K. Sreeman Reddy

The unimpressiveness of the religious miracles

I will argue that the miracles claimed as evidence by many religions are too insignificant and unimpressive compared to the grandiose size and scale of the universe. The miracles needed to justify a religion should be at least 3-A: Universe level feats like destroying all galaxies instantly and then recreating them. So, even in the unlikely case that the attributed miracles really happened, it is not rational to believe the claims made by those religions.

“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

“When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened…. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”

David Hume

Let’s talk about the miracles of Christianity, as it is the most popular religion. But the argument also works for any other religion, like Hinduism, Islam, etc, by changing it slightly. Kṛṣṇa raising Mount Govardhana on his little finger and Muhammad ibn Abdullah splitting the Moon are also not universe level feats.

  1. Christians believe that many miracles1 mentioned in the bible are historical facts and were not made up later by believers.
  2. They also believe that Jesus claimed that he is God the Son and he is united in essence with the real God.
  3. From 1. and 2. It follows that his claim about his relation to God is true.

Much has been argued by atheists to show that 1. and 2. are not historical facts and are almost certainly false. They generally try to argue that the only two events that are certain about Jesus of Nazareth are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. They explain that it is not even clear that the claims made by Jesus in the Bible contained anything remotely close to the claims made by the actual historical Jesus. The amount of evidence needed to justify believing in the miracles attributed to Jesus is enormous, as Hume pointed out in the above quotes.

I want to argue from a different perspective. Let us assume that 1. and 2. are indeed historical facts (Of course, I think that premise 1. is just made up and not historically true). Does 1. and 2. imply 3.?

I think 1. and 2. will not imply 3. For example, take Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki from the Naruto franchise. He resurrected himself 1000 years after his death to help the protagonists. But he wasn’t the God of that fictional universe. He was just from an advanced alien species and an expert chakra user. He could destroy continents if he wanted. Many of his feats are more impressive than Jesus’ miracles, and yet he is not God. Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki is often misunderstood to be the God by people in the Naruto-verse who don’t know that he is an alien with supernatural powers. He was a good guy, so he never lied that he was God, but had he claimed he was God, would it have been rational to believe in him?

I think to accept a being as God of this universe, the miracles we need should be universe level feats. If I ever met a being that could destroy all stars in the universe in a second and again rewind time back to before the destruction, and this time, he won’t destroy it, I would believe that he is God. These are the types of miracles we need to guarantee that a being is God.

I can understand why 2000 years ago people were so impressed by simple miracle stories like resurrection and walking on water that they believed that only God could do that because back then, they didn’t know much about the universe. They used to think that Earth and Humans were the center of the universe and that the sun and moon were small compared to Earth, and the stars are even smaller. In those times, these miracles might sound impressive but after humanity has come this long in our understanding of the universe they are no longer impressive enough to conclude that these miracles must come from the creator of the universe.

Also, just because a very powerful being says that he is omnipotent doesn’t imply that he is actually omnipotent. See the manga panel below where Majin Buu from the Dragon Ball franchise claims to be omnipotent, but he is still defeated by Goku. It just means that, he never came across something that he was not able to do. Majin Buu was able to cure blind people. Majin Buu was able to convert a whole city of people into candy and ate them. He did several galactic-level feats (much more impressive that any of Jesus’ miracles). But Goku still defeated him using the spirit bomb. Majin Buu can do everything that Jesus can do and in fact he can do many things far beyond the miracles attributed to Jesus. But, Majin Buu never showed anything that can make a rational man believe he is a god or that he has omnipotence, even though Majin Buu claims omnipotence. So, even if powerful beings are not lying, they might be deluded into thinking they are omnipotent.

Conclusions:

  1. If Jesus’ miracles are indeed historical facts (although it’s highly unlikely), then we can only conclude that Naturalism is false and our reality contains supernatural elements. In such a supernatural world, if you work hard, you can probably also do similar insignificant miracles. These miracles are significant enough to make a rational person believe that these can only be done with the help of God.
  2. If a God is assumed to be intelligent, then he will not do miracles that can only impress primitive people of a specific time and instead, he will do miracles that are so impressive that any future people of that species will not doubt that he is God after confirming that his miracles are historical facts. That means these miracles should be impressive to humans even when they become advanced enough to do things like Dyson sphere, Dyson’s eternal intelligence etc.
  3. Similarly, we can argue for miracles of other religions.

Addendum: This was originally posted on philosophy.stackexchange.com on 2021-12-02. But the moderators deleted it. The way I posted there was different. I posted it as a question asking if any philosophers made this argument already. I asked because, in the past, I used to think I was the first to make the divine hiddenness argument. But later I found that it was first done by J. L. Schellenberg in his 1993 book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason.

  1. By miracles, I mean anything that cannot be explained by the established scientific laws and we can’t generalize the established scientific laws such that the miracle can be explained. Science assumes methodological naturalism and miracles are supernatural phenomena. For example, if we encounter Double-slit experiment and think about it using classical mechanics it seems miraculous, but we can generalize classical mechanics into quantum mechanics, which can explain it scientifically within naturalism. For a very primitive person, even rain might look like a miracle that needs an explanation, like a rain god. 

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