Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nothing new in religious healing claims

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 25 August 2013

The revelation in the past few days that some evangelists are actually conmen seems to have stung many people who believe that their pastors are “legitimate”. Many Kenyans are feigning surprise that at least some of the pastors peddle fake miracles and promise prosperity in exchange for “seeds” planted in the form of cash transfers to the clerics.

A group of “genuine” evangelists has now emerged to challenge these so-called “fake” pastors, claiming to have a checklist that can separate the wheat from the chaff, as far as miracle healing is concerned. They claim that “genuine” miracle healing can occur, but it is based purely on “faith”, and the healer does not ask for money in exchange for the healing.

Sadly, however, the “genuine” pastors do not provide any evidence of this type of faith healing, and end up only sounding like more conservative versions of the con pastors. By not denouncing the notion of “faith healing”, they keep the unrealistic expectations alive among their flock that chronic medical conditions such as HIV, cancer, diabetes and hypertension can be healed without the active agency of experts trained in the management of such conditions.

In my opinion, the emergence of “faith healers” is just the latest manifestation of a con game that has been going on for ages all over the world. Human desire for the easy life and quick options to deal with complex problems has resulted in a gullible populace that will buy snake oil cures despite clear evidence that they will not work.

A few weeks ago, a famous “faith healer” organised a crusade in Nakuru, during which he hosted multitudes of followers, including government officials. Many sick people were removed from hospitals and taken to the venue, with the expectation of miraculous healing. Despite the multiple claims of healing at the crusade, those that really needed it went home without a cure in spite of their enormous faith.

In fact, newspaper reports indicated that some people actually died during the crusade while waiting for their faith to perform miracles. The evangelist continues to parade discredited medics at his rallies to bolster his unproven claims that prayers have healed many people suffering from HIV and other chronic conditions.

Our national hypocrisy is exposed when we condemn the greedy miracle-promising televangelists while at the same time entertaining “genuine” pastors who claim that they are agents of a higher power that cures all maladies miraculously. We are afraid of interrogating miracle cure claims because their purveyors threaten “doubting Thomases” with fire and brimstone on judgement day.

However, when lives are at risk, all right-thinking Kenyans must question these claims. We have written several times in these columns about conmen hiding behind religion and tradition to peddle dangerous ideas that result in death and disability among our people.

These warnings continue to be ignored, and every weekend all the main television channels air people of cloth making all sorts of medical claims without fear of being challenged. They are able to pay millions of shillings to be given lots of airtime on national TV, suggesting that they are making a lot more money from gullible Kenyans.

Desperate Kenyans must be protected from these people, perhaps through a government agency like the Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Board, whose mandate is to regulate all those that purport to practise medicine. 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli


  1. you sound just like the pharisees of the bible during Jesus days. You have to see in order to believe. Its the problem Jesus had with the religious teachers.

    They kept asking for a sign and Jesus told they were an evil generation always looking for a sign (proof). The only sign He told them they would get was that of prophet Jonah.

    False and geniune prophets will always be in each successive generation. From your article it seems you dont believe in miracles but only medicine.

  2. Miracles don't work they never have evidence is the only thing without an agenda you can trust. The evidence so far suggests that all men of faith are conmen.

  3. I think Kenyans are short of options. The public health institutions are not helping us, the private ones are beyond our reach and all we have left is faith (for the believer), and hope for a better tomorrow for the rest of us. We do not have the same solutions, but our problems look a lot alike.


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