The Faith Healers, by James Randi

My Copy: 9780879755355 (image from bn.com)

I’d been itching to read this 30 year old book since I first heard of James Randi, and watched some of his lectures from the past 10 years. I’ve always had this weird, bitter feeling when it comes to the subject of “faith healers.” You might think this was mostly about Benny Hinn, the most famous one today, but I don’t believe he’s mentioned even once in the book.

No, there have been many, many “faith healers” over the decades (and centuries). Mr. Randi goes through a basic history of faith-healing and it’s believers and skeptics over the centuries before focusing on the 20th century. Randi talks about the tactics from the famous and not-so-famous, figures like Oral Roberts, Katherine Kuhlman, Peter Popoff, and many more that I only sort-of heard of or remembered.

The Faith Healers is written by a skeptic, but not a slanderer. Mr. Randi didn’t write this book to be angry (though he has many reasons to be). Much of the book describes things that happened during healing events or revivals that he was present for or heard about, gives a bit of history as to these “healers” and then explains what’s known (or not known) after the events. Over and over again, Mr. Randi asked these healers for clarification and proof as far as who was healed and how, and how that could be legitimately verified. Not a one would give the scientifically backed proof he (and others) requested, whether giving the silent treatment or ducking, dodging, or obfuscating before ghosting him.

What is disturbing to me is how naked the conspicuous consumption and wealth of these healers is sometimes and how devoted the flock remains. What you can see in these pages is that the evangelical echo chamber has been around for a very long time and feeds itself well. Much of the work done by skeptics to expose fraudulent or at least very suspicious claims will not reach these folks’ ears, or at least, it was easier to avoid 30 years ago. But there are still believers, even when some of these healers have been exposed as frauds very publicly, they will rebuild their empires after a few years absence.

There’s a lot of questions regarding faith healing and how it can’t hurt to have a faith healer do their thing… except there are many cases where people believed so heartily they stopped taking their medication or told their doctor to shove it, only to die shortly after. Others have given so much money to these folks they’ve made their families broke. And that is what angers skeptics like Mr. Randi, who is not confrontational or hateful, but rather wants the proof and an explanation for how it happened. “The Amazing Randi” knew many of the tricks and the showmanship involved… and mentions much in these pages.

I’d recommend anyone to read this book, especially if like me, they’ve had odd feelings about faith healing claims by televangelists. It’s a good work to show you how to ask questions and demand evidence without being an arrogant know-it-all, and how to deal with being lashed out at by a defensive subject. We should not be timid when asking for the truth, and I love how Mr. Randi never hid from the truth from what I’ve seen and heard.

Again, it’s a 30 year old book, but I found a lot in it that amazed me. I was just a little kid when this book was written, and had no frame of reference for these crying, screaming people I saw on t.v. I’m glad he could fill in the gaps.

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