No Healing Miracles Found in ‘John of God’ Follow-Up Investigation

Image: Wikipedia via Escape Orbit

By William M. London

On October 25th, the Australian 60 Minutes television program featured a follow-up to Liz Hayes’s 1998 skeptical investigation of João Teixeira de Faria, who is better known as “João de deus” or “John of god.” João has been credulously promoted by Oprah Winfrey as a medium who channels the spirits of dead doctors and saints to perform miraculous healings for people from around the world who visit him each week at his “Casa” in Abadiânia, Brazil.

Here is a summary of what was revealed in this airing – though the title sort of gives it away…

Part 1 of “John of God” Report

In Part 1 of the follow-up, reporter Michael Usher revealed that a woman declared as cured of breast cancer by a spirit entity channeled by João died in 2003. A woman in a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis who, in the 1998 report said she visited to João with the expectation of walking again didn’t feel any effect, is still in a wheelchair, and her condition deteriorated. Her trip to the Casa cost $5,000. Usher said that none of the other people [forty Australians] who made the pilgrimage that Hayes joined for investigation improved.

Usher’s report mentioned that some of the thousands in João’s audience three days per week hope to receive “spiritual surgery” from him. These practices such as inserting scissors (or forceps) deep into a nose and scraping an eye without an anesthetic have been shown in previous stories about João. I was disappointed that Usher did not point out that James Randi and Joe Nickell have described these procedures as old carnival tricks.


 

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17 COMMENTS

  1. That shirt looks tasty; worth a pretty penny no doubt.

    If people are sufficiently credulous to believe this tripe, it serves ’em right if they get stung.

  2. I hate that reaction Stafford. Your mind isn’t fixed. It changes and can be manipulated, therefore even someone who isn’t normally credulous may become more so given the appropriate circumstances and input e.g. illness (think chronic pain, death, poverty, love, and the promise of a favorable resolution). If you are credulous to begin with you’re just that much more susceptible to being taken advantage of. Why that makes you deserving of it is a bit of a mystery though.

    Still, I’ve certainly felt the same way. Because goddammit man, that guy’s full of s$%@!

  3. “If people are sufficiently credulous to believe this tripe, it serves
    ‘em right if they get stung.”

    I entirely disagree. Would you morally licence the duplicity of charlatans? or fail to protect those of a less penetrant intellect than your own? Compassion – any?

    …and my first thought about the shirt was ‘It looks like one of my mum’s old tablecloths, with the shiny bits’.

  4. Rarely do I take offence at what others say on these threads, but I must object in the strongest terms to both Stafford and Geoff. I’ve got an identical shirt and it cost £19.99.

    I’m really not sure who is worse, this charlatan who has caused so much grief, Oprah who has promoted him or me with my fraud-affirming fashion sense.

  5. ” There’s no New Age woo too woo-ey or quackery too quacky for Oprah. ”

    Now that is supreme syntactic structuring!

    ” Her trip to the Casa cost $5,000. ”

    Going to cover that loss Oprah? People need protection from quacks and quack promoters.

  6. Hate to be pedantic (actually experience and my wife tell me I obviously have some comfort level with it), but that rather depends on how stylish the table cloth is doesn’t it 😉

  7. There seems to be no shortage of con-artists and no shortage of feeble minded people who believe in miracles, hocus-pocus and Juan. May the deceit be short lived and eternally forgotten.

  8. My mind isn’t fixed, and that’s my point, we have to learn from experience.

    Put in the simplest terms, if something seems too good to be true, there-in lies the clue.

    I have known individuals, who have spent their entire lives “searching for the truth”; I can say that with total assurance, because some of them are indeed dead; did they ever find satisfaction? If they did they never told me or anyone else mutually acquainted with them.

    And don’t you think they might have done?

    The question is of course rhetorical.

  9. Don’t get shirty.

    Compassion? Yes. But I sometimes get a little short on patience.

    I think the behaviour of those gulled by such crooks is Pavlovian. And in my experience they are incorrigible.

  10. Oh, headswapboy, please, please, accept my most sincere apology, I would never knowingly question another’s sartorial sensibilities.

    £19.19; not bad.

    But, what’s yer mum using for curtains?

  11. I used to really like Oprah, but over and over she has promoted charlatans. She has a staff that could do some investigation. But she puts these crooks on anyway, for the same reason Montel Williams but that crook Sylvia Browne on year after year even though he knew she was a fraud — the audience likes them. The advertisers like what the audience likes.

  12. I view it the same way I view a disease: the important thing is to cure it, not vilify it. If some people are particularly susceptible to a disease, it would be kinder to impose measures to help them than to condemn them and leave them to it. No virus ever got cured by stigmatizing its victims.

    I agree with Geoff 21 and Sean_W; you’re being too harsh. It’s not going to help if we dismiss dupes as dupes and let them get suckered in. And as Harris once said in a different context, the people involved – dupes and cons – “have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas, and bad luck – which of these quantities, exactly, were they responsible for?” It doesn’t serve anybody right if they get stung: getting stung is itself the fundamental problem.

  13. Are conditioned reflexes the responsibility of the conditioned?

    This is something we all do at one time or another, succumb to the urge to judge, that popular hobby, furthered by broad ignorance especially of developmental and group psychology. It’s why the religious say that sexuality is chosen rather than innate, for instance.

    It allows the condemnation of individuals who have ‘free will’.

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