Faith HealingPerhaps one of the worst outcomes of the fundamentalist resurgence is the irrational belief in the power of prayer to perform faith healing; the miraculous cure of diseases. The problem with faith healings are:
Non-verifiability of Faith Healing ClaimsJames Randi did an extensive amount of research on this phenomenon for his book The Faith Healers (1989). None of the evangelists he investigated was able to provide even one verifiable case of a miraculous cure.
The "proofs" that these evangelists normally provide are anecdotal in nature and of no use for verification whatsoever. Take for instance the claim made by Oral Roberts in his autobiography, My Story (1961), where he was supposedly miraculously healed of tuberculosis by a traveling evangelist. In his book, Oral provided medical records showing that a few months after the incident, his lungs were perfect. There is only one problem, Oral never provided any medical documents of his lungs before the healing. There is no prove that Oral ever had TB in the first place. All we have is his memory of what some country doctor told him.  Oral's case is typical of the fundamentalists' faith healing claims.
Some of Oral's "successes" were in fact failures. In 1956, a woman appeared in Oral's TV show testifying that she had been miraculously healed, with the evangelistís prayers, of cancer. Twelve hours after the show was taped, the woman was dead. In the same year another woman appeared in his show, giving an enthusiastic testimonial about her miraculous cure of spinal cancer. She succumbed to the disease three days later. Oral once even claimed that he had actually resurrected the dead! When James Randi, in June 1987, wrote to him asking him for more information on this alleged resurrection, Oral, perhaps wisely, never responded to the request.  Mindless, baseless and outright erroneous claims are still being made and are still being swallowed wholesale by credulous believers.
Another simple way of performing "miracle" cures is the so-called "shot-gun" technique: you fire at so wide a range that you're bound to hit the occasional bull's-eye. Pat Robertson is a shameless practitioner of this technique. It involves getting a "word of knowledge" from God about the afflictions of unnamed people. With the millions of viewers watching his show, he is bound, once and a while, to score some lucky hits. Those who are "cured" reported them and apart from giving more donations, generate publicity for his ministry. Given below is an example of his technique taken from one of his TV shows:
So who is to know if there is no such lady in Saskatchewan. And how many woman in Kansas city have sinus that night? The lymph node cancer is a gem. Note that Pat said that it may not have been diagnosed yet. Any woman in Cincinnati feeling unwell that night and believing in Pat may, once she feels better, to think that she was the one who was cured. As for the man in financial need, note that no location was given. With the whole evangelical population of the North America to hit on, Pat's chances on getting that miracle seems pretty high: anyone who had a sudden financial windfall could attribute it to the miracle.
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To find out how Poppoff performed his miracles, Randi solicited the help of some friends. During Poppoff's miracle crusade in Detroit, Randi had Donald Henvick, a San Francisco postman posed as a woman with the name Bernice Manicoff complete with a fictitious address and ailment, uterine cancer. "She" arrived at the auditorium in a wheelchair where she was greeted by some of Poppoff's assistants. They casually asked her name, addressed and ailment. To which "Bernice" gave them the prepared fictitious information. They then asked her if she could walk, she said yes. Bernice was then placed in one of the wheelchairs Poppoff's entourage had rented for the occasion. 
And having discovered in earlier rallies an electronic device in Poppoff's ear, Randi solicited the help of an electronics expert, Alec Jason. With a scanner and a tape recorder, Jason tuned in 39.17 megahertz, a frequency they had earlier discovered Poppoff to be using. 
During the miracle crusade, Poppoff's method was finally discovered. Mrs. Poppoff who had, together with some others, been casually chatting with the audience before the show starts left the auditorium and went into a trailer. The electronic scanner picked up everything. A female voice, Mrs Poppoff's, was heard over the 39.17 megahertz band:
The electronic device in Poppoff's ear was a receiver. It was through Elizabeth Poppoff's transmission that Poppoff received his "gift of knowledge." Elizabeth then proceeded to give out names and addresses to him together with the ailments. The final confirmation came when Peter Poppoff called out the name Bernice Manicoff and described her ailment. All the while, Alec Jason, recorder Elizabeth reassuring her husband that "Bernice" was sitting in one of their rented wheelchairs and could walk. The moment Poppoff heard this through his transmitter he commanded the "woman": "Get up and walk!" The crowd applauded. Poppoff had just healed a man in drag of uterine cancer! Randy also found out that the Poppoff entourage regularly rented wheelchairs for their shows and put people who could walk into them. Most of the audience was not aware of this. 
On February 1986, Randi appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and presented the damning evidence. Peter Poppoff and his gifts of the Holy Spirits were exposed for what they are: frauds. The following of Poppoff's ministry rapidly dwindled after that revelation and within a short while Poppoff himself was filing for bankruptcy to escape creditors.  There is some justice after all!
Peter Poppoff is not the only outright fraud in the evangelical faith healing circuit. Among the others, one of the most prominent is W.V. Grant. Grant, a faith healer in his forties is based in Dallas, Texas. He used to have a TV show called Dawn of A New Day which was shown in 93 stations throughout the U.S.  Grant, like the other prominent evangelists, lived in luxury. He owned a mansion in Fort Wright, Kentucky and a penthouse in Cincinnati. He owned many luxury cars including Cadillacs, Mercedes Benz and even a Porsche! 
Grant uses the same rented wheelchair trick as Poppoff. One of the healings Grant credits himself with [b] is the healing of the blind. "Blindness" is a very deceptive term which the evangelist skillfully uses to his advantage. 75% of those termed "legally blind" actually have a usable but limited vision. Most of them can see the number of fingers held closely in front of them. Thus Grant would normally show the audience that he had healed a blind person by putting his fingers in front of them and asking them to count it. The audience is led to believe that this was not possible before the healing. To ensure a higher success rate, Grant added a variation to his repertoire; for dealing with the totally blind cases. Grant uses a cordless microphone which if held close to the lips of his subject will only amplify that person's voice. The subject, of course, can hear Grant speaks clearly without the mike. Grant will normally, after healing a blind person, hold the microphone close to that person's lips, raise his other hand with a few fingers outstretched and at the same time tell the person how many fingers he has up. With the microphone close to the subjectís mouth, Grants instructions go unheard by the audience. 
One such deception is the "healing" of Morris Kidd of Racine, Wisconsin. In 1982 Grant's newsletter Dawn of A New Day published a color photograph showing Morris with the preacher. The heading above the photograph says "Miracle of the Month." The caption below it reads: "This Milwaukee man was blind all his life. After Rev. Grant prayed, he saw for the first time." Morris's wife, Pearl Kidd was angered over this whole deception and told a reporter her hold story. In the first place, she revealed that her husband was not "blind all his life." His sight had deteriorated over the years due to an incurable degenerative eye disease. Morris could still see, but very poorly. He could definitely see Grant's fingers stuck out in front of him. In the show, upon "healing" him, Grant took the man's white stick and threw it away; in a dramatic gesture to show that he was healed and no longer needed them. After the rally, Mr. Kidd had to ask for his stick back because he could not find his way out of the auditorium. His eyesight was as bad as it ever was. Mrs. Kidd called Grant a liar and demanded that he should be "put out of business for lying to people." 
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An example of this is an incident that happened during a rally by the evangelical couple Frances and Charles Hunter, more popularly known as the "Happy Hunters." This appalling incident happened when a man, who went to the rally hoping to be cured, was commanded by the Hunters to be healed of his pain. When the healing failed to do so, Frances took the man aside and scolded him for not wanting the healing God was offering him!  One can just imagine the psychological trauma of the man; being told that the continuance of the pain was purely his fault.
But by far the worst effect of this belief in faith healing is with regards to people who are really sick. Believing that they are miraculously healed these people discard their medication, many times with fatal consequences.
One such case is that which a diabetic woman who threw away her insulin during an Oral Roberts crusade at Detroit in July 1959. After seeing Roberts' show, Wanda Beach threw away her insulin, announcing to her family that the evangelist had completely cured her. A few hours later she was dead. In another Oral Roberts revival, this time in Oakland, California, at least three people were reported to have died. 
Asking believers to throw their medication onto the stage floor during a miracle rally is a popular method among the evangelists, as it adds to the dramatic climax of the show. Peter Poppoff, as part of his stage act, normally urges believers to throw their medications onto the stage. James Randi reported finding medications for diabetes, heart disease and angina left on the stage floor after a revival rally. 
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At Barstow, California in 1973, an eleven-year-old diabetic boy died because his parents decided that prayer and fasting, rather than modern medicine, would save him. The parents, Lawrence and Alice Parker, members of the Assemblies of God Church, actually withheld insulin from the boy.
In 1981 two members of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, William and Linda Barnhart did not seek medical help for their two-year-old son who had abdominal tumor. They prayed and fasted for a miracle cure, but to no avail as the boy died. William Barnhart was charged with involuntary manslaughter yet all he had to say to the press was: "This haven't wavered my faith one bit."
In 1982, a nine-year-old boy of Enid, Oklahoma had a ruptured appendix. Instead of taking him to the hospital, his parents, Dean and Patsy Lockhart, together with the congregation of their church prayed for his healing. The boy needlessly died. 
Another example, cited in the April 5, 1998 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that of a two year old who choked on a bite of banana. The baby struggled for her life for an hour while her parents called members of the religious circle to pray. Needless to say the prayers hastened the baby's journey towards god, she died.
More recently, on August 22, 2003 an autistic eight-year-old boy, Terrence Cottrell, Jr., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died when members of the Faith Temple Church of the Apostolic Faith tried to exorcise the spirit that was supposedly causing his autism. He was wrapped in sheets and held down during the prayer service. Autopsy reports showed that the boy died from asphyxiation due to pressure on his chest. A preacher, Ray Hemphill, reportedly pressed his knee on the boy's chest during the exorcism to keep him still. 
The study in Pediatrics mentioned above, conducted by the University of California in San Diego, examined 172 child deaths in faith-healing families spanning two decades from 1975 to 1995. It concluded that a large proportion of these deaths (more than 80%) were avoidable. In other words these children could have been saved had medical attention been sought.
The continued preponderance of faith healing "miracle" rallies, despite the absence of any scientifically substantiated case for it and the presence of many damning cases against it, is a constant reminder of the fundamentally harmful effect of Christianity.
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