- How do you explain the phenomenon of miracles?
- The truth of faith healing.
- Why focus on Christianity?
- It's not a meme
How do you explain the phenomenon of miracles? How can you explain how my friend Brenda was cured of deafness when new ear drums appeared in her ears.
I have seen incredible coincidences in my time. If we are infected with this virus, what causes people to be healed of life threatening diseases (cancer that 'disappears') when we pray for them?
Coincidence, or the work of a 'controller'? --Andy
I'd like to point out that you've made three very large leaps in going from unexplained fortuitous happenings (miracles) to believing that they are due to a controller that has responded to prayer: divine intervention, divine intervention from a Christian God, and that someone's prayer can influence that God. It's very comforting to think that there is a "big guy" looking out for us and he'll help if we ask in just the right way. As an evolved intelligence, humans naturally feel a need for cause-and-effect relationships (they have given us an evolutionary advantage). It has been scientifically shown that we are prone to invent these explanations where none really exist. In fact, rats will out-perform us in these situations since they are relatively free of this bias. In the case of "miracles", it seems to make sense that it's God causing these good things to happen.
Now, let's explore the implications of your belief in miracles coming from God. That very same God is responsible (directly or indirectly) for the recent typhoon in India and all other natural disasters that have ever occurred. Since he is all-powerful, he can also stop any natural disaster that he chooses. In fact, since that God is all-knowing and all-benevolent, you're supposed to feel good about the deaths because God's will is being done and He knows best. In fact, you might even be going against his wishes to help out those people. Maybe they are all being killed and sent to eternal damnation for some heretical thoughts or actions. (Insert your favorite biblical quote here.) Helping them may even direct God's wrath at you! After all, some Hindus did protest the Pope's visit to India and his call for continued Christian conversions in India. Maybe they deserve their fate for having a false religion and protesting the spread of the only true religion: Christianity. Of course, this line of thought should only strengthen your faith in this (supposedly loving) God and decrease your compassion (and increase your mistrust) toward Indian typhoon victims.
I hope you'll agree that from accepting the notion of miracles, I've taken a few small steps and arrived at a completely immoral (and false) conclusion. You know in your heart that the deaths from the typhoon are not good, yet Christianity and a belief in miracles would lead you to a different conclusion. From a falsehood, you would be logically lead to conclude (and do) all sorts of immoral and harmful things. Is it right to adopt a bogus morality for the (small) comfort of having an explanation of miracles? I think it's better to avoid the trap and just say that we don't know how your friends ear drums were healed. I am happy for her, but I don't accept the idea of miracles as an argument for a Christian God or any basis for a morality.
I have a question regarding miracles being performed after prayers. I have recently attended a mass Christian rally (the Anacondia Rally ' 99, by Carlos Anacondia) where many Christians proclaimed in front of thousands present that their sicknesses were healed immediately following Carlos's prayers for them, that is, they seem to be healed on the spot! I found it unbelievable, but how would you explain the people's willingness to "lie" in front of thousands if the miracles were not indeed true?? --"Oreant"
Since I am not an expert in the scientific examination of faith healing, I recommend that you look at some of the work by James Randi and perhaps send your question to him. He has dedicated his life to the debunking of false claims by con artists, psychics, and faith healers. He has also published books on the psychology of how beliefs can be manipulated. See the James Randi Educational Foundation web site for more information. I cannot recommend a specific book at this time, but he does have a book about faith healers and the tactics that they use. The answer you are seeking lies, in part in peoples' strong willingness to believe, even in the face of contradictory facts.
If Carlos Anacondia is the real thing, I recommend that he take up Randi's $1 Million Paranormal Challenge: "Secured in a special account at a major financial house, sits one million dollars in negotiable bonds waiting to be awarded to any individual or individuals who provide evidence under proper observing conditions of any psychic, supernatural, or occult power or event." Until Mr. Anacondia claims this prize, I would put his shows in the category of entertainment. Mr. Anacondia may even believe that he's doing good by using his talents to recruit Christians. If it is a confidence game, doesn't that speak ill of a religion that needs to lie in order to recruit new members? More than likely, however, he's just out to make money.
I just read your essays on the Christianity Meme and I was just wondering why you do not mention religions as a whole instead of just Christianity? This theory of yours seems to apply to all religions and i was just curious why Christianity was singled out for attack? What about Muslim, Hindu or Jewish religions? --Ian
There are four reasons why we have focused on Christianity on this web site. First, focusing on a particular religion allows the argument to be made concrete. While it is true that all religions are memes, few people have the patience or interest to read arguments about topics at such an abstract level. Next, Christianity is very interesting when considered as a meme. It is very successful and it has become highly evolved in a relatively short time span. (We have yet to really explore the evolution of the Christianity Meme on the web site.) Thirdly, Christianity is the major religion in the country in which the authors of this web site reside. The essays on this web site are borne in part out of personal reactions to the Christianity Meme and the affect it has had on our lives. For example, the Religious Right, an organization of True Christians is a major force in the United States political scene. Finally, we view Christianity as continuing to have the potential for great harm.
christianity is not a mind virus. you and i both know that you are fooling yourself. the sad thing is that you are taking hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of people along with you. it is much easier for you to throw out christianity as a meme than to accept it for what it really is; taking responsibility for your actions, and trusting in the Lord. christianity does not "make" you do things, and rarely do you have to do things you don't want to do. christianity is believing in Jesus Christ and asking him to live in your heart. from there on you live your life glorifying him, but this does not make you immoral, no matter how strong of a christian you are. and exactly what agenda would christianity be attempting to make christians follow? lifting Jesus up and living life the way God meant it to be lived from the beginning is not an agenda. it is a personal commitment, and each person has their own walk with Christ. how can you claim that this is immoral, when so obviously it is people like you, who try to take people away from their Creator, that are immoral?
i want you to go to heaven, and i want everyone that you have convinced of the idea that christianity is nothing but another meme to go to heaven, too. but as long as you keep telling yourself that it is a joke, that none of it is true and christians are simply mind-controlling, immoral people with a secret plan to control your life, you won't get there. when you really step back and think about your argument, you sound very paranoid and strange. i know it's much easier for you to attack christianity than to accept and join it, but please, for your own sake, see the truth. God is the truth, and christianity is his way.
Your letter is typical of many that we get. I'm responding to several of your points so that you and others can better see across the chasm between your point of view and that of this web site.
The first thing that must be said is that the greatest minds in the world over the centuries have failed to prove that a god exists--let alone a Christian God. Additionally, we don't have a creator. I was born through the human reproductive process and so where you. And so was every other person on this planet. The notions of "God" and "Creator" are aspects of your religious faith--things that you (and others) accept without question. They are somewhere between wrong and unprovable. You and many other Christians choose to label these things "the truth". At best, this is a misuse of the word "truth"; at worst, it's a blatant lie. Wouldn't you agree that lying (or misrepresentation) is both immoral and irresponsible? Don't you find it strange that you're doing it the sake of God/Jesus/Christianity. This is a very simple example of the kinds of immoral behavior that the Christianity Meme is able to invoke in it's hosts.
How does the Christianity Meme infect its host? Let's just enumerate some of the "hooks" that your letter mentions. There are many more, to be sure.
- Suppression of rival memes -- "you and i both know that you are fooling yourself".
- Letting go of rational thought and accepting foreign control -- "christianity is believing in Jesus Christ and asking him to live in your heart."
- Freedom from responsibility / a guaranteed moral life -- "from there on you live your life glorifying him, but this does not make you immoral, no matter how strong of a christian you are."
- Becoming united with a powerful being -- "lifting Jesus up and living life the way God meant it to be lived from the beginning is not an agenda."
- Vilification of non-believers -- "it is people like you, who try to take people away from their Creator"
- Promise of escaping death and bestowing that "gift" to others through belief -- "i want you to go to heaven".
- Redefining accepted concepts -- "but please, for your own sake, see the truth. God is the truth...".
I have no desire to "go to heaven" because it's a pipe dream, another lie, a candy coated enticement. I can do good things and live a moral life without being a dupe. Strangely, you've called me immoral because I question the lies. I don't believe that Christians have a secret plan to control my life, but I do believe that most Christians are being manipulated, unaware that they assist the Christianity Meme while thinking they're doing something wonderful. (Yes, Christian charities do do good, but charities can do a lot more good if they don't have the overhead of indoctrination.) I understand this concept of a meme may seem rather strange to you. Perhaps you were raised from birth in a Christian culture and you lack the perspective that I have. We're not trying to lead people down an immoral path, as you claim, we're trying to get people to think about what they believe and how their actions are controlled by those beliefs. We welcome questions and rational arguments against this point of view. Does your religion? No. Why not? Do you have a better explanation of why people (Christians) do immoral things for the purpose of moral purity?