In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
All of Jesus’ powers have been attributed to the South Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba by vast numbers of eyewitnesses who believe that he is a living god. The man even claims to have been born of a virgin. [Christian] faith is predicated on the claim that miracle stories of the sort that today surround a person like Sathya Sai Baba—and do not even merit an hour on the Discovery Channel—somehow become especially credible when set in the pre-scientific religious context of the 1st century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed occurrence, as evidenced by discrepant and fragmentary copies of copies of copies of ancient Greek manuscripts. It is on this basis that [we are to] believe the following propositions:
1. Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, was born of a virgin, ritually murdered as a scapegoat for the collective sins of his species, and then resurrected from death after an interval of three days.
2. He promptly ascended, bodily, to “heaven”—where, for two millennia, he has eavesdropped upon (and, on occasion, even answered) the simultaneous prayers of billions of beleaguered human beings.
3. Not content to maintain this numinous arrangement indefinitely, this invisible carpenter will one day return to earth to judge humanity for its sexual indiscretions and skeptical doubts, at which time he will grant immortality to anyone who has had the good fortune to be convinced, on mother’s knee, that this baffling litany of miracles is the most important series of truth-claims ever revealed about the cosmos.
4. Every other member of our species, past and present, from Cleopatra to Einstein, no matter what his or her terrestrial accomplishments, will be consigned to a far less desirable fate, best left unspecified.
5. In the meantime, God/Jesus may or may not intervene in our world, as He pleases, curing the occasional end-stage cancer (or not), answering an especially earnest prayer for guidance (or not), consoling the bereaved (or not), through His perfectly wise and loving agency.
So is stigmata real, or a hoax, or something in between? The claimed miracle of stigmata — like inedia, where people who claim not to eat food — is very difficult to scientifically verify. Veteran researcher James Randi, in his “Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” notes that “Since twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance would be necessary to establish the validity of these phenomena as miracles, no case of stigmata exists that can be said to be free of suspicion,” and though the possibility of genuine stigmata can never be ruled out, “It is interesting to note that in all such cases, the wounds in the hands appear at the palms, which agrees with religious paintings but not with the actualities of crucifixion; the wounds should appear at the wrists.”
If stigmata is real, there is no medical or scientific explanation for it. Wounds do not suddenly and spontaneously appear on people’s bodies for no reason; some specific instrument (such as a knife, tooth, or bullet) can always be identified as causing the trauma. Without a medical examination, it is impossible to distinguish a minor (but bloody) surface wound (which could be easily faked or self-inflicted) from a genuine and serious puncture wound identical to that caused by a Roman-era crucifixion spike. X-rays, which could definitively determine whether a wound is superficial or truly pierces a limb, have never been done on stigmatics.
There are no documentary photographs, films or videos of wounds appearing and beginning to bleed; instead the evidence for the existence of stigmata comes from eyewitnesses who see wounds that are already bleeding, and whose origin explanation must be taken on faith. It is of course considered highly disrespectful to challenge the honesty and integrity of a person who claims (and appears) to be suffering from Christ’s wounds. Stigmatics appear to be sincere, and almost certainly often are in at least some pain even if a wound is superficial. It takes a brave skeptic to accuse a beloved friar of fraud or faking the wounds — even if that’s what the evidence clearly suggests.
The fact that many of the faithful take comfort and inspiration from the teachings of stigmatics also serves as a deterrent from raising too many questions. Even those with legitimate suspicions may prefer to remain silent if it helps spread the gospel and serves a larger purpose. Until a person suffering from stigmata allows himself or herself to be subjected to close medical scientific investigation, the phenomenon will remain a myth.
Source article: What is stigmata?
David Hume - An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section 10: Of Miracles
As most people remember there was a very tragic tsunami in South East Asia in December of 2004, which resulted in the death of nearly 300,000 people. However, religious people claim that those lives were completely meaningless and that god supposedly decided to show us a miracle by having a mosque survive through all the destruction. Seems like a pretty hateful monster, rather than a loving god, but we can analyze what they are saying further.
After the massive devastation, there was a mosque (Baiturrahim mosque) which survived while most of the homes and building in the town of Meulaboh were left in ruins. However, if you look at the pictures from the scene there are other buildings that survived as well, which were not so far from the mosque. If this ugly act was somehow a method that Allah put together to show us a miracle, then why leave other building standing there as well? And why not save all the mosques?
A very important note to take away from this whole situation, as well as many others similar to it, is the fact that typically building that have a religious importance are better constructed than other buildings around them in highly religious societies and countries, and hence if regular crummy house falls apart, while another well-structured building survives a massive typhoon, there is nothing “miraculous” about the situation all, especially considering how many innocent people died in the process. There were hundreds of mosques that were destroyed during this tsunami and there were many non-religious buildings that survived.
If anyone considers this to be a miracle, they need to first ask one simple question, “Why does this loving god torture and kill thousands of innocent children to death, yet decides to have a building stand still to show us how powerful he is?”, and the next inquiry should be to look into the structural and engineering work that was put into the building that survived, and the final thought should relate to understanding the unsystematic movement of water where the physical force varies from place to place.
Anyone who calls such a thing a miracle needs to pull their head out of their ass!
- The Iranian Atheist (http://iranianatheist.tumblr.com/)