Prof. Matt McCormick Department of Philosophy California State University, Sacramento firstname.lastname@example.org www.atheismblog.blogspot.com
Miracles Prove Religion, Right? For millions, belief in God and the Christian religion rest upon the miracles of Jesus. 70% of Americans polled claimed to believe the Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Were it not for the miracles of Jesus, Christians, one would think, would not believe in God, and perhaps Christianity would not exist at all. In Christianity and countless other religions, miracles are taken as authenticating evidence for their central doctrines.
Suppose a Miracle Happened and You Had Good Reasons to Believe It. Question: to what extent would a violation of the laws of nature indicate the existence of an omni- God? If a miracle happens, must a lone supernatural being of infinite power, knowledge, and goodness be responsible? No. Miracles are insufficient to support the theistic conclusion. Even worse, if a miracle occurred, we could be sure that an omni-being did not do it.
How Much Power Does a Miracle Require? Not omnipotence. Turning the Sun instantly cold and dark would take more power than walking on water. Performing miracle X might be all that some supernatural source could pull off. So we cannot read omnipotence from the occurrence of any given miracle.
How Smart Do You Have to be to Perform a Miracle? Not omniscient. Sometimes I accidentally fix my car. Maybe a clueless God opts for fishsticks and grilled cheese sandwiches: So we cannot read omniscience off of a miracle.
Does a Miracle Indicate Infinite Goodness? No. Many purported miracles are morally ambiguous. If it accomplishes some good, it would be a stronger indicator that the source is not omnibenevolent.
Miracle Problem of Evil If some force interrupts the course of nature to achieve some measure of good, the obvious question is “Why not more?” Vast amounts of suffering have been ignored. Objection: “But God might have good reasons for allowing those cases of suffering.” Sure, maybe he does. But the point is, can we look at a miracle where some suffering is alleviated against the background of vast amounts of suffering that has not been addressed and infer that the cause of the miracle is infinitely good? No. We can’t reasonably infer that the source IS infinitely good from the possibility that the source is infinitely good.
One Source or Many? Personal Being or Supernatural Force? What is it about an interruption of nature that assures us that it arises from one source rather than many? What is it about a miracle that assures us that it is a personal being with intentions, beliefs, and desires rather than some blind, unconscious supernatural force? Miracles are ambiguous on these counts too.
Preliminary Conclusion A miracle, even a big one, is insufficient to indicate a supernatural source that is a single, personal, all powerful, all knowing, all good being. Miracle Gefjun—Norwegian Goddess of Agriculture Smart, but Weak god Sobek—Egyptian Crocodile god Blind, Impersonal Supernatural Force Malevolent Demon Omni-God Dumb, Kind of Powerful god. ?
500 Other Gods Aa, Aah, Abil Addu, Addu, Adeona, Adjassou-Linguetor, Adjinakou, Adya Houn'tò, Agassou, Agé, Agwé, Ahijah, Ahti, Aizen Myō-ō, Ajisukitakahikone, Ak Ana, Aken, Aker, Äkräs, Aku, Allatu, Altjira, Amano-Iwato, Ame-no-Koyane, Am-heh, Amihan, Amon-Re, Amun, Amurru, Anapel, Anath, Andjety, Anhur, Anit, Anu, Anubis, Apsu, Arianrod, Ash, Ashtoreth, Assur, Astarte, Aten, Atum, Ayida-Weddo, Ayizan, Azaka Medeh, Azaka-Tonnerre, Azumi- no-isora, Baal, Bacalou, Badessy, Bagadjimbiri, Bahloo, Baiame, Bakunawa, Bamapana, Banaitja, Ba-Pef, Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, Baron Samedi, Barraiya, Bata, Bathala, Bau, Beltis, Beltu, Belus, Bernardo Carpio, Bes, Biamie, Bilé, Binbeal, Boli Shah, Bossou Ashadeh, Budai, Budai, Bugady Musun, Bugid Y Aiba, Bunjil, Cai Shen, Ceros, Chenti-cheti, Chi You, Chimata-No-Kami, Chun Kwan, Cihang Zhenren, City god, Clermeil, Congo (loa), Consus, Cronos, Cunina, Dagan, Dagda, Dagon, Daikokuten, Damballa, Dan Petro, Dan Wédo, Dauke, Dea Dia, Dhakhan, Diable Tonnere, Diana of Ephesus, Diejuste, Dimmer, Dinclinsin, Dragon King, Dragon King of the East Sea, Duamutef, Dumu-zi-abzu, Ea, Ebisu, Edulia, El, Elali, Elder Zhang Guo, Elum, Engurra, Enki, Enma, En-Mersi, Enurestu, Erlang Shen, Erzulie, Ezili Dantor, Fan Kuai, Fei Lian, Feng Bo, Four sons of Horus, Fu Lu Shou, Fu Xi, Fūjin, Fukurokuju, Furrina, Futsunushi, Gasan lil, Gasan-abzu, Goibniu, Gong Gong, Govannon, Gran Maître, Grand Bois, Guan Yu, Guangchengzi, Gunfled, Gwydion, Hachiman, Hadad, Hakudo Maru, Han Xiang, Hapi, Hapy, Heka, Hemen, Hermanubis, Hermes, Heryshaf, Hoderi, Hongjun Laozu, Hoori, Horus, Houyi, Huang Feihu, Hung Shing, Iah, Ibong Adarna, Iku-Turso, Ilmarinen, Ilmatar, Ilmatar, Imhotep, Imset, Iron-Crutch Li, Isis, Istar, Isum, Iuno Lucina, Izanagi, Jade Emperor, Jar'Edo Wens, Ji Gong, Julana, Jumala, Jupiter, Juroujin, Kaawan, Kagu- tsuchi, Kalfu, Kalma, Kara Khan, Karora, Kerridwen, Khaltesh-Anki, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Kidili, Kini'je, Kitchen God, Kneph, Kōjin, Ksitigarbha, Kui Xing, Kuk, Kumakatok, Kuski-banda, Kuu, Ku'urkil, Lagas, Lan Caihe, Lei Gong, Leizhenzi, Lemminkäinen, Lempo, Ler, Li Jing, L'inglesou, Llaw Gyffes, Lleu, Loco (loa), Lü Dongbin, Lugal-Amarada, Maahes, Ma-banba-anna, Mademoiselle Charlotte, Maîtresse Délai, Maîtresse Hounon'gon, Maman Brigitte, Mamaragan, Mami, Mamlambo, Manawyddan, Mandulis, Mangar-kunjer-kunja, Marassa Jumeaux, Marduk, Maria Cacao, Maria Makiling, Maria Sinukuan, Marinette, Mars, Marzin, Matet boat, Mayari, Mbaba Mwana Waresa, Meditrina, Mehen, Melek, Memetona, Menthu, Merodach, Mider, Mielikki, Min, Molech, Mombu, Morrigu, Mounanchou, Mulu-hursang, Mu-ul-lil, Muzha, Na Tuk Kong, Nana Buluku, Naunet, Nebo, Nehebkau, Nergal, Nezha, Nga, Nin, Ninib, Ninigi-no-Mikoto, Nin-lil-la, Nin-man, Nio, Nirig, Ni-zu, Njirana, Nogomain, Nuada Argetlam, Numakulla, Num-Torum, Nusku, Nu'tenut, Nyyrikki, Odin, Ogma, Ogoun, Ogoun, Ogyrvan, Ohoyamatsumi, Ōkuninushi, Omoikane (Shinto), Ops, Osiris, Pa-cha, Pangu, Papa Legba, Peko, Perkele, Persephone, Petbe, Pie (loa), Pluto, Potina, Ptah, Pugu, Pundjel, Pwyll, Qarradu, Qebehsenuef, Qin Shubao, Qingxu Daode Zhenjun, Ra, Raijin, Randeng Daoren, Rauni, Resheph, Rigantona, Robigus, Royal Uncle Cao, Ryūjin, Saa, Sahi, Samas, Sarutahiko, Saturn, Sebek, Seker, Serapis, Sesmu, Shakpana, Shalem, Shangdi, Shango, Sharrab, Shen, Shennong, Shezmu, Shina-Tsu-Hiko, Simbi, Sin, Sirtumu, Sobek, Sobkou, Sōjōbō, Sokk-mimi, Sopdu, Sousson-Pannan, Statilinus, Suijin, Suiren, Suqamunu, Susanoo, Tagd, Taiyi Zhenren, Tala, Tam Kung, Tammuz, Tapio, Tenenet, Tengu, Tenjin, Theban Triad, Thoth, Ti Jean Quinto, Ti Malice, Tian, Ti-Jean Petro, Tilmun, Todote, Toko'yoto, Tomam, Tu Di Gong, Tu Er Shen, Tuonetar, Tuoni, Ubargisi, Ubilulu, U-dimmer-an-kia, Ueras, Ugayafukiaezu, U-ki, Ukko, UKqili, Umai, U-Mersi, Umvelinqangi, Ungud, Unkulunkulu, Ura-gala, U-sab-sib, Usiququmadevu, U-Tin-dir-ki, U-urugal, Väinämöinen, Vaisravana, Vaticanus, Vediovis, Vellamo, Venus, Vesta, Wadj-wer, Wen Zhong, Weneg, Wenshu Guangfa Tianzun, Wepwawet, Werethekau, Wollunqua, Wong Tai Sin, Wuluwaid, Xargi, Xaya Iccita, Xevioso, Xuan Wu, Yama, Yau, Yemaja, Youchao, Yuanshi Tianzun, Yuchi Jingde, Yunzhongzi, Zagaga, Zaraqu, Zer-panitu, Zhang Guifang, Zheng Lun, Zhongli Quan, Zhu Rong, Zonget......
It Gets Worse: An Omni-God Wouldn’t Perform Miracles An OG gets exactly what he wants. An OG is vastly over-qualified for mere miracles. There are much more effective ways to instill belief, inspire faith, discourage misbehavior, enforce commandments. Consider that all of the miracles that have been attested to in history, even if they were real, are easily reproduced (as convincing fakes) by magicians, Vegas acts, or a teenager with a magic book from the library. If an OG acts in the world and sets out to accomplish some end, would it do it in that fashion?
That’s All You’ve Got? If you see one, you should be thinking: If God’s trying to prove that he exists, he could do a lot better than this. So that’s not what’s going on here. Heal the sick, feed the hungry, or save the Israelites?... He’d do a much better job than this. Punish evil or enforce commandments?... He could do better than a hurricane, or a tumor, and there are so many other evil doers that got a free pass—There are still Nazis and genocidal tyrants basking in the sun on the beach in Argentina.... Punishment or retribution?.... An OG would not arbitrarily single out some individual for lesser misdeeds while ignoring so many others, particularly when the misdeeds of others are so grievous. An OG would achieve vast, effective, and balanced punishment. If God was attempting to accomplish anything unambiguous in the world, then he could. But miracles are ambiguous. So a miracle cannot be God’s attempt to achieve any clear goal. A miracle creates strife, confusion, misinterpretation, and dissonance, and an OG wouldn’t do that. A reasonable person who has thought through the implications of what it would be to be an OG should respond: That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got? How am I supposed to believe in an omni-being on the basis of that? God wouldn’t perform party tricks like that. (But lots of demigods, magicians, or frauds could.) An OG’s acts will be BIG; miracles are little.
Miracles Don’t Come from God infinite number of other hypotheses.... Miracle Gefjun—Norwegian Goddess of Agriculture Smart, but Weak god Sobek—Egyptian Crocodile god Blind, Impersonal Supernatural Force Malevolent Demon Omni-God Dumb, Kind of Powerful god. Aa, Aah, Abil Addu, Addu, Adeona, Adjassou-Linguetor, Adjinakou, Adya Houn'tò, Agassou, Agé, Agwé, Ahijah, Ahti, Aizen Myō-ō, Ajisukitakahikone, Ak Ana, Aken, Aker....
Conclusion Infinite power, knowledge, and goodness are not required to cause a miracle. Nor can we infer personhood, or a single source. Furthermore, an OG would not act through miracles. If I encounter a miracle, I can conclude that whatever is happening, it’s not God.