Miracle healings are going to be highly suspect as long as we are faced with ambiguous medical conditions where the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis are all less than 100% certain.
I want to challenge the idea that any miracle healing happened "instantly" and was "permanent". What does it mean to heal from, say, cancer, instantly and permanently? The descriptions of miracle healings do not show any knowledge of how diseases like cancer actually work in organisms.
Cancer is not like a disease germ--ebola, malaria or smallpox-- where you have it or you don't. Most people don't have any ebola, malaria or smallpox in them, but pretty much everyone has some cancer cells in them. Most of the time, our bodies recognize them as the bad guys and take them out like the Avengers.
A person only "gets cancer" when their bodies stop recognizing and getting rid of the cancerous cells and they start to multiply out of control. So, the body already has the means to naturally get rid of cancer
. Most of the time, people never even know they have any cancer cells unless they have a specific test or start having symptoms. That is the first thing to take into consideration. Cancer is not an "all or nothing" zero-sum disease. (It is not even one disease.)
No miracle needed so far. Unless the miracle is that god created the natural means whereby most people's bodies get rid of cancer cells--in which case god also miraculously created the cancer cells for the Avenger cells to get rid of in the first place!
Does a miracle healing from cancer mean that all the cancer cells
in the patient's body de-materialized in a microsecond, leaving no trace at all of ever having been there? Does that mean that the Avenger cells woke up and destroyed all the cancerous cells like normal? Does it mean that the levels of cancerous cells has dropped from stage four to stage one?
If the miracle is permanent, is the person completely immune from even the normal level of cancerous cells in a human body? Like, could they take up smoking two packs of Camels a day, sunbathe for hours, live on barbecue and Twinkies, eat no fresh fruits and veggies, have unprotected sex with strangers everyday and remain clean of all cancer for the rest of their lives? (That would be truly miraculous!)
Again, it would be useful to compare religious people with active cancer cells who pray, with control groups of non-religious people who have active cancer cells, but who do not pray at all. Then we would be able to see if there is any significant cancer reduction in the group that believes and prays.
We could even see if breaking the groups down by religion (Catholics, Hindus, atheists, Mormons) makes any difference. My hypothesis is that there will be no difference between praying and not, and no difference by religious group, once you control for ordinary non-godly things like income levels, diet and exercise.
I wonder if any religious organization has the balls, I mean the mustard seed of faith, to fund such a study? I doubt it, because the outcome will very likely show that, other than generating positive feelings, their religion is in actual fact useless, despite their fervent belief in god.
I have found studies where people who pray, meditate, chant or join a support group, or have strong family and community ties have slightly better outcomes. Not dramatically different. And since any kind of religious activity is as useful as positive human connections, no god is needed. No particular religion is needed, either.
I have tried to find out if the Vatican does longitudinal followup studies of the people whose conditions were healed miraculously at Lourdes. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=miracle+healings+longitudinal+studies+lourdes&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C48&as_vis=1
You can see that no relevant journal articles showed up showing any such studies have been done-- which does not mean the studies don't exist. Maybe, like all that other important data, the studies are housed in the Vatican Library. Maybe someone should tell the Vatican about the internet?