Friday, October 07, 2005

Miracles: How do You Explain THAT?

Some Christians say they believe in magic/ jesus/ christianity because they have heard of too many reports of miracles. The same is said by people who believe aliens land in trailer parks, and transparent dead people scare homeowners. There are just "too many of them to discount."

"I heard about such-and-such, and so-and-so, and whatchamacallit! How do you explain that, huh? I gotcha there, you old cynic. HA!"

Of course, to be science-pc, you're supposed to say you don't know, etc, and that all claims should be investigated individually. Which makes the idea of "too many miracles" ridiculous. Each report should be investigated on its own: two or three or four-thousand: it doesn't matter. One at a time.

Not that I seriously care. How about this : There are too many idiots out there to take them seriously. But I joke.
According to The Skeptic's Dictionary, a miracle is

A miracle is "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent" (Hume, 123n). Theologians of the Old & New Testament religions consider only God-willed contravention of the laws of nature to be true miracles. However, they admit others can do and have done things which contravene the laws of nature; such acts are attributed to diabolical powers and are called "false miracles." Many outside of the Biblical based religions believe in the ability to transgress laws of nature through acts of will in consort with paranormal or occult powers. They generally refer to these transgressions not as miracles, but as magick.

OK, so sometimes demons, Satan, or Bad People break the laws of nature, so that's not a miracle. This is getting pretty "Abracadabra" already!

What Could It Be?

From The Skeptic's Dictionary (oh I love thee!)

Collective Hallucination:
A collective hallucination is a sensory hallucination induced by the power of suggestion to a group of people. It generally occurs in heightened emotional situations, especially among the religiously devoted. The expectancy and hope of bearing witness to a miracle, combined with long hours of staring at an object or place, makes certain religious persons susceptible to seeing such things as weeping statues, moving icons and holy portraits, or the Virgin Mary in the clouds.

Churches get seriously weird, if you look at them from the Other Side (of the church door, that is). The music is playing--it gets higher in intensity. The minister is crying. He really Loves Jesus tm . Your arms are up in the air, palms upward, hoping to Receive the Holy Spirit through them. (How Tai Chi of them!) Try doing this for a few minutes, without the Holy Ghost and the music and the wanting to look like you love Jesus more than the lady two pews back whose screaming and laughing and rolling around on the floor, babbling incoherently. See what I mean? They do this same thing in Malaysia and in Voudon and pretty much every other country somewhere.

It's either the Holy Spirit, or a Demon Possession. Depending upon what country you came from and what's on the Church Program, you can probably guess which. The holy spirit love stuff=miracle, the "primitive religion" and scheduled exorcism=demon possession. It also depends upon what kinds of cartoon voices the afflicted/washed-in-blood is skilled in.

What I'm describing is not totally "collective hallucination" to me so much as it is peer pressure. This kind of thing happens in group therapy as well: the group is discussing traumatic situations such as alien abduction or repressed satanic sexual abuse memories. They expect you to deliver. What are you going to do: disappoint your audience? The Vaudeville clowns said it: Everything for the Laugh.

What else?

Pious Fraud
A pious fraud is someone whose fraud is motivated by misguided religious zeal. Examples of pious frauds include Catalina Rivas and other alleged stigmatics such as Padre Pio; Sister Lucia dos Santos, who claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her and two other kids at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917; the creator of the shroud of Turin; psychic 'surgeon' Stephen Turroff, and anyone who has lied about witnessing a miracle.

There are also those motivated by money and attention, of course. Attention is a big one. It sounds better to say to someone "pious fraud" than to say "they're liars." That doesn't stop me, though.

Faith is a non-rational belief in some proposition. A non-rational belief is one which is contrary to the sum of evidence for that belief. A belief is contrary to the sum of evidence for a belief if there is overwhelming evidence against the belief, e.g., that the earth is flat, hollow or is the center of the universe. A belief is also contrary to the sum of evidence if the evidence seems equal both for and against the belief, yet one commits to one of two or more equally supported propositions.

Yep. Miracles are reported by people who simply believe in them already. Stories of miracles are spread by the faithful, just as ridiculous urban legends are spread by the gullible, and those too lazy to check the facts. The believer believes miracles because he thinks that testimony is the same as evidence. Consider what Hume said:

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.

But when you believe the bible simply because it's the bible, that statement amounts to heresy.

Tune into "Miracles" on The Hellbound Alleee show to hear more about this. Then listen on Sunday, October 9, at 2 pm eastern time to discuss Occam's Razor and more, on LIVE with Hellbound Alleee.
Join us in the chatroom during the show or call in at (514)-356-1801 to Montreal, Canada to discuss this with us live.


breakerslion said...

"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."

The irony of that statement has struck me like the burn of 100 year old brandy since the first time that I heard it. Time has not diminished its effect. I am to believe that the testimony of an individual, who belongs to a race that can believe in fairies, saucer people, devils, leprechauns, banshees, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Abominable Snow Man, is somehow unimpeachable.

Aaron Kinney said...

I think its funny how nowadays people count NATURALLY EXPLAINABLE EVENTS that ACTUALLY HAPPENED as miracles.

Like, oh, I dont know... KATRINA??????