Miracles & the Burden of Proving Them or showing them to be very convincing

A miracle is a magical event. Religion says that God sets up nature to work uniformly and sometimes he does miracles that stand out from this as actions above nature, or exceptions to nature if you like.  The Church says sperms make babies but Jesus being born of a virgin mother was the exception.  If a stone turns into bread then that is a miracle. Religion pretends that miracles are done by God as evidence of his presence and love and are not magic.  But that is a distinction without a real difference.  A witch doing miracles as evidence of her love is still a witch.

Big claims because they are odd and demanding come with a burden of proof just for being unusual.

Claims come with a burden of proof at all times but to keep life easy we do not ask for it.  But it should be there anyway.  To say there is a God is to declare a duty to show why this is true.  To say there is no God is also making a claim. 

It would seem that both claims need equal examination.  True.  But what if you were forced at gunpoint to examine one and not the other?

Because there is no obvious benefit or need to affirm God it is clear that you should defend atheism.  It does not stop you helping people.  You will only affirm God if you believe he deserves but that is the problem.   We don't know what he deserves if he exists.

This hypothetical situation shows that nobody should be saying there is a God lightly.  The hypothetical might not happen but that does not matter.  Everything was hypothetical at one point.  It is the principle.  So not only does the believer have to support the God claim the way you do any claim, the believer has additional reasons for demanding more support.

We have found that if a claim is too weird we need to concentrate on it first.  A claim that say an alien spaceship landed needs stronger corroboration than that a earth made one did.

We have found that all claims are suspect if the person is not offering reasons and evidence and answers to any refutations.

We have found that if you make a claim you are making a claim about your integrity.  You make a claim for the argument and also for yourself the one who claims the knowledge and wisdom and honesty to put the argument together and express it.

That is three.

The expression burden of proof leads believers in God to say we atheists want too much evidence or 100% proof.  We do not.  We don't want literal proof and should not want it.  We should want enough.  Hard evidence is not the same as proof but it is better than anything else.  By burden of proof we do not mean strict proof.

Believers and Churches mostly say their God evidence may not be that convincing but it is sufficient.  There is no excuse for offering unconvincing cases for a God who says he made all you are and to whom you must give all back in love in return.  The bad fruits and the relatively low caution exercised makes us argue against God belief being a good fruit.  Jesus said good trees do not give you bad fruit.

How does the duty to put the evidence where your mouth is relate to the fact that, "To assert anything is to assert that its opposite is false"?

You tell me, "You said Jesus rose from the dead. You have a duty to tell me why I should consider that to be plausible and maybe true."  In saying that you also tell me, "Those who disagree are stupid or dishonest or ignorant."  To say careful study shows Jesus rose is saying that only problem people say he did not.  It is also saying that those who argue that we cannot decide are threats to the truth.

To assert that x is true is to assert that the opposite of x is false so you have two claims.  The more claims a claim needs the more evidence should be there.    There is no such thing as a claim.  Every claim is two claims, it a positive and a negative.

Small miracles need to be treated as scientifically or sceptically as big ones.  The reason is we have to be sure that something is not happening that is going to ruin our trust in nature.  If it just happens that a man rises from the dead we simply cannot be sure that we should take death seriously thereafter.  If it just happens by some supernatural wonder that you got the right answer to the sum though you think it came from you the same problem occurs.  The point is not the size of the event but the event.

Suppose there is such a thing as a low level supernatural that is only doing small miracles.  It cannot manage to raise Jesus from the dead.  It can make two people think they met a resurrected religious personage.   We could have an altered memory or an implanted memory. A weak force can replicate a stunning miracle.  Even if you do assume there are supernatural forces, you still have no right to assert they raised Jesus from the dead.  You have no right to tell others he did without telling them that something could make it seem as if he did.

Even a force that can raise Jesus from the dead might not bother actually doing so.  It might just reboot people's memories so that they recall what never happened.

There are then several burdens of proof with miracle claims that you don't get with non-magical claims or natural wonders.

If you say x is true then you have to show why it is true. The burden to verify it as plausible or true rests with you.  If you say nature is true, a miracle throws up a challenge. The choice is between debunking nature and debunking the miracles.

If a miracle asks for faith in itself, and some do, then the miracle has to be sure it happens in a way that provides evidence.

On the one hand what if some miracles ask for faith and are careful about evidence?  On the other hand, it could be that there are miracles that ask for faith and which take place in a ridiculous way or before incapable witnesses.

The reality is that believers in miracles don't really care about the supernatural or respecting it.  They just want padding for their religious suppositions.  They want to steal intellectual respectability.

Assuming God does miracles as signs, then witnesses who are reliable must make up the audience for a miracle. So whether it is you and/or the miracle the burden rests on, one burden is to show that the miracle event has been relayed by a good source.

Additionally there is a burden to show that the event is a miracle.

Additionally you must show that the miracle has a message that speaks over the message of any miracle claims that may undermine it or its message. Miracle claims explicitly and implicitly compete.  And beware that a miracle can seem certain when it is not - or when it is not a miracle at all - and as luck will have it there is no way to know.

Jesus told the Jews that if they could not believe in him then to believe in the supernatural divine origin of his miracles. Thus he was saying the miracles asked for faith in themselves as acts of God.  This does not fit the doctrine that Jesus alone as the way and truth and life shows us what God is like meaning it is better to spend an hour with him than see a lifetime of miracles.  He's trying to make out the Jews are guilty of bad faith and denying undeniable miracles.  The gospels or even Jesus do not even give any of the burden of proof subject a thought.  That is telling.

The person who invites us to believe in a miracle and does not give us proof or adequate evidence is cheating us. Christianity tries to raise children as believers. It is cheating.   Arm yourself with these facts.  They are facts not opinions.

Further Reading ~
A Christian Faith for Today, W Montgomery Watt, Routledge, London, 2002
Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1980
Apparitions, Healings and Weeping Madonnas, Lisa J Schwebel, Paulist Press, New York, 2004
A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Louis Berkhof, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1971
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Veritas, Dublin, 1995
Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988
Enchiridion Symbolorum Et Definitionum, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
Looking for a Miracle, Joe Nickell, Prometheus Books, New York, 1993
Miracles, Rev Ronald A Knox, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1937
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
Lourdes, Antonio Bernardo, A. Doucet Publications, Lourdes, 1987
Medjugorje, David Baldwin, Catholic Truth Society, London, 2002
Miraculous Divine Healing, Connie W Adams, Guardian of Truth Publications, KY, undated
New Catholic Encyclopaedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Philosophy of Religion for A Level, Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate, Nelson Throne Ltd, Cheltenham, 2004
Raised From the Dead, Father Albert J Hebert SM, TAN, Illinois 1986
Science and the Paranormal, Edited by George O Abell and Barry Singer, Junction Books, London, 1981
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, Headline, London, 1997
The Book of Miracles, Stuart Gordon, Headline, London, 1996
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000
The Encyclopaedia of Unbelief Volume 1, Gordon Stein, Editor, Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
The Hidden Power, Brian Inglis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1986
The Sceptical Occultist, Terry White, Century, London, 1994
The Stigmata and Modern Science, Rev Charles Carty, TAN, Illinois, 1974
Twenty Questions About Medjugorje, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D. Pangaeus Press, Dallas, 1999
Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, Freeman, New York, 1997

The Problem of Competing Claims by Richard Carrier

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