Bad Religion, test run: debunking leg-lengthening - blog by Gurdur

 




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Bad Religion, test run: debunking leg-lengthening
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Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 03:16 PM (15:16) by Gurdur
Updated 29-Sep-2010 at 03:44 PM (15:44) by Gurdur

I'm going to stress here that this is merely a test of how the idea we were discussing of how a Bad Religion regular commentary might work (along the lines of the Bad Science column). This is not meant to be stepping on Maggi Dawn's toes, she being in the middle of setting something like that up, this is simply looking at how such a Bad Religion commentary might work.

There is apparently a new rash of leg-lengthening going on, possibly the cheapest parlour trick of all the faith-healing stunts. Let me repeat: it is a cheap trick. But let's look at how it's bad theology before we look at the sheer shoddy cheapness of the scam.

The bad theology lies in relying on cheap emotion-based stunts that have nothing to do with reality or with long-term emotional growth. It is the holding out of false hope to those in desperate trouble. Take a look at this page: "... the child whose brain tumour stopped growing, no further surgery required ...". Of course they didn't bother supplying any documentation about that alleged miracle; you're just told it happened, no medical input at all. Now just how many people do you think have cancer? And how many children have cancer? Now, what those people are saying in effect is that they can produce miracles regarding cancer (without any evidence) -- and it's your tough luck if you have cancer and don't get faith-healed. If it doesn't work for you, then you must be bad. Hey, they got you coming and going. Anything good happen for you, they will take the credit (how simply odd of God to choose only them to do this stuff). Anything bad happen for you, well now, you're on your own with that one, all your own fault or something. That's disgusting, that's bad theology, that's bad ethics, that's Bad Religion.

But hey. Why not take a look at what the Bible -- which they claim to rely on -- says about it? It says:
Quote:
Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Jeremiah 23:16
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes ..."
Now let's go look at the cheap trick of leg-lengthening, where people whose legs appear to be different lengths appear to have their legs equalized in length miraculously.

There are several ways to do this cheapest trick of all; the first way is simply to move the legs so that one leg is not held straight against the hip. When one leg is even slightly at an angle to the other leg, both will appear to be of different lengths. Simply then take both legs and have them straight from the hips, and that difference in length "miraculously" disappears. This is perhaps the most common way of doing the trick. See the two videos below for more on that.

The next way is where a person holds one leg with the muscles at hip and knee somewhat tensed. This makes one leg look shorter, when in fact it is simply being held up higher by muscle tension. This can be a result of a spasming muscle (see the book "The Whartons' Stretch Book: Featuring the Break-through Method of Active-Isolated Stretching" by Jim Wharton and Phil Wharton for more information on that).

It can also be the result of a conversion disorder, where people express anxiety or neuroses through body symptoms, such as tensing or holding still certain muscles -- like those in the hip and/or knee. Again, this can make one leg appear shorter than another. Any powerful emotional experience (such as shouting and "laying on of hands") can get a person with a conversion disorder to relax the muscles in question. But anyone with a real conversion disorder needs long-term therapy to teach them both how to relax and exercise the whole body in healthy ways, and how to deal with anxiety and their emotions in healthier ways. A cheap emotional stunt is only good for the short-term, and does nothing about the underlying problems.

As a general rule: anytime anyone tries a cheap scam on you, promising any short-term benefit, ask them just what their long-term plan is, and scrutinize it very carefully.

With thanks to Lesley for bringing this up.






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  1. Old Comment

    Bad religion - healing

    I agree with pretty much all you say here though, as Lesley commented on her related blog post, I am not convinced that everyone involved in this is consciously or deliberately perpetrating a scam in the way you imply. Nevertheless, blaming someone's lack of faith for their own non-healing very definitely falls in the realm of bad religion, both for its bad theology and for its harmful psychological effects. It really is trying to have your cake and eat it for the "faith healer". Your Biblical quotes firmly hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned.

    I understand that the RC church puts a lot of effort into investigating alleged miracles of healing at Lourdes, including medical evidence, before declaring any to be genuine. If this is true, then I am impressed, and wish that the more evangelical protestant/pentecostal churches where healings are alleged would follow suit. As a Pentecostal minister friend once said to me, "90% of what goes on in most pentecostal and charismatic churches is pure wish-fulfilment." I suspect you would put it at 100%. Genuine miracles - which I believe do happen, though by no means on the scale claimed by some - have nothing to fear from thorough, scientifically-based investigation.
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 06:14 PM (18:14) by Revsimmy
  2. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Bad religion - healing

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Revsimmy View Comment
    I agree with pretty much all you say here though,
    The Age of Miracles is not yet passed!

    Pardon the joke, please, and many thanks, Revsimmy.

    Quote:
    as Lesley commented on her related blog post, I am not convinced that everyone involved in this is consciously or deliberately perpetrating a scam in the way you imply.
    Unconscious acts -- where the perp deliberately fools himself/herself; are they as morally culpable as fully conscious acts? In many circumstances, if not all, I would say yes.

    Quote:
    Nevertheless, blaming someone's lack of faith for their own non-healing very definitely falls in the realm of bad religion, both for its bad theology and for its harmful psychological effects.
    Indeedy, and thanks for the support on this one. I may later bring up the example of the Maji-Maji rebellion in Tanganyika, 1905 - 1907, in relation to that exact point. Maji-maji was magicked water supposed to protect you from bullets; if you got shot anyway, it was because of your lack of faith.

    Interestingly, there was a Mayi-mayi rebellion in the Congo only a few years ago, same premise (in that region, they speak a dialect form of Swahili, and Mayi-mayi is the dialectial form of maji-maji. Maji just by itself means "water", the duplication is an intensifier/symbol).

    Quote:
    It really is trying to have your cake and eat it
    Now this is an extremely important point, not just on the aspect you speak of, but also on other aspects of all of the subject, and something which I really should have paid far more attention to in my blog post. I may do that one later in depth. Thanks!

    Quote:
    ... I understand that the RC church puts a lot of effort into investigating alleged miracles of healing at Lourdes,
    They do. Some fairly tough procedures.

    Quote:
    .... a Pentecostal minister friend once said to me, "90% of what goes on in most pentecostal and charismatic churches is pure wish-fulfilment."
    What gets to me personally are the false promises. This is something I very much personally hold against them. The sheer constant emotionalism, the false promises, the hype and the emptiness. The lack of help masquerading behind a mask of false hope.

    Personal experiences, pardon me. But I also detest the worship of capitalism, the classist nature of much modern Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement, with their Prayer Breakfasts for businessmen, and bugger the working-class. Then there is the specific USA side: the abhorrent Benny Hinn, the TV evangelist rip-offs. Then The Family.

    Quote:
    I suspect you would put it at 100%.
    Well, I'm an atheist, ergo biased.

    Quote:
    Genuine miracles - which I believe do happen, though by no means on the scale claimed by some - have nothing to fear from thorough, scientifically-based investigation.
    It's a point of view, and to your credit. And I am very glad you comment and criticise. It would be a sad old world if no-one disagreed.
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 06:35 PM (18:35) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 29-Sep-2010 at 06:58 PM (18:58) by Gurdur
  3. Old Comment
    muddleglum's Avatar
    Couple of problems:

    1. Harping on "cheap trick" will backfire. You need a better bedside manner, which is what a lot of people are looking for.
    2. Those two verses are an example of "proof-texting." They will also easily misfire because you are assuming from the onset the exact opposite of what the person is assuming--that the healers are false prophets. Q.hasn't yet been.D.

    Quote:
    Of course they didn't bother supplying any documentation about that alleged miracle; you're just told it happened, no medical input at all.
    Dropping the last clause, here's where I would start working and ask which wise brothers checked out the man's claims. You don't really want medical evidence but legal type evidence, which uses medical evidence. We are supposed to try the spirits, and I can go into boring detail using scripture on that point. I would echo, "Trust God, not man."

    Quote:
    it's your tough luck if you have cancer and don't get faith-healed
    I could go into boring detail on this, too, but wouldn't.

    The main problem here is their theology on how God and faith works--they have faith in faith, so to speak. I would first present a few problems and ask a few questions.
    For instance, "Can God keep you alive if you don't have any food to eat?"
    "Yes!"
    "Why don't you stop eating?" *pause* "Is it a lack of faith?"
    "ummmmmm"
    I emphasize the need of accepting what God provided in the way he thinks best. If they want to fast, I'll go next to Jesus being tempted at the high place at the Temple, but most people usually see the point here.

    I can then go through my own faith healing experiences to support the above.
    I try to shift their theology from faith in faith, to an intelligent faith in God's provisions. One of those provisions can be medicine. (But I don't teach faith in medicine. I know too much.)

    I'll then send 'em off to Lesley or whoever to pray and send 'em on to the GP.
    .
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 06:59 PM (18:59) by muddleglum muddleglum is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muddleglum View Comment
    Couple of problems:

    1. Harping on "cheap trick" will backfire. You need a better bedside manner, which is what a lot of people are looking for.
    This is a point of view. My experience, it depends. For a very thoughtful person such as yourself, yes; for others, no.

    It's definitely a point of view I hold in mind at all times. However, this blog post is aimed at creating what might be for example a typical entry in a regular column, and one not on a blog. Different context, different style. Plus, they really really piss me off.

    Quote:
    2. Those two verses are an example of "proof-texting." They will also easily misfire because you are assuming from the onset the exact opposite of what the person is assuming--that the healers are false prophets. Q.hasn't yet been.D.
    The phrase in atheist circles is quote-mining. But let me disagree with you; the onus is not on me to show that they are "false prophets", but on them to show that they are not. If they want to reduce the theology to circus tricks, and if they want to cut in on already-established parishes by doing so (and here I am speaking of lots of things like the Alpha Course, the Healing In The Streets thing, and so on), then it's up to them to prove their case, not for others.

    This goes for the theology as well as for the practices.

    Quote:
    Dropping the last clause, here's where I would start working and ask which wise brothers checked out the man's claims.
    A very interesting and a very wise criticism. Many thanks, Muddleglum!

    Quote:
    You don't really want medical evidence but legal type evidence, which uses medical evidence. We are supposed to try the spirits, and I can go into boring detail using scripture on that point. I would echo, "Trust God, not man."
    Again, this is a very interesting and deep criticism, and a huge lot of help, and many thanks again, Muddleglum!

    Quote:
    I could go into boring detail on this, too, but wouldn't.
    Please do!

    God forbid I should be the only person around here who goes into boring detail!

    Quote:
    The main problem here is their theology on how God and faith works--they have faith in faith, so to speak. I would first present a few problems and ask a few questions.
    For instance, "Can God keep you alive if you don't have any food to eat?"
    "Yes!"
    "Why don't you stop eating?" *pause* "Is it a lack of faith?"
    "ummmmmm"
    This is a fairly standard atheist criticism of all of that, and while valuble, I am trying very hard here not to be the stereotypical atheist that I am.

    Of course, it also means I can bollix up easily when I venture into theology. I also have a distnctively old-fashioned OT approach to things. Never really got NT.

    Quote:
    I can then go through my own faith healing experiences to support the above.
    I try to shift their theology from faith in faith, to an intelligent faith in God's provisions. One of those provisions can be medicine.
    Interesting.

    Quote:
    (But I don't teach faith in medicine. I know too much.)
    You, me, and every chronic-illness or chronic-pain sufferer out there in the land, bro. Say it like it is, brother!

    Quote:
    I'll then send 'em off to Lesley or whoever to pray and send 'em on to the GP.
    .
    Covering all bases is definitely good practical theology in action.
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 07:12 PM (19:12) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  5. Old Comment
    muddleglum's Avatar
    Gurdur,

    Those first two points were assuming that you want to reach as broad an audience as possible. You can see that if I'm speaking to my sister or sister-in-law (double sigh!) I cannot say anything against Hinns or his clones, but, starting from things I know that either agrees with, bring them around a little at a time. I shudder what would have happened if someone handed them your post in the past. Instant mind shuttering and then I would have needed to gently pry their fingers apart again. Now it is easier and, at least in one case, Hinns has lost out for now.

    Quote:
    I also have a distnctively old-fashioned OT approach to things.
    You and most Christian groups too. I have the same natural tendency also, but try to keep it in check. We tend to think that we gotta do something for ol' Crabby, but,... I promised myself not to preach.
    .
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 08:22 PM (20:22) by muddleglum muddleglum is offline
    Updated 29-Sep-2010 at 08:23 PM (20:23) by muddleglum (grmr)
  6. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muddleglum View Comment
    Gurdur,
    Those first two points were assuming that you want to reach as broad an audience as possible.
    Fair enough, and a good point.

    Quote:
    You can see that if I'm speaking to my sister or sister-in-law (double sigh!)
    I sense a story behind that.

    Quote:
    bring them around a little at a time.
    Again, a fair enough point.

    Quote:
    I promised myself not to preach.
    .
    Why should I be left as the only person to preach?
    Posted 29-Sep-2010 at 08:29 PM (20:29) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  7. Old Comment

    Bad religion - healing

    Gurdur
    Just a couple of things to respond to yours.

    My Pentecostal minister friend was a GP who retired on medical grounds with chronic back pain, so was personally well aware of both the science and the false hopes issues.

    Secondly, I think there are Pentecostals and Pentecostals (like we have agreed there are Christians and Christians as well as atheists and atheists). I too despise the Benny Hinn/Joel Osteen etc etc types who, to me, reflect most of the things Jesus warned us about. I don't have many issues with businessmen's breakfasts per se, so long as they aren't based on the odious prosperity and health teaching. After all, Jesus also ate with rich powerful people as well as the prostitutes and sinners. I would however, say that if that is the main focus, then something is wrong. I do know many Pentecostal/charismatics who have made considerable personal sacrifices to engage with social issues from debt and drug counselling to the provision of food banks and asylum and refugee projects.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 12:09 AM (00:09) by Revsimmy
  8. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Bad religion - healing

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Revsimmy View Comment
    ... Secondly, I think there are Pentecostals and Pentecostals (like we have agreed there are Christians and Christians as well as atheists and atheists).
    Well, this is true and I should keep that in mind.

    Quote:
    I don't have many issues with businessmen's breakfasts per se, so long as they aren't based on the odious prosperity and health teaching.
    My point there was about them aiming at a particular social strata, and using networking strategems that reflected an overall very conservative political stance interested in power through those with power.

    Quote:
    After all, Jesus also ate with rich powerful people as well as the prostitutes and sinners. ...
    I take your point, Revsimmy. I shall watch the broadness of my brush-stroke in future.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 01:13 AM (01:13) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Tim's Avatar
    Gurdur, one small suggestion. The vast majority of Christians today do not use the King James Version (or the 'Authorised Version' as it is called in the UK. It is based on 400 year old scholarship and we have far better and earlier manuscripts now than they did in 1611. Most Christians today would use either the NIV (evangelicals) or the NRSV (mainline). Nonetheless, I've noticed that the 'stereotypical atheists' (Dawkins, Harris etc.) continue to quote from the KJV. I think your proposed column would get some street cred with thoughtful Christians if you showed an awareness of the advances of modern biblical scholarship by quoting from a modern translation of the Bible.

    Your questions about healings - yes, I suspect they've occurred to most of us. I've seen a few that seemed genuine to me, but I've heard of a good many that seemed spurious.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 03:07 AM (03:07) by Tim Tim is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tim View Comment
    Gurdur, one small suggestion. The vast majority of Christians today do not use the King James Version (or the 'Authorised Version' as it is called in the UK.
    You're right. I am a terrible stick-in-the-mud.

    It's a bad habit I need to drop.

    Quote:
    Nonetheless, I've noticed that the 'stereotypical atheists' (Dawkins, Harris etc.) continue to quote from the KJV.
    Ouch. That one hurt.

    Quote:
    I think your proposed column would get some street cred with thoughtful Christians if you showed an awareness of the advances of modern biblical scholarship by quoting from a modern translation of the Bible.
    A very good point, and a very practical point, many thanks indeed, Tim.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 03:10 AM (03:10) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  11. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    There's quite a few evangelicals here in the US, on the other hand, who won't accept any version -but- the KJV, Tim. It's the One True Word Of God, and don't you dare try to bring up the possibility of a more accurate translation.

    That said, since we're naming bibles, don't forget the American Catholic version. I have that laying around... Somewhere. *should find it. has a tendency to drag out books and forget she has them out, and lose them for years...*
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 05:51 AM (05:51) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  12. Old Comment
    Tim's Avatar
    Yes, we occasionally run into those types here in Canada too, but I doubt if too many of them will be perusing Gurdur's blog!!!

    American Catholic version - do you mean the 'New American Bible'?
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 06:19 AM (06:19) by Tim Tim is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    It could be if it's got the extra books in it; it's been about... Fifteen years since I went Bible-shopping.

    And no, many of them won't be perusing Gurdur's blog, but you made a rather sweeping statement and I felt the need to point out there are a (rather large) number of folks who do (sadly) still use the KJV, like the jackass I am.

    The more rural you get, the more likely you are to run into them, it seems.

    Blech, almost makes me wish I were living in a proper city. -Almost.-
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 06:46 AM (06:46) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  14. Old Comment
    Meant to say, as a test run for a "Bad Religion" column/blog that doesn't simply hit predictable buttons, I think this been pretty successful. Thanks.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 10:33 AM (10:33) by Revsimmy
  15. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Revsimmy View Comment
    Meant to say, as a test run for a "Bad Religion" column/blog that doesn't simply hit predictable buttons, I think this been pretty successful. Thanks.
    Many thanks, Revsimmy, indeedy. I'm always seeking to improve my thinking and speaking, too. It's nice to know when something actually works.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 04:09 PM (16:09) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  16. Old Comment
    muddleglum's Avatar
    Revsimmy
    I agree. I noticed that the "stretching of legs" itself was not commented on but accepted.

    I'll write up something about translations you might want to use (and why) in a separate post.

    http://heathen-hub.com/blog.php?b=610
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 08:08 PM (20:08) by muddleglum muddleglum is offline
    Updated 30-Sep-2010 at 08:35 PM (20:35) by muddleglum (add URL)
  17. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muddleglum View Comment
    Many thanks, Muddleglum!

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muddleglum View Comment
    .... "stretching of legs" ....
    ARRRGGGHHHH!
    You show there is a beautiful but beautiful pun I could have used in my blog post, to the effect, "They're only pulling your leg", and "Pull the other one, it's got bells on it".

    Nothing but nothing is quite as frustrating as knowing there was a great line which one could have thought of but didn't, one could have used but didn't.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 08:49 PM (20:49) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  18. Old Comment
    muddleglum's Avatar
    Poor Gurdur, you think like I do. Sad.

    But, ya know, if one leg is indeed shorter than another, one could reply from the stairway much easier, as the French would say.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 09:13 PM (21:13) by muddleglum muddleglum is offline
  19. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muddleglum View Comment
    Poor Gurdur, you think like I do. Sad.
    A powerful critique indeed. The anti-solidarity of it all!

    Quote:
    But, ya know, if one leg is indeed shorter than another, one could reply from the stairway much easier, as the French would say.
    Treppenwitz, as the Germans say.

    Treppen = stairs, stairway
    Witz = quip, one-liner or joke

    The one-liner you think up but too late, when you're already outta there and on the stairs.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 09:27 PM (21:27) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  20. Old Comment
    lifelinking's Avatar
    And, you can run round a hill much more efficiently, at least in one direction. Like a haggis.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 10:03 PM (22:03) by lifelinking lifelinking is offline
  21. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 10:13 PM (22:13) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  22. Old Comment
    muddleglum's Avatar
    Wild Haggis
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Haggis

    Yes, an entry on this, too.
    Posted 30-Sep-2010 at 10:34 PM (22:34) by muddleglum muddleglum is offline
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