For once, British politicians look as stupid as ours

March 27, 2012 • 4:36 am

Misery loves company, so I’m ashamed to say that I’m relieved that America is not alone in its religious stupidity. According to totalpolitics, three Christian MPs have sent a letter to the government agency in charge of overseeing advertising, objecting to the ban on ads promoting faith healing:

Gary Streeter (Con), Gavin Shuker (Lab) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem) say that they want the Advertising Standards Authority to produce “indisputable scientific evidence” to say that prayer does not work – otherwise they will raise the issue in Parliament.

The MPs wrote to dispute the ruling after the outpouring of support and prayer for football star Fabrice Muamba.

Muamba, who played for Bolton, had a cardiac arrest on the pitch in March and was revived after 78 minutes of heart stoppage.  Although he’s not likely to play again, his revival was clearly an act of God.

Last month, a Christian group in Bath were banned from using leaflets that said: “NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!… We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.”

The ASA said the claims were misleading and could discourage people from seeking essential medical treatment.

Here’s the letter sent by the MPs:

Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury
Chairman, Advertising Standards Agency
21st March 2012

We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.

We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.

It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?

We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Streeter MP (Con)
Chair, Christians in Parliament

Gavin Shuker MP (Labour)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Tim Farron (Lib-Dem)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Well, how about the indisputable scientific evidence for the failure of intercessory prayer to heal cardiac incidents (like Muamba had), or the complete inability of God to heal amputees?

The American Cancer Society notes:

One review published in 1998 looked at 172 cases of deaths among children treated by faith healing instead of conventional methods. These researchers estimated that if conventional treatment had been given, the survival rate for most of these children would have been more than 90 percent, with the remainder of the children also having a good chance of survival. A more recent study found that more than 200 children had died of treatable illnesses in the United States over the past thirty years because their parents relied on spiritual healing rather than conventional medical treatment.

It’s very bizarre that these politicians cite undocumented anecdotes as a reason to advertise faith healing—anecdotes that fly in the face of much evidence.  If they had their way and faith healing were promulgated as efficacious, lots of people would die or suffer seeking quack, spiritual nostrums. Promoting faith healing is nothing less than incitement to murder.

Their actions are dangerous, and of course these three won’t have their way.  But I’m continually surprised that this kind of stuff surfaces in a UK that is supposed to be largely secular.

For a LOLzy takedown of these hapless MPs, read Martin Robbins’s dissection of the episode in the Guardian’s Lay Scientist. It includes the following:

Before I go any further; it cannot be emphasized enough how hideously arrogant and un-Christian the idea of prayer-healing is. Let’s assume for a moment that we all believe in God, and we all agree that he is generally awesome and has the ability to heal sick people if he so chooses.

The implication of prayer-healing is that special people can demand that God heals someone, and he’ll just do it. That only makes sense if you believe that a) God is a bit absent-minded and doesn’t really notice all the sick people until some clever human points them out to him, or b)God is the fourth emergency service (the AA come fifth in this world-view), and we’re entitled customers who pay with prayer and should damn well get some service.

Either way, the message from faith-healers – and the hapless morons who support them – is clear: “Fuck God’s plan, He’s our bitch.” I’m not a Christian myself, but if I were, I think I’d be pretty frustrated with this sort of selfish, arrogant attitude, and I’d laugh in the face of people who claimed to have some divine right over His powers.

He then takes apart the MP’s letter line by line.

h/t: Diane G.

103 thoughts on “For once, British politicians look as stupid as ours

  1. Sub – You certainly do not have the monopoly on mormonic whoops I mean moronic politicians in the states.

    1. Controlling market share, like Saudi Arabia and oil (of course, they’ve been reporting the same numbers for 40 years, so who knows how much they actually have left…)?

    2. Okay, but we still have a controlling market share, right? Damn free trade laws are enabling rapid exporting of our crazy; if we’re not careful, we might run out.

    1. And, as usual, praising God’s intercession here belittles the efforts of the doctors and nurses, in this case at the specialist coronary care unit at the London Chest Hospital.

      Do these people never think how he’d have fared with prayer alone?

      /@

      1. “Do these people never think how he’d have fared with prayer alone?”

        No. No, they don’t.

        As is so easy for the hard-of-thinking, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

        They can easily ignore the myriad people, including children, suffering and dying in third-world countries where access to expert medical care is absent.

        But “miracles” happen all the time at the Mayo Clinic. God must live at the Mayo Clinic.

      2. “Do these people never think how he’d have fared with prayer alone?”

        Dontchaknow – the prayers are the things that helped all those people that helped out, even though the prayers were happening after that, prayers are so magical that they go backward in time.

  2. “On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?”

    Wow, I almost cannot believe they included that line. It’s almost like they got together at the water cooler and one of them said “Hey I heard about this hilarious thing called Poe’s Law…”

  3. Some bits of the UK are more secular than others – your fundies would love it in Northern Ireland, for example.

    In the Northern Ireland Executive (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Executive ), the current Minister for Health is an evolution-denying young-earth creationist, from the same party we’ve had a Minister for Culture who believes that Ulster Protestants descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel and tried to put creationism in the Ulster Museum, and a Minister for the Environment who is a climate change denier.

    All due to voting based on tribal, religious lines – which won’t be helped by the fact there are two separate education systems in NI, which continue to segregate children by their parents’ (presumed) religion. Some state schools school are also heavily religious – at the open night of the only state primary school in my town, the school choir was singing “My God Is A Great Big God”, one of the wall displays put together by the children was on the subject of “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” and as with all schools in the UK, there are mandatory Christian assembles. England is increasingly opening itself up for this same kind of nonsense by opening more “faith schools.”

    Just the other night I was reading The Magic Pear Tree ( http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Magic_Pear_Tree.html?id=VqKaPgAACAAJ ) with my 4 year-old and she told me that Shen in the story “is a bit like Jesus” and “we sing about him”. 4 year-olds, dude.

  4. “I’m continually surprised that this kind of stuff surfaces in a UK that is supposed to be largely secular.”

    But, Jerry, this kind of stuff surfaces here because the UK is largely secular. Our courts and agencies continually rule against privileging religious positions and Christians of a certain kind continually rail against these rulings — which they apparently see as hate crimes.

    /@

      1. Interesting article. All credit to Lord Justice Laws (what a delightful name!) for putting aside his own (Christian) beliefs and ruling on good public-interest legal grounds. Would that all judges were similarly impartial.

  5. Aye, we do have a number of retards in power. It’s the power – it attracts lots of unsavoury characters (and a smaller proportion of savoury characters too).
    A couple of points :
    The ASA has a general prohibition on advertising of medical devices and procedures to the general public. If you makes claims of medical effect, then the device or procedure needs to go through the same testing and certification as (say) a breast implant, replacement hip, or psychological therapy. Faith healing is a medical claim, so it’s off to the medicines people you go to get certified for use on the public, then if you can get a doctor to prescribe it … it’ll be available. As a medicine.(For comparison, the various potions and lotions that the beauty industry sells skate very close to the line on this – their claims of “reducing the appearance of ageing” are perilously close to making medical claims, which would result in the products going onto prescription-only sale. The beauty industry consult regularly and closely with the ASA to avoid this undesirable result.)
    Not that it matters in the slightest to the faith-healing lobbyists, but is Muamba even a Christian? (I’ve no idea, I’m barely aware that he’s a footballer and have no desire to pay that game any further undue attention.)

    Oh, I’m going to look at kittehs ; much more interesting. I’m still thinking about that “indoor skydiving cat” idea ; might be fun (including for the cat).

    1. Apparently Muamba is a fairly devout Christian, and it’s no great surprise that his family asked for prayers on his behalf. But the story is well summed up here: http://newsthump.com/2012/03/21/cardiac-specialists-wondering-if-the-religious-might-give-them-a-little-credit-for-muamba-survival/

      It’s a spoof site, but the following quote could be serious: As one Doctor explained, “Here’s an idea, instead of clasping your hands to together in prayer to ask for his return to health, or to give thanks for his survival, why not clasp them together over a CPR dummy and learn the techniques that saved this young man’s life?”

      “Just an idea.”

  6. 1 person is rescued from a plane crash. “It’s a miracle!” they say.

    The other 273 passengers and crew die in the flames. “Why did God allow them to die?” {crickets}

    1. As one video on YouTube pointed out when talking about this (known as the Proof from Incomplete Annihilation) one person surviving a terrible plane crash isn’t a miracle, it’s god preventing a shut-out in the 9th inning.

      For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, it’s from baseball. It means that at the end of the game, one team finally managed to avoid being completely struck out the whole game but it was far too late to prevent them from losing.

  7. Most of us assume that politicians know what they’re doing, that they’re somehow experts in their profession. What most of don’t realize is that politics is like a kind of theology–full of nonsense.

    If we were to start poking our heads into the murky world of politics and political theory, we’d begin to be horrified at just how irrational politics really is.

    British politicians are no less crazy than American politicians, or elsewhere. But consider this: we still have a monarchy, we have no secular constitution, we still have an official state religion, and we still have a house of lords.

    1. Oh, indeed.

      What percentage of the discipline known as politics is actually about intelligent governance? 1%? 2%?

      It’s mostly a huge, complicated, “adult” version of a popularity contest.

      This is not to say that there aren’t lots of people motivated to enter politics by a desire to help achieve intelligent governance. But they soon learn that the voting masses make it necessary to play the popularity contest game.

      1. Right on. It’s a vicious circle. And drives many would-be statesmen & -women away from ever running in the first place, I fear.

  8. From Gary Streeter’s own website, last month:

    Last Thursday I had a total replacement of my left hip at Derriford Hospital. I was in Stannon ward for 4 days and am now recuperating at home for a little while, but will still be doing e-mails, post and phone calls.

    I had been struggling with a lot of hip pain for over three years, and in recent months walking up hill and tackling steps was getting harder. I claim the original cause was a rugby injury, but that may just be some macho male self-justification thing. All I knew was that I was in pain, had to sort it out and the x-rays showed I was down to bone on bone.

    How did prayer help you there, Gary?

    /@

    1. Being a bit naive, but has anyone thought that maybe this athlete had a poorly designed heart. Or even worse, this god of theirs damaged his heart to show off his abilities. I think there was a British profession who described in famous book, what type of god would do this. It was a wonderful rant, in just a few sentences.

  9. It should be noted that when doing a search for successful intercessory healing on the internet, you will find hundreds of examples.(usually the same ones cited over and over) They refer to a few extensive studies that failed to prove their contentions but nevertheless are continually used as proof of faith healing. One of the most recent was a study at Indiana University that was published in the Southern Medical Journal. (The SMJ has a long association with faith based research.) Although the author of the study warned her study was not decisive and should not be taken as a proof that distant and personal intercessory actually worked, the study was used expressly for that all over the religious press and internet. The study concerned improved hearing and sight after hands on and mass prayer. No failures were allowed, so those needing healing were not allowed to leave the outdoor stage until they admitted they were healed. The study is notorious because of its total lack of control. It violated every standard of a controlled studies. And yet, true believers claim it is valid because it was published in a medical journal. Check it out.

    1. I don’t have the reference to hand, having donated The God Delusion to Oxfam, but doesn’t RD cite in that book evidence that the seriously ill religious fare worse than the secular patients who do not ask their relations to pray for them?

      Isn’t the hypothesis that the religious, as well as being gravely sick, are further burdened by the psychological stress of being prayed for; and therefore, in testament to the truth of something as fundamental as their religion, that they feel almost morally obliged to recover?

  10. On the subject of football and nutters, Marvin Andrews famously said he would not get surgery for an ACL injury as he trusted in god to fix it. Well, poor old Marvin lost his form, was released by his club and went to a club IIRC were playing 2 divisions below the one he left (a team who regularly win the title and appear in European competitions). Furthermore, he missed his country’s first ever spell at the world cup finals. God clearly was in no rush to heal him.
    It get’s nuttier though, because he has said that he plans to raise the dead http://www.thefreelibrary.com/MARVIN+LEARNS+TO+RAISE+THE+DEAD%3B+Star+aims+to+be+Raith+healer.-a0152398514

    It also raises questions about privilage and getting paid lots to not get yourself fixed and do the job you are paid to do

  11. I rather suspect the reason Muamba survived was down to the fact there was:

    – a defibrillator immediately available.
    – regulations required both teams to have doctors sitting on the bench trained in its use.
    – regulations also required that the two team physios be trained in CPR.

    But what probably made the biggest difference was the fact a Spurs fan at the game just happened to be a consultant cardiologist who persuaded the stewards to allow him on the pitch and who persuaded the paramedics to take the player to a specialist centre rather than the nearest emergency department.

    So god had nothing to do with it. Just sensible regulations, skill and some luck.

    1. I am sure that God ensured that people with the relevant medical expertise were available nearby. Gave God a chance to show off, I suppose.

      S

      1. Maybe if god “showed up”, just once, in an objectively measurable way, then god wouldn’t have to “show off”.

  12. they want the Advertising Standards Authority to produce “indisputable scientific evidence” to say that prayer does not work

    No, not how this works. Produce some scientific evidence that it does work and we can get started. Anecdotal stories are not scientific evidence, by the way. Otherwise I am going to have to demand “indisputable scientific evidence” that leprechauns do not posses pots of gold.

    To the credit of the UK, we have to compare ourselves to what they propose as laws. The things that are actually passing as laws in the US recently are much more embarrassing in my opinion.

  13. How about requiring “indisputable scientific evidence” to say that prayer DOES work?!?!?!
    (They’ll probably pray for amputee lizard tails.)

  14. I’m not buying it. I still think US politicians average dumber than those in the UK, and I don’t accept 3 cherry-picked examples as refutation of my belief. When it’s been shown that >50% of MPs are Republicans (or intellectual equivalent), I’ll change my mind.

    Or, against the 3 obscure MPs I’ll stand one Santorum. Even when cherry-picking it’s really easy to find more blatant examples from among the US herd.

      1. Yes and Will Rogers reported decades ago that we have the best politicians that money can buy. Top that, UK!

  15. The implication of prayer-healing is that special people can demand that God heals someone, and he’ll just do it.

    The idea that some people are “special” is not just implied, it’s foundational to faith healing, alternative medicine, religion, and virtually every other anti-scientific, faith-based modality and viewpoint out there. The scientific method works on the assumption that the laws of the universe are morally objective and work the same for everyone. The well-established regularities of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. do not suspend themselves or act differently for people who are especially humble, or good, or sensitive, or respectful, or possessing of a “good attitude.”

    But a lot of folks apparently think that’s not good enough. Reality needs to be personally and emotionally engaged with the little dramas they play out in their heads. That’s why they reject evidence and statistics when it comes to faith healing. The world is an ongoing story about them and the people like them. It has a theme, it has a protagonist, it has good guys and bad guys, and above all it has an Author making sure everything is “fair” and comes out okay in the end.

    Telling yourselves over and over again that this way of looking at reality is deeply humbling and ego-less doesn’t make it so.

  16. Many crutches « decorate » Notre Dame de Lourdes in France. But Anatole France impertinently noted a dearth of artificial eyes there.

  17. I think it comes down to the old saying “Prayer – how to do nothing and feel like you are helping”. It’s just basic human nature. No one likes to feel helpless, especially in an emotionlally charged situation like a parent with a sick child. Prayer gives people the sense that they are doing something rather than forcing them to admit that they are powerless in a given situation.

    1. Interestingly, believers also *ask* for prayers. They’re basically asking for nothing and feel like they’re being helped. But underneath all this is probably the face-saving social protocol for asking for sympathy without being so crass as to say “i ask for your sympathy”, and for soliciting for help indirectly without imposing. Prayer is an exchange or nothings basically, which works out for both parties. Nobody is put in an embarassing position of presuming too much familiarity to ask for something real and nobody is put in the awkward position to refuse to help.

      1. Be damn embarrassing all round if someone asked me to pray for them! 🙂

        (I suppose I could just barefaced lie and say ‘okay’).

        1. Exactly. You *can* say you’ll pray and the outcome is the same whether you actually do pray or actually do not. Very much different situation when somebody asks for something concrete, e.g. ask to borrow money from you for example.

  18. Just a minor point, but these three buffoons do have a vote on science funding, etc. :
    Can any scientist point to any instance in any field at any time of “indisputable scientific evidence”? If evidence is indisputable then it is not scientific.

    1. If someone claims they are immortal and invulnerable — and then has their body electrocuted, decapitated, the parts burned and then dumped under water before being dissolved in industrial acid, I would say the “evidence is indisputable” that their original hypothesis of immortality and invulnerability has been disproven.

      “Indisputable” is not the same as “will never be questioned by lunatics.”

      1. I should have said indisputable evidence in support of a theory, to avoid the obvious misunderstanding you refer to!

        1. The person claiming immortality/invulnerability has a theory: that they are immortal and invulnerable. I have shown that it is easy to provide indisputable evidence — but nutjobs can still refuse to believe it, much like there is still a Flat Earth Society.

  19. Prayer my arse! The only reason he recovered at all is because I slaughtered a goat! Works every time…..

  20. I’ve seen a few patients go the faith healing route after a serious diagnosis. They ended up dead and rather quickly.

    It’s estimated that around a hundred children are murdered by faith healing in the USA every year.

    This is simply human child sacrifice to a monster sky god.

    I’ve had to deal with these too. Some of these families have lost at least two children.

    1. All this is fact yet the awful attrocities are still carrying on and nobody is trying to stop it. billions have been killed in the name of this so called god, so where is his apologies. Of course he cant apologies because he is fiction as are all gods.

  21. Surely if you believe in a god then you must believe he made you ill in the first place yet they pray to god to make you better.

    1. Exactly. I thought the Robbins piece did a great job of pointing out that even if you start with the basics of Christianity (or any of the other major religions)the idea of intercessory prayer has all kinds of problems. From faith healing to Tim Tebow praying to win a football game, it doesn’t make sense.

  22. This is a slight tangent but somewhat relevant to the post. There is a pernicious aspect to prayer which, while not as dangerous as substituting prayer for medical attention in serious conditions, I find very disturbing.
    A while back I had to ask a Methodist minister for some specific help with some difficulties which had got me depressed. However, he chose not to do what I requested and prayer for me instead. Several other people have done similarly. Consequently, I now specifically ask people not to pray for me or – if they insist – that they spend the same amount of time thinking of a practical thing to help. This request has met with a lot of resistance.

    I can’t help but think that the mindset which takes a difficult problem and hands it on to an imaginary sky god is not helpful. I wonder whether there is an ethical question about praying for someone who asks that you do not.

  23. How about demanding “indisputable scientific evidence” that god exists before imposing any religious assertion of any kind in law?

  24. How very embarrasing for the UK. I am very dismayed by this obvious lack of intellect in our polliticians. Vested iterest is becomming so much more prevalent over here.

  25. As Jim Morrison once said: “You cannot petition the Lord with Prayer.”

    How can anyone dispute the words of the Lizard King. Think of the power he had, controling the world’s lizards!

  26. We do have loons as MPs, however we also have the ASA who do a pretty good job of keeping the bullshit out of advertising.

    I am looking forward to the exact wording of the chairman’s reply. If it doesn’t put the boot in, but in very polite language, I’ll be disappointed!

  27. Can our English friends tell me if, aside from advertising, there are laws in England that allow faith healing in place of medical care? For instance, will people not be held responsible if a child dies because prayer was substituted for legitimate medical care. In the US, federal law allows states to pass laws that allow a religious defense (which means that charges are not even filed) in such a case, for charges up to and including murder. This is actually an improvement, since federal law used to require states to include such a provision in their laws in order to participate in federal grant programs.

    1. Im not 100% certain, but I’m sure if a child is suffering, and the parents know enough about it to be praying for their health, then that would constitute neglect through lack of seeking medical attention.
      in my view, if someone were to die due to that neglect, then the neglector should be prosecuted under a murder or manslaughter charge.

      1. Thank you, Bonzodog. Very interesting. The bottom line from the Jehovah’s Witnesses cases is that,

        “Neither the consent of the parents nor the permission of the court is needed to administer a blood transfusion to a minor in the UK”

        You’re so much more sensible over there. In the US, in the majority of states, people can withhold medical care from babies through teenagers as long as it is for sincerely held religious beliefs, (beliefs of the parents, of course). It’s barbaric.

  28. I’d say that Martin Robbins missed one possibility with faith healing: God could heal people, but he’s lazy and only does so after being nagged enough.

  29. I was in the UK recently when this whole heart-attack-soccer-player episode broke out, and I thought it rather funny that the family was specifically asking for people to pray.

    Further, I was in Bath for part of that trip, and Bath is called such because there was an ancient Roman Bath there. There was a natural hot spring there and the romans built a bath house on top of it. People from all over their empire would come to it, because they beleived that the hot magic water would cure them. It, of course, does no more than prayer or homeopathy. Seems like they’re keeping the tradition alive in Bath!

    BTW, I hadn’t known this before hand, but the spring is still active on the roman ruins, and they have it properly plumbed, so you can drink the stuff from a tap now. It’s got quite a bit of sulfur in it and tastes, not quite like rotten eggs, but certainly eggy.

  30. I hope ASA replies asking for scientific evidence that prayer does work!

    They will. The point of the ASA is that the advertiser making the claim must be able to prove it.

    This was also the reason that the atheist bus campaign had to have the word “probably” in the slogan because claims of any god’s non-existence (or existence for that matter) cannot be proven.

  31. The UK used to be far more secular until our recently not-elected, fuck-witted Government started saying stupid shit, and allowing stupid shit to be said on their behalf.

    They’ll be out next term though. Hopefully before the church get their kid-seizing talons on the public school system, which they’re currently trying to do… with the Government’s specific sponsorship.

    1. From the Continent I get the impression that the Beeb seems to ramp up the apologetics in their programs. There was this strange program with Jeremy Paxman about the Empire, which strayed into missionary work etc.

      Is that impression correct? Or have I just been watching selectively over the past years (Gardeners World, Roger & Val, Six Nations…)?

      1. Unfortunately the BBC is , at the moment, in the hands of the RCC. There are RC’s in positions of power, witness the totally biased coverage of the recent visit by the pope.
        Fortunately the chief RC is standing down soon and we may get an unbiased replacement.

  32. I’d like to see Gary Streeter’s evidence that:

    a. His hand was in pain
    b. The pain disappeared after prayer
    c. That the prayer was the reason for the hand getting better.

    Maybe he just gave up on masturbation and the muscle pains went away … he’s still a royal wanker though.

    1. In a U.S. paper the other day I read that comic Jeff Foxworthy (“You Might Be a Redneck if . . . .”, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” TV show) will be hosting some sort of TV game show where contestants demonstrate their knowledge of the Bible.

      I’m looking forward to questions about Onan.

  33. Dear Prof Coyne
    I think you may be forgetting about the tremendous potential for savings in health care costs?
    This would be especially important in the poorer countries or where the courts intervene.

    Down here, we now have the new Saint, Mary MacKillop, to pray to. Not sure if this only works for Catholics && Australians though.
    And then there are still issues with what to do about us non-believers . . .

    1. And don’t forget the government funded school chaplains program which we have to thank a religious prime minister for.

      1. A Prime Minister who was stabbed in the back and replaced by an atheist, who, herself, will be replaced by another avowed Christian at the next federal election. Sigh

  34. “Their actions are dangerous, and of course these three won’t have their way. But I’m continually surprised that this kind of stuff surfaces in a UK that is supposed to be largely secular.”

    Surely not that surprising. ‘Largely secular’ undoubtedly doesn’t mean 100% secular. And there’s a rich vein of ‘woo’ amongst the public, of which faith healing is just one manifestation – homeopathy, ‘alternative medicine’ yadda yadda. It’s probably not hard to find three people in a group of several hundred who believe in any given species of nuttiness.

  35. Contrary to the MP’s letter I can state as absolute fact that the whole nation was not praying for Muamba (I for one did not). Many football supporters expressed their wish for him to get well, some footballers mentioned prayer in their tweets on the subject and some newspaper headlines refered to prayer on his behalf but no-one knows how many pople actually prayed and I doubt if it was many.
    It is absolutely typical of these wooo-men that they (a)co-opt large numbers of people such as me who simply wished Muamba well with no thought or intent of supernatural intervention into their ranks of pray-ers and (b) interpret his failure to die as evidence of the effectiveness of prayer.
    There really is no reasoning with these people.

  36. Has anyone considered, perhaps, the construction of “Christian wards” in hospitals where the faithful can be taken and left to recover without the aid of conventional medicine? It would do wonders for the health service budget.

  37. A Prime Minister who was stabbed in the back and replaced by an atheist, who, herself, will be replaced by another avowed Christian at the next federal election. Sigh.

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