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Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond

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Effect of Religion on Health, The

I will give my opinion of the inconsistency of our religious ideas and how they affect our health. I was visiting a patient who was suffering very much from what is called rheumatism and a general debility of her nervous system. The doctors had tried all in their power to relieve her but to no effect and all their efforts only made her worse. At last she sent for me. I found her very nervous, complaining of aches and pains all over. When I told her that it was her mind that was disturbed, she replied, “Oh! No, my mind is at rest. I know that I am in the hands of a merciful God who will deal with me according to his will. I have full faith in Him.” Do you suppose He knows your trouble, I ask? “Yes, He knows all things.” Suppose that Jesus was here as he was eighteen-hundred years ago; do you think he would cure you? “Oh, yes. I know that He knows all my suffering.” Then you believe He knows all your sufferings? “Yes.” Then why doesn't He cure you? “Because it is His will that I should go through all this suffering to fit me for the Kingdom of Heaven.” Suppose your daughter should be taken sick away from home in a strange land and suppose some kind friend should call upon her and say to her, “You seem to be very low spirited,” and she should reply, “Oh no, I know it is all right.” Suppose your mother was here, would you not get well? “Yes, she knows all my suffering but she thinks or knows it is all right for it makes me better prepared to enjoy her company when I get home.” Do you believe that if she chose to cure you that she could do so? “Certainly.” Can you say you love your mother when you admit that your life is in her hands and she permits you to suffer so much? “Oh! She is my mother and she knows God knows what is best. It gives me great comfort to know that I am in the hands of a merciful being.” Would you like to have me cure you? “Yes, if you can, but not if I must give up my beliefs and my religion. I should rather go down to the grave with my belief than to be cured and lose my religion. If you can cure me of my lameness and not talk to me about religion I should like to get well, but if you can't cure me without that I don't know as I will be cured, for I think my religion has nothing to do with my disease.” Don't you think your belief has something to do with your happiness? “Oh, yes, but it has nothing to do with my disease.” What is your disease? “It is rheumatism, the doctors say, and a general prostration of the nervous system.” What is that? “Neuralgia, I suppose.” What is that? “I don't know, only the doctors say that it is a general prostration of the nervous system.” What is that? “I don't know.” Suppose I should try to explain how you came to be in this condition, would you listen? “Yes, if you don't talk religion.” I have no religion to talk. “I know it.” Have you? “I hope I have.” Well I don't want it if it makes me as sick and unhappy as you are. “All the comfort I take while lying here all these long nights is thinking that I am in the hands of a merciful God who will do all things right.” Would you like to get well? “If it is the will of God I should be very glad to get well.” Do you think I can cure you? “I do not know, but I hope that you can; if you can't, I shall give up all hope of ever getting well.” Then you think that your health depends on my science? “Yes.” If I could cure you, would you give me the credit? “Yes.” But would it be right to upset the will of God who is keeping you in all this misery for his own pleasure? “Oh! If God sees fit to have me cured I believe it is all right. I know that I feel badly enough and I should like to feel better, but if it is the will of God that I should suffer, I will submit, for I know that it is for the best. God suffered in the flesh to teach us to be better prepared for Heaven.” Then you think if you should die, you would go to Heaven? “I hope so, for I can't suffer this pain always.” Where is Heaven? Do you believe it is a place? “No.” Then what is it? “It is a state of mind.” Then you are not very near it I should judge by your mind. “Well, I don't know as that has anything to do with my pains.” What is pain? “I don't know what it is but I know how it feels.” How do you know it? “I know it through my senses.” Are not your senses affected by your mind? “I suppose so.” Then if your mind is affected, you know it through your senses? “Yes.” Then if your mind is disturbed and you put a false construction on the disturbance, will it not produce an unpleasant effect upon the senses? “I suppose so.” Suppose this unpleasant effect should be pain, is it not the effect produced on the mind? “I don't know what that has to do with my lameness. I want to get well.” Who wants to get well? “I.” That is you, Mrs. H. ______

“Yes.” Then that which wants to get well is that which suffers? “Yes. “Is not that all there is of you which has any mind or knowledge? “Yes.” You don't expect this flesh and blood to go to Heaven? “No.” Why not? “Because the Bible says flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.” I thought you just said that Heaven was a state of mind. “So I did.” Do you mean that flesh and blood are in the mind? “Oh! You make me so nervous you will kill me.” Why? “Because I don't like to hear you talk so. My mind is made up and I don't like to be disturbed in this way.” Do you mean your flesh and blood are disturbed? “You disturb my mind and body.” Then your mind is one thing and your body another. You believe in the soul? “Yes.” You believe it goes to Heaven when you die? “Yes.” I thought you said that Heaven is a state of mind. “Oh, yes. But we must die.” What does? “This flesh and blood.” Has it life? “Yes.” Has it feeling? “You would think so if you suffered as much as I do.” Then this that suffers is the flesh and blood? “Yes.” Then it is conscious of all these bad feelings? “Yes.” Are the feelings its consciousness or has it another consciousness independent of itself? “No.” Then at death you mean that all these aches and pains leave you and you will be happy? “Yes.” Then these aches and pains are the body's identity and belong to the flesh and blood? “Yes.” And you say they can't go to Heaven, that is, they can't be in a happy state of mind? “Yes.” Can two states of mind exist together? “No.” Are you happy when you feel so bad? “No.” Then you are not in Heaven. “I don't expect to be happy till I get to Heaven.” Can you get there and have these pains? “No.” Then when these pains leave you it will be Heaven on earth? “Oh, yes! If that ever takes place.”

Now let us see where you stand. You have admitted enough to show that your mind is in a confused state like a person in trouble. You have not one particle of true knowledge. All your supposed knowledge is the effect of an impression on the senses without any wisdom. What takes the place of knowledge is the opinion of someone who explains some person's ideas according to his own ideas of truth; taking this for truth makes you nervous and brings about all your suffering. You are afraid of your enemies and pray to that very God who you admit keeps you in misery. You are taught to believe that God is watching all your actions and that He has laid down certain laws and regulations for you to follow, and, if you disobey, you will be punished. This keeps you in bondage and all your life subject to disease. Now to suppose that God selects you to be punished above all your companions is to believe that God is partial. This you cannot believe.

Now look at those who worship God; they have a false idea of the God they worship. God is not in any kind of worship that man has established. God is not an identity as man is. If He was then He would be matter, so all their prayers are in matter and all they are afraid of contains matter. This false idea keeps man in the dark. You never see a man praying to the fire that warms him nor does he pray to the elements; but his prayer is how he can understand them so as to keep them under his control. How is it with steam? Is not the person who knows the most about steam the best person to control it and does not everyone have more confidence in such a person than in one who is ignorant of it? So it is with all the elements. Man differs in one respect from living matter. The beasts and all God's creatures, except man, have never undertaken to control the elements so as to make them subservient to their will. This is where man commences his wisdom over all the rest of creation; he is so constructed that he is not happy or contented to live like the brutes and let the elements alone, but seeks to subject not only the brute creation but these also to his will. It is true there are some of the human species a little above the brutes and they are the class who never see anything outside of themselves. They sometimes show a kind of intelligence but it is like that of the monkey or parrot, all imitation. They show no power or desire to control the elements but are satisfied with carrying out the ideas of some long established authority. This they do with as much zeal as the brutes, mistaking zeal for knowledge, and set up their standards of judgment based on an opinion. This they take for the truth, from the fact that they cannot discriminate between an opinion based on another's opinion and one based on science. For instance, we often hear persons talking about the laws of nature as though they were the laws of God. They say that if we did not disobey them all would go right. Now here is the mistake. The laws of nature are very simple of themselves and they never trouble man if he does not trouble them. The beasts conform to these laws, for when they are thirsty, they find the law which quenches their thirst; when hungry, the same intelligence dictates the remedy. But man, in his eagerness to be lord over the brutes and elements, has developed the law of life which puts him in possession of certain faculties called senses. These are under a superior wisdom which can control the elements and use them for the benefit of the human race. Now, it is not to be expected that every person who happens to think of flying can make a flying machine that will be successful. Nor is it certain that any invention to control the elements will always work so that accidents, as they are called, will not take place and lives lost and much trouble made before the law or science is established. So it is with life. Life is a science that is little understood. The brutes have never shown any desire to investigate this science. Man is the only one that has ever undertaken it and now let us see how far he has progressed.

It is a fact that man's life is shortened by the theory of his own belief, for his belief is his practice and the length of his life is in his belief or theory. Everyone has his theory in regard to the lengthening of life but all admit that it must end, that it is set in motion and it may run some time or not. Some think that life is a perpetual machine which never was set in motion and never can stop. This life is the great problem to solve, and to save it from being lost, theories are invented for the benefit of man to save his life. He is given all the knowledge of every danger he is liable to pass through and warned against them. These call out all the science and skill of the world to put man in possession of a science to save his life just as though his life was something independent of himself. This makes competition and there is no science which teaches that life is eternal and that the discoveries of man go to destroy the happiness of life itself. Life cannot be destroyed but error can keep life in trouble.

A science which established life as an eternal principle is not for itself but for the happiness of mankind. In error there is continual warfare—one party or sect invents all sorts of bugbears to frighten man so as to get a chance to save something called life. So man is told if he does not believe just so, he will lose his life. Another who has made the elements his study and endeavored to control them finds that they are a great enemy to mankind and it is necessary for the preservation of human life that the people should know how to control them. And in order to give man this knowledge it requires that there should be a certain class of people who devote their time to it, who can show by their theory that life is in the knowledge of their practice or science. For instance, they show for one fact that fire will burn you to death and this ends your life according to their belief or theory; but you may be nearly scalded to death and then there is a chance for the science to save your life. This requires all their science. Experiments are tried and facts set down by persons trying them, and when a new phenomenon is produced, that is set down as a scientific fact. Thus the world has been humbugged by these blind guides leading the blind till their theory of opinions, like the locusts of Egypt, are in everything we eat or drink or wear. You cannot do anything but there is a penalty attached. If you go out of doors, you are liable to take cold. In short, all evils called disease are the inventions of man and they are as real as his life for they have complete power over it and we are afraid of them because they can destroy our lives. Now here is the trouble. Error has taken life as a thing that can be destroyed. Truth makes error matter that can be changed into any form or shape, and error is the servant to life or truth but error supposes it is the master and thinks that life or truth is the servant. So when the servant is above the master then error and superstition reign. But when the truth comes, error dies and as truth never makes war, it sits and sees error destroy itself.

I will try to separate these two powers, as far as disease goes, so that you can see to which of these elements you are subject. As matter is under the direction of life, it is its servant, and as life does not act, it is like a lord who has servants and gives his vineyard to man for their happiness. If the overseer gives to the servants false directions, disease is the result and confusion and unhappiness reign. But the disease or result is in the direction and not in the effect. Error puts disease in the result but the lord (of the vineyard) puts it in the direction. Therefore, when he comes to settle with his servants and finds that the overseer is ignorant of what he is about, he turns out that overseer and lets his vineyard to some other who will do better. So it is with our health. Health and happiness are a result of our acts and belief. They are under error or truth and all the misery that follows our belief is the natural consequence of our opinions. To suppose that we could be happy in a belief that puts restrictions on us is an error, for it is impossible for us to feel pain without knowing it. And to know the cause and know that it is from an intelligence that has the power to stop it if He pleases and will not (giving no reason, only what we may conjure up) is to believe that God is worse than we are ourselves. All of these errors arise from a superstitious mind, not daring to think or not having capacity to think, which lives in an error and is all his life subject to disease for the sake of his belief. Now God is not in this belief at all. He is in that truth that destroys this belief. I will make an illustration showing where error is, also where God is. Take the fire. The child is burned and is afraid of the fire and looks upon it as its enemy. Science sees the child's error and that its knowledge is error. The child tries to get rid of its enemy, supposing it will harm it. Its true knowledge will correct the child and then the wisdom of this world becomes subject to truth or science. So it is with all true knowledge. There is no true knowledge in an opinion and, as the most of our knowledge is made up of opinions, we are to ourselves just what we think we are.

Religions and medical opinions are the worst enemies that man has to contend with and they make him nervous. This leads to all sorts of dissipation to drown sorrow. Our lives are like a journey through a wilderness: we first take the priests' opinion, that is to trust in God. When we ask for an explanation of God we are told that He knows all things and not a hair of our head falls to the ground without His knowledge; that if we look to them they will deliver us out of all danger and that He takes better care of us than a parent does of his child. This is a brief sketch of God's goodness. Now suppose that we should not do quite as well as we expect, what follows? God has made a devil or something worse that stands ready to catch us if we don't do just according to His will or laws. These laws are not definite but are like the laws of the United States that every President can construe according to his belief. The laws of God, made by man, are arbitrary though not acknowledged as such. Jesus said, “Call no man master, but one, that is God.” Here you see you have made a God that is full of inconsistencies and cannot stand the test of common reason. Now look at the true scientific answer to all our beliefs and it shows us that they contain no knowledge of God or life, for God is life eternal and this life was in his son, Jesus, which was Christ or Science. Now to suppose you lose your life is to be cut off from God, for God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.

Man's belief in religion and disease is all founded on the opinion that man must die or lose his life; therefore, we are called upon to do something to save it. This keeps man in ignorance of himself or life and all the time troubled from fear of death. Now destroy man's belief and introduce God's truth and then we are set free from this world of error and introduced into the world of light or science where there is no death but the living God or science. This science will lead us along to that happy state where there is no sickness or sorrow or grief, where all tears are wiped away from our eyes, there to be in the presence of this great truth that will watch us and hold us in the hollow of its hand and will be to us a light that will open our eyes. We shall not then be deceived by the blind guides who say, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace. Then we shall call no one master or leader for there is only one that leads us and that is God. He puts no restrictions upon us for our lives are in His hands or science, but our happiness or misery is in our belief. For our belief is what follows a direction. So if we are misdirected and disease or misery is the result, blame not God, or the result, but blame the cause or false direction. We, through our ignorance, put God into the false direction but not into the effect. But there can be no effect without a cause; therefore God or the cause is in the effect; so is the devil or ignorance in the cause and effect. Now to suppose that God is in the devil or error is to put God on a level with the errors of this world.

I will give an illustration of these two powers. Man has no idea of God but error pretends to know all about Him. Error says that all the hairs of our head are numbered and not one hair falls to the ground unnoticed by Him. Now what would be the most liberal construction that a child would have of God as far as His knowledge over us is concerned? For the Bible says, “Except you become as a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Would it not be that God has eyes as the child has and is watching us and if a hair should fall He sees it? We are taught by this same error that God is watching all our acts and if we should happen to do something that is not in accordance with some person's opinion then we have disobeyed His will, are liable to be punished and thank the Lord for it.

Now I will give the scientific man's opinion of God. All laws are a part of God and intelligence is in them so that every act of our lives shows of which power we are the servant. These laws govern the beast and all living creatures and the knowledge is in the law. If the beast wants food, the desire contains the knowledge and direction how to get it and, if no obstruction is put in the way, he will have his prayer answered. So it is with all God's laws. The law of gravitation or attraction contains the cause and effect. So if there is no obstacle in the way, it will come according to those laws. This is God and to suppose God is in the effect of error is not the case. Now you see that to know what will be the result of every act is to see and know its cause and effect. Now as a hair is governed by the law of attraction, which is knowledge, and this knowledge is in the law, when it falls to the ground it must fall with the knowledge of the law which is God. Suppose you let a one pound weight of lead fall to the ground and a piece of cork at the same time. Is not your knowledge of attraction in the cork and lead to know the difference in the time? So it cannot fall without the knowledge of the law that governs it and this is God. But to have a God with eyes and ears and every faculty that man has is to have a being of flesh and blood. Now if you see God in your knowledge, you will admit that everything you do intelligently you do under the direction of a power or intelligence superior to yourself. So when you do anything ignorantly and the effect is bad, giving you trouble, you try to correct your errors thereby showing that you admit a power superior to yourself. This power is called Christ or God and, if you have not the power or Christ, you are not of Him. To know God is to know ourselves and to know ourselves is to know the difference between science and error. Error is of man and truth is of God and as truth is not in the cause of the disease, it is not in the effect; but as error is the cause of disease, it is in the effect. Therefore, to say we are happy when in disease is to admit that we have no disease, for disease is the error and the effect. Now as opinions contain either truth or error, not known, we are affected by the effect when it comes to the light of science and then the happiness or misery follows. This is called by the doctors, disease, and they treat the effect denying the cause or letting it go as though it was of no account.

Here is the difference. I put the disease in the direction and then I know what will be the effect. The doctors and ministers do the same, but being ignorant of their power, they mislead the patient and the result is just what science would have known and counteracted. For instance, I believe in disease and all I do is to prove it. Now if I had no belief and had the truth, this truth could not make disease but it could destroy it. Our belief is formed of matter that can be destroyed and our happiness is the result of correcting our impressions when first made; our error is the ignorance of these impressions. The opinions of the world and the error of ourselves are the cause of our trouble and the destruction of our opinions, whatever they may be, leaves us better. Suppose you were afraid of some person and you dare not stir lest he should kill you; do you think that you would be any worse off to know that he was your friend and felt unhappy to know that you had such an opinion of him? So it is in every act of our lives. The knowledge of ourselves never harmed us. Disease is not in knowledge but in ignorance. For instance, the fear of any trouble is the disease. Then you will say that you had no fear, so that cannot be true; but you misunderstand the idea. Go with me back to the time of the persecution of the church and the Salem witchcraft. The people believed in evil spirits and witches and considered it wrong to have anything to do with them. Here you see the disease in the people's belief and their belief was put in practice for the safety of mankind. Therefore every invention of their belief was called out to get rid of an evil that was tormenting man. Here you see the belief was one thing and the evil another and so it is in everything.

The wisdom of this world sees the mind one thing and disease another and reasons by saying the pain came before I had any thought about it and I had no mind about it. Take the man with the wooden leg. When this wooden leg itches, does it itch, or is it in his mind? No one would say that it was the leg that itched. So it is with all our troubles. That peculiar feeling was a state of mind which he called itching. If his leg felt cold, it was not the leg but the mind, and each sensation is only another combined state of mind or matter. This mind or matter is not understood, so the power that governs it puts intelligence in the wooden leg and makes the leg intelligent and itself intelligent. That makes two intelligences: one, the leg, and the owner, the other. But the wisdom of truth puts the knowledge in the owner and the effect in the leg. At first some sensation was made in the mind; ignorance and superstition gave it a false construction and lo! error formed the idea of white swelling on the knee. Thus the trouble of the mind was located in the knee and showed itself in that form. Now mind being a part of the man, when the limb was cut off, it might or might not have changed that peculiar state of mind. So it is with rheumatic pains. The state of mind or disease is admitted to have an existence in the minds of men as much as evil spirits and we are affected by our belief.

If anything disturbs our happiness, we fly to someone for protection and in our trouble we create some form of something in the mind and locate it in some place in the body. We suffer ourselves to be tormented to get rid of the enemy or disease just as those who believe themselves bewitched would suffer being whipped to drive out the devils. So do persons of this age suffer themselves to be tormented by the doctors to get rid of some enemy that the same doctor has made by his ignorance and treated in some part of the system.

I could name hundreds of cases where persons have called in physicians, and between them both have made an enemy and the patient suffered himself to be poulticed and blistered almost to death to get rid of the bronchitis or spinal disease or white swelling or some other devil supposed to have an existence independent of the mind. The doctors who use these means show just about as much knowledge as the persons did in Connecticut who beat the beer barrel if it worked on Sunday. It is the relic of heathen superstition that wisdom will sometime eradicate from the mind by explaining facts on scientific principles. Till then, the knife and lancet and calomel and all such things that are only introduced by a show of truth, not much in advance of nailing a horseshoe on the door or sleeping with a Bible under you to keep the witches off, must govern the world. Jesus knew that all the above beliefs were founded on ignorance; therefore he was not afraid of these beliefs and said these words, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” This is the meaning. I know all this is false, that it is in your minds, so I am not afraid to lay down my life or put it in jeopardy for the sick so I can explain to them or lead them to health. You may say we must have physicians. I answer, “Have I not been with you in your trouble and relieved you without tormenting you?” For twenty years I have never said one word to a patient which, if he believed, would make him worse or cause him one moment's pain or misery. I have never tormented a patient by making a disease by which he would suffer to be burdened with caustic, blistered and at last lose his limbs in order to be rid of an evil that I have made. If the people would serve the doctors as they did those who accused another of bewitching them, it would put a stop to a great deal of evil. If a doctor tells a patient that he has a disease (which, if he believes, he is worse off), punish the doctor and they would soon learn to keep their tongues from speaking lies and learn to tell the truth or say nothing. I have tried it and seen the effect and know that the principle is right—never to say to a person anything that will, if believed, make him the least disappointed or grieved. If you cannot leave a happy impression, do not leave a bad one. This cannot be done under the old system as it kills the practice. Therefore, reform is necessary.

June 1860

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