Until about 1920, medical knowledge was so primitive that attending a physician probably harmed more people than were helped. Medical successes following World War I convinced many people in North America to seek help from a physician for illness, rather than try folk remedies or prayer.
Until the 1960s most conflicts in which parents refused medical treatment involved:
J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, was interviewed on this topic by ABC News during 2002-OCT. He said that since the 1960s, there have been increasing numbers of members of other denominations who have been charged with crimes for turning to prayer rather than medicine for their kids. 1 These are often members of Charismatic Christian groups. They emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit and point to certain scriptures, notably from Acts and Paul's epistles. Being from conservative Christian denominations, many believe that God inspired the authors of the bible to write text that is free of errors -- inerrant. Certain texts in the Bible promise healing to believers who pray, or go through certain rituals. They are driven by their religious beliefs to trust prayer -- perhaps in place of medical assistance.
Some devout believers favor pursuing prayer instead of seeking medical assistance when they are ill. This can become a major concern for child protective services when parents refuse to have their children treated for routine health problems that can prove fatal without medical intervention. Resorting to prayer in the place of medical treatment also become a matter of social concern when death rates among certain religious groups greatly exceed the average for the rest of society.
Studies of the effectiveness of prayer for healing:
There exists a wide variety of opinions about the effectiveness of prayer in North America:
Dozens of small-scale studies have been conducted into the effectiveness of individual prayer. They have produced mixed results. Many have often been criticized for poor design that may have biased the results in a positive direction. The first truly reliable, large-scale, double blind study was only published in the Fall of 2003. It found that prayer had no influence on patients' recovery.
Some conservative clergy have become prominent faith healers. Although their religious services are impressive, follow-up studies indicate that few or no cures or permanent improvements have occurred among their audience.
Most of this web site simply describes both or all viewpoints on each topic. However, in rare instances like this one, the stakes are so high that we are moved to make a solid recommendation.
Individuals with serious physical health problems can seek cures from many sources:
We strongly urge that anyone suffering from a disease or disorder use prayer only to back up some reliable form of treatment that has been shown to be both safe and effective -- as evidenced by double-blind studies reported in peer-reviewed journals. This often restricts their options to standard medical procedures. If you find this unacceptable, then we suggest that you take a walk through a private cemetery owned by one of the few conservative Protestant groups who tell their followers to avoid medical help. Observe the large percentage of stones over the graves of infants, and the large percentage of 30 and 40 year olds who are buried there decades before they should have died.
Perhaps the future will see more religious groups adopting policies similar to those of the Church of Scientology. They have a auditing process to promote spiritual growth. Sometimes, an unexpected byproduct of auditing are physical improvements. However, if a person comes to auditing with a physical illness, they are required to have their problem examined by a physician.
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Consultants on Religious Tolerance