Infamous "healer" John of God is on tour of Australia. Interestingly, one of the local faith healers has taken exception to this. John Mellor of Sunshine Coast claims he heals through the power of Jesus. John of God, he asserts, claims instead that "spiritual entities from the dead enter him and take over his body" to effect a “cure”.
Uh oh, a dispute about methods!
Ignored is the fact that faith healing has not ever been shown to be effective in curing disease over conventional treatment.
As with many faith healers, Randi wrote that they set themselves up to never lose:
[...] the John of God organization has set up a situation in which they simply cannot fail; if recovery is not experienced by their victims, it's not a failure of the magical forces, but the fault of the patient. They state that sometimes a person comes to them for a healing "too late," so it doesn't happen. If a patient doesn't have "the right attitude," or doesn't "keep the faith," the healing will fail. If the rules aren't followed no healing will occur. They say that one has to wait at least forty days to see any healing — well after the victim has left Brazil! — and sometimes up to two years have to pass before any effect will be seen. All this is a fail-safe scenario, one I've come upon many times in the faith-healing racket.
John Mellor also claims to heal people supernaturally. He says his “rival” Teixeira, preys on the suffering and the needy. He also claims that he has to clean up the mess that Teixeira leaves behind, saying he "has had many John of god 'patients' come to his meetings because they have grown worse in their health and also lost thousands of dollars."
While Mellor does not charge his audiences, the situation is hardly much different.
According to Robert Carroll’s Skeptic Dictionary:
“faith healing is a cooperative form of magical thinking involving a healer and a patient in which (a) both healer and patient believe in the healing power of spirits or other mysterious healing mechanisms; (b) the healer consciously or unconsciously manipulates the patient into believing he or she has cured the patient's ailment by prayer, hand movements (to unblock, remove, restore, etc. some intangible "energy"), or by some other unconventional ritual or product; and (c) the patient validates the healing by giving signs that the healing has worked, such as walking without a brace for a short period, breathing freely, feeling relief from pain, or simply thanking the healer for the "miraculous cure."
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that faith healing can cure cancer or any other disease. Some scientists suggest that the number of people who attribute their cure to faith healing is lower than the number predicted by calculations based on the historical percentage of spontaneous remissions seen among people with cancer. However, faith healing may promote peace of mind, reduce stress, relieve pain and anxiety, and strengthen the will to live.
Although it is known that a small percentage of people with cancer experience remissions of their disease that cannot be explained, available scientific evidence does not support claims that faith healing can actually cure physical ailments. When a person believes strongly that a healer can create a cure, a “placebo effect” can occur. The placebo effect can make the person feel better, but it has not been found to induce remission or improve chance of survival from cancer. The patient usually credits the improvement in how he or she feels to the healer, even though the perceived improvement occurs because of the patient’s belief in the treatment. Taking part in faith healing can evoke the power of suggestion and affirm one’s faith in a higher power, which may help promote peace of mind. This may help some people cope more effectively with their illness.
One review published in 1998 looked at 172 cases of deaths among children treated by faith healing instead of conventional methods. These researchers estimated that if conventional treatment had been given, the survival rate for most of these children would have been more than 90 percent, with the remainder of the children also having a good chance of survival. A more recent study found that more than 200 children had died of treatable illnesses in the United States over the past thirty years because their parents relied on spiritual healing rather than conventional medical treatment.
[A]s far as I am concerned, there is no reason to believe that faith healing has ever cured anyone of an organic disease. What about functional ailments—in which the symptoms are bodily reactions to tension? Some people who visit "healers" may feel better because the experience causes them to relax or because of a placebo effect. But any benefit of this type should be weighed against the fact that people who are not relieved may conclude that they are "unworthy" and become depressed as a result. Money spent for a fruitless experience with a healer is another negative factor.
It's extremely telling that faith healers love media publicity but none will subject their work to testing by real doctors in a structured study. Don’t they have an obligation to humanity to do so? Just imagine the increase in followers and those who would join the faith if it could be shown by objective testing that these men appear to have supernatural powers of healing!
NOT ONE case has stood up to scrutiny. We can be safe in assuming that as long as people continue to believe without good evidence and seek out magical cures promoted by pop culture, so-called miracle healers will never step up to be tested and will continue to thrive.