Faith Healing – The Return

Some time ago I confronted David Tee of Theology Archaeology about an article on faith healing. We had quite the robust discussion, where I found his use of data to be misleading. He has since returned to this subject on a few occasions, but my experience has taught me that discussing virtually any subject with Mr Tee is like throwing myself at a brick wall. After our last discussion I decided he does not warrant access to the comments section of Meerkat Musings anymore – but he remains free to reply via The Coalition of the Brave, or of course via his own site. I write this more for me than for him, but also for the wider audience, to highlight the actual issue with faith healing.

One view (for the sake of transparency) can be found here,  as can my archive of my original debate with Mr Tee, which I should warn, is a very long page.

Let’s begin with the overall premise, best highlighted by this quote – as with previous quotes from David, they shall be in pink.

Joel Watts, on his website,  is lamenting one death from faith healing: http://unsettledchristianity.com/2013/04/i-once-was-lost-but-now-im-found-another-child-death/

and it is a shame. Why? because no one attacks medical science or doctors like they do faith healing advocates when a death occurs. Unfortunately, medical deaths vastly outnumber the number of deaths incurred by those who practice faith healing yet no one cries out that the surgeons or doctors should be arrested or that their children should be removed from their homes or that the hospital be closed down.

The idea here is that we ignore the percentages of deaths caused by faith healing vs medical practices – a point I raised before and a point that was duly ignored. It is also worth asking – how many lives might have been saved had the parents actually sought medical help? The page David links to refers to the author’s own experience – whereby he actually lived because his mother had the good sense to seek treatment and not rely solely on prayer – as well has the tragic experience of parents who lost two children because they relied on prayer and prayer alone.

David wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. It would seem that unless we achieve anything less than 100% success with medical science, we should be rounding up doctors and shutting hospitals down. Never mind that in 81% of cases medical science would have had a 90% chance of saving children who died as a result of faith healing – nope, let’s ignore that. Let’s also ignore the measurable difference in cases of measles once the vaccine was introduced to the USA in the 1960s.

If you look at statistics, that is if you can find accurate ones as faith healers do not keep records and rarely report to government agencies their success and failure rates,  you would find an anomaly that is basically ignored. First one figure on faith healing

n 1998-APR, Dr. Seth Asser, a critical-care pediatrician at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, and Rita Swan, head of the advocacy group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty(CHILD) authored a paper in the professional journal Pediatrics. Asser studied 172 reported deaths of infants and children between 1975 and 1995. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/medical3.htm#)

172 deaths in a 20 year span {less than 10 a year) and you must keep in mind that there is no guarantee that medical science could have saved those children. Now the next figure includes adults but the numbers are so large you get the idea of how many children EACH YEAR die at the hands of medical professionals using medical science:

It’s funny how David is using the very same information I’m using but misrepresenting it to arrive at a completely different conclusion. 172 deaths – and yes, we have no idea what this is in percentage terms because as David already mentioned, there are no records! Faith healers are not held to account even remotely like medical professionals are. What we do know is that modern medicine and medical techniques had a 90% chance of saving 81% of those children – most of them had a very high chance of survival, had they not been denied actual help.

There is an excellent article on Medium that shows the effectiveness – and maintained effectiveness – of vaccinations at dramatically reducing mortality rates.

I’ll leave you with this – a breakdown of David’s comments on the mortality figures of modern medical practices versus faith healing – it was good then and it’s good now.

Faith healing: Asser studied 172 reported deaths of infants and children between 1975 and 1995. Deaths were found in 34 states among members of 23 religious groups. They belonged to families of Christian Scientist, Faith Tabernacle, Faith Assembly and several other religious groups that practice faith healing (http://www.religioustolerance.org/medical3.htm)

Modern Medicine: An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a new study of 37 million patient records that was released today by HealthGrades, the healthcare quality company. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/11856.php)

Let’s break this down into percentage terms. 600,000 deaths are clearly unfortunate – they are also 1.6% of 37 million patients. What percentage of patients who underwent faith healing survived? You said it yourself – records are not kept. It is a notoriously difficult area to keep accurate records of, and this draws into question its validity as a genuine, verifiable alternative to medicine and medical treatment. Out of the 37 million patients seen to over the time period you list, 98.4% were not harmed due to errors or neglect. What of the example I gave in my first post? 140 of the children who died when their parents relied on faith healing rather than medical treatment had a 90% chance of survival. That’s 80% of cases where the odds were huge that they would live had they sought proper medical help.

Conversely, 80% of those who died were victims of neglectful practice – on the part of the ‘healer’ who could not help them as well as on the part of the parents.

So, 98.4% of patients who are not harmed due to malpractice or neglect (a much greater volume of patients too), vs 80% who sadly died.

We shall see what David has to say, as and when he responds.