Faith healing

Faith healing is the practice of prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands) that are believed by some to elicit divine intervention in spiritual and physical healing, especially the Christian practice.[1] Believers assert that the healing of disease and disability can be brought about by religious faith through prayer or other rituals that, according to adherents, can stimulate a divine presence and power. Religious belief in divine intervention does not depend on empirical evidence of an evidence-based outcome achieved via faith healing.[2] Virtually all[lower-alpha 1] scientists and philosophers dismiss faith healing as pseudoscience.[3][4][5][6]

The prophet Elijah praying for the recovery of the son of the widow of Zarephath, from the Bible's Books of Kings

Claims that "a myriad of techniques" such as prayer, divine intervention, or the ministrations of an individual healer can cure illness have been popular throughout history.[7] There have been claims that faith can cure blindness, deafness, cancer, HIV/AIDS, developmental disorders, anemia, arthritis, corns, defective speech, multiple sclerosis, skin rashes, total body paralysis, and various injuries.[8] Recoveries have been attributed to many techniques commonly classified as faith healing. It can involve prayer, a visit to a religious shrine, or simply a strong belief in a supreme being.[8]

Many people interpret the Bible, especially the New Testament, as teaching belief in, and the practice of, faith healing. According to a 2004 Newsweek poll, 72 percent of Americans said they believe that praying to God can cure someone, even if science says the person has an incurable disease.[9] Unlike faith healing, advocates of spiritual healing make no attempt to seek divine intervention, instead believing in divine energy. The increased interest in alternative medicine at the end of the 20th century has given rise to a parallel interest among sociologists in the relationship of religion to health.[2]

Faith healing can be classified as a spiritual, supernatural,[10] or paranormal topic,[11] and, in some cases, belief in faith healing can be classified as magical thinking.[12] The American Cancer Society states "available scientific evidence does not support claims that faith healing can actually cure physical ailments".[8] "Death, disability, and other unwanted outcomes have occurred when faith healing was elected instead of medical care for serious injuries or illnesses."[8] When parents have practiced faith healing rather than medical care, many children have died that otherwise would have been expected to live.[13] Similar results are found in adults.[14]