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.
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.