Prayer Healing

by webmaster on May 25, 2009

Yesterday I saw an advertisement billboard announcing the coming of a ‘great prayer healer’ to a town in Ireland. This got me thinking about a recent paper I read which was about the use of remote prayer to influence the success rate of in-vitro fertilization embryo transfer Cha et al, 2001, Journal of Reproductive Medicine, vol 46.

This paper discussed the ethics of remote prayer without consent and didn’t even consider the non-science or lack of evidence for the technique itself.

Then, today, I see an article in JSOnline ( about a mother who has been found guilty of causing her daughter’s death by relying on prayer alone, and not calling for medical help until it was too late, even though it was shown after the girl’s death that she had an easily treated and non-fatal disease.

I’m not commenting on that case.
What I am commenting on is how a society makes a decision which is the correct belief system. Clearly my belief system is based on science and empirical evidence. I do not believe in anything that there is no evidence for. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in the supernatural in any way.
I know I’m right because I am happy with the evidence for what I believe in and don’t believe in.
But for someone who has faith and belief in a Christian or Jewish or Muslim God and the religious practices which surround that belief, they are as sure as I am in my empirical beliefs.
So, where then does constitutional freedom to believe in religion end and religious fundamentalism start? Does it end when the welfare or safety or health of another human is concerned? I think it has to. In any case where someone has a strict belief by which they govern their life shouldn’t any constitutional freedom only extend to themselves and to no-one else, even if that someone else is a close family member?
So many things are perpetrated or left undone in the name of religious constitutional freedom: isn’t it time that we all recognise that our belief system is ours and ours alone and that we cannot even force it on our own children?

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