• Miracles

    This is the second guest post from Bert Bigelow. Enjoy.

    Most religions are based on stories of miracles. Those miracles are always performed by a supernatural deity. The Bible is absolutely chock-full of miracles, from the immaculate conception and resurrection, to the water-into-wine trick. But the clincher is that huge bunch of miracles listed in the book of Genesis…about the creation of Heaven and Earth and all the living things on it. I can’t even count all the miracles in Genesis. I haven’t checked Guinness, but it must be a world record.

    Religious believers have to believe in miracles. It comes with the territory.

    So, what is a miracle? It’s an event that does not follow the course of nature’s laws of cause and effect. Something happens that cannot be explained by saying, “Well, that happened because….” If you can fill in the blank with some natural process, then it’s not a miracle. But if you can’t, then either it’s a miracle or you aren’t smart enough to understand the cause-effect relationship.

    Sometimes miracles, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder, especially if the beholder is a believer. For instance, let’s say a guy is driving to the airport to go on a business trip, gets stuck in a traffic jam and misses his plane. The plane takes off, crashes, and everybody on board is killed.

    Now a nonbeliever would say, “Whew, dodged a bullet.” Or maybe, “Luck of the draw…” But a believer would say, “Oh, thank you Lord for saving me! It’s a miracle!” If the individual is devout and self-righteous, he might think that he was saved by God because he is a person of very special virtue. The others on the plane apparently didn’t measure up.  I think most believers would not have such an exalted opinion of themselves, and would seek some other explanation.  Some might think that God has a special “plan” for them.

    A believer who has had such an experience would probably think about it often and wonder…what was God’s plan? But as life continues and no special plan is revealed, would it occur to him that maybe it was just random chance and God had absolutely nothing to do with it?

    Nah, probably not, and I will tell you why.

    That speculation about random chance would be a first step on the slippery slope of doubt. Believers of all faiths are carefully conditioned to avoid sliding down that slope, with dire warnings of eternal punishment for sliders.

    If a believer dared to take that first step in spite of the warnings, the next step would be unavoidable: If God didn’t cause that plane crash, maybe He doesn’t control anything that happens on the earth…or to expand it just a little bit…in the Universe. Now, the slope becomes a lot steeper, and as slippery as glare ice. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot stop his continuing slide to the bottom, where he finds a sign that reads:

    WELCOME TO THE LAND OF LOGIC AND REASON.
    THE FACT THAT YOU ARE HERE PROVES THAT YOURS IS WORKING.
    IF GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS ANYWHERE
    THEN EITHER GOD DOES NOT EXIST…OR IS IRRELEVANT.

    And then, he realizes that the slippery slope and the sign are illusions created by the power of his own intellect in its desperate struggle to escape from the prison of his religious faith.

    But, as I said, most believers would be afraid to take that first step.

    [Bert’s original piece can be found on his blog here.]

    Category: NaturalismPhilosophy of Religion

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    Article by: Bert Bigelow

    • The Bible is absolutely chock-full of miracles, from the immaculate conception and resurrection, to the water-into-wine trick.

      The immaculate conception refers to the Virgin Mary’s conception and is not found in the Bible. Presumably you’ve mistaken it with the virginal conception of Jesus Christ.

      • Bert Bigelow

        Wow, I never knew that. I think a lot of people have a misconception about the Immaculate Conception.
        Thanks, Jayman.

        • Geoff Benson

          You need to watch the film Song of Bernadette.

          Personally. I can’t help thinking that the whole thing is up there with Joseph Smith and his Angel Moroni tablets of stone.

          • Bert Bigelow

            Joe was just copying the bible and the tablets handed to Moses.
            Seems like he could have been a little more original in manufacturing his myths.

            • Geoff Benson

              Ha, yes indeed! It’s amazing how most modern, enlightened, Christians readily accept the totally unevidenced Moses story, yet dismiss as ridiculous the Joseph Smith claims for which several (was it around 10?) witnesses came forward.

            • Bert Bigelow

              Christians dismiss the miraculous claims of ALL other religions…as does every religion AFAIK. I think it was Richard Dawkins who pointed out that religious belief inhibits rationality only with regard to one’s own religion. All others are examined in coldly critical detail and ridiculed. He considers it a form of insanity.

    • Andrew Gordon

      Just stumbled upon this. As a “believer” I’d like to offer my thoughts upon this, as I found it very intriguing.

      Your airplane scenario actually made me laugh because it’s very true, at least with modern believers. This is mainly due to the utter selfishness, this preaching that one must “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” (which, if you notice, is not found anywhere in the Bible). I find it flattering, but that’s about it. Just a tug on the heart string. That however, is not my train of thought as a believer.

      However, I couldn’t help but notice that your post seemed to define a miracle as an event that occurs which does not follow the laws of nature. Like the events found in the Bible, yet you chose a modern day “miracle” of a person being late for a plane, and somehow to use that as a means of proving believers are not within reason? A person missing their plane, who’s plane fell out of the sky and crashed, does not work outside the laws of nature. So it’s not a very good example in my opinion.

      Could you offer me an argument using a real miracle that a believer took as a sign from God to prove they’re not using reason? If you can’t think of a proper example of a miracle, I can give you plenty examples.

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