I really like this new song by Tim Minchin, and I think he’s done a good job of highlighting one of the absurdities of “faith healings.” A few months ago, I posted a response to a reader’s question about healing. I hit all the necessary high points to offer a reasonable person’s explanation of seemingly miraculous healings. But for a believer to truly grasp why nonbelievers are unimpressed with all their miracle stories, he needs to understand this one thing:
So what if it’s a miracle? What does that prove?
The leap from “My mum’s cataract got better” to “Jesus is the lord of the universe, and wants you to stop having sex before marriage” is… substantial. Let’s begin with a miracle. Any miracle will do.
1. Maybe the miracle was an answer to a prayer:
- Maybe the god being prayed to answered the question.
- Maybe another god swooped in and hijacked the prayer to cause confusion.
- Maybe it wasn’t a sentient god, but the prayer tapped into the magical combination of syllables with just the perfect inflection on just the right location on the planet, and a convergence of healing energy took place.
- Maybe there are humans with ESP and magic healing powers who have conspired to trick humans into believing in gods to set up their own despotic empire on earth.
- From 6-5,392, list all the gods people believe in and give each of them a number and some plausible reason for answering a prayer.
Now… suppose we go with number 1, even though there is no good reason to. IF the god being prayed to performed the miracle:
- Maybe he’s a truthful God.
- Maybe he’s an untruthful God.
If we suppose that #1 is true (for no particularly good reason), then:
- Maybe he’s able to tell the truth to people, and they are able to get it exactly right in the retelling.
- Maybe he’s able to tell the truth to people, but they get it wrong in the retelling.
- Maybe he’s able to tell the truth, but for a good reason, known only to him, he decided not to. For the greater good. Or something.
- Maybe he wishes to be truthful, but something prevents him from being so.
Suppose we assume #1 to be true (for no particular reason). We cannot deny the fact that people from practically every religion on earth have reported miracles. So, if we assume (for no good reason) that there are miracles in every religion:
- Maybe the people who claim that god doesn’t care what we believe, so long as we try to be good, are the ones who are accurately reproducing the truthful desires of god.
- Maybe the people who claim that god cares what we believe are correct.
If we assume #1 to be true (for no particular reason), we should therefore completely ignore everything Christians tell us we need to do to get to heaven, because God doesn’t care. (End of Argument)
However, if we assume #2 to be true (for no particular reason):
- Maybe the Catholics are right about what god wants. (They’ve got age on their side…)
- Maybe the Baptists are right.
- Maybe the Lutherans are right.
- Maybe the C of E is right.
- Maybe the LDS is right.
- Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right.
- Maybe the Methodists are right.
- For numbers 9-15,218 list each of the remaining denominations who claim (in at least one of their individual churches) that they are right and the other denominations are wrong. After you’re done, spend the rest of your life writing numbers and possible gods that have been believed in the past and could be believed in the future.
At this point, we’ve got a real problem. After a number of unsupported leaps of logic, we’ve still run into a complete dead end. Even if we believe that your Aunt Hazel’s rheumatism cleared up after she whispered a prayer to Jesus, we still have a horrible problem. People from practically every religion have claimed to experience miracles. So…. either:
- Everybody experiences miracles. If this is true, then it seems unlikely that god’s miracles are a way to convince us which god to believe in. Even if it’s true, we have no help figuring it out without more information.
- Only your Aunt Hazel is telling the truth. If that’s the case, then we have to believe that hundreds of thousands of people who believe they experienced a miracle were fooled… but if that’s the case, why wouldn’t we suppose Aunt Hazel was also fooled?
- Everybody experiences miracles, but the others are “false miracles” by false gods. If this is true, then god isn’t the only one who can perform miracles, and his performing of a miracle doesn’t prove that he’s the god I ought to believe.
It’s a horrible mess. And the thing is… we made lots of leaps to get here in the hopes of finding a good god to worship, and even if we buy all the leaps…
We still have to square a “good” god with all the starving children in the world and the rather trivial cure of Aunt Hazel’s rheumatism when she’s already eighty damn years old and just watching old TCM movies and collecting social security.
Personally, I’m less than impressed with that god’s virtue. So… tell me again why I am impressed by this miracle story?