By Ogundare Bob Bright

The end of the year is filled with different religious groups specifically Christian churches organizing their annual conventions or Congresses, these events are seen by church members as opportunities to testify to what God has done and to receive more strength going into the new year. One major type of testimony shared at these events is that on health, termed supernatural healings.

According to the testifiers and pastors, the testimony aims to inspire more people in faith, to tap into a realm of supernatural or divine healing. The facts however don’t support this as the evidence doesn’t support the existence of divine healing. No doubt, there is a fundamental freedom of belief, there is also the freedom to critique those same beliefs. Isn’t it fundamentally wrong to claim a pastor’s prayer, or anointing oil healed you? Because , beyond this personal belief, peddling claims not backed by evidence to inspire others to follow the same route as you, is a sign of gross irresponsibility.

Religious leaders peddling this unsubstantiated claims are abusing the trust of their thousands of followers. For every claim of hypertension miraculously healed, there’s one person who takes it to heart and throws away his or her anti-hypertensives, this individual however would not get healed but rather get a stroke or even death. For every claim of cancer healing, someone will consider stopping chemotherapy and hanging on to faith.

Faith healing has become an industry worth billions of naira, in a society like Africa where a vast majority of the population are neck-deep into poverty and are being denied access to basic health facilities and services. The middle-class individual is just one major health crisis away from poverty himself but faith healing has come to give a comforting delusion, the hope of good health and recovery which has rarely impacted the believer but has put millions in the pockets of religious charlatans.

Evidences of fake healing miracles abound and many of them high profile cases. In March 2020, Pastor Chris Okafor of the Liberation City was involved in a fake healing scandal. He allegedly performed a fake miracle of correcting a twisted arm on one Bose Olasunkanmi after allegedly paying the woman a sum of four hundred thousand naira. It was discovered on investigation that the woman had been used by 5 different pastors for the same fake miracle claims. In 2019, Pastor Lukau also performed a fake resurrection stunt. That the churches of these men continue to be filled up every Sunday is a pointer to the level of brainwashing and lack of critical thinking amongst the religious mass.

A long term implication of this asides pushing believers in faith healing more farther into health crisis is more staggering, a widespread belief in divine healing and health prevents the people from demanding from the government improved healthcare services and facilities. Why do you need to demand better healthcare delivery for pregnant women when it is believed that godly women deliver like the Hebrew women who didn’t even need a midwife. Why do you need to demand better emergency services when anointing oil is all you need during a health emergency. The belief in faith healing is a timed bomb.. Many are poorly prepared for health crisis and when there is a health crisis, they neglect expert advice and follow charlatans. Unfortunately, many don’t live to tell the story of this act of Stupidity.

The obsession with supernatural interference in health has also created an atmosphere for conspiracy theories, needless exposure to health risk and a skepticism for vaccines. Nowhere is this more expressed than the reaction of conservative religious groups to the covid-19 pandemic. The initial denial of the pandemic as an health crisis and the denouncing of lockdowns as a means by which a satanic world order plans to prevent religious people from gathering literally sent many to their graves. Although, the pandemic gave a brutal reality check as it exposed the inefficacy and fraud of anointing oils, holy waters and blessed handkerchiefs, the mere fact that many were willing to try these ruses at the expense of medical guidelines is alarming.

Nigerians should know where their real interest lies. The average top religious leader lives in the most healthy environment available with access to the best healthcare professionals while the average follower is among the poorest in the world, living in below standard environments at the mercy of malaria, typhoid and cholera with only access to poorly equipped health centres. The question then should be asked; is it really in your interest to forsake expert opinions on your health and follow the charlatans? You might like the ‘White Evangelicals’, but these guys live around the most advanced countries of the world with access to the best facilities in the case of an emergency. Is it therefore wise for a Nigerian living in environments where doctors go on strike for weeks to neglect medical advice after reading books written by these people?

The religion inspired resistance to vaccination is also a reflection of how religion makes people work against their own interests. Religion has been around for centuries, yet no single disease has been eradicated by prayers. It took vaccination to eradicate the once dreaded smallpox. Vaccines have also nearly eradicated polio with many countries declared polio-free. Rejecting vaccines because of religious conspiracy theories is therefore tantamount to idiocy, the result of which will be staggering. A lot of politicians who lent credence to conspiracy theories both openly and tactically like The US Vice President, Mike Pence, Senator Lindsay Graham, a senior Senator of the GOP, Rupert Murdoch the chairman of Fox Corporation are being vaccinated and assured of the best health services, the third world conspiracy theorist who rejects vaccination will not be as lucky.

(c) Ogundare Bob Bright 2020