4 comments on “Pope Francis closes World Youth event with Copacabana mass in front of millions

  1. With the Pope now visiting Brazil, stories are again surfacing about the bizarre associations between the Catholic Church and Brazil’s own controversial quack faith healer ‘john of god’

    • From: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/how-low-can-oprah-winfrey-go-low-enough-to-promote-faith-healer-john-of-god/


      What is John of God doing really?

      John of God has been doing what he’s been doing for well over thirty years, and in that time he’s produced thousands of people who think they’ve been healed by him. The question becomes: What is it that’s happening here? To many people these stories sound very convincing. However, their plausibility is arguably no greater than the plausibility of homeopathy. Certainly they are no more plausible than reiki. Consider the similarities. Reiki masters claim that they can channel energy from the “universal source” into the patient for healing purposes. John of God claims that he can channel energy from 30 different spirit doctors (and God) through himself and into patients in order to heal them. The similarities in the claims are indeed striking. Add to that the element of strong religious faith, which tends to depress the level of evidence that the faithful require to convince them of the validity of claims of healing. A perfect example of this comes from Robert Carroll’s deconstruction of John of God, where he describes the tally of people seeking healing in an ABC special on John of God that aired about five years ago:

      The final tally for the show was: 1. a man’s brain tumor was smaller after he visited John of God (natural but unexplained regression and an amazing coincidence? treatment before he came to John finally showed some results? one of John’s channeled spirits did invisible surgery? the patient’s will to live and be healed affected the tumor’s growth? or ?); 2. a lady complaining of chronic fatigue says she feels a lot better after John slit her above one of her breasts (psychosomatic? John’s spirits cut just the right place to relieve her symptoms? placebo effect?); 3. a man with ALS shows no effect (didn’t have enough faith? just what you’d expect?); 4. a young actress from South Africa with breast cancer shows no effect (same as 3); 5. a woman paralyzed from the waist down is able to walk using rails to hold on to, but she clearly has no use of her legs; she says she feels something is improving, though (placebo effect? delusion? didn’t have enough faith? in any case, we don’t know if she tried to walk with rails before seeing John and, if so, what the results were), and 6. the journalist’s shoulder didn’t heal in 40 days as John promised but Quinones admits he didn’t follow John’s advice not to have sex or eat pepper.

      Number 6 may be the most telling of all as to ABC’s seriousness in doing this program. If Quinones wasn’t going to follow John’s instructions, why was this material included in the program? Did he think it was a joke?

      Add to that one more from Oprah’s episode: Lisa, who had stage IV breast cancer when she met John of God and still has stage IV breast cancer, with no evidence of improvement or regression.

      Another thing that any surgeon watching these videos would notice is that John of God’s incisions appear to be very superficial. For instance, in Oprah’s introduction to who John of God is, he is seen, as I mentioned, making an incision on a woman’s breast. From what I could see in the video, the incision looked quite tiny and superficial, barely enough to draw blood; It wouldn’t surprise me if the incision didn’t even make it all the way through the dermis. No wonder the woman said it didn’t hurt much, if at all! As for John of God’s other tricks, James Randi and Joe Nickell have documented what is almost certainly really happening, namely that all of John of God’s antics appear to be the tricks used by “psychic surgeons” and carnival sideshow geeks for many generations. Worse, by promoting John of God so credulously, with such a lack of skepticism and attention to science, Oprah Winfrey has done a grave wrong to her audience. I have to wonder how many people with life-threatening illnesses are now buying plane tickets to Brazil to seek out John of God. I wonder how many people with terminal illnesses are wasting their remaining cash to enrich the tour operators that service John of God’s operation.

      I wonder how many more people like Lisa will be given false hope, only to have it yanked away when reality doesn’t conform to John of God’s claims.

      Unfortunately, this favoring of the credulous viewpoint, the non-science-based viewpoint, is a recurring pattern on Oprah’s TV show. As James Randi has documented, Oprah’s show is rigged to make sure that no skeptic, be he a skeptic of the paranormal or a proponent of science-based health care, can provide evidence or make a point that causes too much discomfort to her guests or challenge her audience’s belief in these things. Still, even though Oprah has facilitated John of God’s claims, she is not the only force that keeps people believing in him. What allows John of God to persist in producing new believers includes a combination of things. First, because he is tapping into strong religious belief, there is a lower than the already low bar to convince people of his powers. Second, no one has performed (or is likely to perform) a detailed study of people who have come to him for healing, complete with careful documentation of their pre-John of God condition and then a rigorous followup of what happened to them after they sought healing from John of God. Finally, faith healers like John of God produce a “heads I win tails you lose” situation. If a patient isn’t healed, it’s not because John’s mystical powers failed. Oh, no! It’s because the patient didn’t believe enough or didn’t follow John’s instructions closely enough. John of God also tells people who come to him that they need to wait at least 40 days for healing, which, conveniently enough, is usually long after they have left Brazil.

      Come to think of it, the idea that, if quackery doesn’t work it’s the fault of the patient for “coming too late,” failing to follow the quack’s instructions closely enough, or not believing strongly enough isn’t unique to faith healing. As we’ve pointed out here many times before, it’s a frequent “out” used by purveyors of unscientific medical treatments of many varieties, which is why studying John of God and how his activities deceive is valuable for more than just uncovering how faith healers do what they do. It’s also useful for considering how “alternative medicine” can appear to work despite no evidence. It’s also useful to consider how the media take advantage of all these aspects of faith healing to weave a compelling story that is ultimately misleading. Unfortunately, Oprah is very, very good at this and utterly shameless when it comes to unscientific remedies. It’s a very good thing indeed that she will be going off the air next spring.

      Except that the reason she’s going off the air is to start up her own cable channel, where it can be all Oprah-branded programming all the time. Oh, joy.



  2. AMAIC,
    what do you think of JOG hitching his wagon to the Catholic Church? Pretty Strange.
    He’s got a signed document affirming him to knight commander in the order of St Gregory.
    Heavy stuff for a quack.

    • He’s pretty eclectic, isn’t he? Or should that be parasitical?

      One of those types who can follow God, the Devil, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck all at the same time.


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