Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bargain basement miracles

You know, the quality of miracles has really gone down, of late.

Back in biblical days, god really knew how to conjure up a miracle, didn't he?  Consider the following:
  • God makes Balaam's donkey talk (Numbers 22:21-31)
  • Jesus feeds "a great multitude" with five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21)
  • Joshua makes the Earth stop rotating so he can finish a very important battle (Joshua 10:13)
  • Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)
  • Moses parts the Red Sea and drowns lots of Egyptians (Exodus 14:1-30)
  • God smites the crap out of Sodom and Gomorrah, and turns Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for having second thoughts (Genesis 19:24-26)
  • God makes the entire Syrian army go blind, and then cures them all a few minutes later (2Kings 6:18-20)
And so on.  That's just a few.  And I think I am not alone in saying that any one of these -- not all, mind you but one -- would be sufficient to convince me that I really should reconsider my stance as an atheist.

But these days?  Yesterday, on Glenn Beck's website The Blaze, Billy Hallowell posted a piece called "3 Real-Life 'Miracles' That Took Place on the Set of The Bible."  Most of you have probably heard about the Mark Burnett/Roma Downey production that dramatizes the stories of biblical times, which debuted on March 3 and which has received critical acclaim (most of the critics I read acclaimed, "Meh").  But now Hallowell -- and others -- have put forth a stunning statement: that there were some genuine miracles that occurred during filming, miracles that not only prove god's existence, but show that he is 100% in favor of Burnett & Downey's film.

So, what are these miracles?  Hallowell tells us all about them:
1)  When they were filming the scene where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit, the "wind literally picked up on its own."
2)  Burnett and Downey had hired a "snake wrangler" to round up any poisonous snakes that might be in the set area and potentially threaten cast or crew.  Before they were going to film the crucifixion scene, the "snake wrangler" found 48 snakes.
3)  During the filming of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, an "irreplaceable" piece of Jesus' costume came loose and floated away.  It was later found and returned by a kid who lived nearby.
And I'm thinking: that's the best you can do?  The wind "picking up on its own?"  (Because apparently under normal circumstances, the wind only blows when it's encouraged to.)  Some snakes... in a freakin' desert?  A kid returning a prop when everybody in a hundred-mile radius knew there was a movie being filmed?

As miracles go, those aren't exactly Grade-A quality, you know what I mean?  They're more "KMart Blue-Light Special."

You have to wonder, with all of the increasing disdain for religion you see in Western society, why god is insisting on playing coy with us.  It's a bit like the UFO cadre who believe that crop circles are aliens trying to communicate with us, and prove to a doubting populace that extraterrestrials are real.  You'd think, being super-intelligent aliens and all, that deciding to land in Times Square would occur to them as, on the whole, a more convincing alternative.  Likewise, if god really is invested in proving to humanity that he exists, the wind blowing is just not doing it for me.

Okay, yeah, I know the biblical passage about god being the "still, small voice" (1Kings 19:11-13).  But you know, that just won't wash.  God was sure as hell not a "still, small voice" when he smote 50,070 people for looking at the Ark of the Covenant (1Samuel 6:19).  So, what's going on, here?

Now, mind you, I'm not saying that god smiting fifty-thousand-odd people day after tomorrow would be a good thing.  That's a whole city's worth of people, for pete's sake, and there are no cities that have no redeeming features, even if you include Newark.  But some of the less smiteful miracles would sure do a lot to convince us doubters.

In any case, Hallowell's article ends with the line, "What do you think — mere coincidences or evidence of God’s intervention? You decide."

Okay, thanks, I will.  And my decision is: coincidences.  And in the case of the wind, it was: the wind.  If those are what pass for miracles these days, all I can say is that heaven's Quality Control Department sure is slacking.

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