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Faith Healing


Faith healing is a cooperative form of magical thinking involving a healer and a patient in which (a) both healer and patient believe in the healing power of spirits or other mysterious healing mechanisms; (b) the healer consciously or unconsciously manipulates the patient into believing he or she has cured the patient's ailment by prayer, hand movements (to unblock, remove, restore, etc. some intangible "energy"), or by some other unconventional ritual or product; and (c) the patient validates the healing by giving signs that the healing has worked, such as walking without a brace for a short period, breathing freely, feeling relief from pain, or simply thanking the healer for the "miraculous cure." Furthermore, faith healing can occur at a distance. There is no need for the patient and healer to meet, as the processes that occur are said to transcend the usual limitations of space and time

Some alleged cures have involved mistaken diagnoses that required no cure at all, much less a miraculous one. Some may have involved the post hoc fallacy: a healing, for whatever reason, is credited to the faith healer when the only evidence provided is that the healing took place after the session with the healer. Most cases of faith healing need no cure, since most patients will get better even if they receive no treatment at all (Hines 2003). Some serious ailments like cancer and multiple sclerosis abate for months or years for reasons we don't understand (Nickell 1993: 134). There is an "impressive variety of ... ailments, ranging from back pains to hysterical blindness, [that] are known to be highly responsive to the power of suggestion." The "main requisite for curative effects" is "the patient's belief in the practitioner's assurances." And, having a positive attitude seems to enhance the body's healing capacities.

 

 

 

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