I was reading the book "Letter to a Christian Nation" and came across your site in its pages. After reading various rationalizations, it seems that you clearly forgot one. Most of your miraculous answered prayers for cancer and rabies and tumors share a commonality that amputees do not...death. Cancer and rabies and tumors kill people, amputations can be lived with. As your site interests me, I'm very interested to hear your point. I also would like to note that I am questionable when it comes to religious beliefs, I'm not some glorified Christian here to wrong you. I'd be interested to hear your take on this. Do you have any other proven examples of unanswered prayers that can actually be fatal? I'm a nurse and I realize that amputations can become infected and such; however, it would be obvious to me that the culprit of death would be infection, not the amputation itself.
-Ever eagerly awaiting a smart response-
First of all, there is no evidence to suggest that, in cases where someone has cancer, rabies or tumors, are being prayed for, and make a remarkable recovery, that the recovery is caused by any sort of divine agency. It is just a coincidence.
It also needs to be said that not everyone prays to the same god for these types of things. Suppose you have 4 people of different faiths, all with the same type of cancer, let's say, esophageal cancer, since under the best of circumstances, a person has a 38% chance
of surviving for 5 years after diagnosis. So, we have a Christian cancer patient praying to God/Jesus, a Muslim praying to Allah, a Hindu praying to Dhanvantari, and a Native American praying to Kumugwe. Suppose each of these individuals makes an astonishing recovery, and after 5 years is entirely cancer free. Each one certainly could attribute their convalescence to an affirmative answer from their respective deities. If we are to accept that God/Jesus is real and responsible for healing the Christian, then we also have to accept that Dhanvantari, Allah and Kumugwe are also real and responsible for healing their respective followers. This does not do much good in establishing the existence of such a deity. At most it would have to be admitted that each of these deities is just as likely (or not) to be real as any other, and there would be no means to differentiate between them. The efficacy (or otherwise) of prayer would be just as valid, regardless of the deity. Note that Christians think they are right, Muslims think that they are right, etc. and each would say that only their God does these sorts of miraculous things.
Of course, in the case of Christianity, explicit promises are made by Jesus. He promises that anyone who really
believes in him will be able to heal people with a touch of the hands, that nothing
is impossible to his true followers, that they will do even greater works than restoring vision to the blind and raising the dead. There is no "fatal maladies only" clause to this at all, since many of the people allegedly healed by Jesus were not afflicted with fatal conditions. Blindness and infirmity are not a death sentence, though assuredly inconvenient to those afflicted.
In other words, we should have every expectation that people who are either born without limbs or lost them due to injury or infection will
have these lost limbs restored in response to prayers asking for such a thing to happen. But they don't. There has never been a single, documented, verifiable instance of this happening. Now there are those who would say that maybe these things are in fact happening, but we just don't hear about it. I don't buy this at all, since it would necessarily be a sensational, unprecedented, and fantastic event, and would also do much to convince many people that the deity responsible was real and really does answer prayers to those who are properly faithful. We would hear about. In the information age, if someone sees Jesus in a piece of toast, the whole world knows about it by the end of the day. You can't expect me to believe that an event of much, much greater importance would not be boasted up and shoved in our faces.
So to say that God doesn't heal amputees because he is only concerned with fatal conditions is futile. Nowhere in the Bible does it even remotely suggest this. The Bible also says that someone who believes can be harmed by nothing
. Correct me if I am wrong, but having your legs blown off by a landmine, or being born without arms, or losing your fingertips in an industrial accident (like Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi) falls under the category of "things that cause harm". If God can't even restore a few knuckles length worth of finger, he is either impotent, does not care, or is non-existent.
Also note that many, many Christians feel that God answers their prayers for things that are not related to fatal illness or injury at all. "I prayed that I would get this job that I really need, and BAM! God comes through for me. God is Great!" or "I prayed that my daughter would make it onto the varsity basketball team, and she did! God is Great!" or "I prayed that God would help me sell this house, and I did! God is Great!". Note that such statements rather obviously imply that these people would not be able to get a job, make the team, or sell a house without direct assistance from an all powerful superdude. If you can't get a job without divine intervention, you probably are not qualified to be in that position. I personally would not want to be operated on by a neurosurgeon who only got this position due to supernatural influence. I would much rather have a straight A neurosurgeon from Harvard than a straight C neurosurgeon from Georgetown University any day. If you would rather go with a straight C neurosurgeon because you think that they have God's approval, well fine then, as Syd says in Ice Age: The Meltdown, it's your funeral.
Let's go with another example of prayer. Here in Erie, there has been a 17 year old boy missing for over a month. Last night, a prayer vigil was held in hopes of his safe return. Presumably, the boy's family as well as a great number of Erie's faithful have been praying for this same outcome. He has not yet been located, and, tragically, odds are at this point that if he is found, it will not be alive. Who is going to say that God dropped the ball in helping this boy? Nope, it will be "God answered our prayers, just not in the way we had hoped for" or "God works in mysterious ways" or "God has a greater purpose for him in heaven" or some other completely dishonest and irrational excuse for why God doesn't even give a damn about saving a 17 year old. And if the boy is
located, safe and whole, alive and well, it will be "Hallelujah! Praise be to God! Our prayers have been answered! God has smiled on us this day!" even though it took the all powerful master of the entire universe over a month do deliver on something that he could have done at any time.
A few years ago, I was involved in what could have been a very tragic accident. As I braked to slow down due to the car in front of me making a left turn, my car skidded on the icy, slippery road directly into the path of an oncoming PennDOT plow truck. These are gigantic dump trucks with enormous steel blades attached to the front. I knew that this was NOT good. I made no requests to the almighty to save me from this. My only thoughts were that my son might have to grow up without a father, how can I minimize potential harm to others on the road, and I hope I can somehow get to the Týr/Korpiklaani concert next week, since I already have tickets. My car collided with the truck, bounced off of it like a billiard ball, fishtailed around and came to rest on the side of the road. I was not injured at all, and neither was the plow driver or the driver of the left-turning car in front of me, which my car apparently also struck when it bounced off of the plow truck (I really don't know for sure when/how my car struck this other vehicle, it happened very fast, and I was slightly more concerned with the 20 ton steel bladed instrument of destruction into whose path I was headed). I put my lack of injury down to the fact that I was trying to regain control of my vehicle, the plow driver attempted to miss me, I was wearing my seat-belt, and the car's momentum following the collision was cushioned by the significant amount of snow on the side of the road. Now, if you want to tell me that God intervened to spare the life of a godless bastard like me, while ignoring the children dying of AIDS in Africa, then all I can say is that He has a pretty twisted sense of humor, and not in a very amusing way.
So, as can be seen, the problems regarding the answering prayers to heal amputees (or any other prayer) are numerous, and instances where the praying parties receive what they wish for are statistically no different than what could have just happened anyways. Well, except that persons who know that they are being prayed for are actually likely to be worse off
than someone not receiving prayer at all.