Thursday, March 07, 2013

Sick faith-healers

I used to be a "faith-healer," and people routinely accepted the belief that miracles had been performed through me.

Born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, in 1958, Avalos attended the Church of God, a Pentecostal church. He said as a child he had powerful "spiritual experiences," which he now says were caused by socio-psychological factors.

Avalos moved to Glendale, Ariz., to live with his grandmother when he was 7 years old. He became a child preacher, speaking about God before congregations of hundreds of people.

"We talked about sin and salvation," Avalos said. "That you needed to be saved because Jesus died for your sins, and it will help you transform your life. We were against abortion. We were against pre-marital sex. We were against homosexuality. We were against rock 'n' roll."

Avalos said he was determined to become a Christian missionary. In a testimonial which appeared in Freethought Today, a newspaper published by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Avalos wrote, "By my early teens, I was a zealous believer, willing to go anywhere, to suffer any sacrifice to preach the word of salvation to the ‘pagan' masses."

When a Jehovah's Witness told him the Bible was mistranslated from its original Greek and Hebrew text, however, Avalos turned to studying in order to defend his beliefs.

"I realized that to be a missionary for Christianity, you had to become a biblical scholar. You had to know the arguments of the other sides as well."

Avalos taught himself Greek and Hebrew and studied Aramaic, Akkadian, philosophy, theology and Near-Eastern history.

"Most adults, up until recently, usually end up in the religion they were raised in," Avalos said. "It's not because they came to that religion through a long period of study or research, but they were just raised that way. To me that was not satisfactory. I wanted to know whether it was true or not."

The more he learned, however, the more he began to question his faith. During his freshman year of college at Glendale Community College, he reached a kind of epiphany.

"Through the process of years of studying," Avalos said, "I came to the conclusion that the arguments I made for Christianity were not the best, and that I could make just as excellent of an argument for other religions as I could for mine.

"One thing led to another, and I realized that I did not believe in Christianity or that the Bible was the word of God, or that the Bible had any kind of divine origin."

Avalos said he also had a problem with the ethics of the Bible, including the endorsement of genocide, slavery and killing of children. He also could not find any evidence that the Bible was factual.

"What I thought were very well-documented arguments with sources from their time turned out to have no sources," Avalos said. "I thought there would be plenty of evidence for the life and doings of Jesus from his time. There are actually no documents from the time of Jesus about him."

Around the same time that Avalos reached his realizations, he became very ill.

What had begun as a cold progressed into early systemic arthritis and conjunctivitis. Eventually, Avalos was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare auto-immune disorder.

This raises an interesting question. Is Avalos a disaffected faith-healer? Did he lose his faith because he couldn’t heal himself? Did he lose his faith in faith-healing because God didn’t heal him?

More generally, did his experience as a Pentecostal boy preacher queue him up for disillusionment when, at a later age, he realized that his “miracles” were bogus? Did his religious upbringing foster false expectations that were bound to be dashed?

Of course, the best precaution against religious disillusionment is not to cultivate groundless, unrealistic expectations in the first place. 

He wouldn’t be the first apostate who was disappointed in God. Who turned his back on God when he thought God let him down.

1 comment:

  1. "I realized that I did not believe in Christianity or that the Bible was the word of God, or that the Bible had any kind of divine origin."

    "Did he lose his faith in faith-healing...?"

    Which tells me his faith was misplaced to begin with.