August 31, 2009

On Miracles

Meissner effect: levitation of a magnet above ...Image via Wikipedia

If there was unambiguous evidence to support the existence of gods, religious believers would have little need for either faith or for so-called miracles. If gods were in the business of revealing themselves to all of humanity, which we have to assume they could do if they so desired, worship would look very different than it does today. There would be no religious faith. In its place would be the feelings of awe, devotion, and respect, with which we are all familiar. While it is conceivable that some would willingly choose to oppose these gods, they would do so with full awareness of the considerable risk their actions involved.

Of course, I have described a set of circumstances very different from those in which we now find ourselves. There is no evidence for the existence of any gods, and this leads believers to the refuge of faith, a refuge they have managed to mold into a virtue. And one of the beams supporting the structure of their faith is belief in miracles.

Most religious believers will readily admit that they have not personally witnessed a miracle, but they will profess belief in the accounts provided by others. A subset of believers appear to be so desperate to find the miraculous in their own empty lives that they will take virtually anything they can find as a sign of the divine.

Hokum-Balderdash Assay brings us the following brilliant synopsis of how believers cling to medical miracles:
I'm really so hungry for signs. So without even having the foggiest idea of the thousands of medical events occurring daily worldwide, I find this one--in my medical and scientific ignorance--to be extraordinary and see it as a miracle--a supernaturally caused event. Forget the fact that this medical event is (merely) a statistical outlier (occurring at the tail end of the bell curve--the positive end of course, not the negative). And perish the thought that I'm calling this a miracle not because there is evidence for the supernatural but because I am--in my breathtaking ignorance again of course--at a loss for the real explanation. No one else seems to know or wants to provide a natural explanation, therefore, in unabashed hubris I declare that I do know and that it was caused by G, and mind you not just any G, but my G. It is a miracle because I want to believe it is and I say it is...
It seems to me that believers cling to miracles in a desperate attempt to defend that which is indefensible. Or perhaps they simply find life without miracles so intolerable that they must craft an altered reality in which to dwell.

For more on the subject of miracles, see:
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