Friday, October 15, 2010

What is a "miracle?"

I've been reading John Loftus' Why I Became an Atheist lately, and had just started on the chapter discussing theories of miracles when I broke one of my own rules: not to debate religion with FB friends.

Well, I didn't really debate religion so much as dispute the assertion that the safe rescue of the trapped Chilean miners was a "miracle." Instead of biting my internet tongue, I asked whether the engineers didn't deserve some credit. My friend responded, and I just pointed out that her post seemed to give God 100% of the credit. She agreed that the engineers had done a great job and all is happy again in Facebookland. *whew*

But then... I had CNN on while making dinner and one of their interviewers was saying what a "miracle" it was. So apparently, "miracle" is synonymous with "happy ending" since this guy wasn't invoking God particularly. A search of the CNN website yields several hits for the word "miracle" relating to the miners' situation, but not this particular broadcast. I wonder now just how often it was used.

So what is wrong with simply having a 'happy ending?' CNN is the worst for obsessing on one topic and overdramatizing it, yet they did show the planning and logistics of the rescue in great time-filling detail. They had diagrams, experts, people on the scene, and every resource they needed to tell this very human and natural story. And yet they called it a "miracle," not a "triumph of engineering."

Perhaps the lack of serious supernatural claims in our time has watered down the concept to the point that any good thing that happens in the presence of Christians can be termed a miracle. We haven't seen Moses parting the waters, eight days of light from a one-day supply of oil, or dead people walking around (unless you count Elvis). So Christians have to take their "miracles" where they can find them, or invent them.

I have CNN on now, and they're reliving the whole thing. Can't waste all that good video! One commentator says it reminds him of watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. I remember the moon landings too. I don't remember calling them "miracles" though. Our heroes were computers, dorky men in white shirts, and the brave men who volunteered to make the trip. I credit these same heroes for the safety of the Chilean miners too.

What would a real, supernatural, old-fashioned Old Testament miracle have looked like in Chile?

For starters, perhaps the mine wouldn't have collapsed in the first place. If God is so great, why did he endanger all those Christians?

Another good one would be opening a crack in the earth, without dropping any rocks on the noggins of the miners of course, then having the miners fly upwards and land on a soft bed of uncharacteristic fluffy white snow that had fallen just at the same moment.

Or how about this? The miners die, and then their bodies be brought back to the surface in body bags, and then one by one you hear "hola" coming from under the zippers. That would be chilling, and it would make great video too, as the frantic relatives unzipped the zombie body bags and hugged their resurrected loved ones.

Or maybe a mudslide opens up a crack in the earth and pushes the miners out through an unknown fissure in the earth, and the earth poops them out in a geologic diarrhea of Biblical proportions? It would be even cooler if they came out at a nesting ground for penguins, and the penguins lie on their bodies to warm them up. An all-powerful all-knowing compassionate loving God could do that. A side benefit would be convincing the heathens of his existence. Might prevent another 9/11 as a side benefit. Wouldn't that be cool?

No, all this omnipotent being does is make sure that all the equipment works properly and that the engineers don't do something stupid like calculate in meters and engineer in inches.


I'm very impressed



Rhacodactylus said...

I'm fine with God taking credit for this, so long as we get to blame him for every mining disaster from here on out =)


GearHedEd said...

I remember the word "misacle" being liberally sprinkled around when that plane landed in the Hudson River. Give the pilot credit for keeping a clear head, OK. Good thing the weather was nice. Remember the plane that crashed into the Potomac in the middle of winter?

Statistically, every so often there will be a "less-than-completely-fatal" outcome. Not a miracle, just the law of averages.

LadyAtheist said...

...and simulators, and FAA regulations, and the Hudson being a calm body of water, and and and and

It's commonly called "Miracle on the Hudson."

If it were really a miracle all those passages would have walked over the water to the shore.