Three MPs, Gary Streeter (Con), Chair, Christians in Parliament; Gavin Shuker (Labour),Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament; and Tim Farron (Lib-Dem), Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament (the temptation to make smart-arse remarks about a lot of vice in parliament is almost overwhelming, but I’ll resist), are trying to get the Advertising Standards Authority to admit that god can heal.
To which the only sensible response from the ASA would be “Prove it.” Any claim that god heals must be subjected to the same rigorous level of enquiry and degree of proof as claims made for a new drug – anecdotal evidence simply isn’t adequate.To support such a claim it should also be necessary to demonstrate that god actually exists, for which there is only anecdotal evidence.
In a letter to the ASA (published here at totalpolitics.com), the three MPs above (though I suspect it’s primarily Streeter), say “It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him.”
A curious form of words there; why not simply “total healing”? Either way, it’s complete, baseless, nonsense. That a vociferous few prayed is indisputable, given the publicity, but the claim that “the whole nation appeared to pray” is simply without foundation.
Anyway, as proof of the healing power of a, to date, entirely notional god, Streeter offers this anecdote:-
“You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since.”
In response to which I submitted the following comment:-
“Mr. Streeter, I have no idea what the ASA would say about your sudden lack of pain, but there is no hard evidence that anyone has ever been healed by a mythical being, no matter how enduring the fairy-tale.
There is, though, a large body of evidence confirming the existence and efficacy of the Placebo Effect, which can be remarkably powerful, as many drug trials have demonstrated, and doesn’t require a misguided belief in a fictional supreme being.”
Actually, that’s a slightly different version, just fixing some clunkiness in the original, which is on Twitter.
For some reason, though other comments taking a somewhat harsher line were published, mine wasn’t.** No matter – that’s one of the advantages of having a blog.
**Bugger! it was eventually published much later. Oh well, I got a blog post out of it
Personally, I hope the ASA stick to their guns, even though I believe their original decision was a tad too heavy-handed (it was just a church leaflet, not a TV ad; and I don’t see the ASA jumping in when banners outside churches claim that atheists like me will burn in hell**), as to back off from it in the face of these unprovable allegations would be even more of an own goal.
**An equally unsupportable claim.
One final comment, as avowed Christians, how, I wonder, do Streeter and Farron explain their, and their Christian colleagues’, profoundly unchristian voting on the Welfare Reform and NHS bills? Hypocrites!