Miracles?

Yeah, yeah, Brandon made a post with this same title a while back. But mine has a question mark. So it’s different, see? See? Anyway, the subject matter is slightly different and it’s been, like, almost two months. Now that we’ve settled that this is an entirely different post from Brandon’s, we can continue.

What is a miracle?
A miracle is any event that betrays the laws of nature. It is not simply something science has no answer for, but something science and scientific laws explicitly state could not happen. It is a phenomenon which, without “divine guidance,” would otherwise be impossible. A meteor hurtling toward earth and then stopping, abruptly, about a mile before impact is an example of something that betrays the laws of nature and science and could legitimately be called a miracle.

Some people think a miracle is “anything that happens at just the right time when it is not expected.” This is okay, if you’d like to consider every single coincidence or stroke of good fortune a miracle. By that definition, you would say that winning the lottery is a miracle, but it would be one hell of a stretch to call it an act of god, let alone proof for god’s existence.

There are no miracles, ever.
Now that we’ve got that explanation out of the way, I can make my assertion: that there has never in history been such a phenomenon which, by the above definition, would be considered a miracle.

For the record, I should point out again that as an atheist I am prone to disregard the Bible as a factual account of historic events, so using any examples from the Bible would be completely futile. To argue while citing the Bible as proof is to assume the Bible is one hundred percent factual and accurate. That just doesn’t fly with an atheist. To quote Damon Wayons in one of his greatest characters ever, Homey don’t play dat.

Word of mouth also doesn’t count as a legitimate source. If that were the case, I could tell you that I fell from the top of a skyscraper the other day and landed head-first in a garbage bin full of nothing but broken glass and fire ants, yet suffered no injuries whatsoever. And you’d have to believe me. Because you believe personal accounts of miracles.

All that said, you are welcome to provide me with examples of any miracles for which there is not only documentation (from a reputable source) but, ideally, photo and/or video evidence.

Biblical miracles
Even the so-called miracles in the Bible can be more or less explained away by science. It is entirely possible that “back in the day,” natural events happened. God-fearing people did what they did best and feared god. They embellished the natural events in their tales and as they were passed down more and more through the generations, by the time they were written down they had been so embellished they could now be mistaken for miracles.

Look, I realize the Bible is an actual book. It was written by people who believed in the business they were writing down. That doesn’t make it any more accurate, however. While some of the primary parts of the Bible (Jesus, as an example) are clearly sampled from previous religions, I’m sure some parts are simply huge exaggerations of actual events. Fascinating stories require fascinating embellishments in order to be fascinating.

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It’s on you.

I was recently asked what it would take to prove to me once and for all that god exists. I gave my short answer, which is that there really isn’t anything that would quite do it for me. That is to say that there isn’t anything in the human imagination – my imagination, that is – that would prove god exists. Anything I can even dream of could still be explained using natural laws, otherwise it could be discounted as an hallucination.

That’s not entirely true, though. I can think of at least one thing that may do it. If there were some miraculous phenomenon that was witnessed by a sufficient number of people, all at the same time, who could each describe the phenomenon to an equal extent as the next person – that might do it. And by “miraculous” I do mean, of course, something that cannot be explained by natural laws. This would have to be one hell of a show – perhaps a human voice (Jesus?) speaks the exact same words clearly inside the head of every person on earth simultaneously. I would certainly be more prone to believe.

Other than that – some worldwide phenomenon that cannot be explained away by science – I don’t think there is anything that would prove the existence of any of your gods.

But feel free to try. My only request is that you refrain from referring to any of your holy books, as I don’t see that as reasonable evidence for anything. I’ll use the Bible as an example here, since Christianity is the religion I am most familiar with. All the Bible proves is that a couple thousand years ago some guys put pen to paper and made a bunch of stuff up. I’m interested in knowing why you believe the Bible is accurate at all. That may not prove anything to me, but at least it will give me a deeper insight into Christian thinking. I must reiterate, however, that “I believe the Bible is true because I read in the Bible that the Bible is true” tells me nothing other than that you are extremely gullible.

And for the love of your god, don’t tell me to prove god doesn’t exist. You’re the one making a positive assertion – as the title of this article states, it’s on you. It’s on you to back up your statement that god exists. You know as well as I do that I can no more disprove god’s existence than you can disprove the existence of Russell’s Teapot.

I think I’ve said all there is to say without beginning to repeat myself ad nauseum, so I’ll leave you with a quote by Ricky Gervais that pretty much sums everything up nicely:

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”

Read the whole article by Ricky Gervais

Thanks to @JulienLynn on Twitter for the inspiration to write this article.

What if Jesus came back today?

Let’s say a 30-year-old man and a bunch of friends start traveling the country or the world, telling people that he is indeed Jesus Christ, returned to prepare the world for the rapture. His friends insist he really is Jesus – that they’ve seen him perform miracles. Let’s say that when questioned of these miracles and the authenticity of his claims, Jesus Christ proceeds to tell us we must have unquestioning faith in him.

Do we have unquestioning faith in him? Or do we ask him to “prove it” by performing miracles for the rest of us? Let’s say we take the latter option and he agrees to perform a miracle. Dozens of news broadcast stations are alerted to the fact that Jesus himself will be performing a miracle for a crowd of people. Thousands of people show up with video cameras. Then, before our very eyes, Jesus spreads his arms and six dozen doves fly from his open hands.

The crowd is silent. His miracle has just been broadcast live to sixty major news networks worldwide. After the shock of what just happened finally sets in, somebody steps forward from a crowd and asks, “Is that it?”

Shocked, Jesus asks what more he could possibly do to prove he is who he claims to be. In a fit of desperation he reaches behind the doubter’s ear and produces a shiny quarter. “Ta da!” he cries, and takes a bow. Satisfied, the doubter steps back into his place and the crowd explodes with applause.

The man is immediately accepted by all of the world’s Christians as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

That’s how it would happen, right?

Miracles

I was thinking on my drive home about a true story of a man who wrote to Charles Darwin and sent him a beetle with a tiny clam attached to it’s leg.  The beetle arrived alive, but barely, so Darwin put it in a jar with some plants and the fumes gently put out its life.  It’s a really beautiful story on it’s own, but the amazing part is that this man who sent the beetle was just a cobbler and an amateur naturalist, but his grandson was Francis Crick who co-discovered DNA, which backed up Darwin’s theory even further, and continues to prove it over and over again.  That is such an amazing and fun coincidence, and there are so many more in the world every day that are far more unlikely than that.  How amazing that this sort of thing happens all the time!

Then I thought about the fact that christians would say that god did it.  They would probably argue that it practically proves he exists.  But I have to say that it’s far, far more miraculous my  way than it is their way.  My way it’s so incomprehensibly unlikely that it’s moving to imagine the sensation that it must produce in the people involved, and in some cases they can’t know because they’re already dead.  I wish Darwin could have seen such an interesting event, and so it’s moving in a slightly more sad way to think of it like that.   But either way it’s incredible to think about! It’s truly miraculous that these things can happen for no real reason.  To think that god did it is not miraculous.  It’s just a meaningless answer to a beautiful question.  It takes away so much of the symmetry of the truth.  I know that their answer can’t possibly feel as good as my answer because that’s one of the main reasons that I stopped believing in the first place.  It never really seemed like the real miracles in the world get enough credit and the fake ones that they made up were not only lame but also unprovable anthropologically, historically or scientifically.  If any proof that they had actually happened had been found we would have heard about it by now.

My thoughts on  these matters create feelings of true wonder in me, and I appreciate that for what it is chiefly because I know that no god or higher power or intelligence of any kind made it happen.  THAT’S the thing that makes it amazing!  No religion has anything on that.