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For shame! Oprah Winfrey shills for faith healer John of God

In terms of promoting woo and quackery, there is one person who stands head and shoulders above all the rest. True, she doesn’t just promote woo and quackery, but she does have a long list of dubious achievements in that realm, including but not limited to unleashing Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine crusade plus Suzanne Somers and her “bioidentical hormone” and cancer quackeries on an unsuspecting American public. She’s also subjected us to both Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz to the point of actually launching them on their own shows, promoting the mystcial mumbo-jumbo wish fulfillment that is The Secret, and basically providing the most influential daytime TV platform for all manner of pseudoscience on a regular basis. Indeed, she’s been running a veritable war on medical science. There’s no New Age woo too woo-ey or quackery too quacky for Oprah.

Actually, I didn’t used to think that that was the case. I thought that Oprah probably had limits, that there were some forms of woo that even Oprah wouldn’t promoter. True, after she started promoting The Secret, I was probably deluding myself to think that, but I nonetheless did. On Wednesday of this week, I learned that I was totally wrong in thinking this. Oprah has no shame, as I discovered when she did a show featuring faith healer John of God, entitling it Do You Believe in Miracles?

The stupid, it burns so bad.

I didn’t actually watch the entire show when it aired, but I found clips from the show on the Oprah website, along with a long writeup describing the show. Let’s put it this way. If the rest of the show was anything like what’s on the website (and there’s no reason to believe it is not), Oprah has once again pulled a classic bit of promoting nothing but the rankest quackery. Her feature appears to be a completely credulous treatment of faith healing, complete with the obligatory “skeptic” who sees what the miracle worker can do and becomes a convert. Before I get into this more, take a look at this nauseating video, which shows segments from the show. The first segment is an interview between Oprah and Susan Casey, editor-in-chief of O Magazine, the latter of whom traveled to Brazil to bask in the presence of the alleged “holy man.” The segment took the form of the classic “spiritual journey narrative.” To whit:

While at the Casa, Susan was also searching for her own healing. After her father suddenly passed away two years ago, Susan experienced a “tsunami of grief” that she says she couldn’t escape from. She wondered if John of God could help heal her grief.

When she first met with John of God, she says all he did was look her in the eyes. “I thought, ‘That was it?’ I was expecting a lightening bolt, where there’s a big flash of insight. And they just said, ‘Come back later.’ It’s basically, ‘Take a blessing and come back.'”

Susan met with him a second time, and again, he didn’t spend any time with her. What he did do was look at a picture of Susan and her father. He then told Susan to sit in the “healing room,” a room in the Casa reserved for meditation and prayer, for three hours. Susan says she was surrounded by hundreds of people in the healing room, all of whom were praying and meditating with their eyes closed.

“Three hours went by like 20 minutes,” Susan says, “and it was blissful–it was like I was floating.”

In her own state of meditation, Susan says she was able to speak with her father. “It was very real,” she says. “More of a vision than I had ever had before. … I got this feeling like I shouldn’t be sad, that everything was okay.”

While Susan acknowledges that the whole experience sounds skeptical, she says she’s “not a woo-woo person,” and that the Casa helped her find healing.

They all say they aren’t “woo-woo” people, don’t they? In fact, if you hear someone on a show about a faith healer say they’re a skeptic or “not a woo-woo person” you can be pretty sure that she either has just said or is about to say something that proves she is a woo-woo person. In the video, Casey goes on and on about how after meeting John she felt as though a “cloud had lifted” and how she felt “lighter.” She describes sitting in the “healing room,” where she was floating and talking to her dead father. She then describes a scene in which she and other supplicants are sitting and praying, not allowed to cross their legs (which apparently for some reason would ruin he “energy” being channeled) and how she feld during that. it is also in this segment that I saw perhaps the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen on Oprah’s show. Oprah looks at her editor and, in all seriousness, says, “You know this sounds very woo-woo to me.”

Oh, Oprah, you skeptic you!

More hilarious is the answer. Casey says that she can’t be woo-woo because she spends her time around people with surfers who surf 100 foot waves, and they’re “very linear” and “focused” in their thinking. Uh, Casey. Have you ever noticed that a lot of surfers are into a lot of woo? At the very least they’re at least as prone to woo as anyone else. This isn’t as though Casey was hanging out with Randi, fer cryin’ out loud! In any case, it would be churlish of me not to be happy that Casey seems to have found a way to overcome her grief at the loss of her father, but medicine and science this is not. It is, contrary to Casey’s claim otherwise woo-woo, and Casey is anything but a skeptic. In fact, she appears to have been in such a state of mourning that she may have even been in a state of clinical depression at the time. Indeed, she describes having the feeling that she would “never feel joy again.” She had such an emotional need for something to shake her out of that state that she latched onto John of God. Whatever happened, it’s quite obvious that Casey is was not neutral and, unlike a real skeptic, turned off her critical thinking faculties (if they were ever on in the first place) when she traveled to Brazil.

Next up we have a “skeptic.” His name is Dr. Jeff Rediger, and he is presented thusly:

Dr. Jeff Rediger is a psychiatrist who traveled to the Casa seven years ago as a skeptic. His goal was to collect lab reports, radiological exams and photos of people who reported that they were physically healed by John of God and to see if the healings could be documented.

Like Susan, he witnessed several physical surgeries while he was there–an experience he says changed the way he thought about the world.

“Some people who I spoke with were able to remember the events going around them completely, and some people seem to enter a sort of altered state during these surgeries,” he says. “When I was assisting in one of the surgeries, [John of God] cut this woman’s cornea. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t try to pull away from him. I can’t explain that. I heard some people use the term ‘spiritual anesthesia.’ I have no way to understand that.”

Well, science and skepticism would be a good start. Unfortunately, in the video I don’t see a whole lot of that coming from Dr. Rediger. One thing that irritated the hell out of me about this segment was how the producers blurred the blood when John was doing his “psychic surgery.” It made it impossible for me to make any judgment regarding whether there was any fakery involved. Looking at the blood and bits of tissue, I wasn’t convinced that this really was human tissue. In any case, everything in the video was a rehash of the sorts of nonsense that John of God has been doing for over a decade. Indeed, several years ago, ABC did a special on John of God with a similar lack of skepticism; the only difference between Oprah’s puff piece and the earlier special was that the earlier special was a whole hour and didn’t feature Oprah as the host and didn’t bother to interview someone like James Randi, who would have informed the producers that everything John of God did was nothing more than hoary old carny tricks, in particular the old “forceps up the nose” and “cornea scraping” tricks.

The latter trick apparently fooled Dr. Rediger completely, as he breathlessly describes a woman whose cornea Rediger said that John of God cut. Unfortunately, the camera angles used made it impossible for me to judge of John was doing what he claimed. In the only close-up, it was clear that the knife never touched the eye, and when John actually appeared to be doing something, the camera never actually focused on the woman’s eye. It was almost as though the Oprah producers were complicit in the fakery, because they seemed almost to be making a conscious effort not to show a camera angle that would allow viewers to judged whether the procedure actually being done was what John of God claimed. Personally, I’d have loved to see an ophthalmologist allowed to have a close-up view of John’s activities. Never trust a psychiatrist to do a surgeon’s job or judge “surgery.” This strikes me as particularly true when Rediger is shown in a video clip apparently bleeding from the chest, apparently after having viewed John do his cornea scraping bit. He expresses fear and is concerned that the bleeding doesn’t stop as soon as he thinks it should, pointing out that he doesn’t have a bleeding disorder.

Let’s just put it this way. I don’t think Dr. Rediger is much of a skeptic. Just Google his name, for instance, and you’ll quickly find his website. Here are some choice quotes:

  • “We live in a culture that has advanced enough that we can send the person with a medical problem to the medical doctor; a person with an emotional problem to the psychologist, and a person with a spiritual problem to the priest, minister or rabbi. Yet The Initiative for Psychological and Spiritual Development is founded upon the belief that, beneath and behind all the masks and appearances that we present to the world, there is something more, and that whatever healing potential exists comes from this place.”
  • “Many of us benefit every day from the advances made in medicine and biological psychiatry. But these disciplines as they are currently conceived are only part of the story. They are rooted in an overly materialist understanding of the body and the brain. We will be limited in our capacity to help people until we can enlarge our vision and understanding of the true nature and needs of the human person.”
  • “The next evolutionary step for both medicine and psychiatry is to explore and point the way towards what it will take to develop a rich, vital life of courage, faith and love. This means that we need to allow the capacities of mind and heart to stand on their own terms, and not be reduced solely to the language of biology and physics. And then seek to understand these hidden capacities, and how to cultivate them.”

It sounds to me that not only is Dr. Rediger not a skeptic, but rather he is a believer in mind-body dualism and “spirituality,” so much so that he heads something called the Initiative for Psychological and Spiritual Development.

Yet another segment describes a breast cancer testimonial for a woman named Lisa, who was apparently diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, her mother having died of the disease. Before I go on, I suggest that you take a look at another woman with breast cancer who appeared on Oprah’s show a couple of years ago after having chosen the New Age idiocy known as The Secret to treat what she described as “stage III breast cancer.” The woman’s name was Kim Tinkham, and she chose a regimen that involved acid-base quackery and The Secret. Two years later, she popped up on YouTube in an interview, where it turns out that she almost certainly didn’t have stage III breast cancer but rather grade III ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is noninvasive and doesn’t always progress to fully invasive cancer. Read the testimonial of Hollie Quinn. Read one of my oldest posts, which was about how breast cancer testimonials can easily deceive because of most people’s lack of knowledge about breast cancer. It’s nearly six years old and still as relevant today as it is was then. Lisa underwent the “forceps up the nose” operation by John of God. Her testimonial is described in this video and this segment on the Oprah website:

Doctors recommended a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, but Lisa refused. Desperate to find an alternative treatment, she traveled from her home in South Africa to Abadiania to see John of God. While at the Casa, Lisa volunteered for a visible surgery–a nasal probe.

“My heart was beating very fast [during the surgery]. And then I sort of felt him turning this instrument, and I remember a crunching sound and thinking ‘How far can this thing go back?’ because it felt really far,” she says. “I wouldn’t say it was painful. It was more like shock.”

When she left Brazil, Lisa says she followed the guidelines she had received from John of God, such as abstaining from sex and alcohol for 40 days. She later had a biopsy and, unfortunately, her tumor was still malignant.

“It’s never gone away, meaning I’ve never been out of the cancer realm,” Lisa says. “I was told I was at a fourth-stage diagnosis.”

Even though Lisa did not experience a physical healing at the Casa, she says she has no regrets.

So basically Lisa decided to forgo effective therapy and travel to see a faith healer, who did her no good. Now she has a stage IV diagnosis. Indeed, I wonder if she has large cervical nodes on her left side. Her neck looked very odd during this interview, as though it’s assymetrical with a bulge on the left side. Lisa is the true price of quackery like that of John of God. Quacks and faith healers hold out the hope of cure without that nasty surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Believe me, I understand why patients might want to avoid surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but they are all we currently have that actually works against breast cancer. Magical thinking leads to outcomes like that of Lisa.

Perhaps the most disgusting segment of all is this one, which introduces John of God. In it, Oprah’s voiceover describes John as “persecuted,” “misunderstood,” and “working tirelessly,” after having exulted about how “millions upon millions” of people have traveled to Brazil to visit him. The images are even more disturbing. John of God seems to have a proclivity for women’s breasts. In one scene, his is shown apparently making an incision on a woman’s breast, her nipple chastely blurred out, and squeezing something out of the breast, which the woman described as “something black coming out of my heart.” More important is this key statement: “He urges those who come to see him to continue all treatments prescribed by their own medical doctors.” Assuming that most of these people actually do that, it looks to me as though John of God is the classic case of a quack faith healer doing nothing and then taking credit for what science-based medicine can do. As Robert Caroll, Joe Nickell, and James Randi have documented, it’s pure quackery. As for all the testimonials, it’s almost always true that they consist of people who either (1) never really had the disease in the first place; (2) still have the disease, as Lisa does; or (3) can’t be tracked down and may well be dead.

As Oprah’s show winds down toward its end in May, I can only say: It’s not a moment too soon. Her reign of woo needs to come to an end. From just one show, Oprah has probably spurred thousands more people to trek down to Brazil to seek out John of God and potentially be harmed. Unfortunately, as Oprah ends her show, she’s starting up her very own cable channel, from which she can promote this sort of “spirituality” 24/7. I don’t know which is worse.

ADDENDUM: There are some defenders of John of God infesting the comments who are going nuts because I didn’t actually sit down and watch the entire episode of The Oprah Show entitled Do You Believe in Miracles? However, I did examine everything on Oprah Winfrey’s website on John of God (a.k.a. João Teixeira de Faria), which includes:

  1. Do You Believe in Miracles? (A long writeup of the show)
  2. Who is John of God? (video)
  3. Face-to-Face with John of God (video)
  4. Science and Miracles (video)
  5. Lisa’s Search for a Cure (video)
  6. A Leap of Faith: Meet John of God by Susan Casey (the long article featured in O Magazine)

If this is not representative of what Oprah Winfrey is promoting about John of God, please demonstrate why it is not. Also, please explain why Oprah’s website links to these credulous paeons to John of God:

Seriously. These are the other sources Oprah recommends for additional reading on John of God.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

197 replies on “For shame! Oprah Winfrey shills for faith healer John of God”

Replying to Calli [email protected]

“It’s not so much the believing as the promoting that I have a problem with”

I don’t get this. Why believe in something that isn’t worthwhile to promote?

Calli [email protected] ” — especially promoting what appears to be an obvious and dangerous fraud in a dramatically unbalanced way.”

The problem with this is that some people don’t see it as a fraud.

“2) Anybody can make any claim they want, and believe whatever they want. Everybody else is free to criticize it if they perceive a problem with it. This is the wonderful thing about free speech, and also about science. Christian beliefs get criticized too, and I think that’s healthy. Could probably do with more of it, really.”

This is the “postmoderning” perspective I was talking about earlier: everybody can say whatever they want and everybody’s claims are equally valid!

But we aren’t aren’t interested in claims as a result of “free speech” per-se. We are interested in *verifiable* claims”: claims backed-up by evidence.

Actually, religious beleifs have more “protection” against criticism because (among other reasons) it’s “impolite” and socially unacceptable to do so!

“I don’t give myself a free pass, actually, which is why I tend to put a bunch of disclaimers into my discussions of my faith. I believe what I believe. I can’t prove it, though, and so I don’t think it would be fair of me to demand you believe it too. Supporters of woo tend not to be so relaxed about their particular sacred cows, though. They rarely acknowledge that doubt is reasonable. Indeed, they’ll often regard doubt as a personal threat.”

No, you don’t actually (which is why I’m able to discuss it). There’s stll some degree of inconsistency between what you (as an example) allow for yourself and what you allow for people who believe in things you don’t approve of.

Science has seriously underestimated the power of the placebo effect. It is because of the placebo effect that quackery works often enough to give a great living to those who practice it, Homeopathy is a good example. Oprah knows that when people believe in “something greater than themselves” things happen. This is because of the placebo effect goes into action. Without question faith reinforces and augments the placebos, therefore many people get better or at least feel better

Casey`s article is a hoot. On page 6 she meets a woman who not only was cured of cancer by JOG, but gave birth to a child although she had no uterus nor ovaries – another of JOGs miracles.

“In a calm and measured tone, Janete told me that she had given birth despite having previously undergone a complete hysterectomy. “Janete had no tubes, no uterus,” Heather would elaborate for me. “The doctors said it had to be a psychological pregnancy, but then they did an ultrasound. She was already five months along.

And yet I was being asked to believe what science would flatly deny: that a pregnancy could occur in the absence of an egg.”

Casey finds it hard to be believe at first, but then she swallows it – hook, line and sinker, as always. The uterus-free woman had a proof with her – her daughter.

The placebo includes the bias of the researchers, the desire of the subjects to please the researchers and to get well, non-specific effects of receiving medical intervention and attention, and other artifacts of the research process. People like Carlos that seem to think that the placebo effect is a miracle catch-all that cures diseases. The fact is, beyond the bias of researches and artifacts, there is very little legitimate effect to the patient at all. It might make the patient feel some non-specific effect, but if they have a real illness- that illness is not going away w/ a placebo (beside the natural course of the disease).

In fact, I would argue that postponing care is far more dangerous for a serious illness than some non-specific effect produced by a charlatan. And somehow, I don’t think people are going to spend huge amounts of time and money to go to John for the average ear infection or minor cut. They have cancer, MS, etc.

Sastra

I think this is what happens to a mind that is in love with its own omnipotence, and calls it “having faith.”

I couldn’t agree more. Indeed, one definition of faith” is: “a belief that is not based on proof.” But “faith” can also be defined as: “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

I think the word has been hijacked by people who think faith=willful belief in everything that sounds vaguely ‘spiritual’. Blind faith is not the same as faith and is not encouraged in the Bible:

Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps (Proverbs 14:15)

I am not looking for validation of my beliefs. I am just pointing out that these people who are always talking about faith and using christianity as an excuse for stupidity don’t know what they are talking about. They claim to speak for christians but have never cracked open the Bible farther than Psalm 23 and John 3:16.

Callie is not one of them, she and I both believe in God and are reasonable. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The Bible also says “gifts of prophesying…will be done away with (1 Corinthians 13:8)” after Christs apostles died. So really modern day prophets (and yes, this includes the Pope) are all “either lying or mentally ill (thank you Tim Minchin)” and trust in them is contrary to Bible teaching. Fundamentalists and “holy men/women” are hypocrites that don’t know what being a christian means, they just know what tradition has taught them.

If you think the Bible is a collection of stories and fairytales that is your right. But there is some wisdom to be learned from those stories even if just the collective wisdom of our ancestors.

Funny that you cite Paul in an attempt to provide prophesying has been done away with after the apostles. Paul never met Christ and was not an apostle. Why they hell did he have that strange gift? How about the writer of revelation? John the revelation writer wasn’t a apostle and never met christ. The upshot of all these verses that decry charlatans is that the writers seem to think the rules don’t apply to them, but apply to people with other doctrines. It is basic religious doctrinal strife. On a side note, the New Testament is full of this doctrinal strife, a good percentage of Paul’s letters are written by fake that is inserting his doctrinal prospective into Paul’s mouth to win a religious debate.

“If you think the Bible is a collection of stories and fairytales that is your right. But there is some wisdom to be learned from those stories even if just the collective wisdom of our ancestors.”

This is equally interesting and true in one specific respect. The Bible is interesting literature (Ecclesiastes is almost ancient existentialism and the only intellectually honest theodicy) but is hardly unique in comparison with other ancient works. There is nothing about the bible should set it apart from these other great ancient works. The Bible should be regard in the same way as Homer’s magnificent works or the Aeneid.

So when people say the bible is “collective wisdom of our ancestors” (actually the vast majority of us aren’t jewish, so actually its not) and then proceed to ignore all the wonderful ancient literature and set apart the bible- it shows them to be basic religious ideologues rather than knowledge seeking people.

Funny that you cite Paul in an attempt to provide prophesying has been done away with after the apostles. Paul never met Christ and was not an apostle. Why they hell did he have that strange gift? How about the writer of revelation? John the revelation writer wasn’t a apostle and never met christ.

I am not going to argue with you except two points in which you are mistaken: As to your former point on Paul; he lived and prophesied before the apostles died which is in harmony with what I wrote. As to your later point: the authorship of “Revelation” is to this day disputed. Some schools of thought regard “John of Patmos” and “The apostle John” as one and the same, but others that they are different persons.
(actually the vast majority of us aren’t jewish, so actually its not)
I was speaking of the human race in general. I do not ignore “the wonderful ancient literature” (there is much to learn there, but it was not the subject of my comment), but you hypocritically dismiss the Bible categorically.

You are unreasonable. I tried to write a very well-thought-out post and you simply attack, without really knowing what you are talking about. I am not willing to argue with you. My comment stands on it’s merits. I am an expert in the subject and welcome criticism, but you could try to be respectful, or at least civil.

What “wisdom” do we actually _learn_ from the bible?

As far as I can see, the bible says a lot of things. Some of them we have reached a consensus that they are probably good things. Others we all agree are really stupid.

But given that, the bible tells us diddly. If you read something in the bible, how do you know if it is wise or not? If you have to rely on external reference to determine whether what the bible says is wise or not, then the bible isn’t telling you anything unique.

Consider this great trade-off: is “an eye for an eye” a good idea? Actually, the bible is a source of both positions. If you want to support “an eye for an eye,” you could use the bible to do that (ignore the NT if you want – the Jewish people do). If you don’t like “an eye for an eye” then go with Jesus.

So what does the bible teach us? Whatever we think is best…

None of the gospels were written by actual first-person apostles. Period. The Gospel of John was written as late as 100 AD, far too late to have actual “apostles” living. We have known this for a very long time, and even the Catholic Church has adopted this perspective (the Jesuits teach it quite readily). Again that biblical quote is hypocrisy in the highest order.

And are you really attempting to suggest that modern scholarship is split on the writer of Revelation? There is no doubt John the Apostle, John the Evangelist and John of Patmos were three separate individuals. This is clear from both the language of the texts and the respective time periods the works were written. The Book of Revelation was written between 70AD and 100 AD- far to late for actually living apostle to have written the text. But again, intellectually dishonest individuals want to force the evidence to conform to their beliefs.

And where did I “dismiss” the bible? I said it should be thought of in the same class as Homer and mentioned my affinity for Ecclesiastes. Great books of myth and legend. Robert Price has a wonderful talk about this subject.

Last point: Clearly you are only skeptical about selective things according to your tastes. That is fine. But don’t expect others to toe the line and act as if this worldview is logically consistent.

I respect your position, Pablo. I have a great deal of respect for you in general. I disagree, (Jesus said “love your enemies”).

Bob, you are asserting theological conjecture. We simply will never know these things 100% for sure.

Which is all beside the point I made in my original comment, which was pointing out the ridiculous hypocrisy of some including the man who is the subject of Orac’s post.

I respect your position, Pablo. I have a great deal of respect for you in general. I disagree, (Jesus said “love your enemies”).

So?

Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”

Kristen, yes the Bible has bits of wisdom, though mixed in with attitudes of the ancient era (like slavery). It has been a long time, but when I took confirmation classes at the post chapel a long time ago, the chaplain did talk about the other documents from ancient times to compare and contrast (for instance the Babylonian geocentric beliefs). There are some uncanny similarities between the several versions of the Bible and some other ancient texts.

You have perhaps heard of Aesop’s fables? If you read ancient legends, myths and stories you will find several themes that are repeated. If you click on the links of the Aesop’s fables there is some discussion on origins in India and elsewhere.

One thing that is very true… con-artists are not new and there have been warnings through out history in just about every culture. Remember a fool and his money are soon parted. And if you are a fool, I have a bridge for sale. Any interest in that bridge yet, William and klm?

Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”

Good advice. 😀

Pablo, I get your point. My point was simply that there are gems in there. It is not entirely bad advice or good. Some of the Proverbs are quite profound, and the Song of Solomon is a beautiful love poem. Wisdom can come from anywhere, we need to use our thinking abilities to decipher it all. No matter where it comes from.

Chris, I am glad you commented. There are so many interesting similarities between different ancient religions. I find Babylonian culture particularly fascinating. When the Bible is put in the context of history and compared to archeology there is so much to learn (as there is from other ancient texts). I do agree that the similarities give one pause.

I have been studying this my whole life. I think I may have come across wrong. I have thought about and read about many, many other subjects to give me context. I have not just read the Bible and decided it is authority on all things.

I have learned the hard way in the past that the mere mention of the Bible on this blog is inviting a flame war. I am not a troll, so I will not continue the OT discussion. Sorry for the derailment (I am not being sarcastic). Carry on. 😉

Kristen:

I have learned the hard way in the past that the mere mention of the Bible on this blog is inviting a flame war.

Have you seen the latest National Geographic? I’m sure there is a flame war on that already. 😉

Now a wee anecdote: When I was in 8th grade I had pneumonia. I was out of school for over a month. But this was back in the day where there was no internet, and very little television. Even worse, I was in the Panama Canal Zone where one Amercican Forces and Television Service” only started to broadcast at 3pm on weekdays, and the Panamanian stations typically played soap operas during the day (either novelas, or dubbed American soaps like “Dark Shadows”).

Needless to say, I read lots. In addition to keeping up with school work, one of the things I read was a series of books for older children on the Bible Old Testament from World Book Encyclopedia (which came when my parents bought a humongous Bible from them). I read through all of the stories, and it even had some books not included in the Protestant bible. It was the story of Saul and David with the statement that witchcraft was an abomination that started me to be wary of psychics, tarot card readers and the like.

Hence the bare beginnings of my skepticism.

(Then during the teen chapel meetings my doubts about “Army Chapel Protestant” and religon were started when the Major running the meeting about cults started with the Baha’is. Huh? Many of my friends were Baha’i, and it did not seem to be a cult to me! Oh, rats… already have two links, but there was, and still is, a large population of Baha’i in Panama. According to one friend whose family was formally Jewish, his parents joined because they thought it meshed better with science.)

Wisdom can come from anywhere, we need to use our thinking abilities to decipher it all. No matter where it comes from.

If we have to “use our thinking abilities to decipher it all,” then that’s where the wisdom is coming from.

Kristen #78 wrote:

I am not looking for validation of my beliefs. I am just pointing out that these people who are always talking about faith and using christianity as an excuse for stupidity don’t know what they are talking about. They claim to speak for christians but have never cracked open the Bible farther than Psalm 23 and John 3:16.

The Christians who believe that John of God is performing modern miracles would probably insist that their faith is a reasoned faith, and that the Bible does not preclude God working in the world today. Their hope and trust isn’t in the healer: it’s in the Source of his healing abilities. And so on and so forth.

Once you accept that there is something very wise, noble, humble, and virtuous about making a “leap” of hope for something beyond this world, I think it is very hard to justify where to draw the line in the world between what is reasonable and what is not. With God all things are possible: believe, believe, believe. The Christian belief system is ultimately based on a belief in the sorts of miracles which a secular skeptic ought to reject. That’s the whole point of a special revelation and a transcendent deity. Balancing this foundation with an attitude which assumes secular skepticism as a default is going to be a bit tricky.

Healthy skepticism is good. No where did Dr. Rediger endorse JOG. He simply stated several times that it is all something he cannot explain, and that something appears to have happened to some of the people. He gave only recognition, not proof, not endorsement. He is searching to understand that is all. An attitude like his would have saved all those witches in Salem…

Okay, allow me to apologize for responding in kind to the believer who visited the thread. It appears I have caused a thread digression, and I’m sorry.

buddyB:

Healthy skepticism is good. No where did Dr. Rediger endorse JOG. He simply stated several times that it is all something he cannot explain,

Except there were those who already had an explanation. These people were ignored, and in the case of the ABC Primetime infomercial in him was cut down to a nonsensical sound bite.

Go back and click the links in the part where Orac says:

Assuming that most of these people actually do that, it looks to me as though John of God is the classic case of a quack faith healer doing nothing and then taking credit for what science-based medicine can do. As Robert Caroll, Joe Nickell, and James Randi have documented, it’s pure quackery.

Again I say, there have been con artists for thousands of years and in every culture. We must remember Carl Sagan’s saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Obviously not a credo not familiar to Dr. Rediger.

I think those of us who know the “surgeries” are hogwash won’t be effected by this kind of thing. Those who are gullible will believe it from wherever they see, read or hear it.
I am interested, though, in how he effects someone mentally.
Nearly the whole world’s population of human beings believe in God, life after death, spirituality, etc., I think I’d like to know more about how this guy gets people to become so happy and peaceful.
As biofeedback has been proven to assist with lowering stress levels, therefore blood pressure, we know our minds CAN effect our health.
If meditation is Spirituality, fine! I believe in it. I, for one, would love to be calmer, healthier and therefore, happier.

Even if you don’t believe in the “woo” what does it matter if others do? If it heals those in pain as believers or not, or doesn’t heal anyone, who are we to judge.

jw, that is true up to the point where the practitioner of woo is engaged in what can be demonstrated to be fraudulent practice.

There is something morally wrong with treatments that don’t work while entailing long, expensive trips to remote parts of Brazil on the part of the ill and the desperate.

There is nothing objectionable, I would think, with acting to prevent such rank exploitation of other people.

jw:

If it heals those in pain as believers or not, or doesn’t heal anyone, who are we to judge.

Because it does not heal those in pain. What part of “fraud” did you not understand?

There are those of us who have had family members harmed by false promises. If you had a loved one with treatable cancer go to a charlatan and later died due to delaying treatment, would you think you’d be able to judge? Sure, what’s the harm with faith healing? Since earlier this year we buried a family member who missed appropriate treatment by going to a naturapath, does that give us more right to judge? Or should judging frauds like João Teixeira de Faria be limited to those who have had family members harmed by him?

The wiki on this particular fraud, João Teixeira de Faria, ends with a summary of an ABC update:

ABC’s update on the five subjects,[10] while not mentioning one of the subjects, indicated that two are making either slow progress or none at all, one is worse, and one is much better. According to other sources, Matthew Ireland is now free of his brain tumor, which is physiologically possible[11] and David has since died.[12]

For the sake of both the persons of interest and unbiased readers, instead of using phrases like ‘woo woo’ and ‘quackery’ you really should elucidate your disparaging remarks.

Concern troll is concerned.

Do educate us on how to better describe the fraud perpetuated by Oprah.

Here’s the real deal: Anyone who made a conscious decision to go to John of God to receive treatment is ultimately responsible for making that decision. Everyone wants to blame someone else – Oprah is the media whore America has made her, and many morons are eager to worship at her altar, and while that is truly her responsibility, it ends there. She forced no one to go to John of God, and if others made an uneducated decision, the blood is on the hands of those that made the decision. Many desperate people are looking for miracles, and unfortunately they look in the wrong places. Again, that is on THEM, any decision that they make.

Kelly,
I am not sure what your point was and why it matters in this discussion.
I do not see anyone here saying that people who get bilked by people like John of God do not bear any responsibility. But the fact that Oprah and people like her are not directly responsible does not mean people cannot criticize her for having such people on her show, for uncritically discussing him. I wish people did not use Oprah as a primary source of info on these things, I certainly wish people had better critical thinking skills, but they do and I am therefore going to freely critique what she presents. I am not going to sit back and say “Well, anyone who believes this garbage is making their own decision therefore I should not say anything”

Travis,

Sorry, I should have specified what I was addressing so you would be more comfortable with my comment, since I was certainly not trying to be an ass – the person up top that said blood was on Oprah’s hands, and since the comment was part of this discussion, I feel that my point is a valid part of this discussion, thanks so much for sharing.

Travis, here is the comment I was replying to, which I found slightly outrageous:

“The only word I can think to describe John of God is evil. Pure evil. He is conning people, people who can least afford to be conned with a magic act. People will die because of his quackery. People undoubtedly already have. It’s a wonder that he even enjoys his freedom given the untold misery he has inflicted on others.

Shame on Oprah. Now she has blood on her hands too.”

Travis, to further clarify my position here, because I certainly don’t wish to confuse you any further, people are dying from bad decisions – John of God didn’t force them to come to him, Oprah didn’t require her audience to use him, and I’m reasonably certain that no one was forced to go before John of God at gunpoint. Please do not hesitate to let me know if I have continued to be vague, because that was never my intention.

Kelly,
Sorry for being a little overly harsh perhaps. But I read your post and thought it was trying to deflect criticism of people like Oprah by envoking some sort of caveat emptor line of reasoning. It would not be the first time people had tried to argue that somehow because people freely choose to indulge in these treatments that being critical was somehow unfair or wrong.

There are three POSSIBLE problems with faith healers that I can see:

1. Do they prevent people from getting prompt, scientifically supported treatment.
2. Do they charge for their services (charging for it should be illegal) or seek some kind of financial benefit from it.
3. Do they try to exert some kind of nefarious control over the people who seek their services.

All of those should be subject to criminal and civil law.

Of course, the fact that 1 and 2 harm many hundreds of times more people when they are practiced by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries means that the “faith” being religious instead of secular is only a distraction from trying to solve the problem.

So, while it’s not wrong to expose phony healers of any kind, it can mask the bigger problem. It’s been my experience that it also tends to devolve into the victims not being the real focus of the effort.

Oprah Winfry isn’t the brightest shell on the beach. She’s not the worst but she’s responsible for popularizing a lot of tripe. Tuesdays with Morrie not the most important but one of the most annoying. And then there’s Dr Phil.

[email protected] “But “faith” can also be defined as: “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”‘

What is the “confidence or trust” based on? You need to show that base to make this argument. (Otherwise, you aren’t actually saying anything.)

[email protected] “If you think the Bible is a collection of stories and fairytales that is your right. But there is some wisdom to be learned from those stories even if just the collective wisdom of our ancestors.”

This is a specious argument in many, many ways. Even if some wisdom exists somwhere in th bible, it’s mixed in with a lot of stuff that people should disregard! Also, many christians see it as the only source of wisdom (which is absurd). Also, there is no rational reason that any wisdom it contains must be conveyed in that form. If it contains the “collective wisdom of our ancestors”, what about other religious texts that christians routinely condemn as evil?

Anyway, the “ancient wisdom” ploy is the standard tactic of purveyors of “woo”. As an argument, it’s too vague (what exactly is the wisdom you are talking about?).

[email protected] “Callie is not one of them, she and I both believe in God and are reasonable. The two are not mutually exclusive”

Clearly, they are not mutually exclusive but neither are they the same thing. Smart people are not always smart. The sociology/psycology of why humans believe in religion in the ways they do is interesting. Anyway, it’s not clear whether there is any good reason to prefer one form of a god over another.

[email protected] “Travis, to further clarify my position here, because I certainly don’t wish to confuse you any further, people are dying from bad decisions – John of God didn’t force them to come to him, Oprah didn’t require her audience to use him, and I’m reasonably certain that no one was forced to go before John of God at gunpoint.”

This makes no sense.

While “blood on her hands” is over the top, Oprah is *actively* encouraging people to see this nut. If JOG is evil, then Oprah is supporting that evil. She is logically contributing to that evil and is thus responsible for some of it. There is no requirement that people be lead to evil by gunpoint.

Oprah has some *moral* responsibility to not present dangerous/useless crap to her audience. In the JOG and other examples, she is failing to do that. What would be interesting to know is why she fails. Is it ignorance? Ratings? Some mixture of both?

Considering what a cesspool of conflict of interest the pharmaceutical, insurance and medical industries and the governmental agencies that are supposed to regulate, are in the United States, and that far more people put their faith in those than in phony faith healers, I’d like to know why the appalling show “The Doctors” isn’t more of a problem. Not to mention the flood of ads mixed with medical “news” consisting of PR from said industries. What Oprah is reported as doing here is a minor bump on a mountain of trash.

There is a point to be made about the people who go see John of God being partly responsible. We’re all grownups; we have to accept responsibility for our decisions. That’s the basis of contract law, actually. If you signed on the dotted line, well, you signed. You are legally bound. But even contract law makes allowances for fraud. If you signed on the dotted line but some crucial piece of information was withheld from you, then the contract may no longer be binding, since what you signed to is not actually what you got.

I think what it comes down to is that we need to use a two-pronged approach against fraud. Regulation addresses the perpetrators — it’s illegal to defraud people, advertising must be true, doctors have to have completed a specific amount of training and passed appropriate tests before they can practice medicine, lawyers are also required to have formal training, etc. But that’s reactionary — it provides a vehicle for punishing perpetrators. It doesn’t stop people trying. That’s where education comes in — train the victims to recognize scams or at least dubious claims. That’s where promoting good science education comes into play. I’m not talking about the memorizing facts bit that so many of us wind up getting in lieu of a decent science education. That’s useful, but what’s really important is to teach critical thinking, and the fact that although most people are basically good, a few aren’t, and they look just like the good guys. So you have to be on your guard.

Also, many christians see it as the only source of wisdom (which is absurd). Also, there is no rational reason that any wisdom it contains must be conveyed in that form. If it contains the “collective wisdom of our ancestors”, what about other religious texts that christians routinely condemn as evil?

In my comment I was trying to point out the absurdity of the people who clearly don’t know what the Bible contains claiming others don’t have “faith” if they don’t believe everything a self-proclaimed person of god says (when such “faith” contradicts the teachings of their own holy book).

Perhaps “ancient wisdom” was not the correct term to use. I was simply speaking of things that are in the Bible that have been confirmed by modern science (for example: the sanitation practices of ancient Israel) and (what I believe to be) excellent moral principals contained in the ancient Greek scriptures (love your neighbor, treat others the way you want to be treated etc…).

I never claimed there was nothing of value in other ancient texts. I can’t comment on most other ancient texts because I haven’t studied them in depth. I don’t think these (or any) texts are “evil”. I have studied the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, ancient Judaism and Christianity as well as ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Assyrian culture and religion. Much as a chemist shouldn’t claim to be expert on surgical practices, I can’t speak on eastern religions, the Koran etc.

Although I do thank you (and Chris and Pablo) for being civil in your comments to me, it is unfair to decide you know what I believe from my comments above. I have studied in depth what is, to me, a fascinating subject. I will be more judicious in sharing my knowledge of such things in the future.

John of God didn’t force them to come to him, Oprah didn’t require her audience to use him, and I’m reasonably certain that no one was forced to go before John of God at gunpoint.

So? No one forced anyone to invest with Bernie Madoff either.

davep:

Clearly, they are not mutually exclusive but neither are they the same thing.

Well, yeah. They literally mean different things; Kristen wasn’t arguing otherwise. The point is that you cannot assume that because a person believes in three impossible things before breakfast that they are unreasonable people. You need more information than that to reach the conclusion.

There are many things in life which are not certain, and science can’t get you through all decisions. In fact, it can’t get you through most of them. I’m not saying religion is the answer to all of those; I actually strongly believe that it is not. However, you end up having to make decisions without enough time or information to make them really educated. We rely instead on our ancient ancestral shortcuts, which may ore may not serve us well. This is the arena where the majority of human interactions takes place, and while we can study them scientifically, we’re human — when we actually experience them personally, it’s not scientific at all. It’s what causes people not only to believe in a deity but also to choose to buy toilet paper by the pallet in order to save a little money, or to favor a specific restaurant, or to decide which doctor to see at a new clinic, or even just which shirt to wear. We tend to rationalize our decisions afterwards, but we seldom actually make our decisions that way.

None of us are capable of stopping this behavior. It is as essential to our nature as the ability to speak — perhaps even more. But it is important to be aware of it.

Anyway, it’s not clear whether there is any good reason to prefer one form of a god over another.

I said I couldn’t really explain why I believe in God. You took that to mean I was being as silly as someone seeing an obvious con artist for their medical care, but I never really elaborated. I like God for much the same reason I like Doctor Who, Minnesota, and my family. I just do. They appeal to me. What you believe is not important, really. It’s what you do with it that’s important.

Calli Arcale

I like God for much the same reason I like Doctor Who, Minnesota, and my family. I just do.

Or perhaps because you find the prospect of living forever in a nice place after your physical existence ends comforting? However, you are forgetting about the inevitable hoof pummelings in heaven.

Or perhaps because you find the prospect of living forever in a nice place after your physical existence ends comforting?

I don’t know about Callie, but I don’t believe in an immortal soul any more than I believe in “auras”, “chakras”, “ghosts”, “aliens” or other “supernatural” phenomena. Interestingly enough the idea didn’t originate in the Bible at all:

H.M. Orlinsky of Hebrew Union College (the editor-in-chief of a recent translation of the Torah) states: “The Bible does not say we have an immortal soul. ‘Nefesh’ [the original Hebrew word] is the person himself, his need for food, the very blood in his veins, his being.”-The New York Times, October 12, 1962

I could go on with the Greek word’s meaning (psykhe), but I believe you get the idea. One can study the Bible, believe in a creator and think nominal christianity is a farce, full of tradition and superstition (Earth six thousand years old, heliocentrism, flat earth, fiery hell, infallibility of the Pope and much more…all teachings not found in the Bible-at least if you are willing to compare early translations)*.

You have all made good points, but many are from ignorance. I have studied a subject that I am interested in (my personal beliefs notwithstanding), that is all. Biblical history, archeology, ancient texts and cultures mentioned in the Bible-all worthy areas of study in my mind.

I digress. My main point was, and still is: In the Biblical sense (which some (majority?) of these people seeking JOG claim to follow), faith does not excuse credulity.

Please forgive the OT comments It is very difficult for me to refrain from replying. It is a case of SIWOTI. I am sorry if I am being a nuisance.

*I cannot speak to contemporary Judaism because I don’t know enough about it.

It is kind of like the whole belief of the “Rapture” which cannot be traced to any actual part of the Bible, but only in the interpretation of one individual about 150 years ago (I forget his name, but will try to google-fu him when I have the chance).

Just because people believe certain things today, it doesn’t mean that they have a foundation from anything in the past.

Well, the original topic’s probably been flogged to death (not much that can be said on the topic anyway) so I guess the thread digression is here to stay. 😉

Militant Agnostic @ 115:

Or perhaps because you find the prospect of living forever in a nice place after your physical existence ends comforting? However, you are forgetting about the inevitable hoof pummelings in heaven.

Actually, that’s not that big of a deal for me. I’d rather focus on how I live my life in the here and now. The biggest appeal for me is the idea of treating one another kindly, regardless of background. It’s not unique to Christianity, of course, but that’s where I first encountered the idea. I do believe in the resurrection after death, but it’s not very important to me and I have a strong suspicion that none of us has come even close to what it really is.

Kristen @ 116:

I digress. My main point was, and still is: In the Biblical sense (which some (majority?) of these people seeking JOG claim to follow), faith does not excuse credulity.

I have a hard time not responding as well. It’s just an interesting topic. 😉 I think you’ve summed it up perfectly there — faith does not excuse credulity.

Lawrence @ 117:

t is kind of like the whole belief of the “Rapture” which cannot be traced to any actual part of the Bible, but only in the interpretation of one individual about 150 years ago (I forget his name, but will try to google-fu him when I have the chance).

There were several; you may be thinking of Cotton Mather. It seems to have been largely a phenomenon of English-speaking areas (said with apology to Scots, Gaelic, and Welsh speakers), which alone ought to encourage a certain skepticism. Adherents don’t seem to notice that little detail, though, despite most of them being fundamentalists.

Calli [email protected] “Well, yeah. They literally mean different things; Kristen wasn’t arguing otherwise. The point is that you cannot assume that because a person believes in three impossible things before breakfast that they are unreasonable people. You need more information than that to reach the conclusion.”

She was either implying that they were the same or was not being clear. Believing in god is unreasonable (in my opinion) whether or not people are reasonable in other ways. Now, you can disagree with me me but hand-waving about “reasonable people can believe in god” is not a counter argument.

Anyway, I’m not assuming they are “unreasonable” overall. They are certainly unreasonable about some things! You don’t need anymore information than them “believing in three impossible things”! Why do generally reasonable people believe in unreasonable things?

=================

Calli [email protected] “None of us are capable of stopping this behavior. It is as essential to our nature as the ability to speak — perhaps even more. But it is important to be aware of it.”

It’s important to be aware of it *and* do something about it!

Anyway, clearly it’s not “essential to our nature” since we can overcome it!

=================

Calli [email protected] “It’s what causes people not only to believe in a deity but also to choose to buy toilet paper by the pallet in order to save a little money, or to favor a specific restaurant, or to decide which doctor to see at a new clinic, or even just which shirt to wear.”

Firstly, there’s a difference between believing in a deity as a general concept and believing in a particular brand of deity (eg, the christian one). People need to be clear about which of these they are discussing (I’m discussing the latter) rather than mushing them together.

Anyway, very few religious people would equate their choice of religion with their choice of toilet paper or resturants!

=================

Calli [email protected] “I like God for much the same reason I like Doctor Who, Minnesota, and my family. I just do.”

This is quite unusual. It’s like preferring a particular flavor of ice cream (who cares?). Most religious people treat their choice of religion as more-deeply based. While you are free to have this position, it is not really useful in understanding why religion is so important to people.

Calli [email protected] “I think you’ve summed it up perfectly there — faith does not excuse credulity.”

No, faith is credulity that you like/approve of! “Faith” is believing in something without evidence.

Calli [email protected]: “I said I couldn’t really explain why I believe in God. You took that to mean I was being as silly as someone seeing an obvious con artist for their medical care, but I never really elaborated.”
No, I did not take that meaning (that you were being “silly”). I was saying you are being irrational in one place. And, if it’s OK for you to be irrational in that one place, it might not be exactly fair to criticize people (JOG followers) being irrational about something they have faith in!

davep:

Interesing you chose to reply to me and not her. It’s not meant as a counter-argument; it’s meant as a statement on its own.

Why do generally reasonable people believe in unreasonable things?

Because they are human.

Anyway, clearly it’s not “essential to our nature” since we can overcome it!

You deceive yourself. The brain takes an enormous number of shortcuts; the world we perceive is not the real world but a simulation of the parts of it which are generally adaptive to focus on.

It’s easy and even comfortable to think of how this makes sight work so well, letting us pick out a predator hiding in the bush. It’s less comfortable to consider how this extends into all other aspects of our lives. It’s related to the Dunning-Krueger effect, and to Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average — we suck at personal estimation, and it turns out we suck at a lot of other things too, but we’re not aware of it because our brains have such great way of cheating and making critical decisions which, while not rational or scientific, are nevertheless ones that we can usually get away with.

Firstly, there’s a difference between believing in a deity as a general concept and believing in a particular brand of deity (eg, the christian one). People need to be clear about which of these they are discussing (I’m discussing the latter) rather than mushing them together.

Anyway, very few religious people would equate their choice of religion with their choice of toilet paper or resturants!

Odd, though, that you don’t. I would’ve thought you’d find the concept appealing, given your disdain for what you perceive as the irrational thought processes of believers. Is it just hard to agree with something I’ve said in this context?

Anyway, quite clearly, decisions made in the absence of complete data cover a very large spectrum in terms of their significance. Do you think people pick politicians with any more wisdom?

(By the way, I suspect brand of toilet paper actually gets more rational consideration than politicians do. People choose toilet paper based on strength, softness, quantity, and price. They pick politicians based on emotion, most of the time.)

Calli [email protected] “I like God for much the same reason I like Doctor Who, Minnesota, and my family. I just do.”

This is quite unusual. It’s like preferring a particular flavor of ice cream (who cares?). Most religious people treat their choice of religion as more-deeply based.

Did you actually read the list? I said I like God for the same reason as I like my *family*. That’s not ice cream. It think most people would agree that’s a tad more serious than ice cream. I’d probably die for my family. And then what about Minnesota? I *truly* love this state. I wouldn’t move if I was paid to move. It’s also why I find myself compelled to apologize for our state inflicting Michelle Bachmann on the country. (Sorry about that. Would’ve voted against her if I could, but I’m in the wrong district.)

I did include one frivolous thing — Doctor Who — but you may underestimate my level of passion for that show. 😉

While you are free to have this position, it is not really useful in understanding why religion is so important to people.

What, because my position surprises you, it should be discarded as irrelevant? I fail to meet your preconceived notions, so I should be ignored? That’s not a very wise approach.

Anthony, do shut up. While it is trivial to identify instances of wrongdoing on the part of Big Pharma as a whole and certain doctors in particular, there is a clear difference between the practice of science-based medicine and the peddling of supernatural nonsense. A drug company cannot put a product on the market without doing the research to support its safety and efficacy–there is no getting around this. While there have been tragic cases where drugs were approved and only later found to produce deleterious side effects, this is emphatically not the same as a faith healer who claims he treats patients without ever bothering to determine whether or not what he does helps. A final point of distinction is that when Big Pharma releases a drug that hurts people, they are generally punished for it in terms of lost revenue, government sanctions, and other penalties. Who regulates John of God when his treatments turn out to be snake oil?

Rorschach did you miss the part of my comment which said that faith healers who are guilty of causing harm to people or charging them for their services? Apparently. But I’ve noticed reading comprehension is trumped by ideological mirage in your faith tradition.

As to your assertions about the penalties for drug companies putting out bogus and harmful products that hurt and kill people, you certainly seem to see that cesspool through rose colored glasses. Not to mention the issues of cost for those which might or do work, as well as for the ones that don’t and kill people.

I have no intention of shutting up. None.

Not sure what you’re saying about my ‘faith tradition,’ exactly, but you’re still talking out of your ass. Big Pharma may not be on the side of angels, but it’s quite a leap from that to equate belief in modern medicine to belief in woo. Keep telling yourself otherwise, though.

Rorschach, it’s a difference between looking at false claims, harm done and lives taken and seeing that as it is or seeing some ideologically determined layer of distortion that masks that. I choose not to look at it ideologically but just to call lies and fraud, lies and fraud regardless of alleged motivation. There isn’t any difference between some cheating huckster who wraps his con up in a package marked “religion” and another one who wraps up his con in one labeled “science”. Especially not when it’s “science” funded by the conman who’s peddling it through lobbyists and influence peddling. And it’s entirely clear that it’s the “science” con that is more profitable by a long shot.

Most religious bodies I’m aware of don’t practice faith healing of the sort decried in the post. Pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and the medical industry are riddled with their own versions of it harming far more people. They wouldn’t exist in the forms they have today without practicing two or all three of the things I listed @107, though two of them could, in a far less corrupt form. I don’t think the medical insurance industry will ever be more than a form of legalized theft.

Of course, it’s not as fun as mocking religious folks and congratulating yourselves on your superiority, it’s just more accurate.

Care to provide any evidence that Science Based Medicine is just another flavor of woo or is unsupported equivocation all you’ve got?

JoeB, what kind of query is that? It looks like your mind is welded shut, since there plenty of evidence posted here. Why should we bother with you at all?

@128
This comment has to be be one the biggest examples of willful ignorance I have ever seen.

Did I state it the wrong way around and just can’t see where?

I’m asking Anthony McCarthy to back his claims.

Yes, it read like you were a fan of “John of God.” Especially since most of us ignore those who bring up the Pharma Shill on a thread that has nothing to do with pharmaceuticals. I suggest you do the same.

You have to read at as being both breathtakingly stupid and having a meaning-reversing typo to get that though, right?

True, that’s not a stretch for many of the woo-woo comments around here though.

Now that I look at more closely, it does look different.

Of course part of the problem is just clicking on your comment and not seeing the one just before that you are responding to… which was made four days before. It is like walking into the middle of a conversation.

@134

And you are now using ad hominem attacks to try to get your way, I see… Doesn’t make you the better person nor will it make your argument any more coherent, not that it was much in the first place.

Show me a peer-reviewed article from a well-known medical journal that proves and/or shows that this guy has cured someone of a major medical illness. I’ll be waiting….

@136 You are still misunderstanding what I meant (largely my fault for not indicating who I was replying to in that first post). I absolutely think John of God is a fraud, I was trying to get Anthony McCarthy to actually support his anti-SBM assertions.

That first comment was directed at McCarthy, not Orac’s great article.

JoeB, I’d figured this was a dead thread after my last comment went unanswered for so long.

You obviously share the inability of most new atheists I’ve encountered to either read what was said or to comprehend it. Read my original comment and my answers to Rorschach. I’d say all will be revealed but, clearly, that would be overly optimistic on my part.

New atheists and “skeptics”, boy packs of insecure cultists who can’t think past their ideological predispositions.

I watched the whole show. At about 6:15 into the show, Susan Casey, the editor of “O” Magazine, describing her mindset going to Brazil, says, and I quote, “If you go in as a skeptic, you’re almost always right time and time again…” So she went in “open-minded.” What the hell does that mean? She doesn’t want to be right? I guess that just isn’t fun, eh?

I saw the man in New York, at the Omega Institute and felt a tremendous amount of energy, which is probably something none of you haters can understand. It’s not something you can see or measure, it is something you feel, your body vibrates, you feel heat, you know there is something wonderful and awesome happening. He is not evil, he is anything but that. It is not a money-making scheme, it is free. “Spirits with Scalpels: the Cultural Biology of
Religious Healing in Brazil” by Sidney Greenfield is a great book I’d recommend to anyone who’s honestly interested in this subject, and not just out to bash what they don’t know anything about. You’ll find that John of God is only one of many who practice this healing. I respect the need for discernment. There are “quacks” everywhere in all forms and in every profession. But this guy has simply got something going on. I know it. And there’s just no way you can convince someone that something isn’t real when they feel it, and lives change as a result of their experiences. And the Amazing Randi is nothing but an amazing douche who’s made a living off of hate and true ignorance, which is behaving with deliberate blindness. Be skeptical of the skeptic.

Vibrating, heating, sound like testable things to me. Energy too, probably a way to measure that. Or do you mean energy as some mysterious byword for something that is not really energy? Please come up with your own words and stop stealing them from physics if this is the case. Much like the word quantum, energy is far too often abused.

Could we measure those vibrations if we attached accelerometers to Chris Mayers?

I saw the man in New York, at the Omega Institute and felt a tremendous amount of energy, which is probably something none of you haters can understand. It’s not something you can see or measure,

Sorry, then it ain’t energy.

it is something you feel, your body vibrates, you feel heat, you know there is something wonderful and awesome happening.

That sounds an awful lot like emotion. Emotions have been known to be misleading.

He is not evil, he is anything but that. It is not a money-making scheme, it is free.

Apart from the glory, the acclaim, the donations etc.

“Spirits with Scalpels: the Cultural Biology of
Religious Healing in Brazil” by Sidney Greenfield is a great book I’d recommend to anyone who’s honestly interested in this subject, and not just out to bash what they don’t know anything about.

I’ll stick to Flim-Flam, thank you.

You’ll find that John of God is only one of many who practice this healing.

Successful scams do attract a lot of practitioners.

I respect the need for discernment.

No, you don’t.

There are “quacks” everywhere in all forms and in every profession.

Agreed, and there are some “professions” that are 100% false. So-called psychic surgery, for example.

But this guy has simply got something going on. I know it. And there’s just no way you can convince someone that something isn’t real when they feel it, and lives change as a result of their experiences.

We know we’re not going to convince you. However, if we can convince someone who is wondering about this stuff that it is fake, well then, mission accomplished.

And the Amazing Randi is nothing but an amazing douche who’s made a living off of hate and true ignorance, which is behaving with deliberate blindness.

James Randi has saved a lot of lives by his exposes – far more than John of God or any of the other fakers. You obviously choose to know nothing about his work. Too bad.

Be skeptical of the skeptic.

Why not? Be skeptical of everyone.

You know, if I had the psychic healing powers that JofG claims, I sure wouldn’t act the way he does. If I had photographers in to film my healing sessions, I’d make sure they got the best and clearest pictures we could manage. If my body were in the way of the camera so they didn’t get a good look at the healing, well, we’d change positions and I’d heal another. And another and another, as long as necessary to get a good complete record.

Furthermore, i’d be offended by the quacks with their sleight of hand, just as Orac is, more so in fact, and for the same reason: because those quacks induce people to waste their time, their money, their *lives* on fraudulent treatment when I could offer real treatment.

If I had the psychic healing abilities JofG claims, i’d offer to subsidize investigations by skeptics, including investigation of myself. He doesn’t, though. Isn’t that odd.

I went to see JOG many times. I was told I would be healed of a brain tumor. I was not healed of anything. The people there were nice but the faith healer did not heal me. I do not believe in him.

All I know is that a person I know was persuaded to go to a healer. He didn’t believe in this at all. Amazingly he was cured.

I know of another case where a woman went to a pilgrimmage centre ‘just rather thatn sitting at home’ and was cured.

I know a person who was given 7 weeks to live and went to Brazil and now is as helathy as anybody else I know.

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