Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Miracles Are Against American Values

I'm getting increasingly puzzled by the faithful's insistence on miracles explaining things which are in reality the result of competence, education, cool under fire and smart decision-making - that is to say, rejecting all value placed on personal responsibility (and by the way, that's a good talking point for discussions with the religious, since that's a value they prize). A reader sent this link about trees falling on a house and this one about a plane crash. Why are the faithful so desperate to avoid recognizing the performance of the people involved? Is it really so scary to instead recognize the power of personal responsibility and hard work and education and basic cause and effect really?

Interestingly enough, none of these miracles violate the known laws of nature. Why doesn't God just levitate falling planes and trees? The same kinds of questions can be asked in medicine - God heals lizard and crab amputees; why not people? In fact the miracles are never anything that can't be explained by the normal function of the laws of nature, along with courage and clearheadedness of the parties involved. And why is the miracle-requiring problem allowed to happen in the first place? And why don't miracles save everyone? The parents of Sandra Cantu, the eight-year-old girl murdered in a church by her Sunday school teacher last week, might be asking this question right now: this girl was right in God's cross-hairs, and He did nothing.

The non-answer is "We don't know God's plan." (That's a great one, because you can remind people of that the next time they try to quote Scripture.) In other words, when something good happens, of course, God's in charge; when something bad happens, we must admit we don't know God's mind. A smart-ass might suggest that we turn it around. Something bad happens, of course, Satan's in charge; something good happens, and of course we don't know Satan's plan.

Final question: what's the miracle cut-off? I was hungry when I got up this morning. I looked in my fridge and there was yogurt! It's a miracle! Never mind that a friend brought it by yesterday and put it there; she was guided by Providence. Or: I turn the key in my car's ignition, and it starts! Praise the Ford, it's a miracle!

If these aren't miracles, why, exactly, are they not?

Meanwhile, next time there's a car crash or a surgery or a plane crash where despite all odds, most people come out of it okay, take the time to praise the dedication and courage of the people involved - and don't be afraid to tell the miracle-mongers how insulting to the human spirit they actually are.

1 comment:

Dan said...

As I mentioned when I sent you those articles, what I find particularly creepy about attributing miraculous protection to the supernatural isn't as much the lack of credit to natural world heroes, but the blind eye that is turned towards preventative safety measures.

How about hiring an arborist to evaluate the health of that 50' red oak growing right next to your house? How about requiring a co-pilot on passenger flights?

Hypothetically, if I were to call you to tell to get out of your house because I was going to cut down a tree such that it would smash your roof and kill you if you didn't get off the sofa, would you categorize me as a friend or an enemy? I might not be a murderer, but I'm surely an asshole.