. Luckily my mom is sane and went ahead with the blood transfusion that saved my life. Imagine if my mom believed the same thing, i could be dead right now. And I think that is the saddest part about extraordinary faith healing believers, they would rather their kids, family members loved ones and even themselves than give up their beliefs.

  3. This reminded me of a video I watched in one of my other classes in the beginning of the year. What happened was a young girl was put on a ventilator because of complications due to surgery and eventually was declared brain dead. Her parents refused to believe she was really dead and had faith that god would heal their daughter so they removed her from the hospital and continued to keep her on a ventilator at their home. Obviously, it’s incredibly hard to cope with a death in the family, especially of a young daughter, but it’s also misguided to think god will bring a person back to life.

  4. While some faith healing may be harmless, and spiritual healing can surely be achieved, I find that faith healing usually devolves into acting. Someone claims they have a gift from god, heal a staged actor, and then take donations from good people wanting to witness a miracle. Even worse, these fakes attract truly sick people who desperately want to be healed and to live, but the “faith-healer” can do nothing for them; except steal all their money before they die.

    • i agree! i definitely think having faith and some belief is harmless! but the issues occur when people use ONLY faith as their medicine and they completely write off medicine and science. That does not help them in anyway and it can do way more harm than good especially if they are severely sick.

  5. I was raised Catholic, so I feel like I had a lot of exposure to this type of idea. I always saw it as more of an act of symbolism and good faith. I never was able to find it in myself to believe that something like this could heal something like cancer. If that was truly the case then instead of chemo we would send people on these pilgrimages. I do believe that is good to have the faith these people have. It can definitely be great comfort, peace, and light in a time of darkness like that.

  6. I think it is funny that people still practice this even when it doesn’t produce any actual healing results. Either people experience a placebo effect or whatever ailment they had must not have been very serious. It is one thing to believe in a higher power and have faith, or even spiritual healing, but to think that the power or prayer can cure your cancer is something I can not get on board with.

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