When I heard Oral Roberts died earlier this week, it reminded me about an example that you can use when people say that there's no harm from the power of prayer when treating people who have illnesses. I'm not trying to suggest you shouldn't pray, if that's your deal. Oral Roberts represents the worst of what can happen when people of faith are exploited by someone who they think they can trust. Roberts duped his followers out of millions of dollars over the years and claimed to be able to use the power of God to cure people's illnesses. Many of the illnesses that Oral claimed to treat were probably medically treatable. It's impossible to know how many people with actual diseases sufferred longer than they needed to or even died because of this scam artist, but it raises a fundamental issue that crosses lines between medical treatment and religion.
Here's my conundrum: Is this just a type of natural selection where stupid people seek medical advice and treatment from a religious zealot liar? If you believe that God is going to cure your cancer, all the power in the world to you, but I'm not betting on you living very long. If you believe that God has the ability to cure your cancer, but just let all those other cancer victims die, including thousands of kids, you've got some serious megalomania or you believe in a God who falls on the sadism scale somewhere between the John McCain's friends at the Hanoi Hilton and the gang from the film, Hostel.
Oral wasn't alone in his quest for taking money from stupid people. He originated the practice. This is why, while I'm never glad to hear that someone died, I won't cry a single tear for Oral Roberts.