Posts Tagged ‘Miracles’
Philip Jenkins writes (The Jesus Wars):
The Church organized public exhibitions to show how the Pagan priests had contrived some of the miraculous tricks by which they overawed the simple.
This sentence should give pause to the faithful but gullible readers of the bible, for some of the Old Testament miracles might have been priestly magic on just the lines the Christians here were debunking. The ancient Greeks arranged for water to turn to wine on a grand scale by clever plumbing. They could do “Open Sesame” types of miracles by having immense stone doors that would open at a touch. The ancient Persians had batteries of iron and copper rods dipped into wine or citrus juices, with which they must have been able to make sparks, and might have been able to use to light barrels of oil instantly. Perhaps the Greeks used the same trick for instant illumination at Eleusis.
So the rumblings and pyrotechnics on Mount Zion described in the bible could have been a show put on for the faithful believers, especially as we read they could only be observed by the people from a distance, so they had no idea what was really going on.
A devout friend of mine, among the more gullible of believers, is in a blue funk. He read in the UK Daily Mail (1 June) that the Vatican has denounced the six Marian visionaries of Medjugorje in Bosnia who have seen the Virgin Mary 40,000 times. Since 1981, every year they have attracted five million Catholics as pilgrims—hundreds of thousands from Britain alone, my gullible friend among them.
The Medjugorje phenomenon began on June 25, 1981, when six children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town. A church investigation dismissed the vision, and the Vatican banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985, but many Catholics, like my friend, took no notice. Businesses in the town and the visionaries themselves have benefitted immensely. Today, those who saw the Virgin own smart houses with security gates and tennis courts, and expensive cars. One is married to a former US beauty queen.
The story is that a respected Roman Catholic Bishop in the Vatican, Bishop Andrea Gemma, once the Vatican’s top exorcist, has declared that the visionaries had perpetuated a “diabolical deceit”:
In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money—Pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets. This whole sham is the work of the Devil. It is a scandal.
He added that the Vatican would soon crack down on the scam. The visionaries tour the world preaching, accompanied by their buddy, the Blessed Virgin Mary, but Catholic officials in the US have already banned them from speaking on church property in future world tours. They have not said whether the Virgin Mary is banned as well.
I have argued with my Catholic friend for decades that these miracles are scams or at best delusions, but few believers are convinced by reason. Even if true, this denouncement by the Vatican will not stop myriads of believers from continuing to support this scam and others, just as Protestants continued to support corrupt tele-evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart even when they have been exposed.
Meanwhile, John Humphrys, the excellent BBC broadcaster and agnostic, tells us in his new book, In God We Doubt, that atheists should “respect” the beliefs of the faithful! How can it be done? As Humphreys says, some believers might be deeply sincere. But belief is itself loopy. The sincerity of someone’s loopiness might moderate the atheistic reaction to them personally, but cannot ameliorate criticism of their loopy beliefs. They just do not merit respect!