Faith Healing vs Alternatives: Where’s the Proof?

BW writes: “Why do you insist that alternatives have scientific proof? Is there any proof that faith healing works? Why don’t you insist that there be proof for that too?”

This isn’t the first time we were challenged on this point so I guess it’s time to address it.

First, BW is only partially correct in her statement that there is no proof that faith healing can be scientifically proven to work. As most Catholics are aware, science has validated hundreds of faith healings over the years in conjunction with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the canonization process. Unless a person died a martyr and can be declared Blessed by virtue of martyrdom, candidates for sainthood must be credited with a miracle performed after their death. This miracle must be verified by a scientific commission to determine that there is no scientific explanation, which is the closest a “faith healing” can come to scientific verification.

While many people claim to have been healed of physical, emotional, or mental ailments at prayer services, during the Mass, etc. there is no scientific proof that they were healed by God. However, for most recipients of these healings, they don’t need, or care, to provide scientific proof because for them, this is a matter of faith alone and that is enough for them.

On the other hand, the alternative market is actually selling their “healing,” whether that be a product like a supplement or essential oil or a service such as Reiki or muscle testing. They advertise the product or service as being able to diagnose, treat, heal, or cure something, which is why evidence is required to support those claims.

This requirement is dictated by the need to protect consumers from being victimized by con artists and quacks. Alternatives are held to the same standard as other medical cures and are expected to invest the money (which can be substantial) in having their product independently tested in order to determine if their claims are accurate. The problem is that most of them don’t get this testing done, citing the high cost, and proceed to market and sell their product anyway, which is only possible today because of the Internet. Providing only “user testimonials” as proof, they are the modern version of the old “snake oil salesman.”

Consumers should be aware that anytime a product or service makes a definitive claim about efficacy, the seller should be able to back up that claim with objective scientific analysis. Regardless of how impressive the website looks or how scientific the explanation appears, if the site offers nothing more than user testimonials, or research conducted or funded by themselves, the claims should not be considered to be valid.

As you can see from the above explanation, faith healing doesn’t need this proof because it makes no claims about being able to heal, diagnose, or treat anything. Nor is it sold – at least it shouldn’t be! Faith healing exists in the realm of faith alone and one is free to either accept it or reject it.

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