The problem with miracles


miracle worker

Let me begin by saying I rarely write about religion; it's such a personal issue and I'm all about live and let live. That said, I happen to be an atheist, so obviously, I'm not inclined to make decisions based on faith. Saying "I believe" just isn't persuasive enough for me. I rely more on scientific evidence, common sense, and logic, even when things around us seem illogical, ambiguous, or mysterious.

I also do not disrespect anyone for their differing beliefs, it's none of my business, unless of course they try to force those beliefs on me, especially by ramming through bad legislation. I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

When strange or inexplicable events occur, I don't attribute them to a god or "the universe" per se, but tend to take a wait-and-see approach to see if there is a plausible way to explain said events. If there is no immediate explanation, I don't insist on one. I'm perfectly willing to give it time and see what develops. I don't look heavenward for answers, I look researchward and factward.

Despite friends and acquaintances trying to convince me otherwise since I was a small child, I've just never been able to believe in a higher power. Even as a teeny tiny kid, none of it appealed or made much sense to me. Again, these are just my personal feelings, and I respect the right of others to think differently. We can agree to disagree.

Which leads me to an op-ed by Lawrence R. Krauss about the existence of miracles and the canonization of Pope John Paul II. The question, in a nutshell, was, do miracles really occur?

An L.A. Times reader wrote a letter to the editor about it, and Krauss responded. I found this last part of his reply fascinating:

If someone were to regenerate an amputated arm or jump off a building and fall up instead of down, that would be worth thinking about. But attributing to divine providence more simple things like being cured of diseases that sometimes go into spontaneous remission is stale and vapid.

In themselves, irrational beliefs are not harmful or bad, I suppose. It doesn't hurt anyone for a person to believe in, say, unicorns. But such beliefs become dangerous when they cause people to behave in self-abusive ways, such as avoiding good medical care in the hopes that a god will cure you. This is a major problem with miracles.

Finally, it is telling that there is no evidence, in all of human history, of a miracle that has been validated by entities that are not affiliated with churches.

Now, if our Congress members actually did a 180 and showed some mutual respect and willingness to work together, if the GOP stopped obstructing, if conservatives agreed that President Obama was born in the United States and not some evil French gay Kenyan commie Marxist fascist drug-addled dictator, if Sarah Palin could speak intelligibly, if the Republican Party actually practiced the outreach they claim to embrace, those would be miracles I could believe in.