Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Trouble With Faith Healing

One of the big tenets of magick that gets pushed over and over again here in the blogosphere is that in order to obtain the best results, you need to combine your magical operations with as many mundane steps toward your goal as possible. In terms of probability this is easy to understand. Magical powers have limits in terms of the probability shifts that they can produce, so the key is to use mundane steps to bring the likelihood of success within that range. Then you employ a magical operation to push the odds the rest of the way.

Magical healing works exactly the same way, whether it's being practiced by ceremonialists or churches that employ various forms of faith healing. The problem with some of those faith healing groups, though, is that in addition to teaching that spiritual techniques can be used to heal, they also insist that their methods must be used in place of conventional medicine. I see it as a failure of their theology, in which the notion of spiritual faith gets extended to encompass mundane connotations of belief.

Specifically, the teaching appears to be that any use of mundane medical technology constitutes "doubt" in what they perceive as the power of God. And in any other context, that's just dumb. Let's say that you have a friend who agrees to help you out on some sort of project. If you then continue to seek help from other friends on the same project, does it mean you "lack faith" in the first friend? Of course not. Spiritual healing can certainly help with medical problems and issues, but it works best when combined with every possible mundane treatment. And on its own, it's generally far less effective than conventional medicine.

With that in mind, the state of Idaho is considering limiting faith exemptions to the state's child neglect laws for medical care, after a string of preventable deaths among the children of the Followers of Christ, a faith-healing group that eschews conventional medicine. But state representative Christy Perry, who represents a district in which many members of the group reside, claims that this policy would violate their religious rights.

Perry says that a proposed ban on faith-healing would violate the religious rights of her constituents. The legislation, which would limit faith exemptions for medical care in the state’s child neglect law was proposed after a string of preventable child deaths in Perry’s district. The 12 who died were children of sect members. Most of the children died from causes like pneumonia, sepsis and easily treatable cases of food poisoning.

But Perry argues that it’s well within the Canyon County sect’s First Amendment right to refuse medical care for their children on religious grounds. She says those trying to reform the laws are denying the sect their religious freedoms. “Is it really because these children are dying more so than other children, or is this really about an attack on a religion you don’t agree with?” Perry told Aljazeera.

What's so confusing about this logic, or lack thereof, is that apparently Perry is trying to argue that just because some of the people supporting this bill don't like the Followers of Christ they should be able to let their children die preventable deaths. That makes absolutely no sense. Furthermore, let's be clear about what the proposal really says. Nothing in it prevents the group from employing faith healing to treat illnesses. However, it means that conventional medical treatments must be employed as well.

In fact, as there's no technical reason that conventional medical treatment interferes with spiritual or magical healing, if the Followers of Christ are forced to employ both it's possible that their children might wind up healthier than the general population. That is, the spiritual healing component might very well speed recovery and limit undesirable side effects from medication. Faith-only healing is little more than a misunderstanding of how the technology really works.

So I fully support this proposed policy and hope that it can be implemented over the objections of representatives like Perry. There's no functional or technical reason to deny medical care to children, and from a religious perspective there's no evidence that such treatment interferes with spiritual healing in any way.

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