Tue 30 Aug 2011
One of these individuals makes sense, but only one
The media savvy, tea-partying, supersized stars Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann have trumped government agencies like the National Weather Service and FEMA by declaring why Hurricane Irene took a course up the Atlantic, bringing several billions of dollars worth of damage and knocking out my electricity on Sunday morning. Here is Bachmann’s take:
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?'” Bachmann, a third-term Minnesota representative, told a crowd in Sarasota that the St. Petersburg Times estimated contained around 1,000 people.
Unlike Glenn Beck, who said he had prior warning that God was sending this storm, Bachmann at least waited for a post hoc form of pseudo prophecy politicking. Beck, the stealth Mormon once in the Fox News orbit, suggested we count our blessings along with the days without electricity and number of feet of flood stage above record levels. Similar warnings of God’s use of the weather to judge us sinners here on earth were given by Pat Robertson, who had noted that God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans to bash the gays living there. But then God appears to be indecisive, or at least highly selective, as reported on Robertson’s CBN:
The sun re-emerged Sunday, bringing with it relief from both the winds and the rain.
It was an answer to prayer for many people like Pastor Ken Gerry of the New Life Christian Center who had prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.
“God intervened with this. We were just praying that the storm would disorganize, dissipate, weaken,” he told CBN News.
So God answers some prayers, but then what about all those churches and God-fearing folk that got whacked in the storm. Couldn’t a God who could create the entire universe n a mere six days and give it the appearance of millions of years learn to use email or text messages? I think anyone who received such a message directly from God would change his or her ways in the twinkling of an eyelash.
But here is a thought for Michele and Glenn. If God has to get our attention by extreme weather conditions, then the prolonged drought in Texas, despite prayers by Gov. Perry, must mean something too.
All the major monotheisms, along with every animism I know, historically saw some divine or spiritual hand behind anything unusual in the weather. But what a pitiful deity this must be that real miracles which suspend natural law are no longer operating and instead we just get a hurricane that fails to blow itself out overseas. At least Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 5:45) makes some sense out of all this by stating (in good old King James Version prose, “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Not just the unjust, which means that not every just person who prays that the rain will or will not fall will get an answer.
I sometimes wonder what David Hume, the British philosopher who effectively rid rational thinking of the nonsense of miracles in his “Of Miracles” essay in 1748, would say today. His essay was written over 260 years ago. And during this time no bonified, nature-defying, grade A miracle has been recorded (except perhaps the end of Beck’s contract with Fox). As Hume noted:
A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined… Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. .. For first, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good-sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts, performed in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable: All which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men…
I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite number of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pretended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the particular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we believe any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: And on the other hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Tacitus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particular religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the same instant when the crime is said to have been committed.”
There is only one miracle I earnestly hope for: that otherwise sane people would stop yelling “miracle” or “God is sending a message” every time there is a disaster. One might as well go back to belief in Zeus and Hera, who at least acted like human beings in their mythical Olympus.
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