When I was a kid, miracles were a part of life. This is not to mean that a miracle ever happened to us, simply that we heard about them. All. The. Time. These miracles usually fell into three camps: 1. Miracles that happened to friends of friends of friends and 2. Miracles that happened to someone we knew and 3. Miracles that weren't really miracles.
The first set were the ones that were preached from the pulpit and read about in the Pentecostal Evangel magazine that sat in the foyer of our church. I was a reader so I often picked it up and read it during service as something to do. After all, I may get in trouble for reading Lord of the Rings in church, but no one will stop you from reading a Christian magazine. Most of these stories happened in Africa or Thailand or India and often in remote villages where there were little medical services. Like the story of the boy who was raised from the dead in Africa after being dead for 24 hours. Of course, there was no actual medical affirmation of his death other than with their own eyes. No brain scans to see if he was brain dead or machines to detect the slightest heartbeat. Also, there was rarely a follow-up story telling the condition of the child afterward. I mean, if the kid "died" then it is presumed that he was sick. Did the illness also go away or is that kid permanently impaired thanks to his little stint of deadness? There was the story of the man who claimed to have HIV AIDS and was cured. But the story left more questions than answers. Did he have a medical document stating that he was diagnosed with HIV AIDS? If so, was this document real? Could his blood test have been mixed up with someone else's? Was he taking drugs for his condition? Did he really have HIV AIDS, or was he just HIV+? And again, what happened six months down the road? I also assumed that such miracles had to happen in remote villages because they didn't have real medical care and so the only way these people were going to get better was through some kind of miracle.
Then come the personal stories and these are often....underwhelming. Healed of a headache. Found a lost diamond ring. Mugged but no one was hurt. Car broke down but somehow started again. They felt comforted in a sad moment. A bad prognosis after an accident turned out to be not so bad. Didn't get into a car accident. A healthy pregnancy even after some complications. Overcoming an addiction. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that this things can't be amazing, but they certainly weren't miracles. If you lost your wedding ring during a party in your front lawn, then with enough effort and searching, there is a high possibility that you will eventually find it. Machines can be quite fickle and sometimes they have problems, like stalling for no reason. The world won't end if it does break down and it isn't a miracle if things refire correctly and the car starts again. I was mugged once and the man did punch me in the face, however the chances of me being shot or stabbed were pretty low since the man was not armed. It wasn't a miracle that I survived (although that was certainly implied by some people) because there was very little chance that I was going to be killed. He wanted my purse, not my life. Overcoming addictions are a big deal, but often there are a number of people who are part of that process. The people who befriend them, the family that supports them, the halfway house workers (if it is that kind of addiction), doctors, nurses, sometimes medication. Not to mention the personal will-power required to overcome something.
The third issue ties into the second, but is more annoying in my mind. Childbirth and babies are often described as miracles, yet the actual process is one of the most natural things the human body can do. Don't get me wrong, childbirth is still dangerous is many parts of the world and even in first world countries, however the actual act of growing a child inside you is not a miracles. A child being born healthy and calling it a miracle also implies that if a child is born unhealthy, God did not bestow his miraculous power onto that child. Meeting someone you click with and want to pursue a relationship with is not a miracle. A chain of events that led you to somewhere good is not a miracle. Chances are if you followed a different path in life, other good things could have happened to you and it could have been just as amazing. No supernatural influence needed. That's just life.
The problem is that all of the miracles I have ever seen or heard about have either been second-hand or things that aren't miraculous. A miracle would imply something completely unexplainable and out of the ordinary. Something supernatural. Parting a lake, walking on water, giant pillars of fire, healed of blindness, leprosy completely gone. Things that cannot happen in the natural world due to the laws of physics.
My aunt claims that she was healed from lactose intolerance. The logic goes like this: I am not lactose intolerant anymore. This seems unexplainable and since I don't know how or why, it must have been God. Basically, the 'God of the gaps' theory. I can't explain it so it must be God. And it makes no sense to me. What a waste of a miracle. Lactose intolerance is not a big deal. It's not an allergy. Sure there are some foods you have to avoid, but in a place like America, that is easy. On the other hand my dad has Crohn's Disease. When I was a kid he was very sick and eventually had to have a surgery to remove seven feet of diseased intestine. Crohn's Disease not only limits your ability to eat certain foods, but it also causes your body to not get proper nutrients, can't produce B12, hinders digestion, and could eventually kill you if not treated. Now why, if you were God, would you choose to heal someone of an illness that creates gas over a fatal intestinal disease? It makes no sense. Not to mention that there are a number of medical reasons why your body may be able to digest lactose now. It could have been something as simple as a vitamin she started or stopped taking. It could be that her body has gotten over her "allergy", figuring out how to process the sugar in the dairy. It could very well not have been lactose intolerance in the first place. And let us not forget that the majority of humans (nearly 65%) are lactose intolerant. So I ask again, why was she healed?
And this is the question I asked over and over as people I love have died of cancer. In car accidents. From diseases. Healing and miracles seemed so abitrary and so, over time I began to believe that God wasn't performing miracles. Death is a part of life and God was clearly not in the healing business. After all, in America alone, nearly 600,000 people died of cancer in 2015. That's over half a million people who weren't miraculously healed and the only reason Christians can give is that "God works in mysterious ways". I think of children born with epidermolysis bullosa otherwise known as 'Butterfly syndrome' in which the person's skin literally tears and comes off at the slightest touch. It is considered to be one of the most painful conditions known to man. It is a horrendous disease with no cure and I don't see anyone being healed of it by any god. No, apparently the god that the Christians serve is more intent on getting rid of milk related gas than he is about a child in agony.
I quit believing in healing and miracles several years ago, but now I have an even better explanation of why God doesn't perform actual miracles. There is no god. He is made up. The miracles in the Bible are made up. No one parted the red sea. At no point did a bunch of people walk around a city and the walls crumbled because they blew on horns. Giants don't exist. And the miracles that were attributed to Jesus were his followers creating a mythic story around him in order to make him sound more godly. I don't believe there is a single Saint out there who has actually performed a miracle either. My aunt, although no longer dealing with lactose intolerance, was not miraculously healed.
I think the thing that really bothers me is the complete disregard who the complexity of the human body and the people who have studied it. We have cured Polio. No miracle about it. We have discovered what Polio is and how to stop it. That is an amazing accomplishment, but it doesn't mean that because you had the vaccine that you were healed from Polio. Doctors and nurses spend days, months, and years with patients, helping them to become healthy people. They dedicate years of their life to learning medicine, then years working with patients, and then more years perfecting their treatments. The things that we human beings have discovered is mind-blowing and in a way, I understand the desire to call such a thing a miracle, but that word takes away all the hard work it took to get us to this point.
The last time I talked to my mom about this subject, she wanted to pray for a headache I had and I told her no. No. I don't want to be healed of a headache. There is someone down the road from me who is suffering. I can take three advil, a fifteen-minute nap, and be good to go. But those other people? I told her that if God was going to heal someone, it better not be me because I didn't need it. It's just a headache. To heal me of a headache would actually be cruel because it implies that I am more deserving of healing than an innocent baby fighting for its life in a NICU or a woman down the street who is bipolar. This took her aback and she really didn't know what to say to it other than to remind me that healing was real. She could see where I was going with this.
When someone now tells me that they are miraculously healed, I don't believe it. Flat out don't believe it. I assume that there is probably a rational explanation and just because they can't explain it does not mean that God did it. Give our medical professionals more credit. Give your body more credit. And stop giving credit to a god who, if he exists, is clearly ambivalent about the pain and suffering of those here on Earth.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.