SCEPTIC.INFO Free your mind - question!
SCEPTIC.INFO Free your mind - question!
MIRACLES DO NOT HAPPEN
When you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth - Sherlock Holmes.
My comment: if miracles are possible then nothing is impossible...
Miracles – meaning divine acts which alter/suspend the laws of nature – are impossible. Another way to state this is to say that miracles are actions of creation performed by God that nature cannot do. A miracle is what is not naturally possible. It is a supernatural occurrence. It is paranormal.
Is a miracle a case of say where God creates gravity and then has to break this law to get a brick to float? That would be God being against God and being stupid. Believers say that if a brick floats in mid-air then God is not defying gravity but suspending it. Some say that "Suspending it means not that gravity is in this case not in effect but that it is. The gravity is still there but the brick floats. So miracles do nothing to undermine God's respect for his own laws." But they do undermine it! Believers do not want miracles to come across as magic which is why they say gravity is still there but the brick is not affected by it. It looks like they are not saying nature has supernaturally changed. But gravity going away so the brick can float is as much magic as the gravity being there and the brick floating. In fact the brick floating when gravity is still in force is the biggest magic!
It seems humble to say: “We will not be arrogant and say that we know for sure that such events have never happened. We don’t know it all.”
It is arrogant to say miracles happened unless you know for sure.
It is arrogant to say miracles have not happened unless you know for sure.
It is arrogant to say nobody knows unless you know for sure that nobody knows.
We have to choose the least arrogant. The first two are about you. The last one gets personal. It accuses those who say they know of being liars or mistaken. So it has to be the first or the second. The second is the least arrogant for we all take it for granted that a miracle can never be proven. You don't know if it is a fluke of nature even if you can show it's not a lie or a mistake.
If it is humble to say that then why do miracle believers not practice what they preach? Roman Catholic prelates condemn going to fortune-tellers or mediums saying it is all hocus-pocus. Some say that these people get their abilities from demons who are fabricating miracles. If I can’t say miracles don’t happen then what gives these people the right to say that certain kinds of miracles don’t happen? Catholics won't believe in miracle accounts from religions or ideologies that are contrary to Catholicism.
If I can’t say miracles don’t happen then what give them the right to say miracles do happen? Is it only arrogance when you deny miracles but not when you say they happened? Why assume one and not the other?
Whatever believers in miracles are doing, it is not promoting genuine sincerity and objectivity and humility.
We know we should not believe in miracles. There is no being to do miracles so they do not happen.
A strange event like a wafer bleeding for no reason would be different from a miracle. God would need to be the reason it happens for it to be a miracle. You cannot be sure that a miracle you see really is a miracle.
Some would object that when you throw a ball you are causing a miracle for you are defying the law of gravity (page 57, A Summary of Christian Doctrine). That is wrong for it is because of gravity that you are able to do that. It is because gravity pulls on the ball as it moves through space that it is able to move and eventually it comes down to the ground.
It is said the reason God lets us suffer is because he respects our free will to do good or evil. We don’t have free will when we only think of one thing at a time and cannot know what we are doing the moment we choose to do it. So no magical being would have a reason to appear at Lourdes or to cure a sick person instantly for that would be crazy when all should be blessed with perfect permanent happiness. Showing off would not appeal to a being who can only do it in front of beings that do nothing of their own accord. Why cure one person instead of curing all?
The being would be evil if it did that and was so selective. If an evil miracle being existed it would turn the planet into a Hell that would beat the Hell of the Christians for its cruelty.
If there were a finite being with finite power who could do miracles, that being could enter the timeless state, eternity, in which it could use its power and still have it for there is no change in that state. So, when it uses its power it still has it so it has an infinite supply of power, in effect. It would be as mighty as God. If it is good it would make our lives perfect because we should not be suffering in the absence of free will.
A finite being could enter eternity so that when he uses his power it is still there in eternity where there is no change so it would be potentially infinite so there is no finite god either.
Miracles are disproved by disproving God. God cannot exist for suffering is for nothing because free will is a lie.
The Church errs and/or lies about miracles being signs from God that Christianity is the true faith. There is only one real objection to dismissing miracles as hoaxes and blunders and misunderstandings. The Church says we cannot dismiss miracle reports as mistakes or lies or the meanderings of deranged minds for that would be like saying human testimony is always worthless for if people can’t be relied on in those reports that they can’t be relied on in anything else. And then the Church turns a blind eye to the fact that most miracle reports, for example, alien abductions and ghosts, indicate that miracles are just freak events that happen without a purpose for that denies its dogma that miracles are signs. Reliance on miracles as signs is a sign for only two things: arrogance and deceitfulness. The Church cannot be trusted in verifying miracles. So the Church does not believe the objection herself. Even if miracles happen, we can’t be expected to believe that they happen.
If God was so anxious for us to believe in miracles he would have made sure that a number of witnesses see miracles and all of them miraculously remember what happened exactly. He would make sure that collusion between the witnesses would not be an explanation. God asking us to believe miracles is really just him asking us to trust fallible memories and not miracles.
Hume argued that belief in miracles is illogical full stop - he just said miracles might happen but it is still illogical to believe. He said that sensible belief is based on evidence and the evidence says that the laws of nature do not change or should be assumed not to change so we cannot believe that water can turn into blood or that dead men can rise to life. He saw miracles as an illogical belief. That was why he said that the person who reports miracles may be lying or deluded and that people like fantastic stories and to deceive themselves into believing them. Hume said that all religions claim to have been miraculously revealed and that since every religion can’t be right that the miracles all cancel one another. Even if you amend Hume’s observation to the laws of nature changing extremely rarely it still works against belief in miracles. Then you would say that miracles may happen but you have no reason to think that any of the ones you have heard about really happened and were true miracles.
It is said that Hume did not realise that it could be that a natural law might be found by science not to be so rigid after all so miracles are possible. So if the law is that if you rub mud on your face and make a mess then your inventing a cream that dissolves it is a miracle? Rubbish!
Let's modify his view as follows and let us assume a miracle can be defined as a freak or unknown law of nature. You need scientific evidence which will be found in a lab that a miracle has happened or that a law of nature is not so stable after all. You need that before it would be right to believe in the miracle.
That would be the only way you could harmonise nature and miracle in a logical way. Without proof you are accusing nature of being altered when you are not sure that nature has been changed. He ignores the issue for what to think when one sees a miracle for oneself. Again, miracles never happen in the lab so Hume stands vindicated. Even if natural laws were found to be a bit fluid a miracle is something that nature cannot account for. If fluid natural laws could do what are called miracles they are natural and are not miracles at all. The fluidity of natural law has no relevance to attempts to refute Hume’s stance.
Some say we don’t know that miracles are unlikely. Yes we do. People are most likely to be wrong or lying when they say they saw a brick floating in mid-air. The religionists devoted to miracles are telling us to believe in every miracle story we can’t debunk and that is dangerous. Even if a miracle never happened in the past that does not mean that one is not likely now. But to us, to our minds, it is unlikely for we don’t know all the facts and cannot be expected to know. Our job is not to know what really is likely but our job is to do our best to learn what is likely and we could be wrong but we have to do our best. They falsely accuse us of saying, “Miracles don’t happen for they are impossible or unlikely and they are impossible or unlikely for they don’t happen”. We are saying, “Miracles might happen but we believe that they do not for the evidence is never good enough.” And what is the harm in ruling miracles out when we have the evidence that there is no God? Maybe the evidence really is not good enough. Maybe we are not just is but stating a fact.
Miracles defined as creative acts of God that cannot be attributed to natural causes are totally impossible and beneath the dignity of God. If we define miracles as magic and not necessarily the works of God then we still have no reason to believe in them. Miracles then if anything have led the Church into self-deception and bigotry and lying about the evidence for its claims. It is uttermost blasphemy to call miracles the work of God.
Further Reading ~
A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
OCR Philosophy of Religion for AS and A2, Matthew Taylor, Editor Jon Mayled, Routledge, Oxon, New York, 2007
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997
The Problem of Competing Claims by Richard Carrier
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