Sunday, July 10, 2011

Secular Sunday Sermon: Miracles

So I was in an intercity bus going from one place to another when it started to rain. I was thinking about how rain is a part of a phenomenally complex weather system. I was thinking about how it was raining where I was but not yet raining where I was going - how the rain falling on our bus was just one of many 'localised events' that happen at point A while point B is completely oblivious. I thought about how little we truly know about meteorology.

Hey, I can't help it. There's not much to do on an intercity bus.

I thought about the word 'miracle'. I thought about how misleading and misunderstood the word is. How it's one of so many words that religious people have taken hostage and shamed secular people into avoiding. We fall for it too - we accept their fatwa on our usage of the word 'miracle' by bullying us into believing that 'miracle' only means 'something created by God'.

There are countless miraculous things in the world. Wikipedia tells me that the word comes from the Latin miraculum, which merely means 'something wonderful'. Perhaps what matters is not who or what you attribute miracles to but whether or not you recognise their existence. There are plenty of wonderful things in the world - ergo, plenty of miracles.

When things are exposed as frauds, we feel cheated because their mystery has been removed. Somebody claiming stigmata is shamed when his cuts are proven to be self-inflicted, because somebody cutting their own hands is banal whereas holes mysteriously appearing is interesting, unusual, unexplainable. Proof of how little we know. Piltdown Man was a disappointment, because fabricating a skull and sticking it in the ground is just to easy. It's devoid of mystery.

Most importantly, Dorothy was disappointed to see the man behind the curtain, because there's nothing special about the Wizard of Oz once you see that someone's pulling the strings.

What's interesting to me is how this reality is lost on those who plug 'God' into all of the holes that exist in our knowledge of the universe.

'God' saying 'abracadabra' and bringing Lazarus back from the dead is not 'wonderful'. 'God' can do it, and he did. What's the big deal?

A child whose heart has stopped beating and is declared dead, only to start coughing some thirty minutes later and be resuscitated back to a healthy existence is 'something wonderful'. To show it as a sign of the marvelous complexity of human existence and the wonder of our existence is truly 'something wonderful'. To say '"God" did it' is banal. It deflates the wonder.

To understand weather patterns to be the visible result of countless individual causes and phenomena which all formed naturally over billions of years is to recognise 'miracles'.

To say '"God" makes the rain, and he decides where and when it should fall' shows no understanding of miracles, of magic, of glory and of wonder.

And yet they tell us we don't get it.

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