Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It turns out Jesus doesn’t cure cancer

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This billboard in New Zealand breaches advertising standards and has to be removed.

“[A complainant] said the billboard was dangerous and deceptive as it could potentially offer false hope and lure in the vulnerable in their time of illness and sadness.”

Quite right, but why do we have to keep saying this? Why do skeptics have to show the harm, especially when religion is involved?  Isn’t the fact that it is an obviously unsubstantiated claim enough?

The church said they believed the Bible as the authoritative and reliable source of information and it gave numerous accounts of Jesus healing people.

No they didn’t. Either they cited unverifiable claims from the Bible about Jesus healing people or equally unverifiable claims that some peoples’ healing in modern times was down to Jesus and not to their doctors.  Like this, for example:

"Our belief is substantiated by the fact six people within our congregation have testified to Jesus healing them from cancer," the church said.

Oh, ‘testified’ sounds so much more impressive than “claimed”, doesn’t it? How would these people know that Jesus cured their cancer?  Were they receiving conventional treatment as well as praying?  Do they even exist? We will never know. 

The church said religious advertising and freedom of speech were vital components of a free and democratic society.

But false advertising is not. That is an essential limit on the freedom of a society because it is an enabler of exploitation. We know that advertising is disquietingly effective and virtually impossible to avoid entirely, so we have to make sure that people are not being conned.  I’ve no objection – at least, no objection I can properly justify – in churches putting up posters saying that they believe that Jesus cures cancer.  That’s a statement of fact, however stupid.  Saying that Jesus does, in fact, cure cancer is a very different statement.  Specifically, one that is not true.

Pastor Lyle Penisula recognised that using ''the C word'' made some families uncomfortable and believed this was why the billboard hit the limelight.

Pastor Lyle doesn’t get it.  This is not about squeamishness.  Many cancers are curable or treatable if caught early enough.  We know perfectly well that telling people that Jesus cures cancer can prevent them from seeking medical help.  Once again, why do we have to keep saying this?

''In the days of Jesus, leprosy was the word of fear, that everybody sort of walked around, and Jesus in his day healed leprosy. In today's day cancer is probably the modern day leprosy and people just want to tread carefully around it.''

Someone wrote in a book that someone called Jesus healed lepers (although, why didn’t he just heal all lepers?) therefore….. it’s totally true that he heals cancer?  Because people were frightened of leprosy and people are now frightened of cancer so they’re totally the same?

"I would be more than happy if this billboard was to read 'Jesus Heals' and that way it could be interpreted to mean he heals spiritually/emotionally which I believe is more along the lines of what the church are trying to say."

I cannot share that opinion. I guess the billboard could be taken in that way, but it could also be taken entirely literally to mean physical healing of illness.  But – more importantly – JESUS DOESN’T EXIST AND HE DOESN’T GO AROUND HEALING PEOPLE, EITHER PHYSICALLY OR ‘SPIRTUALLY’, WHATEVER THAT CAN EVEN POSSIBLY MEAN. 

It’s still a lie.

The church’s new advertisement reads:

Jesus Heals every Sickness & Every Disease - Matthew 4:23

Which is disingenuous in two ways. First, that verse says that Jesus healed, not that he heals today and second it says ‘every disease and sickness among the people’ not ‘every possible disease’.

The billboard is still quite clearly claiming that Jesus can heal your body and is still dangerous and sickening.  But the church is hiding behind the fact that in a free society, we need to be tolerant of idiots. The secular society has done its best: sadly it’s up to the conscience of the church now. 

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