1: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention -Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Miracles are speed bumps on the fast track of empirically tested facts.
Billions of people in this world are more interested in the fantastic and miraculous claims of religion rather than the rational views of common sense and science. Maybe it’s just more sexy and exciting than their otherwise mundane lives. I’m not going to tell you that I think miracles are impossible. However, up to this point, religions have been unable to produce one. You can write books, preach sermons, recite lengthy and tear-jerking prayers about the miraculous. You can even martyr yourself to your god. But show me an actual miracle. I’ll bet Randi’s million that you can’t do it.
Let’s say I kill a dear with a hunting rifle live on international television and in front of thousands of people at the event. Dozens of scientists are there with high-tech equipment to verify the animal’s death. Once the verification is done and the scientists are satisfied that the dear has indeed died, I raise my hands and shout “RISE!” The dear jumps to its feet and tries to escape. The scientists verify that the animal is authentically alive again. I ask you, what has happened? How did I do it? Even if something like this was to happen (and it hasn’t) what does it mean? The dear’s reanimation is unexplained in our current understanding of nature.
Quantum physics, to a large degree, is still unexplained. Does that mean it is miraculous? Much of the universe is unexplained, is that miraculous too? When we are hard pressed for an empirical explanation, do we simply say that it is God doing a miracle? When something anomalous occurs, do we jump up and shout that a miracle has happened? Many people in history and to this day do just that. Unexplained events do not prove or disprove the existence of God or miracles. The existence of God is a miracle by definition. I will say right now that if something happens within nature then it is not super nature. Rather, it is natural. Though its cause may be unexplained to humans, it has still occurred within nature itself. Until we can demonstrate otherwise, we are foolish to simply “believe” that a miracle has occurred. In some distant future a scientist with more I.Q. than personality will probably explain it in scientific terms.
What is supernatural? Super nature is a belief; it is insoluble. To say that something is supernatural is to say that it is other than nature. What is that? Close your eyes and imagine what that would be. You would have to use natural shapes and forms in order to even imagine it! All those imaginations live right there in your mind, within nature. Do you see that this is what humans have been doing for millennia? When something good, bad, or unexplained occurs, the “gods” are said to be responsible. When you get a raise at work, god must be pleased with you; when you see something in the corner of your eye, a ghost must be in the room, etc. Therefore, when people tell me that they are “spiritual” I am prone to think of them as naïve or just kidding themselves. If it happens in nature, it is not supernatural, it is natural. It is not paranormal, it is normal.
Many believers simply assume that miracles are real though no one can actually perform one. These believers even believe the testimony of other believers who say that they witnessed a miracle. David Hume (1711-1776), the great Scottish philosopher, wrote a maxim on miracles:
“The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish. When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”
Professional magicians have been entertaining and fooling people for millennia. “Evangelists” perform alleged miracles on large stages quite often. Is it real? Not any more than the magic performed by magicians in Las Vegas! Please remember to apply reason and common sense even when you are “wishing” something is real. What is more probable, an actual miracle or a parlor trick illusion? Parlor tricks are performed all the time. Magic has nothing to do with “spiritual” activity; it is simply illusion. People, on the other hand, love to believe that magic is real and miraculous. Belief is often thought to be noble. Why then, does so much destruction and drivel come from it?
Have you ever noticed that the legendary miracles are far and away in another time and place? They are never for the present time; never…ever. Religions claim that the heroic miracles happened somewhere else in a special time in history (in a galaxy far, far away). However, the laws of nature were no different in biblical times. During the time of King David, for example, the people were told of the fantastic creation and flood stories from way before in the time of Genesis. David’s people saw no more miracles than you or I have seen in this life. Religious people who are alive in the flesh never actually see the miracles; they are told that it happened a long time ago! It is promised that those miraculous times will happen again in the future; probably after you’re dead! Get it? The miracles draw people and suck them in. Christians are seduced into believing miracles like that of Noah, which contradicts history, physics, and common sense. Believers are told that the sinners in Noah’s day refused to believe that Noah was preaching the truth. Because they disbelieved God’s miraculous word commanding repentance, they were judged in the flood waters. This, Christians believe, is the sign of Noah pointing to Christ. The believers so hope that these miracles exist that they will bet their own lives on it. I am constantly astonished at how people who claim to love God completely ignore reality in exchange for a fantasy. You would think it would be the other way around; that God’s people would forsake the ridiculous claims as an insult to the God of truth and order.
If psychic powers and miracles were real, why don’t theses so-called mystics win the lottery? As seen on television, they indeed love to make money but those lottery numbers seem to evade them every time! Why don’t they cure cancer? It is because they are charlatans who deceive others in order to make money, that’s why.
To subscribe to the notion that divine miracles exist is to presume that a god or gods exist. That is because miracles are assumed by theists to be events that intervene nature by force of a divine being. If you are trying to prove to a nonbeliever that your god exists via the testimony of miracles then you are utilizing a circular argument and will get you nowhere. That’s because miracles are intelligible to those who deny gods to be real. Only those who are primed for theism will be fodder for your brand of theistic explanation and conversion.
If something occurs then it occurs within the natural parameters of the universe. Something unsolved, like cancer, does not imply the absurd notion that it is a divine curse (as some fundamentalists claim). It is simply a disease that humans have yet to cure. If it happens, whatever it may be, it happens within nature and is therefore a natural phenomenon.
God, gods, or other so-called divine beings are unknowable, unverified, and unproven. As we will examine in the next chapter, humans simply do not have evidence or even a natural reference for a being that exists outside or beyond this universe. An explanation is by necessity a natural reference. Therefore, any attempt to explain (or even describe) an unexplained topic using unknowable information is worthless. To call an event a miracle solves, explains, and proves nothing. To insert your god or spiritual entity as the cause of an unexplained effect is meaningless. You put the hearer of your thesis back to square one on her journey to knowledge.
The real argument here is not between supernatural divine explanations and natural non-divine ones. As George H. Smith put it “The controversy between naturalism and supernaturalism is not a contest between two rival modes of explanation; it is not a matter of which provides a better explanation. Rather, it is an issue of explanation verses no explanation whatsoever. It is an issue of the knowable verses the unknowable.” George H. Smith, Atheism, The Case Against God, p. 213
More interesting (and telling), people who are on the positive reception of a unusual event and then attribute it to miracle easily lose sight of the people who are the losers. For instance, a single survivor of a train accident calls it a miracle. What about the dead passengers? George H. Smith, Atheism, The Case Against God, p. 213-214 No miracle there, just good old natural mathematics doing their job: speed, force, impact, etc.
Jesus is said to have committed many miracles. But those who originally made those claims lived many years after Jesus allegedly lived. Mark is the oldest of the traditional Gospel manuscripts but is still dated years after Jesus’ death. Because the “story” of Jesus substantially progressed from the first to the forth centuries, many of the details were most likely added much later. Mark 6:5-6 says that when Jesus was in his native country “he could do no mighty work there…because of their unbelief .” Think on that for a moment. Later Bible writers could and most probably did insert lack of belief to explain why Jesus was not able to do miracles around people who actually knew him. If Jesus actually did live, then people who knew him all most of life were the ones who knew him best; if they denied that he could do miracles then a built-in safe guard was later designed: only those with faith can witness Jesus’ miracles.
Another clue is the fact that the Bible has Jesus telling people not to mention his miracles. Mark 1:43-44 states, “After he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone.’” (Mark 1:43-44) Why? Smith continues:
Once again, if rumors of miraculous power circulated about Jesus after his death, and if people complained that they were unaware of this power while Jesus was alive, here was an explanation: the miracles were unknown simply because Jesus had commanded silence. George H. Smith, Atheism, The Case Against God, p. 215
This was a clever explanation that pandered to the naïve as to why people of Jesus’ time had never before heard of his miracles. This is the deceitful dance of the clergy through the ages. The entire premise of Christianity is based on a phantom god doing miraculous things. These are simply stories told by humans. Likewise, The Wizard of Oz was just a little mortal man behind a curtain. To manufacture miracles is a tiresome venture; to keep them propped up is doubly so.
Please remember that even if the Bible didn’t have contradictions and we could actually verify who all the authors were, that still doesn’t prove that the testimony is accurate concerning miracles and other fantastic claims. Just because you verify where mount Olympus is doesn’t prove that Zeus was a god. Likewise, Mount Sinai’s geographic verification doesn’t prove that Moses talked with God there.
I shall leave miracles with a quote from one of my favorite American heroes, Thomas Paine:
If…we see an account given of such miracle by the person who said he saw it, it raises a question in the mind very easily decided, which is, is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen in our time, nature go out of her course; but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie. -Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, Part 1, pp. 63-64