Healing: Faith or medicine?

Do religious institutions have more healing powers than medical treatment?

This is a question posed to participants in a study into the commercialisation of religion which was done by the Bureau of Market Research at the University of SA, released on Monday.

The pilot study was done in Gauteng and was conducted on the commercialisation of religion in the country as commissioned by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission).

"[A number of] 31.7% of interviewees are not agreeable to the statement that 'my religious institution has more healing power than medical treatment'.

"Some of the household heads and congregants in disagreement believe that the healing power of their institution is equal to that of Western medical treatment. The two work hand in hand," the report reads in part.

It also stated that other congregants pointed out that they could not say "their religious institution has more power than the medical treatment, but that it heals their spiritual being internally and if the spiritual being is satisfied then the physical being will also be satisfied".

"There were also separate views that the two are different but equally important. The doctor gets power from God. God provides the healing and not the church or pastor.


"The belief is in the power of God, and not the institution. There were opinions that God has more healing power, namely; that God heals people who have faith to receive healing," the report continued.

The CRL Rights Commission also conducted an investigative study into the commercialisation of religion and the abuse of people's belief systems.

In its preliminary report, the commission said that churches should be regulated.

Yesterday, Sowetan reported that churches in the province were raking in millions, the study found. The majority of religious institutions interviewed, accounting for 91.7%, received an annual revenue of less than R10-million during the last financial year (2015/2016), the report said. At least nine ( 3.9%) of the churches sampled collected revenue between R10-million and R100-million in the year under review.

Another 10 churches accounting for 4.3% of the 230 church leaders, heads or manager interviewed, would not reveal the churches income, saying it was confidential. The report stated that from the data collected, it showed that the heads, leaders and managers reported that 22% of the institutions employed no permanent staff other than the owners of the entities.

"At 29%, the respondents confirmed that the biggest proportion of institutions they lead employ between 1 to 3 permanent employees. In total, only 2.6% of the institutions employed 100 or more employees.

"About 10.4% of the institutions indicated that they were either not sure or not willing to share the number of permanent employees employed by their religious organisations," the report stated.


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