Why we don’t see miracles

A very exercised religious reader sent this comment, complete with name, which I am putting above the fold. It explains clearly why we don’t see miracles these days, a question raised by Robert Ingersoll in the previous post (my emphasis in  the quote). It also shows the power of the religious mind to believe things (and believe them strongly) for which there is not a scintilla of evidence.

Robert Hampson commented on “Quote of the day: Robert G. Ingersoll #3″       

It’s because of faithless people like yourself that miracles are not given. Read Betty Malz: My Brief Glimpse at Eternity. Rudimentary Science can’t explain her experiences. It’s so naive to even consider that when you die there’s nothing but blackness. If that were so then there would be no universe, no light. We would not have a mind to think and eyes to see, It’s a simple concept. Before the creation of the universe there was a supreme being and this being created time, and with time came space. Because if there was no God where did all this atomic matter come from? Like I said: we shouldn’t really be here if there is nothing when we die – but we are, and we have intelligent minds to think. This energy that makes our thoughts, controls our physical bodies cannot die, it passes to another plane of existence as a soul, a spirit. It is really crazy to think that our mortal minds, with our earthly sciences, can begin to reason and contemplate with the meaning of life – wishful conjecture, nothing more. Open your eyes and you will see that you only exist because you were created. Science is blind to the true laws of the universe and the man behind the ethereal curtain. Remember one thing: no after life, no universe, that is the law that science contradicts, that is the law that would be sound judgement if there was NO God. But as we have seen: there is a universe, therefore there must be an afterlife. “I think therefore I am”: Rene Descartes’. For him that has faith let him listen!

But what I don’t get is that in the old days, when miracles were a dime a dozen, there were also faithless people: lots of them!

197 Comments

  1. Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Permit me to again observe that miracles are a literary device. The whole point of a miracle is that it’s something that can’t happen. If it actually did happen, it wouldn’t be a miracle; it’d only be remarkable.

    Look at every miracle described in every holy book, and you’ll see it perfectly fits that pattern. If you actually saw somebody walk on water or turn water into wine, you’d think it was a neat trick and you’d try to figure out how to do it yourself, but the mere fact that you saw it happen is proof that it’s not actually a miracle. The only reason they’re miracles in the Bible — and, indeed, the only reason why those incidents are included in the Bible — is because they’re impossible.

    Otherwise, the computer you’re reading this on is a miracle, and every time you drive your car on to the ferry to buy a bottle of wine across the bay, that’s a whole bunch of miracles right there.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • blitz442
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I had always thought of miracles as evidence of a non-human intelligence at work,rather than the mindless operations of nature.

      So the existence of a flower or bird would not be evidence of a “God”, but seeing all of the statues in Central Park suddenly animated and carrying on conversations might be.

      Of course, that wouldn’t mean that this God was not just some intelligent alien. I have no idea what evidence would suffice to establish the existence of some infinite mind that transcends reality.

      • gbjames
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Well… that Central Park scene could just be an episode of Dr. Who being filmed.

        • blitz442
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          +1

          To be(semi)serious here, the animation of metal statues would seem to fall outside explanations such as “well, I guess that’s just some aspect of the laws of physics that we haven’t understood before.” In order to explain animated metal statues speaking, getting in fist fights, running relay races, etc. it seems that we would need the introduction of MIND.

          • Marella
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            I don’t see how the introduction of what you call MIND could possibly effect the animation of statues. It would need serious ju-ju to achieve that, and we already have a surplus of minds on this planet. They have produce marvels, but not miracles.

            • blitz442
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

              I am saying that it would be difficult to explain animated statues, particularly ones that exhibit complicated behavior, using just the laws of physics. Some intelligence would have to be responsible for the manipulation of the matter in the statues to produce such a result.

              Conceptually, it’s not much different from thinking that the existence of a metal statue of Abe Lincoln could not have come about without the input of a mind. Metal does not just arrange itself in such a specific way.

              Show me a statue anywhere in the world, and I am 99.99999999999% sure that it is not the result of purely natural processes (mindless processes). Even if I have no clue who made it, I know that it must have been someone. Now show me a solid metal statue that can walk around, pass the Turing test, play the violin, and I will be hard-pressed to explain such a thing without reference to input from a mind, and an extremely advanced one at that. Godlike, in fact.

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

          Ahem… Doctor Who! ;-)

          & §

          /@

          • gbjames
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            I’m so embarrassed I might trip over my scarf.

            • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, but at least you know where your towel is.

              Erm…you do know where your towel is, don’t you…?

              b&

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Any sufficiently advanced technology… 

        /@

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          I prefer a different formulation: any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • blitz442
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. I’m not saying that we can necessarily distinguish magic from very advanced technology. I’m saying that we can, however, distinguish phenomena or artifacts caused by minds from those not due to minds.

        • Pete UK
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Any sufficiently advanced theology is indistinguishable from complete b******s?

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I had always thought of miracles as evidence of a non-human intelligence at work,rather than the mindless operations of nature.

        Is a flying carpet magical / miraculous? A ____ potion? The philosopher’s stone? The fountain of youth? A room whose insides are bigger than the outsides? A cup that cannot be emptied or the cornucopia?

        b&

        • gbjames
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          “A room whose insides are bigger than the outsides”

          Not a room, but certainly a police box!

          • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

            Now you’re an expert… 

            /@

            • gbjames
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

              I’d like to respond in my best Tom Baker voice but it would be lost in this little edit box.

        • blitz442
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          See above. I’m not so much questioning the magic vs. technology issue, rather the question of whether someting is due to blind, mindless processes, or is it due to an advanced non-human intelligence? If a real difference exists, this intelligence could easily supply evidence of its existence.

          Whether that intelligence is corporeal, or of the non-material type that theists like to describe, is a different question.

          • michaelbusch
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            >>I have no idea what evidence would suffice to establish the existence of some infinite mind that transcends reality.<<

            I propose that anyone claiming communication with an omniscient super-intelligence should predict the times and locations of the next thousand supernova as seen from Earth (to within a few seconds and a few lightyears).

            If they can do that correctly, they either have omniscience or time travel.

            • blitz442
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

              Or a better understanding of physics than we currently do.

            • lamacher
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              And as a probability, much more likely to be the latter.

            • michaelbusch
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              There is no currently-thought-to-be-possible way to predict the timing of a supernova to that level without actually knowing when it will be going off (the timing isn’t defined to <10 s or so because the exploding core is large and the detonation is only so fast).

              But, yes, the working hypothesis would be 'time travel' rather than 'God did it'. I merely present it as an example of something that would be trivial for an omniscient intelligence to do, but that no normal con artist would be able to fake.

              • blitz442
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

                But it would also be possible for a very advanced, but not omniscient, intelligence. I’m looking from something that would rule out the former, and leave only the latter as the explanation.

    • Pierre
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Miracles are not seen as a literary device by the catholic pope when he is in the process of canonizing a person.

      Also, someone once remarked that there are no miracles where amputees have regrown their missing limb(s). God does not love amputees perhaps… :-)

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        The willfully deluded and those that delude them care little for the true nature of their delusions.

        You know how “willing suspension of disbelief” works? These people have permanently suspended disbelief. That’s like, basically, the logical equivalent of the textbook definition of “faith.”

        Doesn’t make that which they believe in any less fictional, of course — else we’d have to grant that Santa is real because young children don’t see him as a literary device.

        b&

  2. Hos Loftus
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Really. Do bacteria also have an “afterlife”? If not, that means they should not exist?

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      No, if the harmful kind did not exist how could we have an “afterlife”?

      • Notagod
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        By having christians murdering themselves and others either by act or by adherence to superstition.

        Or likely, we would just die as some of us do as a result introduced by copying errors. Damned christian gods can’t even copy correctly.

  3. Alex Shuffell
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    If people want to be taken seriously when they think their god did anything they should explain how. How did god create atoms, how does a god create anything? Without that answer the ‘god did it’ answer doesn’t give any information.

    • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      No… Fred did it.

      /@

      • Jaime Ospina
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Would you be so kind as to introduce me to Fred?

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          He seems to be a friend* of Anthony Grayling; I don’t know him personally.

          /@

          *An imaginary friend, to be sure; but used only for didactic purposes.

          • jerrold12
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            Sounds like Harvey, minus the didactics.

          • bernardhurley
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink

            Tony has many invisible friends. However, he doesn’t actually believe they are real. As he often says, there is more evidence for the tooth fairy than for God, sorry Fred; what’s more, it can be a far more profitable belief.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      ” … how does a god create anything?”

      He “poofs.”

      Whether His preferred poofing method more closely resembles Samantha’s bewitching nose-wiggle or Jeannie’s dreamy head-nod is among the universe’s enduring mysteries.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Ha Ha! “Poofing” is so . . . grand? solemn? . . . silly!

      • Jaime Ospina
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        + 1

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted January 12, 2013 at 4:22 am | Permalink

        The authors of the Bible have their own idea on the matter of poofing everything. He ‘speaks’ things into existence. Kind of like what a wizard or sorceress does, using Words of Power.

        Well, actually that’s only what the Genesis 1 authors claim. No mention of it in Genesis 2. Their preferred method seems to resemble making a clay golem from the earth.

        This leaves a few concerns. Why would a god speak a hundred billion galaxies into existence many of which have hundreds of billions of stars in them, if only a thousand or so can be seen with the naked eye. Half that if you don’t go far enough north and south of the Equator.

        Not only that, but as told all those stars appear as afterthoughts when the Sun and the Moon have been placed to light the night and the day for little old us.

        We also see that the Israelites held breath as the essence of living. God blows into the nostrils of his man-golem to bring him to life and give him a soul in Genesis 2:7. This very much contradicts the contention that life begins and the soul gets attached at conception.

        It’s a miracle anyone can believe in a literal Bible.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted January 12, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          We also see that the Israelites held breath as the essence of living

          This seems to have been the case in Indo-European too, as in the history of words literally meaning ‘breath’ such as anima and spiritus in Latin, psyche and pneuma in Greek, which have all been attached by deluded liars to the purely imaginary concept of ‘soul’ as something that can exist apart from a body.

          Surprisingly, our word soul itself doesn’t seem to have originally meant ‘breath’, but to be related to words like German Seile ‘rope’, so meaning ‘that which binds’, or without which the body dissolves. In any case, there is no logical or etymological reason why any of these words should imply substance dualism or immortality.

        • microraptor
          Posted January 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

          The authors of the Bible have their own idea on the matter of poofing everything. He ‘speaks’ things into existence. Kind of like what a wizard or sorceress does, using Words of Power.

          How did he speak anything before he’d created the atmosphere?

          • JohnnieCanuck
            Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

            Maybe subvocally?

            Surely a high enough level wizard wouldn’t have to actually say the Words out loud to get the effect and we can be sure that He is the best possible Wizard there could ever be, at least according to some theologicians’ arguments.

            Besides, there was no-one else there to hear Him, so He was only talking to Himself, anyway.

            One thing’s for certain, the people who first created this myth had little knowledge of the propagation of sound and less knowledge (none) of a vacuum, I should think.

            • Jaime Ospina
              Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

              “Surely a high enough level wizard wouldn’t have to actually say the Words out loud…”

              To whom? Other wizards?

  4. brdke
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Let’s congratulate Mr. Hampton for the surprising lack of atrocious grammar, random and unexplained spelling errors, lack of capitalization of words for no apparent reason (Ok there are a couple!), that are found in diatribes like his so often. But I have no idea what he’s saying! To compare Descartes’ cogito, which, problematic though it was shown to be, has a power and a force that his inference, “there is universe, therefore there must be an afterlife,” fails to have. Wow. Just wow.

    His explanation of no miracles reminds me of when psi buffs say that the presence of skeptics keeps the strange phenomena from happening–great! I had no idea I was so powerful!

    • blitz442
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Indeed, apparently us atheists can thwart the will of a being with limitless power!

      I’ll remember that the next time I feel lacking in self-confidence. Might even put it on my CV under “skills”.

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        We are iron chariots!

        /@

        • Scott near Berkeley
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          Where is that quote in the Bible, where God was defeated, because the enemy used “iron chariots”???

          I know about it from the book “Ken’s Guide to the Bible” (Ken Smith) but I can’t seem to find my copy of that book.

          • Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

            Judges 4:13-16

            b&

            • Scott near Berkeley
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

              thank yew!!! :)

              • Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                You’re welcome. We maim two peas.

                b&

            • JohnnieCanuck
              Posted January 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              Actually, Ben, that’s the time that God figured out how to defeat iron chariots. He ‘discomfited’ the charioteers so that they became confused and jumped out of the chariots and ran away.

              Also, what have you got against men’s wigs? ;)

          • Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Erm… Judges 1:19: “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

            /@

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        1. B.S., Biology

        2. Twelve years’ experience running population biology lab; electrophoresis, field work, data analysis…

        3. More powerful than God

        4. Proficient with Microsoft Office

        . . .

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          Ah, ordered from least to most impressive… 

          /@

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          Proficient with Microsoft Office? My God, a miracle!

          • Diane G.
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

            *blush* Actually, one of the four items is untrue. You found it!

            • Jaime Ospina
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

              Oh well, most disappointing. After so many years struggling with Excel I thought I had finally found someone blessed by a real miracle.

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

                If there were a god, Excel would be far more intuitive!

              • Jaime Ospina
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                If there were a God like the Christian God he would punish sinners learning Excel for all eternity.

            • Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

              I’m a database programmer by day; I’ve made a living as a graphic designer; and I’m a not-miserable amateur photographer.

              And I’m here to tell you that nobody is “proficient” with Office.

              And that’s for the simple reason that Office is such a steaming pile of shit that you can’t use it to produce anything but more shit. Doesn’t matter how good you are, you ain’t gettin’ nothin’ but shit out of that turd.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                Damned self-perpetuating franchise pile-o-shit, tho. Best thing about having your kids grow up is no longer having to help them with their Office homework!

              • Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                Or, you could cut right to the chase and not have kids in the first place….

                b&

              • marcusa1971
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

                As Richard Feynman said: “If you think you understand Microsoft Office, you don’t understand Microsoft Office.”

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

                :D

                @ marcusa

              • marycanada FCD
                Posted January 12, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

                Totally agree. Are there alternatives?

              • Jaime Ospina
                Posted January 12, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

                Shucks! No evidence of a miracle yet.

              • Posted January 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

                Dale, you fathom the Ockham, whilst Richard Swinburne, advanced theologian does not. He claims that, because God is a simple being, He is simpler than naturalism. Hardly! He has all those convoluted, ad hoc assumptions, His attributes and His referents, and He is that Grand Mystery, surrounded by still other mysteries, that He hardly qualifies as the simpler explanation!
                Atheologian, Keith Parsons wee expresses my ignostic attitude:” Occult power wielded by a transcendent being in an inscrutable manner for unfathomable purposes does not seem to be any kind of an answer.”
                Not only does He fail the Ockham test, He is incoherent with His contradictory and incoherent attributes and His lack of referents as Grand Designer, Grand Miracle Monger and so forth, as we naturalists take away each with our counter arguments – the teleonomic alone does all that He upholds ignosticism. And thus, Lamberth’s the ignostic-Ockham notes that either, He is incoherent and thus, cannot possibly exist or that He has too many false assumptions to be useful as any kind of explanation.
                How might a persona have a relationship with that square circle?
                Thus, on Dawkins’ scale, I Ignostic/Ighteist Morgan am an eight!
                By the way, putative God would not have any rights over us, nor judge nor punish us! He’d face then that one-way street that Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven notes.
                This anti-theist thus goes to the heart of theism, that of God as the potter who gives us each a purpose: He is not my potter nor I His pottery- His “thing” to which He gives a purpose! What a travesty to humanity! I’d owe Him n no worship whatsoever!
                Why would a person want a relationship with a celestial tyrant?
                WEIT and Dale, are y’all with me? Anyone else?

    • Jeremy Nel
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      “Let’s congratulate Mr. Hampton for the surprising lack of atrocious grammar, random and unexplained spelling errors…”

      Haha!! Exactly. I’ve long pondered whether I’d have been better off simply ignoring everything written with appalling grammar or spelling. I keep reprimanding myself, “No, maybe this time their point will nonetheless be a good one”, but noooo…. ;)

      • Marella
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Highly education believers can’t make sense, the less educated are no more likely to do so.

        • bernardhurley
          Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:20 am | Permalink

          Ah yes, but to a true believer not making sense is a virtue.

  5. Sajanas
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It makes no sense that God would do the most impressive miracles for the people that required the least amount of effort to be impressed, while conducting absolutely none for the most skeptical. If God really cared about people believing in him, and the bible certainly seems to imply that faith in God and following his rules is more important than life itself, the miracles would get larger and larger as people got more and more educated. Unless, of course, its all myth.

    For me, the only thing that rang true in the whole Jesus story was when he was hauled before Pilate and was unable to do a miracle to save his life. Historical or not, I’m sure a lot of holy men in the area met their doom in exactly the same way… its a lot easier to create a story after the fact than to do it directly.

    • Randy
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Not at all surprising that God doesn’t do miracles for we skeptics. Isn’t it true that God looks most favorably on those who believe with the greatest amount of faith and therefore need not be convinced by evidence or demonstration? So if you really want to be as close to God as possible while still on this earthly plain then believe, including in past miracles, without any need for God to demonstrate his power in the present. This is the twisted thought process of belief. Belief has a way of twisting and binding the believers brain into a chaotic mass of mental knots.

      • Sajanas
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        The funny thing is, it isn’t necessarily true. Most of the church patriarchs wouldn’t have had any idea that God existed without him directly revealing himself to them, just because there wasn’t anything similar. Why is their lack of knowledge privileged over our glut of knowledge?

        Its questions like this that were always rattling around in my head in Sunday school, but never wanted to ask because I knew the answer wouldn’t satisfy.

  6. Vaal
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Well, what can one do with Mr. Hampson’s reply except repeat parts of Ingersoll that he must have missed?

    To wit:

    “We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact.”

    Mr. Hampson’s post featured precisely the type of vacuity Ingersoll had decried.

    Waiting on your fact, Mr. Hampson….

    Vaal

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Marella
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      A word of advice; don’t hold your breath.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      I agree 100%. Just one fact, please!

      Mr. Hampson’s post was so full of unsupported speculation and false logic (example here, originated by me: “Human blood is red. Some roses are red. Those roses colored red contain human blood! It’s so obvious!!”) that rather than make any useful attempt to challenge the blizzard of falseness it contains, I go along with Vaal.

      Just ONE fact.

  7. gbjames
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Cool. I’m the one who prevents miracles from happening! I didn’t know I had this power!

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Don´t take all the credit, gb. Part of it is mine.

      • blitz442
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Me too! I think that I am particularly to blame for the lack of cure for most childhood diseases, and Terri Schiavo.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

          But have you the power to perform long-distance video diagnoses – or is that solely the dominion of the great oracles of the U.S. Senate (a miraculous ability that they, unlike God, displayed no reticence in flouting before their constituencies during Ms. Schiavo’s case)?

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      To think that you are more powerful than Robert Hampson’s pathetic and impotent god.

      Don’t let it do to your head.

      • steve oberski
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        or go to your head

    • gbjames
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      HEY! Stop trying to muscle in on my powers!

  8. Alex Shuffell
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t mind the magic and the wishful thinking and leaps of logic, if A, therefore 7, “there is a universe, therefore there must be an afterlife.”It’s the unbelievable amount of arrogance and egocentric view of existence that I do mind, to think that the universe exists because of us, to think we are special, that we live forever, is a waste of life and a poor use of our minds.
    If he has a point to make he should explain himself, he’s just making stuff up as he talks, expressing an inhumane lack of humility.

    • Christian
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      This also reminds me of the excellent point Jason Rosenhouse made on his blog in his post on Paul Nelson (Coyne vs. Nelson):

      There is, I would think, also a theological problem with Nelson’s argument. On the one hand, he claims that the evidence for God’s existence is so overwhelming and unambiguous that anyone who has not been blinded by ideological prejudice can see it clearly. But the fact remains that the evidence Nelson cites is not thought to be persuasive by the vast majority of professional scientists, the folks, mind you, who really understand this subject backward and forward. This includes a great many Christian biologists who, while certainly not laboring under an anti-supernatural bias, nonetheless think the evidence Nelson presents is a poor reason for believing in God.

      So what is God playing at? Does He want His existence to be completely obvious or not? If He does, then why does He leave clues that are, for the most part, persuasive only to people who know little about science? And if He does not, perhaps so that we may be said to have a free choice about coming to faith, then why does He leave such powerful clues at all. In his talk, Nelson suggests that all evidence gets filtered through the biases of the person interpreting it, so that mere quantity of evidence is not really what matters. This is fatuous, of course. Yes, we all suffer under the weight of our biases and preconceptions, but most people are not so dogmatic in their beliefs that absolutely nothing can change their minds. Prior to Darwin, most scientists accepted Paley’s design argument as entirely convincing. The evidence presented by Darwin and his successors caused most people to change their minds. If God wants His existence to be completely obvious, I have no doubt he could manifest Himself in ways that would convince virtually everyone. He would not need to rely on clues that are compelling only to those who do not know what they are talking about. (emphasize mine)

      • Christian
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Dang, this was supposed to be a reply to Sajanas :(

        • Sajanas
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          I got it :)
          That was a nice article… its another fold to the Epicurus paradox. If God really wants belief, why doesn’t he show himself?

          If it is because he can’t, then he’s not omnipotent. If it is because he’s unwilling, then he’s capricious or malevolent. If it is because he thinks he’s already revealed himself sufficiently, then he’s a fool.

      • Sastra
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        The main precept of faith comes down to “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary; for those who don’t believe, no evidence is possible.”

        Your ‘true character,’ your inner nature either responds to the supernatural Truth by liking it enough to embrace it — or disliking it enough to refuse to embrace it by looking for reasons and excuses. Skeptics are not seekers; they have a unreceptive, cold and bitter attitude. Thus all the analogies they make to nonbelievers being like children who pretend they don’t hear their parent calling.

        According to the assumption of faith as a “way of knowing,” then, we apparently know things through an Extra Sensory Perception which takes place on the spiritual level. And if we doubt this, well — looks like we’re the wrong kind of people, the people who wouldn’t believe “no matter what.”

        It’s a very insulting portrait of us, and a very flattering portrait of them. But don’t worry: this comes from their commitment to humility.

        • Christian
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          Very well said.
          And à propos analogies: ever noticed how readily they discard the omni-qualities of their deity in those analogies when it suits them?
          If you reinsert these “omnis” into their analogy then suddenly it isn’t that compelling anymore.

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          The main precept of faith comes down to “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary; for those who don’t believe, no evidence is possible.”

          …from which it should become instantly obvious that anything and everything that relies on faith is, through and through, nothing more than a confidence scam.

          To be sure, most such scams, especially the successful ones, offer the victims some very convincing tokens of value. And some are relatively benign, all things considered.

          But they’re still scams, one and all.

          b&

        • Alex Shuffell
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          Plenty of evidence is possible. For evidence to actually be evidence it has to be examined and subject to experiment. If not it might as well be fiction. That is how science works, how progress is made, looking for reasons and excuses, creating hypotheses and doing experiments, correcting our mistakes when new information is present, always looking for more information.

          Skeptics being not seekers is very wrong, every good scientist is a skeptic as I explained in the last sentence. We don’t have a cold and bitter attitude, we just don’t respect this anti-scienctific arrogant attitude that allows faith as acceptable form of belief. Faith doesn’t help, it can’t help us understand. As you said, no evidence is required for faith, making it nothing more than a euphemism for ignorance, it’s a poor excuse for a belief.

      • Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        Christian, the late theologian and philosopher of religion John Hick claimed that God made Himself ambiguous as knowledge, so that He wouldn’t overwhelm our free wills. Hardly, as we have determined volition instead. He was hardly a literalist, but Yahweh certainly did not hide Himself ambiguously, but acted so as to let Hid people know His desires- or else! And still, He didn’t overwhelm their volitions!
        Atheologian, John L.Schellenberg makes the hiddenness argument that thus He hides Himself so much that He appears non-existent!
        Besides, How could He act in or outside the Cosmos anyway without intent as the teleonomic argument argues? Until they can in a general manner, at least, tell us He acts in the world, other than by the magic of lit it be, their case suffers gargantually1
        I call Hick the ever ready rationalizer!
        Furthermore, how could He act anyway as His transcendence precludes His omniperesence, and- He cannot be transcendent anyway as per [Hans] Reichenbah’s argument from Existence, as Existence is all, no transcendence exist.
        We don’t need Him as God the Henry Drummon God of the scientific gaps nor of Lamberth’s the God of the ultimate explanatory gap!
        How then might a person have a relationship with some being who cannot exist!
        Morgan-Lynn-Griggs Lamberth, aka Inquiring Lynn

    • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Hey! I am special. My momma told me so years ago.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted January 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Same here. Mine even had me tested.

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      Alex, you are refuting the fine-tuning and the anthropic arguments that the Cosmos exists for us instead of our coming about naturalistically. The former, as Carneades would note, begs the question of directed outcomes that another argument also refutes.
      This idea of directed outcomes reflects animism, that superstition!

      S.K, aka Carneades [of Ga.]

  9. Christian
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It makes no sense that God would do the most impressive miracles for the people that required the least amount of effort to be impressed, while conducting absolutely none for the most skeptical.

    Exactly. It seems “faith” is just an other word for the willingness of a person to fool himself, to see what he wants to see. In other words, to perform an anti-Feynman.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Since Feynman = science we can substitute and therefore:

      Faith = – Sciece.

      QED.

      • Chris
        Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:39 am | Permalink

        Actually, this is probably closer:

        Faith = sqrt ( -Science )

  10. horrabin
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I thought maybe you had left off some of this comment because the “it’s because of you miracles aren’t given” is just kind of plopped down there without further explanation before launching into the stuff-exists-so-god nonsense. But no, that’s the whole argument, a variation of the ‘negative vibrations’ dodge, I suppose.

  11. Scott de B.
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    So it is inconceivable that we cease to exist (as conscious beings) when we die, but we were created, so there was a time when we didn’t exist, but it’s inconceivable that there will be a time in the future when we don’t exist….

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Indeed, Scott, not only were we created, we were created to partake in the nature of our creator, that is, to become eternal.

      • gbjames
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        How do you know that, Jaime Ospina?

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          Personal revelation from a higher authority, of course. I am blessed with special channels of communication as per Sastra’s post above.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            Of course. I had forgotten.

          • blitz442
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

            So, is the Pope right or wrong about gays?

            • Jaime Ospina
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              My sources tell me the Pope is right only when he says he is wrong.

      • blitz442
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Why not just skip the part of physical existence then, and go right to the eternal communion with the creator outside of the material?

        What is the point of the material Universe?

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          And miss the judgment “reality”? What fun would there be in it?

          • blitz442
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            I forgot beer. Can you taste beer for eternity?

            • gbjames
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

              Jeeze, I hope it isn’t overly hopped!

            • Jaime Ospina
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

              Only the home-brewed kind. No Bud in heaven.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

              “Can you taste beer for eternity?”

              I can still taste last night’s, and as Stephen Wright is wont to say about eternity: “So far, so good.”

      • Marella
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        The universe is our creator and we are made of the same stuff it is made of, so we do partake in its nature! There now everyone’s happy. ;-)

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          + 1

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          Do tell Mr. Hampson. You have found the cure for his angst; he can be assured of eternity.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I’m having trouble parsing that sentence into something comprehensible.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Hey Scott, you don’t want people confusing me with you. Should you not pick a more unique moniker??? I’ve been here a long time.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Maybe you should come clean with your name. “Scott on the outskirts of Oakland” is probably more like it. At least that’s what “near Berkeley” means in East-Bay real-estate speak. :)

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          Could be Albany, not Oakland….

          b&

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted January 12, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        More unique? One of a kind isn’t enough?

  12. Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I have recently considered that if a supreme being existed always, then existence (of some kind) did in fact exist… always, or at least as long as this supreme being. This gives room for the nothing that really isn’t nothing from which the universe we know could have popped.

    Physicists (Hawking et al) have given us the information to know that no god is needed for the universe to be as it is. If existence has always been, there is no need to posit a god. To posit that a god, the single existing thing would wait an infinite amount of time before creating a universe says much about that god. That it would create only one says even more. That it would then destroy almost all life in that universe says even more.

    Such a god is not perfect nor omnipotent. Its a good thing that such god does not exist then.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Well put.

      And if you plug “existence” into the whole Non-contingent Necessary Being ontological argument, you defeat it by eliminating the need for God. They’re just substituting “Being” for “be-ing,” the extraordinary for the ordinary.

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        When I was younger and delusional, I would never have imagined that we would be able to explain why the universe exists never mind doing so without a god in the mix. Right now, in this moment (great band), I can’t imagine even wanting to explain the universe with a god in the mix. It feels like a relief to understand enough to see that a god is not necessary. All this really could happen, more or less. There is no magic that I will not be privy to. There is no being that I am indebted to. I don’t have to thank anyone for the simple act of being alive.

  13. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Contra Betty Malz and her Near Death Experience – read ‘The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain’ by Kevin Nelson M.D.

    Brief summary: A professor of neurology explains NDE and other ‘spiritual’ experiences as the natural consequence of a temporarily fragmented consciousness.

    Just because an experience feels compelling doesn’t make the meaning you give it true.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      And by what means did the
      MEMORY
      of that experience, be recorded by a “soul” that is without substance (and no memory mechanism) and yet be transferred to the gigantic complexity that is each person’s
      MEMORY
      intact, without error, every phosphorization perfect, every calcium ion in place, every enzyme cut loose precisely in order, all orchestrated by an undetectable “force”, the “soul”???

      Alternative: a fantastic biochemical mechanism with 80 TRILLION switches generated the whole thing….in like, thirty seconds, using only a fraction of its processing power…no problem, thank you very much..!!

      Anyone wish to characterize a TRILLION anything?

  14. Sastra
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Read Betty Malz: My Brief Glimpse at Eternity. Rudimentary Science can’t explain her experiences.

    This is Mr. Hampson’s attempt to respond to Ingersoll’s demand for a fact, to answer Jerry’s question of why there are no miracles today. I haven’t read the source, but it’s obviously a recount of someone’s amazing personal experience. As I predicted in my comment on the other thread, he is saying “there ARE miracles happening today and here is a FACT for you: you just won’t believe it.”

    This energy that makes our thoughts, controls our physical bodies cannot die, it passes to another plane of existence as a soul, a spirit.

    Here I think is the underlying explanation for the writer’s strange leap from there is a universe, therefore there must be an afterlife: mind/body dualism. Mind does not come from matter — matter comes from mind. This means we have to start out with a mind. And it also means that our own minds cannot die.

    • Christian
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I also never heard a convincing argument from the mind/body dualists why we can go unconscious at all. If we receive a blow to our head or are under the influence of certain substances (e.g. anesthesia) why don’t we just stay conscious but are simply decoupled from our senses?

      • Sastra
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Why, because that’s not the way it works.

        And now here is a story of someone who got a blow on the head or took drugs or went under anesthetic and had an OBE! So sometimes, it does work that way.

        Oh, wait. You wanted a convincing argument.

      • gr8hands
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Excellent point!

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        It’s a question I have often asked. Why doesn’t the “soul” simply keep steamin’ along, without stopping? Now, we’ve found that newborn porpoises/dolphins other cetaceans, stay awake for many many days without sleeping, as newborns.

        Medieval thinkers thought the “soul” leaked out at night, when we slept, and journeyed all around, then returned.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I’m curious as to what Mr Hampson’s mind was occupied with during the 7000+ years from c6000BC to c1800AD.

      Mike.

    • Sajanas
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I saw a video making the rounds about some woman talking about how her shoes had lasted a little longer than average, and she was able to give out more spaghetti than she thought at a meal, as evidence of divine miracles.

      Nothing on par with what a universe creating entity should be able to put out. And that’s what’s so sad about it… they’re like people that are convinced that David Copperfield’s illusions are actual evidence not just of magic, but of a whole world of dreadful obligates and bloodfeuds.

      • NoAstronomer
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget the toast! Do you have any concept of the sheer amount of divine power it takes to make an image of oneself appear on a slice of toast?

        Mike.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        What? You hadn’t heard before of “The Miracle of the Pasta and the Pumps”?

        OK, maybe it’s no according-to-Hoyle loaves-and-fishes/water-into-wine miracle-type miracle. But with the dearth of modern miracles (as staked out in the OP), you takes your divine interventions where you find them.

    • Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      “Mind does not come from matter — matter comes from mind. This means we have to start out with a mind. And it also means that our own minds cannot die.”

      This is pretty much the basis of Christian Science – philosophical Idealism. There is only the Mind of God, which is all-Good, and all-True and thunk the Universe into some kind of pseudo-existence. Therefore any kind of evil is what CSs call Error, and denying it and disbelieving it will make it go away.

      I’m not sure how much most CSs actually live as though this were true in their day-to-day existence, especially outside the (non-)practice of medicine.

  15. jose
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I asked Leah Libresco the other day how can she reconcile supernatural intervention with the regularity of the laws of nature, and our very ability to use science, which depends on that regularity.

    She responded miracles are so stingy, they’re just exceptions so they don’t count. I responded that mass extinctions are much more scarce and they do count, we don’t just say they’re miracles. But it was too late.

  16. Owlglass
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Evidently, “in the old days” there were proportionally *more* people who did not believe in God Yahweh, than less(I propose to call him always by his name, there are many Gods “out there”). His Mighty Ambiguity Yahweh already knew that evidence-based reasoning would kill belief, why did he gave it to humans in the first place to decide matters? The alternative, belief without evidence caused all the infights, death and mayhem across history, which He —of course—also already knew. So He set us up to fail? Otherwise, I have to ask what is the method to decide which religion is the correct one, in such a truly neutral way that all humans, independent of each other, can determine the truth? As we see, two minds can discover the same principle, independent of each other, but no two humans have discovered the same deity, ever, independent of each other. Miracles would prove that some deity or a collection of them have bestowed us with critical thinking for a reason, but the miracle would have to tell us also, which deities to worship.

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Owl, I’ve been sent by Biju-Biju to clear matters for you… Now, we need to start with a donation…

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        :)

  17. neil344
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    “But what I don’t get is that in the old days, when miracles were a dime a dozen, there were also faithless people: lots of them!”

    Perhaps they weren’t strident faithless people.

    • Marella
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      LOL!

  18. gr8hands
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Clearly Mr. Hampson has not read his scripture. Jesus said that his followers would be able to greater miracles than he (John 14:12).

    Specifically using the word “miracles” in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

    7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

    8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

    9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

    10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

    11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

  19. Myron
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    “Before the creation of the universe there was a supreme being and this being created time, and with time came space.”

    This is self-contradictory because there can be no pre-time time, and so there is no before when a divine being could have existed beyond time/spacetime.

    • gr8hands
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      You forgot about the super-dooper AWESOME ***GOD***, who can do anything.

  20. Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    poor poor God. His followers can’t agree if miracles occur or not. However can we tell which of them are the TrueChristians?

    • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes, we can, actually. It’s right there in the Bible — in Jesus’s own words, in fact.

      Hand the Christian in question a tall, cool glass of household ammonia to chug, and have another same-sized glass of bleach handy as a chaser.

      This is best done at the entrance to the ER of the local hospital for two reasons. First, if the Christian’s faith is inadequate — that is, if the person is only a pretender and not a true Christian — then the services of the ER will be urgently required. However, if the Christian is true, you can then calmly proceed to every patient in the hospital, and the Christian can continue to demonstrate true Christianity by healing each and every one of them right there on the spot.

      For full measure, you can then scare up an herpetologist, but that’s getting a bit redundant by that point….

      b&

      • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        well, yes, there is that. Christians often have excuses why they can’t, which can create some great squirming.

        • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          It’s always good to dissonate somebody’s cognitives….

          b&

          • gr8hands
            Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

            “Thou shalt not test the lord thy god” except when you’re told to test him.

            • Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

              The modern formulation is, “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain!”

              b&

  21. Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Not only were there lots of faithless people… There were enough faithless people (and I’m talking about lack of faith in Christianity because we all know that’s the only one that counts) to supposedly torture and string up a guy who was preaching a different faith.

    A new, different faith- like, how does that even work that miracle after miracle happened for this new guy?

    And let’s entertain the thought that there is a god- with the way the guy capitalizes it, he must be talking about the Christian one (because we all know, yadda yadda). Why have you chosen that one? Why did he make the universe?

    Naive? When you die nothing happens (not even darkness)- that is a naive thought? Not the pearl gates and streets of gold and neverending happiness. Absolutely nothing happens- that’s the naive thought?!

    I like your site.

  22. H.H.
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    When I contrast the smug certainty of that comment with its puerile content, I can’t help be reminded of another quote, but from Isaac Asimov:

    Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.
    • Marella
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I love Isaac Asimov, it is a pity he couldn’t have lived long enough to join the Gnu Atheists, he would have enjoyed it all so much.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:01 am | Permalink

        I’m late to this party, and missed most of the posting fun, but have to agree with you about Asimov.

  23. Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that you even mentioned this letter. He, after all, said nothing except perhaps that to believe, you must first believe. That I have been told multiple times.

  24. Diane G.
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s because of faithless people like yourself that miracles are not given.

    This is not only annoying but pernicious. We are the ones standing between humanity and a perfect world. That means their proselytization efforts stem not just from a touching concern for our immortal souls but also out of the conviction that we are the enemy, the reason there is so much disorder, pestilence, and tragedy in the world.

    This is one sort of reasoning that can easily spark the nutcases, not to mention simply rally the forces against a common ‘evil’–us.

  25. Posted January 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    “It’s so naive to even consider that when you die there’s nothing but blackness. If that were so then there would be no universe, no light.”

    Because your personal experience with the world is “how it is.” Yes, that is naive.

  26. MadScientist
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Huh? No more miracles? I guess I was imagining all those reports of miracles in the past few years. Let’s see … in the USA there were Sullenberger doing a deadstick landing on the Hudson (miracle! miracle!), numerous people who survived natural and manmade tragedies, people who have been cured of some illness but prefer to attribute the healing to a dead pope … The only problem of course is that any sensible person looking at it doesn’t see a miracle – now if people would only have faith and believe rather than thinking, we’d see a world full of miracles!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      You don’t need a Harvard Divinity School degree to see that the whole market for miracles nose-dove back in ’88 when Willie Horton’s BFF tossed off his claim about the “Massachusetts Miracle.”

  27. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s so naive to even consider that when you die there’s nothing but blackness.

    It’s so naive to even consider that when you die you continue to experience “nothing but blackness”.

    We are chemical machines. When the chemistry winds down, so do we. When the chemistry stops, we are stopped.

    If that were so then there would be no universe, no light.

    Either utter solipsism, “I” as universe, or the worst of deepities.

    Before the creation of the universe there was a supreme being and this being created time, and with time came space.

    First, this is a done deal: it is written all over the cosmic background radiation “this universe is entirely Natural©”. A zero energy universe can have no extraneous party “cause”. No gaps for gods anymore.

    Second, even before that, since we can’t have an infinite regress of “causes” but very well eternal processes (inflationary standard cosmology is at the very least future eternal), we knew it was always processes of some form or other. Gods were always too powerless to cause anything of importance. (And now we know magic doesn’t do anything.)

    This energy that makes our thoughts, controls our physical bodies cannot die, it passes to another plane of existence as a soul, a spirit.

    Severe Ham-fisted creationism.

    In fact, our chemical redox energy is born from the Sun (sourcing free electrons) and the mantle (sinking free electrons). It dies as heat radiation all through our life and our death.

    Science is blind to the true laws of the universe

    Religion is blind to the science.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      “It dies as heat radiation all through our life and our death.”

      As heat energy _and_ mechanical energy, naturally.

  28. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “Atheist Effect”…I like that

  29. Mark Fuller Dillon
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    “Remember one thing: no after life, no universe, that is the law that science contradicts, that is the law that would be sound judgement if there was NO God. But as we have seen: there is a universe, therefore there must be an afterlife.”

    Also remember: no flying purple polygon of destiny, no cats. But as we have seen, there are cats, therefore there must be a flying purple polygon of destiny.

    Hello, Templeton? I have a concept to sell you….

  30. Laura Norder
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Those who believe in an eternal afterlife invariably portray it as a good thing. But do they ever think about the implications of such an existence? What would there be to strive for with our newly acquired perfect understanding and what incentive would we have to achieve anything when we always have an infinite amount of time to do it in. Indeed would we even be equipped to “do” anything?

    The beauty of life as we know it is that it is finite, and it seems to me that the prospect of unending existence is not at all the comforting thing believers imagine it to be.

    • Konrad
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      This was addressed by Asimov in “The Last Answer”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Answer

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        I’ve just read the synopsis, thanks, and that sounds like a typically brilliant Asimov plot, and one which I have yet to read. I must get a copy.

      • Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

        Hmm… a protagonist called Murray Templeton … ?!

        /@

    • Posted January 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      This is lovely.

      I’ve read/spoken about it… I read in Wuthering Heights (?) how a girl thought heaven would be boring, and the old lady was saying how only evil people would think that.

      But if one thinks about it, an eternal afterlife worshiping- with no suffering, sadness, hunger, thirst, temptation- would be boring. If we were equipped to think otherwise, we would need to be equipped to deal with insanity.

      If we weren’t equipped, we would be insane still, and God will probably wipe out heaven in retaliation.

      I don’t know if Asimov below addresses that in his short story. I’ve read, like, two stories by him that I really liked and bought a collection.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      And, spending that unending existence in a chorus, continuously praising God, never stopping.

      It must have been utterly, despicably, wretched to be alive and a slave, back in 10 CE. How else could “heaven” as described by Xtians, be even remotely enticing??

      • Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

        Granted, heaven sounds better than a lot of lives people are living…

        Not mine though.

      • Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:22 am | Permalink

        My wife and I were discussing “the afterlife” the other day, and she used a turn of phrase that struck me: She said that as a child, she had no doubts that when she died she would “live in bliss” in heaven.

        This prompted made me think of a conception of heaven as one where you are in a continuous state of ecstasy with no capacity for rational thought and not enough self-awareness to be bored… 

        /@

        • Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:23 am | Permalink

          *prompted

        • Chris
          Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:02 am | Permalink

          Yes, I imagine that it would become a bit boring as the first billion years won’t even be the start of it.

          I’m wondering whether the concept of eternity has shifted from what people considered “a really long time” to how we now are starting to understand deep time. Once you start plugging the more recent numbers in it becomes a much less attractive proposition.

  31. gluonspring
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    If there was no Zeus, where did God and all this atomic matter come from?

    Fun game.

  32. gluonspring
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m disappointed. This man does not know his apologetics. I thought for sure he’d quote Luke 11:

    ===========
    29As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.
    ===========

    And there you have it. No miraculous signs for the wicked. And you can’t argue with something written in an old book. QED.

  33. Dermot C
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    This guy, Richard Hampson, as Richard Crenna in ‘Body Heat’, might say, “he hasn’t done his homework…he doesn’t know the bottom line”.

    Contra RH’s “It’s because of faithless people like yourself that miracles are not given”, I’m afraid there are plenty of examples in the NT of miracles being used to convert Gentiles and Jews; one thinks of the eight nature miracles, which obviously could not have happened. There are also many examples of Yahweh’s OT miracles which outdo those of other gods as proof of the superiority of the Jewish God, despite the pre-existing disbelief of doubters and proselytes for Baal etc. So, in the context of RH’s point, that it is precisely because of faithlessness that miracles do not occur, he is plain wrong in terms of his religious history. Granted, he may not be a Christian, but nevertheless, I think the principle applies, whatever religion he professes.

    RH continues, “Before the creation of the universe there was a supreme being and this being created time, and with time came space.” If indeed RH is a Christian, he needs to revisit Genesis 1:1-2, in which God first created heaven and earth; in Judaistic creationism, space comes before time. And we are being generous to Moses in ascribing God’s subsequent separation of light from dark as being equivalent to the concept of time. Again, RH appears not to know what he’s talking about.

    I do agree with RH when he says, “Open your eyes and you will see that you only exist because you were created.” At the risk of inducing a certain queasiness, I do hope that my mum and dad had a good time while it was happening.

  34. Bob Carlson
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Hampson:

    Read Betty Malz: My Brief Glimpse at Eternity.

    Amazon says the title of the book is My Glimpse of Eternity and describes it as follows:

    Publication Date: March 1, 1986
    Over 750,000 Copies Sold–Now Available in Trade Paper

    In this bestselling, beloved true story, twenty-seven-year-old Betty Malz was pronounced dead. Almost thirty minutes later she returned to her body–to the amazement of her grieving family and the stunned hospital personnel.

    Perhaps Mr. Hampson hadn’t read this WEIT post of just about a month ago.

  35. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Two from Heinlein:

    “Every church promises miracles. But it’s always jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, never jam today.” (Stranger in a Strange Land)

    “The shamans are forever yacking about their snake-oil ‘miracles’. I prefer the Real McCoy — a pregnant woman.” (Time Enough For Love)

  36. krzysztof1
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    So many things wrong with that guy’s argument I don’t know where to start. So I won’t.

  37. Dale Franzwa
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Hello, God. If you exist and are all powerful then strike me dead this instant. . .instant passes. . .several more instants pass. Hello,God. I’m still here. Does this mean I’m more powerful than you or does it mean you don’t exist?

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      I once read in Skeptical Inquirer that that sentiment is expressed commonly enough by atheists that there have actually been a few –coincidental, need I say?–sudden fatal heart attacks subsequently. So best to come up with something less possible when you’re doing this in credulous company.

      • Posted January 12, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

        But there’s a problem of utter hypocrisy, then. I don’t remember/know/too lazy to look up where in the Bible it says not to goad God in such a manner- asking for miracles and whatnot, but it does. So, if someone does goad and have a heart attack, and someone credulous believes this is proof of God, the profound lack of such events happening should shake their faith. Or at least, when people ask God to not die just before dying of whatever.

        Buuuuut it doesn’t. In those moments, they often quote the unsourced reference above, or say something similar.

        And then it begs the question, why would God use a heart attack on an inconsequential atheist as a display of power instead of, say, striking Hitler with lightning at the Olympics?

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 12, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

          Huh? Sorry, not sure if it’s me or the credulous you’re calling hypocritical.

          • Posted January 12, 2013 at 2:48 am | Permalink

            Oh, no, love! The credulous, haha. Riding on a thought there, wasn’t I?

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:12 am | Permalink

              Gotcha. And I concur, of course. :D

      • Posted January 12, 2013 at 2:56 am | Permalink

        the variation on this theme I’ve heard is “strike everyone else in this room dead”, Carlin perhaps?

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 12, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

          Heh, heh. Sounds like him!

  38. raven
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    It’s because of faithless people like yourself that miracles are not given.

    Xian god isn’t very powerful then.

    A few nonbelievers and he goes off to Kpax IV to commune with his new favorite chosen creatures, giant squids swimming in methane seas.

  39. Piotr Gąsiorowski
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    God is like Uri Geller. His fails to perform his supernatural tricks before people who refuse to be duped.

  40. Posted January 12, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Fr. Geddes McGregor, theologian, maintains that the miracle of the fishes and the bread was just Yeshua’s getting some people to bring forth their own for everyone! How theists belie their superstition of the supernatural through the natural!
    He maintains that we naturalists commit the genetic fallacy in finding that religion developed out of magic, but no it is magic? How does God act in and behind the Cosmos? By the magic of let it be! Remember he is clairvoyant and telepathic! Ah, but Milton Rothman notes then, physics says otherwise!
    How can one have a relationship with that square circle?
    Unless they can in a general way, explain how He acts, theists have no case!
    Remember, theistic evolution is just an oxymoronic obscurantism! How can one have a relationship with an occult figure?

  41. Posted January 12, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Miracle- that fraud! and commented:
    Read what I as Skeptic Griggsy maintain at the bottom of the comments,please!

  42. Posted January 12, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t think there were lots of faithless people in antiquity actually. Now were there lots of Christians? Virtually none. Jews? a few. But I’d wager that almost everybody believed in some form of religion – the Protagoras’ of the ancient world were few and far between.

  43. Dale Franzwa
    Posted January 12, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    It’s a day later now,and I’m still here. No heart attacks, etc. Thanks everyone for reacting to my little dig at God above (which ever one is up there; last I heard, at least 30 million gods in India). My intent, of course, is to invoke Ockham’s razor: Given two plausible explanations for the same phenomenon, choose the simpler. But then, you all knew that. Perhaps, Mr. Hampson didn’t.


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