Daily Archives: June 14, 2010

Delusion?

I’m discussing John Loftus’s book The Christian Delusion here, and I’m looking at the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees and God is Imaginary websites here. All three seem to think that religion (Christianity in particular) is a complete delusion.

Now, Ex-Christian.net is weighing in on the issue here. Comment #7 reads:

You know, when the most powerful being in the Universe, omnipotent creator-of-all actually acknowledges your existence with some little “miracle”, or imagined form of “feedback” (usually through feelings) it can be a tremendous boost to many people’s fragile ego.

What’s interesting, is the very people who claim they have received “petty” miracles from God are usually angry when asked how they feel about other people being ignored, left to die, suffer, or go without justice (who may have also prayed faithfully) yet God is granting you “petty” little wishes concerning health, finance, even a new car/truck.

WWGHA covers the same class of argument that Franko47 has brought up in chapter 10. Basically, the argument runs something like this:

One hundred people go off to war. All pray that they will come back home alive. Ninety-eight of them are killed in combat, while two survive. The two who survive come home and spread the word that their prayers saved them, and credit God with their survival.

When faced with this situation, atheists point out that Christians talk extensively about the two who survived, while completely ignoring the other 98 who were killed. The atheist reasons that the Christian is cold, callous, and uncaring. The Christian is looking so hard for evidence of God, that he is ignoring human suffering in order to find it.

Interesting though the thought experiment may be, it doesn’t prove anything about the nature of God. Although I concede that it is callous and uncaring to brush off the 98 who died and only focus on the two who survived simply because it conflicts with the idea of an all-good God who is in control of everything. This does prove something about what a long way we Christians have to go in order to line up with Christ’s teaching and God’s expectations for our lives.

But that’s hardly news. Anyone who knows Christian theology knows that we can’t claim to be perfect. Only one can make that claim.

What I’m more interested in here is that many atheists (Franko47 among them, apparently) consider this little thought experiment a compelling case against God. I don’t see why it would be. It proves nothing about the nature of God.

What is a miracle? Browsing definitions online, the common thread among all of them is that a miracle is a special or unique occurrence, surpassing all explanation. To be considered a miracle, the event must be unique by definition. So if 100 soldiers went to war, prayed to survive, and they all did, where’s the miracle? What is special or unique?

In order to be special or unique, an event must be against the odds, a rare occurrence. If an event happens, and it isn’t against all odds, and it’s not unique or special in any way, then it’s a commonplace occurrence and doesn’t count as a miracle.