Chapter 6 - Why do you need health insurance?

As discussed in Chapter 5, amputees are fascinating. The thing that makes the situation with amputees so interesting is the fact that God treats amputees in such a consistent way. God never answers the prayers of amputees to restore their lost limbs. It is not like God occasionally regenerates a leg. God never regenerates legs spontaneously, even though he clearly has promised to do so in the Bible and has the omnipotent ability to do so according to the Standard Model of God.

Consistency is key. When we see that God consistently ignores the prayers of amputees, it is an important piece of data.

The meaning of amputees

In this chapter, I would like to suggest two conclusions that we can draw from the way that God treats amputees. These two suggestions may seem completely ridiculous when you first hear them. What I would ask, however, is that you give me one moment to explain.

Here is what God's treatment of amputees suggests:

  • First, the evidence with amputees suggests that God does not answer any medical prayers at all. It is not just that God ignores amputees. It is that God ignores every medical prayer. Amputees suggest that all medical miracles are an illusion.

  • Second, the evidence suggests that you already know this. While you do not admit it to yourself consciously, at the subconscious level you already know that God does not answer any medical prayers. Furthermore, you are acting on that knowledge every day.
As I said, I realize that this seems ridiculous. So let me lay out the whole argument for you with one simple question. The question is this:
    If God answers medical prayers, then why do you need health insurance?
Simply think it through. If what Jesus says about prayer in the Bible is true, and if all the stories about medical miracles in inspirational literature are true, and if the cure of Jeanna Giese is true, and if your belief in God and the power of prayer is true, and if God has a plan for you, then why do you ever need to visit a doctor or go to the hospital? Why don't you simply pray for a cure whenever you get sick? In fact, why not pray preemptively every day -- "Dear God, I have faith that you will protect me from all illnesses today, Amen" -- and go through your life completely healthy?

The reason I ask this is because the statement that Jesus makes in Mark 11:24 is so simple:

    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
So is what he says in John 14:14:
    If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
There is this statement in Psalms chapter 41:
    1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
    the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
    2 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life;
    he will bless him in the land
    and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
    3 The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed
    and restore him from his bed of illness.

In Mark 16, Jesus talks about the laying on of hands:
    16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
But even more remarkable is James 5:15, where the Bible says:
    And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.
These are powerful verses. Keep in mind, according to the Standard Model of God, that these are the words of an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God. And James 5:15 is completely unambiguous. If these words are true and perfect, it seems like a faithful person should have no need for health insurance.

A conversation about God

What reason would a perfect God have for making false statements in the Bible? Yet, by owning health insurance, you demonstrate to yourself that something in these verses is amiss. You may find yourself in conversations like this:

    Norm: Does God answer your prayers?

    Chris: Yes, of course. I have a strong personal relationship with God. I pray to him many times each day. Jesus hears my prayers and, through his grace and the grace of the Holy Spirit, my prayers are answered. I am blessed every day by God.

    Norm: So if you prayed to Jesus for something, would he answer your prayer?

    Chris: Yes. Of course. Jesus promises in the Bible that he answers prayers. We see prayers being answered constantly.

    Norm: Why pay for health insurance if you can pray and God will cure you? Why do people need doctors, prescriptions and hospitals?

    Chris: Sometimes it is not God's will to answer prayers.

    Norm: But in John 14:14, Jesus says, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." James 5:15 says, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well." Why would God ignore your prayers?

    Chris: God is not some Santa in the sky. He does not answer prayers like that.

    Norm: Didn't you just say that God answers prayers? In the Bible, doesn't Jesus promise to answer prayers?

    Chris: God does answer prayers. I can show you millions of examples of God answering prayers. I have 20 books on my shelf at home filled with answered prayers.

    Norm: Then why do you need health insurance?

    Chris: Because, sometimes, it is not God's will to answer a prayer.

    Norm: Why do you say that? "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well" is completely unambiguous. But when you pray for a cure, in a lot of cases nothing happens. Doesn't that mean that Jesus is lying?

    Chris: No. Jesus is perfect so Jesus cannot lie. When God does not answer a prayer, it is not part of his plan.

    Norm: So you go to the doctor anyway?

    Chris: Yes. Of course I do.

    Norm: Aren't you defying God's will? Aren't you ruining God's plan?

    Chris: No. God does not intend for me to be sick.

    Norm: Then why doesn't God answer your prayers and cure you himself?

    Chris: There is no way that we can understand the mysteries of our Lord.

I imagine that you can see the problem in this conversation. The problem is that we cannot trust God with something important like health care. God is completely random when he is "answering" prayers. That is why people need health insurance.

Praying for a cure

When people are sick, they often pray to God for a cure. This is especially true in the case of profound, life-threatening illnesses and chronic diseases. We've all heard the stories of amazing cures and medical miracles that have come through prayer. For example, here is a story from a housewife in Santa Monica:

    "I went to the doctor, and he told me that I had cancer of the uterus. One solution, according to my doctor, was a radical hysterectomy. But he wanted to try chemotherapy first, just in case. For me, my only goal in life was to have children, and I could not let the doctor make me sterile with a hysterectomy. That very day I got down on my knees and I prayed to God for a miracle. I read every passage of the Bible that had anything to do with healing, and I wrote them all down on index cards that I carried with me everywhere. I recited the verses, and I prayed whenever I had a spare minute -- Whether I was waiting at a stop light or for my husband to come home for dinner, I was praying and reciting those verses. And you know what? The good Lord cured me. I started on chemotherapy. At the very next visit, my doctor noticed a change. At my next visit he said, 'Let's postpone the surgery and see what happens.' A year later he could no longer detect the tumor, and he declared me cured. I knew in my heart -- it was the power of those scripture verses. God answered my prayers and cured me."
If you subscribe to Guideposts magazine you can read a new story like this just about every month. Even big city newspapers and national magazines report on these stories now. The story of Jeanna Giese in the previous chapter is a perfect example of the process.

There are two questions that we should ask based on this story:

  1. Why did our housewife from Santa Monica need chemotherapy if God was going to cure her anyway? God is all-powerful, so his cure should be instant and free of side-effects.

  2. On the flip side, if "God's plan" were for her to have a hysterectomy, what point is there in her praying? God's plan comes from an all-powerful being and it is going to run its course no matter what we do. What good is it to pray in such a situation? (we will discuss God's plan in much more detail in Chapter 8)
If you think about these two questions and how they interact with each other, you will realize something important. If God exists, and if God answers prayers, and if God has a plan for each of us, then there is no point in ever visiting a doctor. Owning health insurance is a complete waste of money. The reason is easy to see: Either God will or will not answer any prayer for healing. If he does answer the prayer, there is no need for a doctor. If he does not, then God's plan is for you to be sick. Since God is omnipotent, no amount of doctoring will change the outcome of God's plan. Seeing a doctor is a waste of time.

Understanding Jesus

If you are a believer and if you have your Bible nearby, we can look at your health care policy from another angle. Turn to Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus says:

    Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

    [If you would like to read a theological analysis of Jesus' statement, turn to this page.]

Jesus' statement is utterly clear: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." Yet health insurance is a physical manifestation of worry. You buy health insurance because you are worried about your health tomorrow.

The question to ask yourself, therefore, is simple: If you are a believer, why you need health insurance? Or, for that matter, car insurance, life insurance or home owner's insurance? Why are you worrying about your health in the future when: A) Jesus has told you specifically not to worry (Matthew 6:34), and B) Jesus has promised to cure any illness that arises (James 5:15)? In addition, why are you worrying about money, which is what health insurance is all about, when in Matthew 6:19 Jesus specifically says:

    Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In Matthew 19:21 Jesus goes even further, telling you to sell everything and give the money to the poor. Obviously he intended for you to give up your health insurance policy and give its monthly payment to the poor as well.

And then there is Poverbs 3:5-8:

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Why do you own a health insurance policy when you are supposed to be putting your trust in the Lord, who will bring health to your body?

Everything the Bible says is very clear. Why are you ignoring everything that it tells you to do?

Here is a possibility for you to consider. Is it possible that you are completely ignoring the Bible because, in your heart, you know that God is imaginary? What other reason is there for you, as a believer, to ignore him so profoundly by owning health insurance?

A hidden God

What may be running through your mind right now is the following: "You do not understand God at all. God must remain hidden. If he answered our medical prayers, it would destroy faith. That is why we need doctors." As discussed in the last chapter, this argument has several problems:

  • First, as discussed in the previous chapter, there is no evidence that God wants to remain hidden. God parted the Red Sea. God carved his commandments into stone tablets with his own finger. God incarnated himself in the form of Jesus, who then performed millions of miracles on earth to prove that he is God (see Chapter 19 for a complete discussion).

  • Second, if God answers any prayer, it would destroy faith. In the case of our Santa Monica housewife, she has had her faith destroyed. Therefore, under the "hidden God" theory, God can not answer any prayers without blowing his cover.

  • Third, any medical miracle that God performs today is obvious because we have so much advanced technology. The removal of a cancerous tumor, for example, is obvious because it is measurable. One month the tumor is visible to everyone on the X-ray, and the next month it is not. If God eliminated the tumor, then it is openly obvious to everyone who sees the X-ray. There is nothing "hidden" about removing a tumor.

  • Another example is seen in Jeanne's rabies case. Tens of millions of people are aware of the Jeanna's rabies miracle. Personally, I read about it in a big article in my morning newspaper. That is pretty obvious. What is hidden about her recovery? God has unmasked himself to tens of millions of people.
Another common explanation that you might hear is, "God is not a gumball machine. He is under no obligation to answer prayers. God helps those who help themselves. Therefore, when you get sick you go to a doctor. That is what God demands that we do." See Understanding the gumball machine for details on this line of reasoning.

What if, instead of assuming that God is trying to hide or that God is refusing to be a gumball machine, we assume that God is imaginary?

Understanding reality

Let's simply look at an example. Imagine that the rate of remission for some particularly nasty type of cancer is 5%. That means that if 20 people get this type of cancer, it is almost always fatal. Only one in 20 of the people who get the disease will survive. Knowing this, you can see the reality:

  • 20 people contract the disease
  • All of them have read James 5:15, so all of them pray.
  • 19 of them die
  • The one who lives proclaims, "I prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered my prayers! My disease is cured! It is a miracle! I KNEW God would answer my prayers!"
  • You never hear about the 19 who died. No one ever writes about that in a magazine. "Person prays, then dies" is not a great headline. And since they are dead, you will never hear from any of the people who had a deadly experience with prayer.
  • Therefore, if you don't look at all the facts around the "answered prayer," and you only hear about the one out of twenty prayers that succeed, it appears that prayer is successful.
The fact is, people who pray die from this disease at exactly the same rate as people who do not.

We can see the reality of this situation simply by opening our eyes. But we do have to open our eyes -- We have to look at both the successes AND the failures of prayer to see the reality of our world. When we take a scientific approach and we do look at both sides, we see what is really happening.

When a prayer is answered, what is happening? It is nothing but a coincidence. We know this without a doubt in two different ways:

  • If we look at disease remission rates for praying people vs. non-praying people, and we control for all variables like income, known risk factors, etc., disease remission rates for the two groups are identical. People who pray for a cure gain no advantage from prayer.

  • We can take 200 sick people. With 100 of them we create a prayer circle and we pray for them. With the other 100 we do not. Then we look at what happens to those two groups of people. We find that both groups have the same outcome. The prayed-for group does not recuperate faster or live longer.

You can pick any disease. If you analyze both the successes AND the failures of prayer, you will find the same thing. It does not matter how many people pray, how often they pray, how sincere they are or how devout and worthy the patient is. It simply is a fact that, statistically, God ignores all medical prayers. Plenty of scientific studies confirm it, as shown in this article:

    In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.
See also this page.

Yes, there are people who do pray and live, and their stories sound convincing. But the only reason that they sound convincing is because the millions of people who pray and die never get to tell their stories.

Revisiting Jeanna

What about the miracle of Jeanna Giese discussed in Chapter 5? Didn't God interact with her body and miraculously cure her rabies because of her gigantic prayer circle? How did that work? It worked because, if Jeanna had died, the story of her prayer circle never would have appeared in the paper. People do assemble gigantic prayer circles that fail. It happens all the time. But you never hear about them, so it appears that prayer circles always work.

How can we know, for sure, that Jeanna's prayer circle was a coincidence? Let's assume that it was Jeanna's prayer circle that did cure her. Millions of people prayed, God heard the prayer and God actually did cure Jeanna. In that case, the prayer circle missed an incredible opportunity. What the prayer circle prayed was this:

    Dear God, Please cure Jeanna, Amen.
What they could have prayed is this:
    Dear God, Please eliminate the disease of rabies worldwide, Amen.
This second prayer would have cured Jeanna, and it would have also helped countless other people and animals around the world. It would have ensured that no one, ever again, would be afflicted with rabies.

Even if you believe in God, I think we can agree that the second prayer would not work. We know that with certainty. It is obvious from the evidence that we see all around us. If the second prayer ever worked, then people would have prayed every disease into extinction centuries ago.

Why doesn't the second prayer work? If God actually did answer Jeanna's prayer, why would he not answer the broader prayer as well? I believe that we all know the answer to that question, even if many of us are not willing to admit it consciously. The second prayer does not work because the first one did not work either. The simple fact is that God does not answer medical prayers and Jeanna's cure was a coincidence. The statistics prove it every time.

The evidence all around us

If prayer worked as promised by Mark 11:24 and James 5:15, people would not need doctors. We could get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:

    Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Instead, what we see in our world is this:
  • As a nation, the people of America are spending approximately two trillion dollars on health care every year. None of that money would need to be spent if God truly answered prayers as he promises in James 5:15.

  • Pharmaceutical companies are making hundreds of billions of dollars selling thousands of drugs and medications to handle medical problems. If God truly answered prayers, we would not need any of those drugs.

  • In every city there are huge hospitals filled with patients. If God truly answered prayers, we would not need any of these hospitals.

  • If you look at both the successes AND the failures of prayer, statistical studies show no benefit from prayer.

  • And everyone you know has health insurance, including you.
In other words, what your common sense tells you, and what statistical analysis of disease and prayer tells you, and what the overwhelming evidence in the world all around us tells you, and what your own personal health insurance policy tells you, is that God does not answer medical prayers.

If prayer did work, then both your hospital and your insurance company would have a Department of Prayer, and they would have employees praying feverishly day and night. Hospitals and insurance companies want to save lives and save money just as badly as you do. If prayer worked, corporations would be using it every day without hesitation.

The response to all of this evidence often is, "You are wrong! God can't answer my prayers. If he did, it would take away my free will to believe in him! God must remain hidden." This is the same thing as saying, "God does not answer prayers." If God cannot answer your prayers because it would take away your free will, then God cannot answer any prayers.

You can elicit this response quite easily, as seen in the following conversation:

    Chris: Pray to God and he will answer your prayers!

    Norm: OK, let's pray together for God to do something concrete right now.

    Chris: Oh, now, we can't do that! That would take away our faith in God. God cannot prove that he exists.

    Norm: That means God can answer none of your prayers. Any prayer he answers will prove his existence.

    Chris: That is not true. God answers millions of prayers every day!

    Norm: Then let's pray for him to answer a prayer right now.

    Chris: No, No, we cannot do that.

How can it be that God is answering millions of prayers, yet it is impossible for God to answer a prayer? It is because all of those "answered prayers" are simply coincidences. Let's look at another example and you will see what I mean...

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by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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