Review: The Faith Healers

James Randi’s The Faith Healers is pretty much a seminal work in debunking.  Randi is one of the first, if not the first, to take a serious look at these people who travel from place to place claiming to heal the sick through faith for money.  Randi and his team do a great job running down the evidence on how these guys operate and often spectacularly beating them at their own game.  These faith healers are clearly just ripping people off and it’s great to see them called on it.

All that said, there are some problems with The Faith Healers.  The biggest one is that it is a victim of its own success.  In 1987 when The Faith Healers was published, most of these techniques were unknown by people outside the “trade” and their brazenness and  sophistication was surprising.  Today a lot of this work has become much more widely known.  It was a bombshell that these faith healers were using two-way radios during performances; now it’s a plot point on Leverage.  There are lots of other places for someone of a skeptical bent to find this information these days.

While I love the good works that James Randi has done – this book included – I will say that I didn’t find him a gripping writer.  All the facts are here and the information is clear, but he does not have the flair for narration that makes it exciting.  When one is presenting surprising truth, that is not a great limitation in an author.  Combined with the fact that I knew most of the raw information in here from other sources, it made the book something of a slog.

As I say, The Faith Healers is a victim of its own success.  Its success comes from the fact that it is clear, accessible, extremely thorough, and convincing.  If you have never looked into how faith healers operate, or why you should care that they are not on the up and up, this is a great book to read.  As a template for how to lay out an investigative work, it is sound.


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