Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why I Hate Faith-Based Healing (It's Not What You Think)

Religion sucks the joy out of life's greatest accomplishments.

I had a wonderful dinner with two women from my family and a close family friend on Sunday, and heard three stories about religion that frankly shocked me. We were having a discussion about religion (which got started because they wanted to know how my book is progressing), and they "ganged up" on me arguing for the existence of God. (In a fun way – the women in my family are at least as opinionated as I am, and we have some great discussions.) Each of them told me a deeply moving personal story of how God intervened in a crisis and saved them. Ironically, their stories had the OPPOSITE effect on me; they opened my eyes to a new evil of religion that I'd never seen before

One of these three women, in the late 1950s, was faced with an abusive husband, no college degree, three children under the age of six, and no job. She was in despair, she couldn't leave the man, and couldn't stay with him. God spoke to her, saying, "I am always with you," and in that moment, she knew it would be OK to leave her abusive husband.

The second woman was in the middle of a divorce, and also in despair over her soon-to-be-ex-husband's infidelity, the loss of all her dreams, and worry about how it would affect her two children. A spirit came to her in a dream, and she suddenly knew everything would be OK, and it calmed her and gave her strength.

The third woman had severe depression and mental illness, and had already undergone twenty two electroshock treatments, to no avail. Medication, psychoanalysis, she tried everything. Then a Christian faith healer told her she was cured, and she was! She's been well ever since.

Hearing these stories opened my eyes to the most subtle and sad cruelty of religion: It took away the magnificent accomplishments of these three women. They should have each been dancing in the street yelling, "I DID IT! Against all odds, I achieved victory!" It must have taken tremendous courage to leave an abusive husband in the 1950s to an uncertain future, or to find the strength to carry on when all seems lost, or to overcome mental illness through sheer chutzpah. What great achievements!

Instead, they said, "I wasn't good enough. I couldn't do it myself. Only God was strong enough. I failed, and needed help."

Religion lets people avoid personal responsibility by asking, and getting, God's forgiveness, never mind whether the victims agree with God. I suppose that's a pretty good bargain – "Believe in me, and you're off the hook for your sins." But the flip side of that deal is that God also steals all the glory. Everything good is God's doing. Humans get all the blame, and God gets all the credit.

What a terrible way to go through life.


  1. Short version:

    I heartily concur.

    Longer version:
    From my March 7 post:

    I spend time with a lot of people online and am acquainted with some hardliners who insist that they are here to "serve God." THOSE PEOPLE ANNOY ME. Other people who annoy me: People who are doing fine in their lives, or those who weren't at one point but then got straight and started making it work who say "I give all the glory to God."


    Just for today, try giving the glory to YOU!

    Just for today, try saying "I'm here to serve ME. And everything I care about. My family, my friends, certain things in the world that I wish to see improved, random strangers, etc etc." Personally, I find that much more motivating than mumbling some rote-memorized prayer, or talking into the air and really expecting some(one/thing) to answer you back.

    Full post at:

  2. I have had similar experiences during extremely difficult times. Usually I dreamed about falling, or leaping off a high point, and being able to fly and actually navigate without wings. The theme recurred in dream after dream, although the circumstances were different -- and as it turned out in reality, even though I did 'fall,' I was also able to fly, and got through all right.

    However, as reassuring as I found those dreams, I most definitely did not ascribe that to "God" or angels or fairy dust. I think the human brain is capable of a level of subconscious information-gathering about ourselves and the world around us that we often simply ignore -- or have to ascribe to another being.

    You are right, it's too bad the three women could not see that they had turned the tide and taken care of themselves.

  3. volly - Thanks for your comments. I read your blog, and you have a lot to say!

    > You are right, it's too bad the three
    > women could not see that they had
    > turned the tide and taken care of
    > themselves.

    Good point, and I appreciate your comment, because I need to clarify this. These three women were all very interested in my remarks, and gave the topic a lot of thought. While I won't say I changed anyone's mind about their faith, I think they took my comments to heart. I'm pleased to say that nobody in my family follows faith blindly; we're a thoughtful family.

  4. Just for today, try giving the glory to YOU!

    Volly, you fail to see that as Christians we are well familiar with the 'self glory' life. Been there, done that. Giving God the credit is a much better way. Those ladies knew what they were talking about.

  5. It wasn't God that got my mother out the door of her abusive and worthless husband, it was her own two feet, her own willpower. He didn't go to work and put food on the table and clothes on our back--she did.

    God had zero to do with it, and I'm eternally grateful to my mother for refusing to put up with crap from someone who didn't deserve her, when it was hard to do that (mid-1960s East Texas).

    And Thomas:

    "Volly, you fail to see that as Christians we are well familiar with the 'self glory' life. Been there, done that. "

    Somehow, I doubt that you really have been there. How do you know if you've never really tried it. Also, try replacing one part of your little screed with something else, to understand how ridiculous your remark is to people who doubt the existence of your imaginary friend. I'll help:

    "Giving Santa Claus the credit is a much better way."

    "Giving Thor the credit is a much better way."

    "Giving pink unicorns the credit is a much better way."

    And so forth.

    They all make the same amount of sense as your remark. Think about it.

  6. You know nothing if God's character. He doesn't steal the glory. He earns it through His great works. And, test, He does deserve all the credit since He has helped these women. I see no problem with asking God for help. Oftentimes you can't handle a problem on your own, so you can't find a solution to your problem. In these times, God is there to offer His assistance. It is up to you to call on His name and ask for His assistance. You must serve God because He is the one who gave you life. Stop living for yourself and live for your heavenly Father.


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