Sunday, July 17, 2005

The healing power of prayer?

Nope. There’s none. The latest Lancet study has been completed and praying for someone has no effect upon the progress of their disease. I guess that brings us back to trying to understand diseases and using that knowledge to come up with cures.

As Bob Harris observes, this really ought not to be something that is a surprise to many people. If prayer worked then those praying to the right deity would be reaping the benefits and this would be a dead give away which of the thousands of faiths in the world is the true one. Mind you, from what I gather, the study was only done for a number of Christian denominations. Which means that all of the non-Christian theists could be thinking that their odds are getting better. Can’t say I think so.

One has to wonder about the rationale for such studies. The one for this study was clear-cut – an earlier study had seemed to show some effects so there was a clear need for debunking. However, who is going to be convinced by such studies? Religious faith has shown time and time again a thorough resilience to rational thought with people either ignoring the facts or reinterpreting them time and time again to protect their religious convictions. One might as well try to rationally convince a paranoid person that they are not being plotted against – they will only decide that you must be in on it. The whole thing calls not so much for studies as for therapy. However, while it remains socially condoned or even socially prescribed, there’s no hope for a cure. Perhaps we could get people to pray for an end to religion?


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