My friend was young and healthy, and although we were all dismayed to hear of her diagnosis, the cancer was discovered early, giving her a high probability of a successful cure and a long, healthy life.
Sadly, my friend believed in the medical religion called homeopathy. Rather than seeking proper medical treatments that could have (and likely would have) cured her completely, she went to Mexico to a clinic that offered homeopathic treatments. Six months later, quite predictably, she was dead. The homeopathic medicines had absolutely no effect on the cancer. She might as well have stayed home, resigned herself to an early death, and enjoyed a little more time with her husband and two small children.
Why do I call homeopathy a religion? Let's turn the question around and ask, "What is religion?" We'll will discover that homeopathy fits the definition of religion pretty well.
Based on faith. Advocates of homeopathic remedies turn to faith and anecdotes to justify their claims.
Magical forces. A religion claims there are "essences," magical beings (spirits or gods) or other magical forces that can't be measured by science. Homeopathic medicines are said to retain the "essence" of the curative compound, even though there is none of it left in the water.
Anti-science. When science shows that homeopathic remedies are useless, advocates dispute or belittle the scientific studies, or even claim that the scientific method itself is invalid. It's common to hear claims that science is incapable of measuring the spiritual forces that make homeopathy work.
Impossible claims. The fundamental claims of homeopathy violate fundamental rules of chemistry and physics.
Use Anecdotes. Although homeopath advocates deny evidence from large, double-blind scientific studies, they're not adverse to evidence, so long as it's not statistically significant. In other words, they rely on anecdotes (one datum), but reject meaningful statistical samples.
Appeal to desires, not logic. Going hand-in-hand with the anti-science attitudes, homeopathy appeals to what people want to believe, rather than reality. Homeopathy assures people that they can be cured without expensive visits to a doctor, without altering unhealthy lifestyle choices, without painful treatments, and without side effects. It also claims to be able to cure conditions that science-based medicine can't, such as allergies, cancers, arthritis, ageing, impotence, and many others. In fact, perusing a homeopathy web site, it appears that homeopathy can cure everything from broken bones to psychosis.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are raised in a religious home, where they are taught from an early age to accept faith, magical forces, impossible miracles, and anecdotal "evidence" without question. These beliefs are directed at Yahweh and Jesus, but more importantly, children are taught to reject the evidence of their senses and the techniques of rational thought.
It's no surprise, then, that this same system of faith-based beliefs is easily transferred to other false claims. Homeopathy isn't very different from any religion.