I grew up with a lot of woo in our house. My mother had shelves of essential oils, each with their own properties and purposes, so any time we’d get sick we’d be stinking from different oils that were supposed to fix our current problem. We rarely went to the doctor’s office (not even for annual check-ups).
Each time I got tonsillitis (which had to have happened 4 or 5 times growing up), rather than going for antibiotics, Mom would put some Melaleuca oil on a Q-tip and swab the back of my throat. When I injured my knee playing softball, it was a couple of days before I got to the doctor’s office to find out that I had quite a sprain that partially tore my ACL.
Now, I’m not telling you this to cast a bad light on my parents or the way they raised us. I’m just hoping to give a bit of background.
Besides the woo, there was also the religious angle. The Mormon church believes in blessing for the sick “by the laying on of hands,” given by those with the gift of the Priesthood. Maybe because of our lack of doctor’s visits, I was always the first one to ask for a blessing when I started feeling sick. It would comfort me, but there was never any sort of miraculous and sudden healing. Many times I felt that was because I didn’t have enough faith.
For clarification, part of official church doctrine includes different spiritual gifts. To name a few, the gift of tongues, healing, prophecy, and the gift of being healed. I remember that being an odd one in my mind, but it was explained to me that one needs the faith that the blessing is going to heal in order for the god-magic to do its thing. In addition to that, my mother told me that there was nothing too small or trivial to ask god for help with, and that whenever I’m feeling sad or depressed, I needed to pray to god to make it better and that would make me feel happy.
When listening to the back catalogue of Naked Mormonism, Bryce talks about the pressures in the church and the depression that manifests in the members because of the unrealistic expectations placed on them. That part didn’t surprise me at all, because I’ve been afraid of death and my “sins” for as long as I can remember. I was surprised that so many members would actually be on anti-depressants. Given my parents distrust of doctors and the medical field in general, I felt that was a pretty standard among other church members. Add that to the “god can take away your depression if you’re righteous enough” attitude and I would expect it to be much worse than it already is.
How long do we have to see this going on, see the suicides and deaths from “faith healings” before we can finally classify these religious ideas as a harm to themselves and others?