Eric_PK

I explain them the same way I explain the presence of magic in the Harry Potter series, or the fact that Santa can deliver toys to all the good boys and girls in one night.

They’re stories that were made up.

The bible has some huge miracles in it. Raising the dead. Parting the red sea. Turning water into wine. Endless bread and seafood.

But you don’t see any of those industrial-strength miracles around these days, but nothing that is definitive.

Or, as others have asked, why does god hate amputees?

Posted: April 28th 2008

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

SmartLX www

To ask, “How did it happen?” is to assume the answer to the pre-requisite question, “Did it happen?” Not only is there an absence of evidence for the Biblical miracles, it’s a conspicuous absence. For example, many of the supposed miracles of Jesus would have turned up in Roman records or personal accounts of the time. Faith healers rely on publicity, and in his later life his growing following would have been under surveillance as a rebellion waiting to happen.

I simply do not think any miracles happened. It’s the simplest explanation.

Posted: November 21st 2007

See all questions answered by SmartLX

RTambree

The same way I would explain the power of the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings – someone made them up.

None of the New Testament authors met Jesus, so it’s a combination of Chinese Whispers, competition for market share with other prophets circulating around the Mediterranean at time (so having the out-compete them), and the state of knowledge of the universe being very primitive and superstitious. There was no knowledge of the size and age of the universe, how old the Earth is, DNA and common ancestry, Newtonian physics, Maxwell’s electromagnetism, tectonic plates, etc. Many of the so-called miracles are copied off other writings.

Posted: June 2nd 2007

See all questions answered by RTambree

bitbutter www

There’s an excellent post over at Daylight Atheism about critical thinking that’s relevant to this question. Here I’ll give my version.

In our daily lives we don’t accept all that we hear or read as being factually correct. We each have an internal model of the world that we’ve built up through evidence from our senses. When a claim doesn’t fit comfortably with that model then we demand a higher quality of evidence before we accept it. An example of such a claim would be that a stone had turned into a dog—we would be more hesitant to believe this than the claim that it will rain tomorrow.

We all apply a principle that the astronomer Carl Sagan famously summarised; “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. The biblical evidence for miracles—which are extraordinary claims—is far from extraordinary.

Here’s a procedure that can help think clearly about the likelihood of miracles.

When considering a miracle such as the ones reported in the bible, think about one possible way that the evidence for that miracle might not be trustworthy.

Here are a couple of potential ways that biblical accounts of miracles might not be trustworthy:

  • Perhaps the writer had some ulterior motive and deliberately distorted or fabricated events.
  • Maybe the writer didn’t see himself as recording factual history but was instead using metaphor or talking about events on a mythical plane of existence, not the earthly one.

It’s not difficult to think of other similar scenarios.

So now you have two possible explanations for any given miracle reported in the bible; the first explanation is that the miracle really happened. The second explanation gives an alternative possibility that would lead to the same evidence.

If you frame both of the two explanations as 'miracles’ one of them will usually seem very much less miraculous than the other. The less miraculous 'miracle’ is the one you should choose as being most likely to represent the truth.

In 1748 the philosopher David Hume explained it in the following way.

When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle.

If you apply this principle—which is the same principle we use to evaluate claims in everyday life—none of the bible miracles seem credible.

For a non-Christian examination of the new testament I strongly recommend Earl Doherty’s book: The Jesus Puzzle which examines the possibility that there may never have been a historical Jesus. Even if the case made by the book isn’t representative of the beginnings of Christianity, the fact that this case can be made at all should be reason enough for intellectually honest Christians to examine Doherty’s argument for themselves.

Posted: June 1st 2007

See all questions answered by bitbutter

 

Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum