It’s a Miracle!

MaryDo you believe in miracles? Do they happen? Author Eric Metaxas thinks so. He says so in his new e-book, Miracles: What they are, why they happen and how they can change your life.

He also says that anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is closed-minded and intolerant, which is his Christian persecution complex speaking. Metaxas and other believers who accept unusual events as miracles are, apparently, ‘open-minded’, while the sceptic who looks for a rational or scientific explanation isn’t.

But isn’t the reality the opposite of this? Isn’t the seeking of rational explanation and analysing the evidence, the open-minded, imaginative act? And isn’t blindly accepting on faith that a particular event is the Christian God (naturally) messing about with ‘the laws of physics’, the closed-minded, unimaginative response? By definition, closing down all other possible explanations is the closed-minded response. It takes no imagination, no being open to possibilities, to refuse to look for an explanation beyond ‘God did it.’

As I’ve said before, most miracles are, in any case, very mundane, trivial affairs. They’re never the regrowing of severed limbs, the eradication of Ebola or the holding back of a tsunami. Why not? Why are ‘miracles’ always so unimpressive, like the ‘inner healings’, visions and coincidences Metaxas writes about? Why do they have far better scientific or rational explanations than supernatural ones? And when it comes to it, why do we more often hear about miracles than see them for ourselves? Why are most miracles nothing more than hearsay, rather like ghost sightings? It’s uncanny how miracles always happen to someone else, who swears they really happened just as they describe them (this is where the exercise of imagination comes into play.) The miracles in Metaxas’s book seem to be just this; second hand accounts of largely unspectacular coincidences and hallucinations, none of which happened to the author himself nor were witnessed directly by him. Why should any thinking person accept such spurious testimony? Why indeed should we be ‘tolerant’ of such woolly wishful-thinking?

If, for you, second-hand reports of unremarkable events qualify as miracles, then so be it. Like Eric Metaxas, you should just close your mind and accept. But don’t tell those of us who are considerably more sceptical that we’re the ones who aren’t open-minded or tolerant.

 

The picture above was originally used as a billboard by St. Matthews-in-the-City Church in Auckland, New Zealand. The captions were added later, though I don’t know by whom.

 

Advertisements

Who Ya Gonna Call?

DemonAnd when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. (Matthew 17.14-20)

Do you believe in spirits and demons? When you’re ill, do you visit the nearest exorcist or do you take yourself off to the doctor or hospital? Of course, most Christians (but by no means all) have more faith in the medical profession than they do in the wingnuts who’d tell them their ailment was the result of demonic activity and command the demon to leave in the name of Jesus.

Why? Because, even Christians know, in spite of what they might tell you, what causes disease and illness. They know what cures them too; and it has nothing to do with Jesus. ‘The Son of God’ is among the wingnuts when it comes to believing unclean spirits are at the root of human ailments and behaviour (Mark 5.1-8; Matthew 8.28-34; Matthew 12.43-45; Luke 4.33-36; Luke 8.29 etc.)

In spite of the fact there’s absolutely no evidence that demons exist, Jesus thought that invisible supernatural creatures were responsible for conditions like epilepsy. Like everyone at the time he thought that if these unclean spirits could be driven out, then the condition would be ‘cured’. Some follow in his misguided footsteps today; the Catholic church has an entire coven of exorcists, and charlatans like the Reverend Bob Larson make a living driving out the demons of pride, lust, homosexuality and greed from stooges and the gullible (except of course they don’t.)

If you’re a Christian, you should believe in demons and unholy spirits; you believe everything Jesus uttered was true, don’t you?

Of course, Jesus was a product of the pre-scientific era in which he lived; his ignorance might be excusable if it wasn’t offered up as God’s Truth. All that Jesus’ belief in devils and unclean spirits demonstrates is that he was very much a man of his time – evidence, if more were needed, that he wasn’t remotely divine. Unless, of course, the God he also believed in was as ignorant of the causes of illness and human behaviour as he was.

But next time you’re unwell, Christian, or you’re feeling a mite greedy or lustful, don’t go to the doctor’s. Don’t even ask the Lord for forgiveness. Have a little faith and, in the name of Jesus, command that hell-spawned demon within you to leave. See how that works out for you.

 

Update: New this week in ‘It Can All Be Blamed On Demons’:

Right-wing American broadcaster, Bryan Fischer, claims unarmed black teenager killed by cop was in fact possessed by a ‘homicidal demon’.

Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson asserts playing Dungeons and Dragons leads to demon possession.

Thank you, Lord, for your endorsement of fantasist rubbish like this.

 

This week in the wacky world of religion…

AtrocitiesBecause my invisible super-being is better than yours, this week I’ve:

murdered you at prayer;

beheaded you as an infidel;

denied you an education;

raped your girls and young women;

committed brutal acts of terrorism;

denigrated LGBT people;

flogged you and imprisoned you.

…And all because of my invisible super-being. Isn’t he wonderful?

As for me, I’m just glad I don’t have an imaginary god if this is the kind of thing he tells his followers to get up to.

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 28: Evolution says we are no more than animals

AngryHere we go again. Christians claiming that evolution reduces human beings to being ‘just’ or ‘no more than’ animals.

Does it? Where? The ‘just’ and ‘no more than’ are unnecessary and invalid value judgements. They’re not there in Darwin, who goes out of his way to avoid making any such statement, while Richard Dawkins explicitly rejects the idea that we are ‘just’ gene carriers.

Evolutionary theory recognises that humans are indeed animals – with no ‘just’ or ‘no more than’ to qualify the fact. How can we not be animals? We do everything they do; like them, we have – indeed are – physical bodies that breath, eat, sleep, excrete, bond, mate, experience pain and pleasure and fight; we are, like most other animals, territorial and also like them, we put a great deal of effort into ensuring our own survival and that of our offspring. Even Christians who deny the body and its demands engage in these kinds of animal behaviour.

Of course, we also do things other animals don’t, or don’t to the same extent; we have remarkably complex social arrangements, which have resulted in our developing systems of morality and sophisticated ways of dealing with each other (though our morality is remarkably flawed); we have achieved much in the fields of culture, technology and in our understanding of the world and the universe beyond our tiny planet. We have also made a mess of our environment.

Our intelligence, our self-awareness, is the evolutionary equivalent of adaptations developed in other species. Our characteristics may seem to us to be somehow superior to those of other animals, but really they’re not. They have enabled our continued survival and allowed us to achieve all that we have, both good and bad. But in evolutionary terms, they are no different from the refinements that have enabled other animals to do the equivalent in their environments. This doesn’t mean, however, we are ‘just’ or ‘no more than’ animals. No creature is ‘just’ an animal and human achievements are all the more remarkable because we’re animals.

What Christians usually mean by their ‘just’ and ‘no more than’ is that as animals we are not extra-special to God, not ‘made in his image’. And of course, we’re not; there’s no God to be extra special to or made in the likeness of. Even if there were, he doesn’t seem to be particularly pre-disposed towards us; we exist as physical bodies that are as susceptible to the same hunger, disease, illness, injury, weakness, infirmity and death as any other animal. We are not immaterial, spiritual beings – though presumably the Christian God could have made us that way if he’d wanted to. To say, as some Christians do, that we are spiritual beings temporarily trapped in material bodies, or that we must deny the body and its demands to become spiritually perfect, is the grand perversion that is the Christian faith. It denies the reality of this physical, material world and our own natures. Any spirituality we might claim for ourselves is a projection of our intelligence and self-awareness; any morality the result of those complex social arrangements.

So, we are not ‘just’ animals, nor are we ‘no more than’ animals in any way that makes sense biologically. We are animals, remarkable perhaps in rising above our biology from time to time, but animals nonetheless, whether Christians want to believe it or not. ‘Just’ and ‘no more than’ don’t come into it.

Banned from the Kingdom of God

PaulHere’s ‘Saint’ Paul’s list of those who won’t be allowed in God’s Kingdom:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6. 9-10)

We can do better than that though. Who else could we add? How about the self-righteous? The converted? The born-again? The saved? Fundamentalists? Evangelicals? Evangelists? Ministers, bishops and popes? Christians of all stripes and persuasion? Will they all make it into the Kingdom?

No, they won’t. Not one of them will enter the magic Kingdom.

Why not?

Jesus, Paul and other New Testament writers were sure that the Kingdom of God would be arriving on the Earth soon. That’s ‘soon’ as in their own time, 2000 years ago*, and, as you’ll have noticed, the Kingdom, promised in the past for the past, never arrived. It’s not going to now either; neither Jesus nor Paul thought their fantasy was going to materialise some time in the distant future.

More than this, both were wrong that God was preparing to establish a heavenly kingdom on Earth at all. They were religious fanatics caught up in the religious zeitgeist of their day, religion being all they had to explain life, the universe and everything. Their interpretation was wrong on so many levels – but they were stuck with it. And so, when so much seemed unjust, unfair and unreasonable to them, Jesus in particular felt sure the only solution was for God to intervene to set things right; the meek would inherit the Earth, those last would be first and the first last. It was a dream, a vain hope, a complete invention. Not only did the Kingdom not arrive when Jesus and Paul said it would, it was never going to. There was no God waiting in the wings to make everything better.

So don’t worry if you’re gay or you like sex with more than one partner or you drink a bit too much or you’ve not been as honest as you might have been. You won’t be part of the Kingdom of God, to be sure, but that won’t be because of your sexuality or your morals or your ‘lifestyle’. You won’t be part of the Kingdom because it isn’t real. You’ll be in good company though – those who love the Lord won’t be getting in either. They’re just as far from Jesus and Paul’s land of make-believe, their special magic club, as you are.

 

* See Matthew 24:27, 30-31, 34; Luke 21:27-28, 33-34; Matthew 16:27-28; Matthew 19.28; 1 Corinthians 15.51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17; 1 John 2:17-181 and Peter 4.7 for predictions by Jesus, Paul and other NT writers that the Kingdom was coming real soon.

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 8: Hate, hate and hate again

Preacher2If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple… In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14. 26 & 33)

The words, not of an extremist Islamic preacher, but of Jesus.

The man was a megalomaniac. Almost everyone, with the exception of a few gullible fishermen, thought so (Mark 3.20-21). Even his own family was convinced he was mad. He claimed that all the spiritual leaders who’d come before him were thieves and robbers (John 10.8) and believed – demanded – that everyone should give their lives over to him. And, boy, did he turn unpleasant when they didn’t! (Matthew 11.20-22 etc) Imagine what we’d make today of a fanatic who went around making the same sort of claims. It puts Jesus’ delusions of grandeur in perspective, doesn’t it.

Christians will tell you, though, that Jesus had such a high opinion of himself because, of course, he was divine; he was, and is, God’s only son – God himself, in fact – so he was fully entitled to say the nutty things he said about himself.

But there are a couple of problems with this conclusion:

1. Little of what he promised came to be, from his predictions of his own return heralding the end of the world (Matthew 16.28) to his guarantees his followers would be able to do all manner of wondrous things (Mark 11.24 etc). In other words, there’s just no evidence to support Jesus’ ludicrous assertions about himself. The end of the world, marked by his return in power and glory, didn’t happen when he promised it would (or, indeed, at all); his followers didn’t and still don’t do the incredible things he said they would. In fact, the early church, despite the rosy story made up for it in Acts, spent its time judging and squabbling (Romans14, etc), much like the church today. Little wonder that Jesus’ friends and biographers had to invent the resurrection story, to replace all the stuff he said would happen that didn’t.

2. Christians aren’t prepared to be as radical as Jesus demands; by and large they don’t disown their parents and offspring; they don’t hate their own lives (only other people’s ‘lifestyles’) and they don’t give up their possessions when they become disciples. They’re right not to, of course, otherwise they’d be giving into the whims of a madman, but all the same they want their cake and eat it: to adopt this particular extremist as their saviour while ignoring everything he demands that they do. So they compromise; not prepared to despise their families, and certainly not wanting to give up everything, they claim him as their God while hanging on to all they hold dear. I don’t blame them, but Jesus certainly wouldn’t approve of the compromise. He says so in the passages quoted at the top of this post and in numerous other places in the Bible.

So, Christians, why do you call him ‘Lord, lord’, when you won’t do what he tells you? (Luke 6.46)