Monday, June 16, 2014

Miracle Whip

“No miracle has ever taken place under conditions which science can accept.” Renan

On occasion, the believer likes to point toward fulfilled prophecies and/or miracles in their scriptures as evidence for the existence of their god. To these people I have but one thing to say…C'mon! How much of a sucker do you have to be to think that prophecies and miracles aren't just the ravings of madmen? Okay, enough of the ad hominem attack.

Sure, prophecies have come true in the most vague senses of interpretation. Surely miracles happen too, because really there is just no other possible explanation for some events than divine intervention. Riiiiight. When it comes to prophecies and miracles, theists are quite ignorant of the criteria needed to fulfill the definition of these two divine words. And away we go…

Let's start with prophecies. A prophecy is the description of an event that is told will come to pass to fulfill a spiritual message. Now, what kind of criteria must a prophecy stand up to, to prove that it's of supernatural origin and is genuine? First, a prophecy must be clear and give sufficient detail to exclude its fulfillment by otherwise vague events or details. In the NT, the savior's name is Jesus; not Immanuel or Joshua or whomever, as loosely prophesied in the OT. You can't toss around the notion that Jesus is just another name for Immanuel or Joshua after the fact to justify a prophecy coming true. Nor can I predict, "Something bad will happen next Monday." Given that bad things happen everyday, and Mondays are typically the start of the work week, it wouldn't be much of a startling prophecy.

Furthermore, common events are not subject to being called fulfilled prophecies. Anyone can say a city, or any particular city for that matter, will be destroyed. It's guaranteed that at some point (no matter how far into the future) a city will no longer exist. Next, a prophecy cannot be staged or manipulated. Did Jesus really rise from the dead (which by-the-way was never foretold in the OT)? I seem to recall Jesus' followers not recognizing him when he returned from the grave. Maybe he had an impersonator. Maybe he didn't die at all, but was just wounded and then nursed back to health. I'm just brainstorming possibilities here. Finally, a prophecy must be made in advance of the predicted event, obviously. Sadly for the believers, no fulfilled prophecy has ever stood up to the test of these criteria. 

Miracles pretty much suffer the same fate. What is a miracle? A miracle is the supernatural violation of the laws of nature. Some of the previous criteria for testing prophecies apply here. A miracle should be unique and be unable to be staged for the amusement of those who don't know much about how the world works. I might mention then that eyewitness accounts of miracles are not the extraordinary evidence required to believe that a miracle has taken place. Would you believe me if I told you I had tiny people living in my air vents and that they every so often would attack me with laser beams? No, because such things are not consistent with the reality we're all familiar with. Moreover, it cannot be shown that a ‘miracle’ has violated a natural law of the universe when not all the laws of the universe are known (or at least not known how exactly they all work together). Reports of miracles may be chalked up to unknown forces and have nothing to do with a god. It seems it would take a miracle for there to actually be any miracles. 

Now, I do apologize if it appears I’m nit-picking the subject, but we must do so to ensure we’re not being duped. It's not likely that theists can rule out possibilities other than "God did it" in their quest to believe in prophecies and miracles. What with the simple criteria I've advanced here, no prophecy or miracle stands up to the test. It is exceedingly more possible that prophesies and miracles are merely stories meant to be inspirational (though I don’t see how) or influence the actions of the easily manipulated. [Think David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, or Shoko Asahara and the Supreme Truth Movement, or the Heaven’s Gate/ Halle-Bopp suicide cult, or…] Yet theists cling to these stories as some kind of truth like na├»ve little children, afraid of the Big Bad Wolf that is reality. Well, reality is not a Big Bad Wolf, it simply is what it is. In that reality the criteria for validating prophecies and miracles are not satisfied. Such is the legacy of theistic belief. 

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