If there is anything that I could put my finger on, more than any one thing, that made me lose faith in a god, it was the complete absence of miracles in the modern age.
Looking back, I guess I wasn’t terribly scientific about this process. I didn’t do a comprehensive study or anything. But among the people that I knew and loved, the community I was a part of, and the people I interacted with, miracles never happened. Every Sunday, I sat and listened to how wonderful and powerful and helpful God was, only to notice that he never seemed to come around and help us anymore. I would watch news with my father, and they never mentioned any miracles. No, it seemed, God got tired of being helpful.
Now, in the bible, miracles happen all the time. Jesus obviously healed tons of people, as did Paul and Elisha and Elijah and Moses and Joshua. They would wave their hand and something crazy would happen. Dead people propped up, the lame dropped their canes and walked tall and proud, mystical clouds, chariots of fire, walls fell, seas parted, a small basket of food fed 5,000.
After Jesus was long gone, our history is still littered with miracles. There were dudes that could fly, healing (of course), the sun dancing around, images magically appearing on clothing, apparitions, etc.
But it almost seems like the number of miracles decreased at about the same rate as the rise of recording devices, such as literate people, voice recorders and cameras. Is this god being camera shy? In an age where almost every single person in the world now carries a camera every day, extrapolated out we should see dozens of miracles every day. But we see the opposite.
Well, it turns out, we do have miracles on film! The Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba performed hundreds of miracles in front of believers and cameras, and called himself the reincarnated saint Sai Baba. Please watch, and as Sam Harris noted, “prepare to be underwhelmed.”
Again, stealing from Sam Harris, why is it that miracles on YouTube in the 21st century are dismissed, not even worth a mention on the evening news, but the same stories set in illiterate, superstitious middle east are suddenly a project worthy enough to build your life upon?
A few google searches will give you lots of modern day miracles, all equally underwhelming. Many are demonstrably false, others are protected against investigation, and some are stories that grew in both grandiose and detail as time went on. In no case is there any legitimate reason for us to believe the events happened.
I was taught to question my faith. I think they meant “ask why Jesus was so wonderful” or something. Instead, I asked questions like how do we know the miracles really happened? I could watch Doug Henning do stuff way more impressive than Jesus, after all, and he is up front with the fact that it’s a trick. So why do we believe in that old stuff? If a man claiming to be a reincarnated saint can make jewelry appear in his hand on the internet, what makes Jesus so special?
The very, very, very obvious answer is “nothing.” Nothing is special about Jesus. And as I grew older and investigated further, the story got less and less interesting. Dozens of gods and even actual leaders in the world supposedly born of a virgin. There were at least a half-dozen savior gods in the region at that time. Achilles and King Arthur are now the stuff of legends and myth, but we’re expected to believe Jesus’ story is completely true and original. And miracles slowed down to almost nothing when we found out how to investigate them.
When miracles themselves become as unimpressive as the hustler dealing three-card monte, you’ve lost me. Even as a teen, I began turning a skeptical eye toward these claims that conveniently happened long ago, but were somehow not able to be reproduced today. I was told this was because we aren’t allowed to test god. That is, until I read about dozens of folks testing god all over the bible.
Here’s a scientifically valid test. Take a rug and put it outside under a shelter. Pray to god that in the morning, the rug will have dew on it, but the ground will be dry. Write down the results. Then the next evening place a rug on the same place, then pray that in the morning the rug will be dry, but the ground will be wet. Again, note the result.
If Gideon gets to do this test (Judges 6:37-40), a valid, scientific test, then why don’t I? Why was god so eager to demonstrate his greatness right up until we could actually record it for posterity? Why do I only get to read about someone else doing this test long ago and far away?
Dear reader, the answer is again quite simple. The miracle stories were made up to impress people, not to be repeated and checked. There were no miracles, only stories. Can we quit living in the world of make-believe now?
The Spartan Atheist