What alternative health

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Participation and membership in the Christian Science Church has been declining steadily for many years: Between 1971 and 2009 the number of U.S. practitioners and teachers listed in the Christian Science Journal fell from about 5,000 to about 1,160. The number of churches fell from about 1,800 to about 900. The current number of Christian Science "nurses" in the United States is only 20. Subscriptions to the Christian Science Sentinel fell from about 175,000 in 1988 to 24,130 in 2009, and the church does not disclose how many members it has, but the current subscription figure suggests there are fewer than 50,000 members worldwide. Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs, and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Christian Science practitioners work by trying to argue the sick thoughts out of the patient's mind. Consultations can take place in person, by telephone, or even by mail. Individuals may also be able to attain correct beliefs by themselves through prayer or concentration. The steady membership decline is not surprising because the church's doctrines have little appeal to modern youth. The church's efforts to include coverage of services by practitioners in proposed health care reform bills have been thwarted so far, but lobbying to gain inclusion continues. Stephen Barrett MD, Quackwatch (18th December 2009)

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Christian Scientists who received an undergraduate college eduation at a liberal arts college for Christian Scientists had a significantly higher death rate than that of the control population. Journal of the American Medical Association (September 1989)

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"When faith healing is used to the exclusion of medical treatment, the number of preventable child fatalities and the associated suffering are substantial and warrant public concern. Existing laws may be inadequate to protect children from this form of medical neglect." Pediatrics (4th April 1998)

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Concludes "Since the publication of our previous systematic review in 2000, several rigorous new studies have emerged. Collectively, they shift the weight of the evidence against the notion that distant healing is more than a placebo." E. Ernst, Wien Klin Wochenschr (2003)

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"How can healthcare practitioners actively support their patients' diverse religious beliefs and practices without hypocrisy; without offending patients who do not subscribe to certain of such beliefs; and without offending atheists, agnostics, and religious nonaffiliates, who together constitute a significant proportion of the American population?..... In no interfaith, nondenominational, or multicultural healthcare setting can a medical professional exhibit an appeal to Allah without diminishing non-Islamic mainstream religious principles. It is likewise impossible to pray conspicuously to the Virgin Mary or to Roman Catholic saints without encroaching on Protestant beliefs. Many Christians regard even spiritual practices that are neo-Christian, nondenominational, and/or eclectic—particularly those associated with the New Age movement—as harmful, if not devil-inspired." Article by Timothy N. Gorski, M.D. (American Council on Science and Health)

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A study which looked at 700 patients undergoing angiograms (an X-ray of the blood vessels) or other heart operations at nine hospitals across the US found that those who were prayed for were as likely to have a setback in hospital, be re-admitted, or die within six months as those not prayed for. BBC News (15th July 2005) [Study ref: Lancet. 2005 Jul 16-22;366(9481):211-7. Krucoff et al. Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomised study]

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"…there are logical, scientific, and metaphysical reasons for not seriously investigating such a notion as the healing power of prayer. The idea is logically contradictory, scientifically preposterous, and metaphysically demeaning. It requires God to be perfect and imperfect, it makes a mockery of the notion of scientific tests of causality, and it belittles the Omnipotent Infinite God, if such exists, and ignores the possibility of lesser supernatural powers interfering with nature in untold ways." (The Skeptic's Dictionary)

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"Praying for yourself may help you. Or it may harm you. Or it may do nothing at all. Each of these is possible, by purely material brain-body interactions with nothing supernatural required." Article by Victor J. Stenger , Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii (now living in Colorado). Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP Online)

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"There is no reason to believe that prayer can cure the sick; for that, we must stick with science and medicine." Article by Benjamin Radford, Live Science's Bad Science Columnist (10th April 2008)

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"Whether they can be known to a supernatural being hinges on the effects of the prayers' solicitations as judged by proper scientific studies. To date, such studies of intercessory prayer have not shown it to improve health-care outcomes. In contrast to thoughts themselves, the brain activity from which thoughts arise does consist of energy—electrochemical energy within neural circuitry. Reading this teeming energy in millions of circuit neurons and translating it into the thought or prayer arising from it seems theoretically impossible for even a supernatural being." By David C. Haas, Committee for Skeptical Inquirer (March/April 2007)

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CONCLUSIONS: There is no scientifically discernable effect for IP as assessed in controlled studies. Given that the IP literature lacks a theoretical or theological base and has failed to produce significant findings in controlled trials, we recommend that further resources not be allocated to this line of research. Annals of Behavioural Medicine (August 2006)

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Concludes that intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG (coronary artery bypass graft), but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications. American Heart Journal (April 2006)

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"Many claims are made for the power of prayer, but the idea that it could work retrospectively has caused considerable controversy. It is also beyond current scientific knowledge." Jeffrey P. Bishop and Victor J. Stenger, British Medical Journal (17th December 2004) [pdf]

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Scientific experiments claiming that distant intercessory prayer produces salubrious effects are deeply flawed. Article by Michael Shermer, Scientific American (November 2004)