Chief medical correspondent for CNN osculates the rump of pastor Joel Osteen

I am starting to think that there’s something about neurosurgeons that make them especially susceptible to woo.  Perhaps it’s because they work on the brain, and marvel at the connection between the piece of meat they stick scalpels into and the mind that comes from that meat. Or perhaps it’s something else, but there does seem to be a trend. Think of creationist flack Michael Egnor,  heaven-visitor Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven, in which he had a near-death experience, saw God, and made a ton of dosh), and evolution denialist Ben Carson, who got a Presidential Medal of Freedom but says he doesn’t have the “faith” to accept evolution.  All of these men are neurosurgeons.

And so is Dr. Sanjay Gupta , chief medical editor for the Cable News Network (CNN), which, I thought, was a respectable venue. While Gupta, a professor of neurosurgery at Emory, has had a bit of controversy, the few broadcasts I’ve seen by him seemed okay. That is, until reader John alerted me to a new piece at CNN—which aired yesterday and today—in which Gupta interviews the unctuous Joel Osteen. If you’re an American, you’ll have heard of Osteen. He’s the pastor of the largest megachurch in the U.S.—the Lakewood Church in Houston Texas, with 43,500 people at each weekly service!—and, according to Wikpedia, gets 7 million viewers a week in over 100 countries.  He basically stays away from theology (e.g., hell), decries gay marriage and, despite his denials, preaches a “prosperity gospel” in which Jesus will bring you material STUFF if you believe and do good (see some of his quotes here). He’s a feel-good pastor for the “me” generation, and doesn’t bring them down by talking about fire and brimstone.

Gupta’s piece is called “When religion and medicine meet“, and that meeting seems quite cordial.  (There’s also a short video clip at the link.)  And Gupta basically laps up what Osteen has to say. Here are some snippets from  Gupta’s piece:

If you don’t immediately recognize the name, you will certainly remember his perfectly coiffed thick head of hair, megawatt smile and most of all his optimism, which I would best describe as indefatigable. You feel good just being around a guy like him. I did.

If you watch him closely during the interview, you will often see him look up to the sky when answering a question. While I know many people who have difficulty maintaining eye contact, that wasn’t the case for Osteen. Instead, it almost appeared as if he was seeking out some divine inspiration for the answers to the questions I was about to ask him.

. . . He also took time to remind me that “sacrifice” around the holidays will be rewarded. . . Listening to all Joel Osteen has to say, of course you will agree with him, despite the fact he doesn’t often take a stance on hot-button issues, instead deferring to God as the ultimate decision-maker.

Gupta agreed with him? Even about God as the ultimate decision-maker? Gupta then describes how his mother was healed of terminal cancer by God. Gupta notes:

Osteen is describing a sort of faith healing or at least the power of prayer, and it is an issue that deeply divides the medical community.

According to Gallup polls, 92% of Americans believe in God. And 80% believe in the power of God or prayer to improve the course of their illness.

We know that many people turn to God during times of illness, either in public or private. It is a profoundly human response, but also based on belief in some mechanism that we can’t explain.

Gupta doesn’t note that it’s also a mechanism for which there’s no evidence.

Critics worry that studying prayer relies on the assumption of supernatural intervention, which will always place it outside the realm of science. [JAC: Well, that statement is clearly wrong, for you can test the supernatural if it involves assertions about how God intervenes in the world.]At its worst, they say, people may rely solely on prayer instead of proven, effective treatments.

It is not that science hasn’t tried to prove and even describe the impact of prayer on healing.

A review of nearly 50 studies involving 125,000 people showed those with low levels of religious involvement had odds of early mortality that were 1.29 times higher than for those with high levels of religious involvement. Religious groups such as Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Amish have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

I can’t say I’m an expert on this study, but of course that reduced mortality could be due not to religious belief itself, but to religious strictures against smoking, drinking, and so on, as well as the positive effects of meditation that might occur during services, and the social support networks provided by megachurches like Osteen’s.  And it irks me that Gupta neglects the several studies on the lack power of intercessory prayer to bring healing.  Instead Gupta cites one meta-analysis on mortality but passes over the several direct studies on prayer and other forms of spiritual healing that failed to show effects. And, to be fair, Gupta mentions one study later in the piece.

There has also been a fair amount of research into the mechanism of psychoneuroendocrinology, the relationship between psychology, endocrinology and neuroscience — in other words, the interactions between the mind, hormones and brain.

That could account for the results Herbert Benson cites about the positive impact of prayer on heart disease.

I can’t find any results on that page, but if readers know them please direct me to the papers.

Gupta does mention the one negative result (funded by Templeton) on the failure of intercessory prayer to lesson complications in recovery from cardiac bypass surgery. In that case, patients who knew they were being prayed for got significantly higher frequencies of postoperative complications than those who were prayed for but didn’t know it. The probability value that this was simply due to chance and that knowledge of prayer really had no effect was not terribly low (p = 0.022), and the authors did not do a Bonferroni correction for multiple tests of significance in their study, which I see as a mistake.  (That is a correction to remove “significant’ statistical results that are inevitable when one does multiple comparisons in the same set of data.) I doubt that there would have been any effect of prayer, negative or positive, had such corrections been applied.

But here’s what Gupta says about that negative result:

I did want to point out one of the more remarkable findings in a study from the American Heart Journal on this topic. It showed people were more likely to suffer complications if they knew someone was praying for them. Go ahead, read that sentence again.

No matter your point of view, how do you explain that?

[JAC: I'd explain it as a marginally significant result that would probably disappear if the data were properly analyzed with statistics.]

Nobody knows for sure, but it could be that those people didn’t typically have prayer or faith in their daily lives, and only relied on it when things had become particularly bleak or desperate. They may have thought, “I must be close to death,” if they were now resorting to prayer.

When I asked Osteen about that, he immediately nodded and agreed with that explanation. But he immediately reminded me, that is the nature of faith — the belief that it will work — and the benefits of that optimism flow from it.

Well, those people were chosen randomly, and I can’t tell whether, in the study, they knew that they were one of several groups with different types of “intercessions” (there were two other groups who didn’t know whether they were being prayed for, and were told that they “may or may not be being prayed for”, with one group prayed for and the other not).  So I doubt that third group were initially less religious than the others, and Gupta’s explanation doesn’t wash in that respect. I suppose members of that group might have thought that they were in bad shape if they knew they knew they were being prayed for, but they also knew they were part of a study, and, at any rate, I know of no evidence that pessimism increases cardiac complications after bypass surgery. In fact, I’m not an expert on whether optimism in general facilitates healing from surgery or disease (as opposed to stuff like meditation ameliorating stress and high blood pressure); and would appreciate any readers’ references about this. We always hear that optimism can help you prevent recurrence of cancer and other diseases, but really, is there evidence for that?

Gupta makes a NOMA argument that doesn’t hold water:

While writing this, I realized it is quite possible we will never have the answers we want, because the intersection between religion and science can never be fully explored.

That would require trying to “reduce it to basic elements than can be quantified, and that makes for bad science and bad religion,” according to Dr. Richard Sloan, author of the book “Blind Faith.”

Bad religion is religion that makes either falsified claims about the real world or unfalsifiable claims (in which case one shouldn’t believe them).  And, in fact, the intersection between religion and science can be pretty fully explored. If it hasn’t yet been, after tens of thousands of books on this topic, it will be when I finish writing my own book about it! What Gupta really means there is “that we’ll never have ironclad proof whether or not God exists and can heal people.”  As for “we can’t test religious claims”—what Gupta means when he quotes Richard Sloan—that’s just the old canard that believers use when they say we should believe either in spite of counterevidence (Tertullian, Kierkegaard) or in the absence of evidence. “You can’t test or measure God,” they say.  In that case, what reason do we have to believe in Him, especially in matters of such import for our lives? In fact, Gupta might have said, “the intersection between the existence of fairies and science can never be fully explored” because “to reduce belief in fairies to quantifiable elements makes for bad science and bad pseudoscience.”

In the end, Gupta signs onto being optimistic about one’s health.

When it comes to the power of prayer, though, proponents and critics do find some common ground. They both cite evidence that when it comes to our health, prayers and faith may have less to do about God than it does with optimism overall. [JAC:  is there really any scientific evidence for that proposition? Even if we're talking about religious people being more healthy, is that due to "optimism"—or something else?]

.  . . It turns out that truly understanding optimism and relying on it to help you during tough times requires practicing it on a daily basis, and that may be the most important message Joel Osteen gives us this holiday season

Gupta didn’t need to interview a preacher for that message. All he had to do is find some data showing a relationship between optimism and health. By inteviewing Osteen, I think Gupta gave some credibility to religion as a source of optimism.  And why isn’t he interviewing any nonbelievers, or psychologists? What, after all, does a prosperity-gospel preacher have to teach us about health?

I suppose if one is ill it’s psychologically better to be optimistic rather than pessimistic (as a secular Jew, I tend toward the latter), but I don’t know if that makes me less likely to be cured. I’d like to see the evidence.

***

I’ll add a comment from one reader who later read Gupta’s piece and emailed me:

The tiptoeing around the interviewee so as not to cause offense leaves the general idea behind  that faith is a perfectly reasonable alternative to medicine; rather the one that is obvious – and that Gupta even raises – that prayer has no effect at all, or perhaps even a negative one.

39 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    sub

    • francis
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      //

  2. Alex T
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    RE optimism – I don’t the evidence is any where near as clear as he describes it. This was studied somewhat when the positivity movement took hold and while there were some mildly positive results, there were also negative ones and taken as a whole I thought that the evidence pointed to there being little benefit to being positive or optimistic or whatever.

    There may be some nuance. If you’re naturally pessimistic, angry, upset, dour or unhappy (as you might well be, if you had just gotten some bad medical results) then being told that you should cheer up and think positively seems to make things worse. It can lead to self-blame and stress. But I also recall that people who were optimistic and positive tended to show greater compliance with their medical treatment (again, not sure if this might be because people with more treatable illnesses are more likely to be positive).

    In the end, I thought that the evidence was a lot more mixed than they say and by distilling it down to such a simplistic soundbite, they could actually be harming people who are not feeling optimistic or happy (due to personality or medical diagnosis).

    Of course, JAC is right that even if all of this were put aside and optimism were really as beneficial as they say, I don’t see any good reason to think that religion is the best or even a good source of this. What with the hell, damnation and totally unrealistic commandments which all but guarantee that no human can follow them.

    • Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      What strikes me as particularly pernicious about the positivity doctrine is that it often leads the sick to blame themselves for their failure to recover. Ultimately, even when it is not explicitly religious, it mirrors religion in its implication that failure is a sign of “lack of faith”.

  3. Larry Gay
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Gupta is right at home at CNN. Remember Wolf Blitzer interviewing the (atheistic) woman in Oklahoma after she survived a tornado (or possibly some other disaster) and prompting her to give God credit for her deliverance.

  4. Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Many people point to the benefits of religion (whether reasonable or not) as evidence that religion is good without bothering to mention that the tenets of the religions in question are incompatible.
    So if Buddhist monks have a lower rate of heart disease then pentacostals that might suggest religion has benefits, but it also suggests you don’t need Jesus Christ as your ‘personal savior’

  5. Dermot C
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Blimey, this guy Osteen must be coining it. 43,000 at every home game? The Villa don’t get that.

    As usual, though, he’s a Christian unfamiliar with the doctrine of his own scripture. Contra Osteen it is not only God who will make the Last Judgement: so, according to Jesus, will the Queen of Sheba and the men of Mosul in Iraq (Nineveh): Luke 11:31.

    The bloke doesn’t even get very good marks in his own specialist subject. I wonder if he’s a money-grabbing charlatan.

    Slaínte.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    If you are less likely to get better if you’re pessimistic I’m totally screwed. I think analytical, truth loving types tend toward what others would call pessimism but really it’s probably closer to realism and the refusal to ignore facts in favour of good feelings. I think this freaks out some of my optimistic friends who will tell me “not to say that” if I talk frankly about my own health or the health of others. I’ve learned to censor myself a bit around them.

    The strange trend of neuroscientists writing popular articles & books advocating the supernatural is an odd one & I would love to know their opinions about free will, the illusion of the self and consciousness. I suspect that the understanding of such things as illusions and the absence of a “ghost in the machine” gives them great displeasure — oh even better, I’d like to have those questions asked of them while they are hooked up to an fMRI so we can see if all the pain areas of their brain light up! For some strange reason when I learned about all this stuff, it just made me laugh and I found it enjoyable. I don’t know if I am some sort of outlier but I suspect it’s in stark contrast to these brain folk.

    • pacopicopiedra
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Calling a neurosurgeon a neuroscientist is being very generous.

  7. inkydisaster
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    What’s the difference between praying and begging? Is it an act of love to only offer help to those in need who beg for it?

    • gbjames
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      The difference is that begging sometimes works.

  8. Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Osteen is the epitome of terrifying refulgence and quixotic mirth. Its the kind of eerie optimism that must be deflected with 20 million Scoville Heat Units.

  9. Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    And yet, in spite of all this powerful prayer, god has yet to cure one amputee. Seems as cruel as it is capricious to me.

    I think the “92% believe in God” figure gives the game away. While the piece is thin gruel indeed, it does give comfort to those 92%, and probably generates a lot of clicks. One thing I’m sure Gupta and Osteen have in common – they are businessmen.

  10. uglicoyote
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Road.

  11. Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I cannot stand Osteen or his co-preaching wife – they struck me right from the first time I saw videos of them as being totally phony. I even think they don’t believe in God but certainly believe in Mammon who has been consistently good to them… Joel is so ugly, his lipless mouth is repugnant. His wife is the typical artificial Stepford wife. They both are totally hollow and empty.

    With regard to praying for the sick in hospitals, I remember reading some years ago a study that showed that those patients who knew they were being prayed for had fairly negative results, due to expectations of miracles that never happened and which plunged them even deeper in their illness, while patients that were not prayed for did far better.

    • Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Do you have a reference to that study?
      Showing that praying makes things worse is one thing, pretending to know WHY that is, is another .. and the reason stated doesn’t seem to make much sense to me: you would expect that people do benefit at least a little from the knowledge that they’re being prayed for, based on the placebo effect alone.

      (And did you really have to go after the guy’s looks?)

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        I believe that is the study described by Jerry above:

        “Gupta does mention the one negative result (funded by Templeton) on the failure of intercessory prayer to lesson complications in recovery from cardiac bypass surgery. In that case, patients who knew they were being prayed for got significantly higher frequencies of postoperative complications than those who were prayed for but didn’t know it. The probability value that this was simply due to chance and that knowledge of prayer really had no effect was not terribly low (p = 0.022), and the authors did not do a Bonferroni correction for multiple tests of significance in their study, which I see as a mistake. (That is a correction to remove “significant’ statistical results that are inevitable when one does multiple comparisons in the same set of data.) I doubt that there would have been any effect of prayer, negative or positive, had such corrections been applied.” [Link in the original]

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Make that _links_.

      • Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        It may have been the STEP project, although I feel it may have been a much earlier one from well over ten years ago which I didn’t read online but in a magazine like Time or Newsweek, it has been a long time so I don’t recall exactly. Still, the STEP project largely reflects what I had read:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer#The_STEP_project

        With regards to looks – one’s character, personality and thoughts influences one’s looks to a great extent, so yes, it justifies my going after both his and his wife’s looks. :)

      • Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        This may well have been what I read:

        http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20060331/praying-for-health-study-stirs-debate

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait to see the yearly Yule profundities the religious will spout! Meanwhile:

    Despite overwhelming evidence against free willies, the religious cling to the idea of a draping of magic covering that particularly offensive (to them) part of biology. “Don’t mind me, I’m just a naked brain.”

    Nowadays I think comparing magic agencies, gods with fairies, is amusing but giving religious ideas too much credit. The comparison should be between putative mechanisms, as in prayer studies. Unless of course one may drive the ridicule through, which after all is the most damning a religious can experience.

    So I would say, in a serious context, that Gupta could have said “the intersection between the existence of homeopathy and science can never be fully explored” because “to reduce belief in homeopathy to quantifiable elements makes for bad science and bad pseudoscience.”

    According to Gallup polls, 92% of Americans believe in God. And 80% believe in the power of God or prayer to improve the course of their illness.

    That isn’t the last results, I take it, with about double that of nones. And I would think Gupta’s figure on the power of prayer is similarly inflated.

    Gupta doesn’t note that it’s also a mechanism for which there’s no evidence.

    I may be mistaken since I have no overview, but I think it may be stronger than that. There is evidence that there is no such mechanism.

    After all, “Gupta neglects the several studies on the lack power of intercessory prayer to bring healing.” The hypothesis of a mechanism has failed repeatedly in tests, except (IIRC) on the order of one (so maybe two) studies which has been recognized as using bad statistics.

  13. ladyatheist
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    A little searching on pubmed and I found an article linking optimism and injury:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22903140

    It’s about athletic injury so that’s a specialized group to begin with, but it’s interesting. Being an optimist seemed to prevent injury. Do they chant “I think I can” as they’re leaping hurdles or tossing the basketball?

  14. Sam Salerno
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Not Gupta. He was my last hope of any real Dr. on tv. This pandering to the religious makes me pessimistic all by itself. Katie Couric had Olsteen on this week also. And she was kissing his butt too.

  15. Jimbo
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I think there may be an economic angle to prayer–it is freely given and freely accepted. Though tithing to the Church may involve a nominal fee, it is dwarfed by the cost of actual health care in our dysfunctional American healthcare system and in poor countries worldwide. The sentiment: “my thoughts [secular] and prayers [religious] are with you,” may not improve the terminal cancer patient’s outcome but it may ease their suffering and reduce the emotional distress of their helpless loved ones. This parallels Jerry’s point about God belief being more pervasive in societies that lack a social safety net (health care) which is ultimately a reflection of economic security. Prayer belief might actually be stronger than God belief because the placebo effect alone could account for its purported efficacy (which is no evidence for God of course). One could almost sense the palliative effect that words of encouragement from humanist fans had upon Dan Dennett during his heart surgery and Hitch throughout his illness.

  16. bjornove
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Neurosurgeons are medical doctors and it seems that the percentage of Christians in this profession is much higher than among scientist in general. (some people even claim that medicine is not really a science as the other natural sciences. I would not go that far, but when I studied some medical subjects in the medical faculty ( I am a biologist) I noted that many medical students didn’t really know how science works)

    Bjorn

    • gbjames
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Well there is certainly a lot of medical science that happens. And it is done by doctors doing actual science. But medical practice can be done, and often is done, more closely approximating an auto mechanic who has been trained to replace mufflers. A good medical doctor doesn’t behave like that but many do, I suspect.

    • colnago80
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      I believe that David Gorski (ORAC) has pointed out that surgeons are somewhat akin to automobile mechanics. It is not really necessary for surgeons to know a lot about biology or science to perform their tasks. Just as it is not necessary for automobile mechanics to know anything about thermodynamics to fix automobile engines.

      • Posted December 27, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        I would guess (as a research hypothesis) that being a very good surgeon is a very much “self motivated” type profession, as well, plus the intelligence required, both of which might get one to be one’s “own person” about certain sorts of woo.

  17. jsoon71
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Here’s a link to a meta-analysis on PubMed that appears to provide some support for a link between optimism and health outcomes. I haven’t had the chance to read it in depth, but it does appear to provide a number of refs that would be useful in assessing this question: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941870/

  18. docbill1351
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Brother Osteen and his fellow pastor wife, Victoria, live in a $12 million dollar estate in the center of Houston’s River Oaks subdivision. Everything is first class for the Osteens, of course.

    Alas, princess Victoria was kicked off a flight and fined $5000 for “disruptive behavior” after she berated a flight attendant in First Class about the condition of her throne.

    He’s got quite a good scam going. Not only does he live large off the backs of his flock but they are happy to give him their last dollar. (And he’s happy to take it.)

    • gluonspring
      Posted December 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      BTW, you should understand that this is not California or New York. You can buy a nice home in Houston for < $200k, and a 5 bedroom luxury home with a pool in a very nice neighborhood for $500k. $12 million is an unbelievable amount of money to spend on a house in Houston.

  19. Posted December 22, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I can’t say I’m an expert on this study, but of course that reduced mortality could be due not to religious belief itself, but to religious strictures against smoking, drinking, and so on, as well as the positive effects of meditation that might occur during services, and the social support networks provided by megachurches like Osteen’s.

    I think you’re being much more generous than I would be. As I understand it, longevity rates are highest in countries and American states with the lowest rates of religiosity, which would immediately call into question the methodology and conclusions of the study itself.

    It’s not at all hard imagining a religious researcher, intentionally or otherwise, skewing definitions and / or questionnaires or whatever in ways that would skew this data.

    Cheers,

    b&

  20. gluonspring
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    One does not need statistics to see that prayer, if it does anything at all, is so marginal to be essentially useless, less useful than washing your hands or having a glass of wine. Merely sit through enough services with their prayer requests, I’ve heard many thousands, and watch what happens to the people so named… some get better, some get worse, some die, and it all follows what you expect without the prayer: the late stage cancers mostly die, the blind continue to be blind, the early stage cancers are treated and go into remission for a time,the colds get better, some people in pain report feeling a little less pain, etc. Nothing surprising ever happens.

    One should also never forget when considering “statistically significant” results to also ask whether the results are significant in the ordinary sense, that is whether the statistically detected results have a magnitude that is worth being interested in. Even if we took the most favorable view of the results of studies of prayer or religiosity, the effects are so small and ultimately unhelpful, that they make a mockery of the idea of being the product of an omnipotent being. It’s like finding pocket lint and considering it evidence that Bill Gates is leaving you presents.

  21. pacopicopiedra
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the specialty of neurosurgery self-selects for people with psychological *issues*. Most other residencies are 3 to 5 years long. Neurosurgery is at least seven, very difficult, years long. It takes a special kind of obsessive, masochistic personality to choose this path.

  22. jeffery
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Answered prayers are like winning lottery tickets: you only hear about the “winners”; the millions of losers are unnoticed. An older lady I know joined a women’s “prayer-group”- after a few years, 4 out of 6 of them were dead from cancer. I told her, “You were praying for the wrong people!”, at which she laughed (she’s sort of strange). I read a book last year on “foxhole prayers” concerning religious practices among combat troops: there was a story of the soldier who was very “up-front” with his religiosity, and prayed in his trench every day at the same times. One day, a mortar round landed directly on top of his head just as he’d started praying. Was he, perhaps, praying for a quick death?

    I do think that it’s important, in the examination of whether prayer “works” at all, to keep a consideration of the “benefits” of prayer separate in the cases of the “pray-er” and the “pray-ee”: if a person who truly believes in prayer prays, they will most likely end up with a greater sense of self-worth (“I’m doing something good; something that WILL have an effect”) and a lessening of anxiety (I’ve turned it over to God; I don’t have to worry about it”); not to mention the happy anticipation that maybe THIS time their prayers will be answered like those other ones they’ve heard about.

    It would be interesting to see a study of “pray-ers”, to see if they have a higher level of health than people who don’t. Of course, this falls into the realm of the question, “Are happy people really healthier than those who aren’t?”- I’m not aware of the results of any such study, and many other variables would have to be taken into account.

    If happiness is proven to really make one healthier, it’s important to remember that happiness can be based on delusion as easily (perhaps more easily) as on reality. A pro basketball fan may be exultant when “their” team wins, but any real attachment they actually have to that team is entirely fabricated (it’s a slightly different situation when it’s your home town team, or the team of your school, etc.- there is a link, in those cases). The same is true of “Team Jeebus.”

  23. Posted December 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Readers who are interested in the topic of the media and medical doctors misleading the public by promoting faith-based approaches to healing might be interested in a recent lengthy blog post I wrote. A concise summary is provided at: http://www.healthnewsreview.org/2013/12/doing-an-autopsy-on-a-feel-good-local-tv-health-news-story/

  24. Mattapult
    Posted December 22, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    “…and Amish have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.”

    The Amish rely on manual labor where everybody else uses machines; no wonder they wouldn’t die of heart disease. Lack of modern medicine and the effects of borderline in-breeding takes a much larger toll.

  25. Leigh Jackson
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Osteen does have bad days. He has found that the start of any day will determine what kind of day you are going to have. So, he spends a few moments every morning thinking of all the things for which he is grateful. He also cleanses out the negative thoughts, from “I am not talented, and nothing good is in my future,” to “I am a person of destiny, headed for greatness.”

    Franciscan humility doesn’t fit too well with his Osteen’s coiff,I guess. The poor and meek and lowly should get a coiff and stiffen up their mental sinews. God will then bless them mightily with money and good health. Miraculous healing provides double indemnity.

    Gupta is CNN Chief first and Medical Correspondent second. The “interview” appeared to be nothing more than a public relations exercise. Plug me and behold – my audience shall become your audience.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27,791 other followers

%d bloggers like this: