ORIGINS OF MIRACLES: ORIGINS OF RELIGIONS, PART 7
Miracles represent so-called actions or events that transcend the laws of physics, the laws of nature, the laws of the universe.
The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is:
“A marvellous event exceeding the known powers of nature, and therefore supposed to be due to the special intervention of the Deity or of some supernatural agency chiefly an act (e.g. of healing) exhibiting control over the laws of nature, and serving as evidence that the agent is either divine or is specially favoured by God.”
The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy gives: “Miracle: An event which could not or would not have occurred in the ordinary course of nature but is brought about through the deliberate intervention of a supernatural being.”
In fact, the ORIGINS of miracles are nothing more than fanciful accounts about the impossible concocted by fraudulent storytellers speaking to a credulous public or phoney healers tricking compliant believers.
That such stories can still be swallowed by millions speaks volumes about the level of gullibility of those who submit their brains to the nonsense of religious belief.
David Hume: “So that, upon the whole, we may conclude, that the Christian Religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.”
Walking on water: All four canonical Gospels recount Jesus walking on the water. Matthew additionally describes Peter walking on the water, but sinking when he lost his faith and courage (Matthew 14: 28–31).
The incident of Peter’s water-walking was drawn from centuries of Oriental myth. Five hundred years before Christians attributed this feat to Jesus and Peter, Buddhists were saying that a sage proficient in yoga could walk on water. (ref. Bardo Thodol. 1927. p. 158. Transl. W.Y. Evans-Wentz. Oxford Univ. Press.) Later, medieval writers attributed the same miracle to various saints noted for asceticism. . . .
A link to this Petrel tale of a water-walking miracle is the naming of a sea bird as the sea petrel, which means Little Peter. Petrels are fishers, and their skimming over the sea—and floating or swimming on it—reminds the birdwatcher of the concept of walking on water.
Like Jesus, Peter supposedly made the lame walk (Acts 3:7), and apparently Peter could kill with a word, as claimed for the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 5:10).
Miracles abound in the gospels for the reason Charles Guignebert gives (p.371 of Ancient, Medieval and Modern Christianity 1961, Univ. Books, New York) that
religions “adduce revelations, apparitions, prophecies, miracles, prodigies and sacred mysteries that they may get themselves values and accepted.”
Citing Barbara Walker’s Encyclopedia, pp 466-467: “Turning water into wine at Cana was copied from a Dionysian ritual practiced at Sidon and other places (ref. Morton Smith 1978 Jesus the Magician 25, 120. Harper & Row). This same ‘miracle’ was regularly demonstrated at Alexandria before crowds of the faithful, assisted by an ingenious system of vessels and siphons, invented by a clever engineer named Heron (ref. L. S. de Camp p.258 The Ancient Engineers 1960 Ballantine Books NY).
Many centuries earlier, priestesses at Nineveh ‘cured’ the blind with spittle, and the story was repeated of many different gods and their incarnations (ref. Edward S. Gifford. 195.8 The Evil Eye. p.63. Macmillan. New York.
Again, Demeter of Eleusis multiplied loaves and fishes in her role of Mistress of Earth and Sea.
Healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, handling poisonous serpents (Mark 16:18), etc, were so commonplace that Celsus scorned these “Christian miracles” as “nothing more than the common works of those enchanters who, for a few oboli, will perform greater deeds in the midst of the Forum … The magicians of Egypt cast out evil spirits, cure diseases by a breath, and so influence some uncultured men, that they produce in them whatever sights and sounds they please. But because they do such things shall we consider them the sons of God?” (ref. T. W. Doane 1971. Bible Myths and their parallels in other Religions. p.272. Univ. Books Ltd. New York)
Magicians often claimed that their prayers could bring flocks of supernatural beings to their assistance (ref. Morton Smith Jesus the Magician, 123). Thus Jesus declared that his prayer could summon twelve legions (i.e. 72,000) of guardian angels (Matthew 26:53). Magicians also communed with their followers by the standard mystery-cult sacrament of bread-flesh and wine-blood. In texts on magic, “a magician-god gives his own body and blood to a recipient who, by eating it, will be united with him in love.” (ref. Morton Smith Jesus the Magician. 123).
Such is the stuff of ancient miracles.
Fewer miracles get recorded these days.
The easiest arena for miracle trick-making is in healing.
The farce at Lourdes is one of the showiest spectacles of the genre. The origins of healing the sick lie in providing false hopes for the easily-led. Only occasionally does the placebo effect help the charlatan to some small degree.
1. “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.”
2. “Firm and unalterable experience has established these laws.”
3. “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”
4. Therefore, “the proof against miracles . . . is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.” David Hume. 1711-1776.
“There are those who say it must be a miracle that so many gods can exist in people’s heads—especially knowing that no gods exist outside of them.” Terence Meaden. 2004.
“The false notion of miracles comes of our vanity, which makes us believe we are important enough for the supreme being to upset nature on our behalf.” Baron de Montesquieu. 1689-1755
“There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves.” David Hume.