If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone
Miracle Believers are Bigoted
Miracles are supernatural events. Strange things happen naturally but they are not miracles. A miracle is what is not naturally possible. It is a supernatural occurrence. It is paranormal.
Miracles encourage the belief that unbelievers in miracles are narrow minded and therefore not to be trusted. Belief in miracles encourages this hurtful and sectarian attitude.
Reasonable people think that as long as you take care to do good and make sure it really is good, miracles are irrelevant. But religion makes it an obligation to think they are true!
Believers in miracles say that the unbelievers argue that the mere fact that something is supernatural proves that it must be a hoax or there has been some mistake. This is really saying, "The unbelievers will not believe even in an obvious and undeniable miracle. They still hope a hoax or an error is making it look supernatural."
That's a straw man approach. There has never been an unbeliever in that situation. There is always some room for doubt in miracle stories. For example, no Christian scholar however fundamentalist claims that there is absolute proof that Jesus rose again from the dead. The unbeliever knows fine well that a supernatural claim may be a hoax or a mistake. He does not say the mere fact that it seems supernatural proves it did not happen. The believer and unbeliever both know that absolute proof or disproof does not exist.
It is the believers who are biased and not to be trusted.
There is absolutely nothing biased or unfair about somebody saying, "I hear a miracle happened. It may be a hoax or some mistake has been made." Even the believers have to agree with that. Their belief is not absolute certainty. The sceptic simply avoids making a further assumption. The believer makes the assumption that the report is true. The sceptic keeps to the truth - it cannot be proven. This is not enough for the believer.
The believers say that God must take supreme importance in the world and in your life. Even when they support secularism, they teach that it is only acceptable in the sense that God gave the state a separate job to do from the Church. So even their secularism is religious at least in intention. (It is saying, "We believers support the separation of Church and state on religious grounds and because God asks for it. If our religion tells us different or if God tells us different we will oppose this separation. We only accept because we think God wants us to. If we are wrong we will change our minds." Their secularism only looks like secularism - it is not secularism. Their secularism contradicts and therefore opposes true secularism.) If the God belief is so important and so good, it follows that if God does not exist the belief that he exists must be maintained. It is good whether there is a God or not. It follows then that we must not trust believers but check out their claims and then decide if we should trust what they say. If we are committed to secularism, miracles give us grounds for worry.
All people believe in hating at least some evil deeds. The bank robber to be will get a lot of condemnation and social and moralistic pressure will be applied so that he will not rob. The Christian is supposed to hate sin. The Christian believes that sin is not just intentional sin. You commit unintentional sin too. The latter makes you a bad person but not a deliberately bad one. You don't deserve punishment but merely opposition. The Christian is obligated to believe in the miracles of the Bible on pain of sin. The Bible God says he imposes obligations on us to believe in his miraculous revelations and miraculous deeds. This is nothing more than bullying. Miracles sanction the notion that people should be bullied to accept them or at least not criticise them. The hatred vented by believers at those who examine miracles and the Bible and come to a sceptical conclusion proves how successful this evil has been. There mere fact that miracles imply that such behaviour must be applauded is enough to condemn them. There is too much error and evildoing to hate without miracles adding to it.
The believers say that saying a miracle must have been a hoax or some error took place making it seem to be a miracle is unfair. It can only be unfair if it is saying something is the case without even looking at the evidence that it is the case. That is what we must keep in mind. That is what we unbelievers in miracles or sceptics are being accused of. That is what the accusers mean when they say we are dogmatically opposed to miracles and refusing to take the chance to see where the data leads. They want to prejudice their followers against sceptics who have been honest.
It is said that if you are fair you will insist that that an alleged miracle might be supernatural or it might not be. You will be open to what the evidence says about it. You will not eliminate the supernatural unless you have evidence that it didn't occur or see no reason to assert that it occurred. But that is scepticism so why does religion supplant scepticism and put dogmatism in its place?
Even if you admit miracles are possible, you have to exclude miracles from any methodology for investigating alleged supernatural occurrences. Suppose you discovered a something that seemed to contradict the laws of mathematics. You have to ignore it if you cannot solve the apparent contradiction. Why? Because to admit it is to say the laws are wrong and need to be discarded. It is the same with belief in miracles.
Religionists do not in principle agree with promoting or even investigating absurd miracles. For example, they would all agree that some visionary who got a message from God that the local doctor had been kidnapped by demons and replaced with the Devil looking like him should be sent to the funny farm. They only agree with miracles that suit what they want to believe. This is far more narrow-minded than scepticism which doubts all miracle claims. Why? The person who only thinks about the evidence he or she wants to see is being narrow-minded. A sceptic can see the evidence for miracles and admit that it is evidence but still say that he wants to wait for more evidence. This is not narrow-mindedness. How much evidence you need is a matter of personal preference or based on your experience of working through evidence in the past. That is because if we take something as true on evidence, we have to admit that there could be evidence that we don't know of or haven't found yet that can turn this evidence on its head. The more you learn the more you should change your mind. What you are certain of today you can be uncertain of tomorrow and vice versa.
The Virgin Mary appearing at Lourdes to say a few words that were nothing special through Bernadette is a silly miracle. Yet it is accepted by the Catholic Church as a real miracle.
Better to doubt all miracle claims than to believe in any miracle claims. It is even better to doubt all miracle claims than to believe in all of them.
Unbelievers in the supernatural dismiss such ideas as magic and miracles and the afterlife. You don't see atheist suicide bombers going about to take innocent people with them to the grave for not accepting atheism. You do see some religious believers becoming murderers of people whose only crime is to have a different religious belief to theirs. Its more noble to be an atheist. Even if we atheists do cause trouble, is it not better to put up with us and encourage us than to encourage religion that makes people feel happy about blowing themselves up to kill people so that they will end up in Heaven? The atheist is unable to develop a compulsion to become a suicide bomber on religious grounds, thus its safer to have atheists around generally speaking!
Believers say that unbelievers and atheists will become totally antisocial and be no better than untamed animals. This ignorance contradicts the fact that human nature is not generally like that - even the most bigoted atheist needs to be kind to other people. Notorious bigots such as Ian Paisley are affable in person. Miracles imply that it is not enough for our goodness to flow from our nature as social animals. Most religious people do not bother going through their holy books or looking for direction or orders from their leaders when they are faced with a complicated moral dilemma. They just make up their own minds. So they are not so religious after all.
Miracles, according to Church teaching, call us to take our faith seriously.
Miracles lead to people taking the religion they happen in too seriously. For example, the persecution and intimidation of critics of the apparitions of Medjugorje, Catholic ones and all, is well-documented. Believers end up unable to understand how anybody could differ from them. Believers are often the ones trying to stop gay rights and the right to divorce. They battle to end the right of unbelievers to criticise the religion and so on. Scientists do not campaign for silencing of critics and religionists do.
People who claim to have supernatural charisms are as prone to error as people who don't. Charisms do not give a person a monopoly on the truth. Consider the differences - many of them major - between Charismatics and Pentecostals. One camp says the Catholic Church is needed for salvation and others say it is not. That is a major thing. If charisms do not confer infallibility or anything nearer to it, then how can apparitions? What use are they if they are not lamps for the truth? Those who chase apparitions only want to be part of something magical. It is not about goodness or truth. People worry about the bad fruits that follow false apparitions but they forget that merely saying you have had an apparition is a bad fruit. It encourages the thrill seekers. Bigotry starts with opposition to truth - even mild opposition can do this.
Tolerance is a big virtue these days. It is insulting for it implies putting up with something undesirable. Religious tolerance means one religion merely stomaching the others that disagree with it. There should be no religion as there is enough around to test our tolerance without it adding to the problems. Religion like a lot of things that are going around is inherently sectarian. Intolerance always starts with repressed hatred as signified by tolerance. Ecumenism is just snow over the manure heap. Its good effects cannot last. If miracle stories get people interested in religion, that is enough to fire us up to debunking them. They are threats to peace.
Every religion that uses miracles as evidence for its claim to be the truth has to teach the following (in italics):
The unbelievers say that dead people stay dead so it is unreasonable to believe that Jesus rose even if it did happen. We say they are refusing to believe in miracles without considering them. They deceitfully argue, “We know that dead people stay dead. Jesus is said to have risen from the dead. Miracles may happen but can we believe in them for it is improbable that Jesus really rose when we know the rest of the dead stay dead? When billions die and stay dead is it likely that Jesus really rose? We cannot be blamed for disbelieving even if it did happen.” We reject this because it is assuming that miracles are not believable. It is the same as saying that it was too unlikely for Jesus to have really risen for everybody stays dead.
We may assume the miracles are believable or unbelievable or we may not decide between either of them. We have to assume something and its bullying to criticise anybody for assuming anything other than miracles happen.
Assuming miracles are not believable is fine as long as the assumption is based on evidence. The believers seem to be accusing us of not caring if there is evidence for miracles or not.
To believe a miracle report is probably false is our right and they condemn us for they say religious faith/belief is a virtue. It is a fact of human life that we cannot agree on what is probably true or probably best. It is why we are all so different. They say error - meaning disagreement with their dogmas and religious ideas - has no rights which says it all about them.
They say we are irrational in saying that no miracle report is believable and so we will not believe in it. Is it irrational to refuse to believe that Joan committed adultery when you know she was so devoted to Darby? They have to misrepresent us to hide the fact that they are deliberately wrong.
The believers say that we sceptics hold that there is a natural explanation for miracle reports while they hold that there is a supernatural explanation. They are saying we are bad just for saying it is natural. But why can’t we say they are bad for saying they are supernatural? Why pick on those who say its natural? They are the irrational ones. They are like those who find an inexplicable puddle on the landing and conclude that it is a miracle!
They complain that we say that miracles are not believable so we won’t believe. They condemn us for that. If you believe in miracles you have to side with them against us and condemn our view. But what is wrong with our view? Nothing. They accuse us of saying miracles are not believable just because we prejudge them. But we are not prejudging for it is pure commonsense that miracles are so strange that any evidence for them would need to be very very good and no evidence is good enough. Are you prejudging the evidence when the person who know best in the world as a good person is accused of murder by some reliable witnesses and you won't believe it? Of course not!
Miracles encourage the slander against us.
The believers clearly want us to say, like them, that no matter how implausible certain miracles seem to be, we will believe in them as they do. Such people cannot be trusted when they claim to verify miracles have happened.
What the unbelievers and sceptics argue is obvious commonsense and the religionists still disparage it. Belief in miracles requires you to be a bigot and a slanderer – albeit expert ones. Miracle reports are dangerous. No matter how sweet and adorable a miracle seems to be, it is actually a wolf in the clothing of a lamb.
Even if the unbelievers and sceptics are sincere they are still bad and doing harm in the religious view. They may not be sinners in disagreeing and opposing for they are sincere and well-meaning but they still do damage and must admit accountability. Some religionists say, "Love the sinner and hate the sin". In the case of a sincere opponent of religion and miracle this will change to, "Love the person and hate the evil they do and cause". The whole point of hating sin is to hate the evil. Religion hates the evil intention in the person. That is a waste of energy because here is nothing anybody can do about that except the person themselves. Religion also hates the evil and harm the person produces. So the evil whether deliberate or not is to be hated. In fact, when you ostracise somebody you don't say, "I ostracise the sin not the sinner". You don't say, "I punish the sin but not the sinner". You can't do that any more than you hate the sin and love the sinner. Christians are fully aware of the hypocrisy - they don't believe anybody who tells them they hate their Christianity but love them. Miracles are a call to hate. They demand that you hate and then do the additional evil of lying about it that it is really love you do.
Miracles lead to bigoted attitudes if not actions. Thankfully many believers for many reasons do not act out what is in their hearts.
Further Reading ~
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
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 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