Saturday, 17 March 2012

Where Have All The Miracles Gone?

Mythology is full of stories of divine interventions; of things magically happening before people's eyes; of dragon's teeth turning into heavily-armoured soldiers; of burning bushes talking; of magic trees with magic fruit and talking snakes. We are told of giants rising up from the sea; of kings who could turn stuff into gold by touching it; of wolves rearing human children; of people being swallowed by great fish and walking out of them unharmed three days later.

If these myths are to be believed wooded staves could turn into snakes; whole armies could hide inside a wooden horse; whole seas could be made to open up to allow people to walk across them; laws could appear written on tablets of stone and people could live for hundreds of years and even bear children into old age, and even virgins could give birth - seemingly a fairly common event in those days and not at all connected with the strict laws governing extra-marital sex and the social disgrace or worse of unmarried motherhood.

And then there were prophets who could foretell the future with unerring accuracy as though they spoke the words of omniscient gods, handily written about some time after the events they unerringly foretold.

Miracles and prophets were commonplace in those days it seems. Miracles would pop up at just the right time when a king or a leader needed one to convince people of his power or his right to rule, and prophets would make a really useful prediction at just the right time to justify taking some action or other such as invading someone else's land and driving them off or killing them.

And killing animals, and on occasions people, and especially when they were then burned in exactly the right way by priests, could ensure crops grew, droughts ended, barren women became pregnant and plagues went elsewhere.

So where did all the miracles go?

Why do dragons no longer appear to ravage towns, carry off maidens and provide armies when their teeth are sown? Why do giants no longer rise up out of the sea to save ships, or destroy them? Why don't we see priests and evangelists turning sticks into snakes, walking unharmed out of great fish or whales or parting seas at will? Why do burning bushes no longer speak to people or doves appear in the air from nowhere? For those few people who still believe in magic it must seem as though people in those days were more privileged and were given these miracles as evidence because they weren't expected to just believe by faith alone. Maybe in those days the myth writers didn't even expect people to be that gullible.

Could it be that people no longer really believe in magic and so no one tries to get away with these stories any more? Of course, in some backward parts of the world people still believe in witchcraft and faith healers and regularly fall for rigged displays of supposedly paralysed people walking, dumb people talking, the blind being suddenly able to see after being touched or having magic spells cast over them, but few educated people take these displays as anything more than simple conjuring tricks and orchestrated money-making scams aimed at credulous, superstitious and backward people.

In fact, the supply of miracles and prophets dried up as people became better educated and no longer so easily fooled. As people began to realise the universe was a rational place which could be studied and understood, it no longer looked like a place driven by magic like a Terry Pratchett fantasy world. And so magical explanations and stories of magical events had less traction and were more likely to be dismissed as tales designed to fool the gullible, or simple explanations to satisfy simple people by people who were merely pretending to know the answers. Indeed, as people became more sceptical, trying to get away with these tricks became counter-productive.

The Mormon religion seems to have been the last time it was successfully used when, amazingly, a convicted fraudster and confidence trickster managed to pull off another one. Having said that though there are still examples of similar fraudsters managing to earn a living from 'creation science' and fake museums, so clearly not everyone everywhere has yet accepted that magic is for children.

All that is needed now is for religions and people who follow them to grow up and accept that the stories in their sacred books were made up for people who believed in magic, by people who knew what they wanted them to believe, and who were merely going about the business of persuading them with the only methods which they knew would work: with stories of miracles and prophets and gods who were, naturally, on the side of the people at whose behest the stories were made up.





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4 comments :

  1. Unfortunately, the real miracle would be to have everybody grow up and stop believing in miracles:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Why do dragons no longer appear to ravage towns, carry off maidens and provide armies when their teeth are sown? Why do giants no longer rise up out of the sea to save ships, or destroy them? Why don't we see priests and evangelists turning sticks into snakes, walking unharmed out of great fish or whales or parting seas at will? Why do burning bushes no longer speak to people or doves appear in the air from nowhere?"

    Because now we have drug prohibition laws.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fr. Mac Gregor excoriates for the supposed genetic argument in noting that religion stems for magic, but no it is magic! This is Lamberth's argument from magic!
    Google Lamberth's naturalist arguments about God to see that [to] know God = no God!
    Nescience = ignorance- the Church of Nescientology and Christian Nescience
    For the record.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Belief in magic and miracles is still rife among the non-christian religion community, and seems too, to have a strong adherence in the southern bible-belt areas

    ReplyDelete

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