Two “miracles”

April 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm 53 comments

So this Sunday we had a guest priest do a sermon. [For those who don’t know, I go to church because my family believes, and because there are good people there whom I count my friends.] The priest rambles a little, then gets to what he really wants to tell us about. Two “miracles” that he has seen in the last few months.

“Miracle” 1: A ten-year-old girl had a stroke and was comatose. The priest went to see her in the hospital a day or two after the stroke. While he was praying, he gets to a point in the prayer where any Orthodox knows to cross oneself. The little girl, though still comatose, crosses herself. At the end of the prayer she does so again. (This is labeled “a miracle”.) Over the next days and weeks the “miracle” continues as she wakes up, sits up, and begins to regain control of her body.

“Miracle” 2: The priest is at a shopping center and is in his car. He puts the car in gear and pulls out of his parking spot to go across the lot to pick up his son, who he believes is playing in the snow at the far end of the lot. The priest feels his front and back wheels bump over something and jumps out to see what it is. Unbeknownst to him, the boy was right next to the car and was knocked down and run over by the wheels (at <5 MPH obviously). The priest panics and yanks the boy off the ground into a big hug and cries out. The boy gives a gasp and opens his eyes; he is apparently unharmed. They go to the hospital and doctors confirm that the boy has suffered to harm.

Now I’ve had emergency medical training and have been a biomed researcher for years. So out of curiosity, do those of you without benefit of such background see some problems with labeling these two events as “miracles”?

I’m curious to hear what y’all think. I’ll pipe in later with my take on these “miracles”. (Suffice for now to say that I have problems with these being “miracles” both from a medical and from a theophilosophical standpoint.)

- LeoPardus

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De-Converting from De-Conversion Nothing joyful about Easter memories for me

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  • 1. atimetorend  |  April 6, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve been thinking about the Miracle 2 category lately. From the philosophical side, it makes me ask, “what about the parent who ran over the child and the child then died in their arms?” I know someone that happened to. Yes, be thankful for your child’s life, to God if you choose, but to bring God into it that way takes some tricky theological rationalizing as to how your life should be different from the lives of others who suffer.

    Actually, that would apply to both miracles. As would classifying the “miracles” as the result of confirmation bias, ignoring the children who die in those circumstances in order to categorize the affirmations as “miracles.”

  • 2. schism  |  April 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I don’t think I’m knowledgeable to comment on #1*, but I do have analogous experience with #2. Put shortly, I was playing in the driveway while waiting for my mom to drive over and take me to school, and she accidentally ran over my hand. She was probably only going 5 mph too (if that). Amusingly, she also called it a miracle. Looking back, my hand was flat against the ground, the car wasn’t moving fast enough to cause impact trauma, and the tire wasn’t in contact with my hand long enough to do anything but bruise a bit.

    I’d also be interested in knowing what body part(s) were run over, in the boy’s case. The pelvis seems less likely to incur damage from such a scenario than, say, the chest or abdomen.

    *if I had to guess, I would say the girl was already coming out of the coma, and had enough subconscious awareness to respond to learned stimuli, or some such

  • 3. Stephen P  |  April 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I could write quite a bit on these, but I’ll just restrict myself to my first thought. Assuming the priest is trying to hold these up as some sort of evidence for a loving god (you don’t say that explicitly, but it’s the sort of thing that priests do) I’d want to know what sort of “loving” being lets someone drive over a child, rather than tap him on the shoulder when he gets in the car. Why should we worship a being whose behaviour is inferior to that of even an average human being?

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  April 6, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Responses so far have hit the theological points pretty well.
    -‘Tis a rather capricious deity that “miraculously” saves one child while letting dozens or thousands die or become disabled.
    -It’s rather egocentric for anyone to think they get special, “miraculous” treatment, while others don’t.
    -There’s definitely confirmation bias going on in every “miracle” case I’ve heard of.
    -And why would God send such obscure, random “signs” anyway? In the Bible miracles weren’t at all obscure. It was explicitly clear what was happening and why.

    schism:
    The boy’s torso was run over. Essentially right over the rib cage.
    [Amusing side note: The priest said more than once that his boy was "not breathing". Now does anyone believe that a panicked father who just ran over his son, and who foolishly yanked the boy off the ground into a hug, actually assessed breathing?]

    And though I don’t know specifically, I’d say you’re roughly right on the girl. It’s well known that people in comas are often aware of everything in their room, but simply can’t interact. A “cradle and up” trained response like crossing oneself would be one of the first things to come back.

  • 5. CheezChoc  |  April 6, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Not to make this about me, but…I just had my infected, inflamed, stone-y gallbladder removed a few days ago. My gut is stapled, my back is killing me, and I’m exhausted.
    Could I get a miracle if I stood in line?

  • 6. atimetorend  |  April 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    CheezChoc, sorry to hear about that, I’ll refrain from joking about it, but glad to see you can. Hope you’re feeling fine soon.

  • 7. LeoPardus  |  April 7, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Cheezchoc:

    Ouch! Hope you recover well and quickly.

    I’m sure you can get a “miracle” if you think about it and interpret matters right. Hmmm…. *God gave you just the right doctor to do this surgery.* There. How’s that for a “miracle”? (About as contrived and cheesy as most of the ones I hear about.)

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  April 7, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Here’s some of my take on the “miracles” from a medical standpoint.

    My first thought on hearing the girl’s story was, “As I recall, young children recover pretty well from stokes since they are growing and have great capacity for repair.” I went and looked through the medical literature and sure enough, I was right. About a quarter of all children who suffer strokes, recover with NO remaining sequelae. The rest recover to varying degrees, usually with only minor, lingering changes in gait, concentration, etc. So the girl’s story is not even remotely miraculous. It’s perfectly ordinary.

    My first thought on hearing the boy’s story was, “As I recall, from my emergency training, most low-speed run overs don’t result in grave injury.” So I went and looked through the medical literature and sure enough, I was right. A little over one quarter of all cases of children run over at low speed, suffer only superficial injuries or no injury. The rest suffer injuries ranging from minor to severe to lethal. Death occurred in more than a third of cases. So while the boy was lucky to come out uninjured, his case was by no means miraculous.

    As an aside, there is the problem of the damn, fool father who yanked an injured child off the ground and hugged him. If the boy had suffered any fractures or internal injuries, the dad would almost certainly have made the situation worse with such idiotic behavior. So the kid was doubly lucky. Still doesn’t make for a miracle.

  • 9. Luke  |  April 7, 2009 at 11:37 am

    second one isn’t a miracle.. the first is a “chicken or the egg” argument.

    did the girl get better because of the recognition of the sign of the cross, or was the girl going to get better regardless? was it the cross that spurred the brain cells into working again or was it just a response of a brain that was already healing…

    “-’Tis a rather capricious deity that “miraculously” saves one child while letting dozens or thousands die or become disabled.
    -It’s rather egocentric for anyone to think they get special, “miraculous” treatment, while others don’t.
    -There’s definitely confirmation bias going on in every “miracle” case I’ve heard of.” LeoP

    my buddy was a paramedic for 20+ years in Baton Rouge.. he saw some crazy stuff.. and largely how frail life is. how miracles are few and far between. he states that any time life perserveres, God’s hand is in the situation. even when life doesn’t, God’s hand is in the situation. i’m still trying to get my brain around this… why some and not others? are some genetically stronger to perserve in times of crisis, or did people pray harder for some and not others… both answers seem sticky to me and i lean more towards genetics than prayer in this case… but it’s still confusing. i’m apt to agree with LeoP on this one.. which leaves me with more questions than answers.

  • 10. orDover  |  April 7, 2009 at 11:47 am

    …was it the cross that spurred the brain cells into working again…

    ….seriously?

  • 11. Luke  |  April 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

    orDover: seriously.. ritual is a strong factor.. cultural conditioning is quite powerful. could have been a jumpstart.. seems plausable.

  • 12. TitforTat  |  April 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Seems to me people only see a miracle when its life saving. There seems to be a negative attached to death, even though its integral to our very existence. Positive/negative Yin/Yang ……and the list goes on. I think the creator created it all and I will work the process until the next stage, whatever that may be. So I guess the “miracle” for me is the fact that we have this entire process called Existence.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  April 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Luke:

    The general expectation for children who have strokes is that they will get better. I doubt that the crossing action started anything. It was just a reflex the girl had from being raised Orthodox. Had she been non-Orthodox and just had her friends and family in the room holding her hand, she would have been expected to do just as well.

    he states that any time life perserveres, God’s hand is in the situation. even when life doesn’t, God’s hand is in the situation.

    Well that sure covers all the bases doesn’t it? I could get results like that by praying to empty air. Oh wait; that’s just what is being done.

  • 14. CheezChoc  |  April 7, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks, Leo and atime.
    Doing better today. Perhaps it was the application of the miracle drugs that I obtained at the wondrous place known as CVS. :-D

  • 15. Luke  |  April 7, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    i typed the response before i was able to read your #8. the young mind does recover quite quickly, like conjoined twins join in Craniopagus are able to separated because of the brain’s ability to reconfigure at such a young age. the brain is a wonderful and mysterious thing. i love reading about neuroscience. as to praying to empty air.. it sometimes feels like that.

  • 16. Lucian  |  April 7, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Feel free to click here for my non-sensical non-answer to this and other posts.

  • 17. ArchangelChuck  |  April 10, 2009 at 9:37 am

    If you’re obsessed enough with the idea of God, you will find signs of Him everywhere. Ever see the movie π?

  • 18. Joe  |  April 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    ArchangelChuck– you said:

    “If you’re obsessed enough with the idea of God, you will find signs of Him everywhere. Ever see the movie π?”

    Could it not be true in the opposite direction also? Cannot the “non-believer” be obsessed with “non-signs” of God everywhere? If an extraordinary event occurs a believer is immediately drawn to call it a “miracle” or “intervention of God”, while the non-believer will immediately be drawn to call it all a “coincidence” or a result of synchronicity. What makes either of them correct in their thinking?

  • 19. Eve's Apple  |  April 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I don’t know if anyone on here has seen the movie “Faith Like Potatoes”, but I found it very disturbing. It’s about a white South African farmer who finds Jesus and goes about bragging about all the miracles God has done for him. For example, he and his workers set a fire on a windy day and it gets out of control (surprise, surprise) and is headed for a neighbor’s farm. But no problem, have faith and pray, and voila! a rainstorm puts the fire out even though it is not the rainy season. Just have faith, he tells people, God will do wonders for you.

    Before his conversion, he was a self-centered jerk, now he is a Christian self-centered jerk. God talks to HIM, you see. In one scene he tells his wife that God has asked three things of him, whether he is willing to be made a fool of for him (yes), whether he is willing to be hated and persecuted for him (yes), and whether he is willing to give up his family for him. Says his wife, “What did you reply?” “That I would drink that cup if it came to that.” She meekly submits to the will of the Lord and says simply, “we will miss you.” I don’t know about anyone else, but if my husband ever said something like that to me I would tell him that our marriage was effectively over starting right now, since he has expressed his willingness to sacrifice it for his God, since that is what they have both agreed upon.

    But it gets worse. While at the farm one day, his brother’s young children beg to ride on the tractor as he and his foreman are headed out to the fields. On the way, disaster strikes. The tractor hits a bump, the little boy falls off and is run over. He dies. A few days later, his wife is in town when one of her neighbors says to her, “Didn’t your husband pray for the boy, being such a man of faith?” (Earlier in the movie he “raises” a Zulu woman from the dead after she is struck by lightning). The wife breaks into tears and her sister-in-law wants to know what happened. “Someone said something insensitive,” she sobbs. And the scene changes . . .

    Wait a minute. Let’s back up here. Maybe that was an insensitive remark, but considering how her husband has been going around the neighborhood boasting of all the things he can do in God’s name, I think it is a very valid remark. Let’s not just skip over this. (By the way, this is supposedly a true story). A death of a child is pretty serious stuff. I think some questions are definitely in order regarding faith, prayers, promises, especially if you are going around raising people’s expectations. But the movie shies away from this. Oh no, this is just a little set back. Soon he is back to his old tricks. Now it is planning a huge prayer rally in the biggest football stadium he can find (never mind how he can afford it) and spending money he hasn’t got to buy seed potatoes in a time of drought. Don’t worry about El Nino or the weather he tells the other farmers, have faith and God will provide. And sure enough, God comes through with the biggest bumper crop of potatoes anyone has ever seen.

    This is meant to be an “inspirational” tale, but the more I watched it the more disturbed I became. Rationality is clearly given short shrift in favor of faith, and the hard questions neatly sidestepped. Oh yes, there were miracles galore if you want to overlook the fact that prayer and faith failed to bring back a child’s life, and to me that is the most critical of all. Yes, it was nice the rain came and put out the fire. Yes, it is wonderful that the potatoes grew in spite of the drought, but what about the child? What about the child? Am I missing something here?

  • 20. Lucian  |  April 11, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Two “miracles”

    … and here’s a third one: The ultimate and irrefutable proof that there IS a God !!! 8)

  • 21. Nabiha Meher  |  April 11, 2009 at 11:39 am

    They both aren’t miracles from any angle. The girl was coming out of her coma, or something or the other triggered a return to consciousness. As a reflex, she crosses herself while hearing the prayer- we all do such things like standing up when one’s national anthem is being played even when we don’t expect to hear it. I’ve seen women instinctively cover their heads when they hear the azaan and sometimes they don’t even realise they’re doing it since they do it many times a day!

    The second one is no where near being a miracle and you have to be quite a stupid sheep to think it is. And the father was indeed an idiot for picking up the child instantly. If someone doesn’t know they should move an injured person, I’m wondering about their IQ…

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Joe:

    Cannot the “non-believer” be obsessed with “non-signs” of God everywhere?

    Could be. I suppose you’re thinking of them having an anti-supernaturalist bent by default.

    What makes either of them correct in their thinking?

    I would say that things like having standards of proof would be the deciding factor. Before one points and says, “A miracle!” one should first look for non-miraculous explanations. Then, when those cannot suffice, one may conclude that a miracle has occurred.

  • 23. ArchangelChuck  |  April 13, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Could it not be true in the opposite direction also? Cannot the “non-believer” be obsessed with “non-signs” of God everywhere? If an extraordinary event occurs a believer is immediately drawn to call it a “miracle” or “intervention of God”, while the non-believer will immediately be drawn to call it all a “coincidence” or a result of synchronicity. What makes either of them correct in their thinking?

    Because one of them is correct, and it has never been (and probably never will be) the one who invokes the supernatural. The “coincidence” reaction is merely the dismissal of supernatural non-explanations right off the bat. Once we dismiss the supernatural, we can look for real answers.

    If you’re too skeptical, you’re never open to new ideas. If you’re too open to new ideas, you’re a sucker. We should be open minded, but not so much as to let our brains leak out.

  • 24. ArchangelChuck  |  April 13, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Addendum: Even far back into history, the early Christian scientists looked down heavily upon invoking God for an explanation. We’ve known for centuries that doing so is simply subscribing to the philosophy of ignorance.

    “God did it. That’s enough for me.”

  • 25. Joe  |  April 13, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Once we dismiss the supernatural, we can look for real answers.

    ArchangelChuck—-

    I’m not so sure that is a valid statement. Who’s to say “real answers” can’t be supernatural in nature? If we immediately chalk everything up to “coincidence” could we be missing what might be a valid intervention in our lives? Perhaps not totally dismissing the supernatural would be wiser. Sure—look for obvious answers, look for that which can be explained—-but if these don’t appear to make sense, wouldn’t it be wise to investigate a supernatural source for something that seems beyond the realm of just pure coincidence or chance?

    It seems one could become more “closed-minded” than the ones you are calling the same. Just playing devils advocate here.

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Who’s to say “real answers” can’t be supernatural in nature?

    No one. You simply have to eliminate natural explanations and then you can conclude supernatural answers.

  • 27. Joe  |  April 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Leo—

    OK. What then of the person diagnosed with cancer, and then that cancer simply disappears? There are no real “natural” answers for that. Doctors will even use the term “act of God” when describing such an event, or they will say “there is no reasonable explanation”. Yet unbelievers will still say “there are no such things as miracles”. The natural explanations have been exhausted, but they will stil rule out a supernatural intervention. Why?

  • 28. CheezChoc  |  April 14, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Why? Why not? Sometimes things just happen.

    I will, however, ask a family member to ask her oncologist if cancer ever totally disappears. As far as I can discern, you can vanquish it more readily these days if you catch it early and have a good surgeon, and maybe chemo and radiation. Then the chances of it ever coming back are greatly diminished, though you might still take a hormone or something to protect yourself….because there is always a possibility that it could return.

    I’m just sayin’.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Joe, are you positing that natural and supernatural answers to life’s questions should be given the same probability of being true a priori ?

  • 30. Joe  |  April 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    CheezChoc—

    I meant when someone is diagnosed with cancer and it simply dissappears. This happens. Is it a miracle, or a natural occurrence? If a doctor does not have a medical explanation do we then allow that it just might be a miracle—-or does one stand there ground and say “no—-there must be some other explanation?” Just asking.

  • 31. LeoPardus  |  April 14, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Joe:

    As it happens, you have now asked that question of a cancer researcher.

    Spontaneous remissions are known, oncological phenomena. How they occur is not usually known for the obvious reason that it is rare to have a complete set of data, before and after, on any given case. Such lack of data makes discerning mechanisms nigh to impossible.

    There are theories, most of which postulate that the factors responsible for spontaneous remission are the same as those responsible for normal cancer monitoring and elimination. [You and others here are probably unaware of the fact that our bodies find and destroy cancerous cells and microtumors quite often. In humans, finding these incidences are mostly serendipity, but in animals there have been deliberate, successful searches for such incidences.]

    And now that I’ve brought in animal research, my personal area of expertise, there’s a very knotty issue for you to explain. Spontaneous remissions happen in animals. So does spontaneous resistance to cancer. On any number of occasions, I’ve seen dozens of mice get identical injections of tumor cells and later, one or two mice are cancer free. And yes, I’ve seen mice develop a tumor following implantation, and later, the tumor just goes away. It’s damn rare. But it does happen. Most people who have done a lot of cancer work in animal models have probably seen one or two cases in their careers.

    So here’s the tricky issue for you. Is this random, capricious deity you are postulating, going around curing the rare, random lab animal of cancer just the same as the rare, random human? Hmmmmm…. maybe PETA members have been holding prayer meetings?!

  • 32. Joe  |  April 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Leo—

    I understand what you are saying. Thanks for explaining that this does happen in animals also—that’s interesting to note. Of course, I am not suggesting that cancer which simply “disappears” only happens to believers—-I’m sure there are numerous cases where it has disappeared in full blown atheists also! :>)

    However, what is quite hard to explain is when someone has full blown cancer, and several people pray for them and the cancer disappears. Was the prayer really completely uneffective, and that person (though extremely rare) only one of the rare “sponatneous remissions” you mention above?

    One could settle for this being “spontaneous remission”, but the odds would be extremely great that this happened by itself, adding the many praying for the person when this occurred. I find that to be very hard to explain actually. if one wants to remain a “die-hard” unbeliever in that case, that’s fine too—-but it seems to cast doubt on solely a scientific explanation for the miraculous turn-around.

  • 33. Joe  |  April 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    above “uneffective” s/b “ineffective”.

  • 34. Lucian  |  April 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Hey, LeoPardus,

    This here’s for You… ;-)

  • 35. Rebecca  |  April 17, 2009 at 4:14 am

    I’m surprised that the priest didn’t run off to get someone when she crossed herself the first time. If I had been in the room with a comatose patient who crossed themselves I’d be straight into the corridor to get a nurse to check her stats.

    Why did he continue with his prayer?

  • 36. LeoPardus  |  April 17, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I suppose he finished the prayer to finish the prayer.

    He did say that other people were in the room (the parents at least), so maybe someone did get a nurse.

    At any rate, this is the same priest who, after running over his kid, yanked the kid off the ground into a bear hug. Not the most medically astute bloke.

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Joe:

    Sorry I didn’t get back earlier. For some reason I got no email notification of your response.

    what is quite hard to explain is when someone has full blown cancer, and several people pray for them and the cancer disappears. Was the prayer really completely uneffective, and that person (though extremely rare) only one of the rare “sponatneous remissions” you mention above?

    Well, you still have to deal with the person who may not have been the object of prayer and, more bothersomely, you have to deal with the animals that spontaneously got over “full-blown” cancer.
    If you wish to posit a supernatural intervention for the prayed-for person, I suppose you need to posit the same thing for the animal, right?
    And then you need to try to come up with some sort of sense behind the capriciousness of it all.

    One could settle for this being “spontaneous remission”, but the odds would be extremely great that this happened by itself,

    True spontaneous remissions are quite rare. Frequency estimates vary from around 1/60,000 to 1/100,000.

    but it seems to cast doubt on solely a scientific explanation for the miraculous turn-around.

    There’s a rather powerful doubt cast on the miraculous explanation. Why so rare? Why no correlation with prayer, lack of prayer, belief, lack of belief, etc? In short, there’s no sensible theory to explain why these miracle might occur so capriciously? (Unless you propose a capricious deity.)

    By the other token, there are several know, biological mechanisms responsible for normal elimination of cancers. “Full-blown” cancer would be a case where the cancer has outstripped the ability of those mechanisms to keep things in check. And even in “full-blown” cancer, we know that these mechanisms continue to operate. It doesn’t strain credulity to think that on rare occasions, these mechanisms manage to get things back under control. And it would be expected to be rare since a large cancer would likely be billions of cells in size and so require a rather spectacular constellation of mechanisms to get it under control.

  • 38. milesandmilesandmiles  |  April 20, 2009 at 1:53 am

    LeoPardus,
    I have been reading and researching for over a year now and have finally decided to contribute.
    Undeniable reality finally led to my deconversion about 6 months ago.
    The way I see it:
    FACTS form the framework of what we call TRUTH…
    The framework of TRUTH describes what we call REALITY. Reality is, well, what is REAL.
    When one honestly looks at the facts, the religion is exposed for what it is.
    I have told no one, save my wife with whom I shared my findings. She took it well, but still believes, along with our children. I’m hoping you can give me some insight, since you are still attending church with your family. Do they know you are no longer a believer? Does it bother you to be in church? It’s driving me a little nuts, hearing the delusion perpetuated each week. My wife knows of my doubts, but does not know I no longer believe it. All of my relationships, including my income, family, etc… will potentially disappear if the truth is known, so I have to keep playing the game for now. Is it better to keep it to myself?

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  April 20, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    milesandmilesandmiles:

    Welcome. Glad you posted. Hope we can continue to be of help to you.

    Do they know you are no longer a believer?

    My wife knows, and the priest knows. My kids suspect something since I don’t take communion, but I don’t think they know I’m totally atheist. No one else at church knows at all.

    Does it bother you to be in church?

    Sometimes. The sermon is the worst. Listening to a priest or deacon ramble on when I know it’s all fantasy is a bit annoying (or amusing depending on my mood and just what they are saying). Also, I find it a bit sad and disconcerting to see all the other people so caught up in a fantasy world that I’ve escaped.

    It’s driving me a little nuts, hearing the delusion perpetuated each week.

    Ah, yes. You have that reaction too.

    My wife knows of my doubts, but does not know I no longer believe it.

    Mine knew I had doubts for a while. Finally I was able to tell her that I no longer believed. There’s no rule for when to do this. You know the lady best. Think carefully and when you do tell her, be gentle and careful.

    All of my relationships, including my income, family, etc… will potentially disappear if the truth is known,

    So your job/income is tied in with the faith somehow? That’s hard. We have a few people hereabouts who were in ministry. They can probably speak best to this issue.

    so I have to keep playing the game for now. Is it better to keep it to myself?

    There’s *no rush*. Start thinking about what you can do for income and do a bit of preliminary looking. Maybe you can find something and move into it without a major trauma.
    Look at it this way: Lots of folks have had to work at a place they didn’t want to be just to put food on the table. They have to “play the game” of pretending they are dedicated to the company, all the while that they are quietly floating their resume around.
    Do what you gotta do to provide for your family. Again, there’s *no rush*.

  • 40. Joe  |  April 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Milesandmilesandmiles—

    I am a believer, but several years ago I was in a used book store and found a book written and published in 1871 called “Superstition in all Ages” by a priest name Jean Messlier. What amazed me about him and the book is that he remained a Catholic priest in France until he died. Upon his death they found a treatise of complete atheism. He had kept his atheism completely secret until his death. I felt that must have been excrutiating to him. Here are a couple of links to articles about him if you are interested:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Meslier

    http://rjjago.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/jean-meslier-superstition-in-all-ages-part-one/

    As a believer I still am fascinated with books and subjects such as these. His inner conflict must have been immense!!

  • 41. milesandmilesandmiles  |  April 21, 2009 at 4:30 am

    LeoPardus,
    Thanks for the thoughtful, quick reply. Yes, I’m still involved in a career that is faith related. I’m not a pastor and my work is mostly support network related, so I don’t have to deal with too many people. Like you said, I am slowly moving into a backup plan. The hard thing is, I know my kids are gobbling up the Sunday school ‘truths’ and I have to stand by and watch it. Every day I want to tell my son that it’s not all true, but I don’t know how to go about it. Is it better to wait on that too? He gets Christian schooling, Sunday school and gets it from Mom. Granted, I do see a lot of good come out of faith, even changed lives (I’m in a culture that is rife with gambling, alcoholism, child abuse, domestic abuse, corruption, etc). At least the morals and hope that people get from the faith are good things. But for me, I want to know the truth and I want my family to know the truth. My church, school, pastors and apologists didn’t tell me the whole story. Nobody even hinted that there were gaping holes and even outright deception on the part of the writers, scholars and keepers of the faith. It’s a lot easier for a little kid to realize it’s not true and get on with life. I on the other hand lived and believed it for 40 years! It was 12 months of intense study that brought me to this point. For the first time in my life the dissonance is gone, my mind is clear and I am realizing that I can contribute to this world rather than fighting against it.

  • 42. milesandmilesandmiles  |  April 21, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Some more random thoughts going through my mind these days…
    If God is real, I am open to returning to the faith. Like so many here my prayer is ‘God reveal yourself to me’. I need more than 2nd hand miracles and stories. I need more than an ancient book that is wrong about history, archeology, cosmology, geology, mathematics, prophecies and requires mental gymnastics to be consistent. Last week a pastor we know was teaching a Bible study while his 3 kids burned alive in their home. We all read the news story of the little girl who was raped and murdered by her Sunday school teacher and put in a suitcase. Didn’t these children and their parents pray for God’s protection? These were Christian kids for goodness sake! Why doesn’t God take care of the children who ask for his protection? Someone will say its all to bring him Glory and to bring people involved closer to him. Is this the only tool God has to bring people to him? Brutal, tortuous deaths for little children? Every day I see people on the street corners whose eyes were plucked out as children so they could beg for the gangs in horrible conditions. Every day here thousands and thousands of children are sexually abused in prostitution rings. God is watching all of it. Is he amused or just doesn’t care to lift a finger?

  • 43. Lucian  |  April 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Miles,

    God cosuffered with creation, and did not stop those who wanted to hurt and murder him to do so.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  April 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    miles…::

    I am slowly moving into a backup plan.

    Good on you. Hope it works out well.

    Every day I want to tell my son that it’s not all true, but I don’t know how to go about it. Is it better to wait on that too?

    Especially since your wife still believes there is no hurry on that. It could cause friction with her if you pushed it on the lad. My kids still don’t really know (though they have suspicions). If your son asks questions, try to answer honestly.

    I do see a lot of good come out of faith,

    Good. Too often de-converts jump clear over to the view that the faith/church is all together evil. There’s no balance, honesty, or perspective in such a view.

    I’m in a culture that is rife with gambling, alcoholism, child abuse, domestic abuse, corruption,…..
    Every day I see people on the street corners whose eyes were plucked out as children so they could beg for the gangs in horrible conditions. Every day here thousands and thousands of children are sexually abused in prostitution rings.

    I’d say you should look to move if you get the chance.

    If God is real, I am open to returning to the faith. Like so many here my prayer is ‘God reveal yourself to me’. I need more than 2nd hand miracles and stories. I need more than an ancient book

    Right on. Be like the apostle Thomas.

  • 45. milesandmilesandmiles  |  April 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    “God cosuffered with creation, and did not stop those who wanted to hurt and murder him to do so.” Lucian

    Great. Apparently the cosuffering didn’t do much because God is still watching those children die horrible deaths while they cry out to him for help. Since God’s son suffered, innocent children must suffer unspeakable atrocities too. If I witness a child being tortured and do nothing I am party to the crime. God sees it all, has the power to stop it, yet does nothing.

    The problem of suffering isn’t why I am at this precipice of unbelief though. It’s the scriptures themselves that have revealed the fissures in the foundation. It’s difficult to be honest about what you will find and still go on believing.

  • 46. icanseeformilesandmiles  |  April 23, 2009 at 3:53 am

    LeoPardus,
    I really appreciate your insights. Yes, it is best to take this slowly and not do damage to my family. Sometimes I do find myself getting upset about the religion when I read too many articles :) I’m learning that I don’t have to fight against religion, but patiently let family and friends take their own path. It’s just plain amusing now to see my friends attribute every piece of their mysterious ‘plan’ to God’s working. I bite my tongue a lot. They are good people though, sacrificing to help others and helping people out of difficult situations and addictions. It’s all in the name of the gospel of course, so the good deeds are just a ‘tool’ to bring them into the faith. Maybe it’s a deceptive method, but the end results are often positive. I admire you for staying with your family in church. I’m having a difficult time attending with my family. Again, I’m biting my tongue every Sunday morning!

  • 47. icanseeformilesandmiles  |  April 23, 2009 at 3:57 am

    BTW, this is milesandmilesandmiles.
    I changed the name to better express my point. I can see clearly now. I don’t have to wrestle with contradictory doctrine. I don’t have to worry if I’m out of his ‘will’. I don’t have to guess at the mysterious puzzle (plan). For once I can use my own mind and not feel bad about it.

  • 48. LeoPardus  |  April 23, 2009 at 11:21 am

    miles…..:

    Yep. I’ve got plenty of bite marks on my tongue too. :)

    It may be a little easier for me to go to church as we go to an Eastern Orthodox Church. I’m quite sure that the whole family would have quit the faith years ago if we’d stayed in Protestant churches. I do still have to be careful not to LOL in the middle of a sermon though.

    re post #47: Nice to know you’re a truly free agent isn’t it?

  • 49. Lucian  |  April 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I’m quite sure that the whole family would have quit the faith years ago if we’d stayed in Protestant churches.

    Ah… but in the end You still did end up leaving it… which proves, I guess, that the Calvinists [and pagans] were after all right about predestination: no matter how hard You’ve tried to “work” Your way up by clinging to the faith (against God’s fore-ordination) You weren’t able to. 8) Tsk-tsk… well, at least You gave it a shot… but it just wasn’t meant to be… :-|

  • 50. RLWemm  |  May 13, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Immediate reaction without having read anyone else’s comments:

    Example One. There is nothing miraculous about coming out of a coma. The description is absolutely consistent with what you would expect from someone going through the usual stages of increasing consciousness. Seen it many times.

    Example Two. An ex-Christian Minister that I know was not so lucky. He lost his religious beliefs largely as the result of the what happened to him and his family after he accidently ran over his baby in the family driveway. The child did not survive. Neither did the father’s marriage.

    I am sure that the child was not completely unscathed by the accident and will suffer from some degree of post-traumatic disorder. What kind of twisted but powerful being would allow such a thing to happen in order to “prove” their existence to someone who apparently needed no proof? A better “miracle” would have been to get the priest to act responsibly and check behind his car before backing out. Not a god I could respect.

  • 51. RLWemm  |  May 13, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Response after having read everyone else’s comments:

    Example One:
    I am a retired neuro-psychologist.
    I confirm that extensive recovery from stroke in children is quite common. I add that medicine defines several levels of consciousness. Hearing is among the first things to return after full coma. Automatic behavior (such as making the sign of the cross) is to be expected while partially unconscious. The child’s response was a sign that consciousness was returning; it was not a result of the prayer. BTW, some forms of automatic behaviour, such as the eyes following an object around the room, occur in those will no cerebral cortex whatever.

    Example Two:
    I agree with Leo’s point: if this was a miracle then the divinity who provided it is wantonly capricious. Moreover, his marketing strategy is extremely poor and his moral development leaves a lot of room for improvement. A superior moral being could be expected to perform miracles which assisted huge numbers of children, not just the a few children here and there whose parents are religious. How about providing manna from heaven to feed all the starving children of the world, regardless of the beliefs or financial status of their parents?

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  • 53. Alban  |  September 2, 2014 at 7:56 am

    It gets a little old reading or hearing about how God lets horrible things happen. So let’s be clear. Do you understand the difference of sustaining your life and preventing our messes?

    Probably not. You are breathed by God (the label “God” is filled with misunderstanding, but I yield to the concept of the religious to make a point) and while you you are alive and ONLY while you are physically alive (breathing on your own) can you become aware of the source of that breath.

    Before breathing life and after breathing life you are in an ocean of God, but have no means of direct access. The physical landscape of breathing life is an amazing combination of limitation (NOT available in the before or the afterlife as well) and by design, the ONLY access to conscious union with God.

    That union is NOT by belief or conceptual learning! Rather it is the conscious sincere desire to want to know, to be one with, and to be directly shown the source of that union which already exists within inside of each one of us ONLY “BECAUSE” OF OUR HUMAN LIFE!!

    Knowing that, we are then empowered to make fully conscious decisions about circumstances. No one, even the living teacher (and there is always one alive, whether he or she chooses to show or not, ) is 100% percent “conscious”, so my term “fully”, does NOT connotate perfect decision making.

    What it does describe, is self empowerment…the tangible ability to be conscious of the source of life and apply that, NOT like a manual of do’s and don’ts but with a perspective of the immense value of and gratitude for, the life we have been given.

    Not having that self empowerment we are basically on our own. And we have not fared well. Yes our technology is growing rapidly, but our ability to get along is still primitive, not quite cavemanesque, but still primitive with all our sophistication. 21st century and we still have warlords in EVERY economic environment including yes, government as well. Add in the influences of major religions and how individuals are forced to cope, and we have a real mess in our midst!

    Our bad decisions individually and collectively have lead to needless tragedies. I have lived thru a couple of these close up in my past and in my family. I can 100% say, those bad decisions were no fault of God!! Brought about rather by truly ignorant personal decision making.

    God is not a “preventor” when we live in ignorance. When we live in consciousness, that wisdom, that clarity, that simplicity, that we have associated with God, is present MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY than a directive. We are much better at applying literal blissful enjoyment and appreciation than we are at parroting interpreted policy!!!!

    When we as human beings BEGIN to take responsibility FIRST for the life we have been given and ALL that is possible within it, we have a guarantee that the momentum of our ignorance will flip to a momentum of consciousness. Accidents, mistakes and bad decisions will be much less, but not absent. Risk and money and or value exchange may still exist, so the guarantee is not circumstantially utopic to our limited understanding now. IT is and will be however, BEYOND what imagination can offer.

    Who gives that guarantee? When you can feel and look inside yourself everyday, you tell me. Otherwise what you take from this is hearsay.

    HUGE difference – ignorance of “Knowing” vs right and wrong/ Good and evil. One is simple and direct. The other is chocked full of imagination and judgement. Which method would God probably advocate if God exists?

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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