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.]