Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Semantics


My atheism is more emotional than logical. I came to disbelief by examining my beliefs, and then the beliefs of others, and concluding that they were just stupid, hateful, and exclusionary. Any of my logical support has come afterward, by reading blogs, books, and news articles (and occasionally death threats). I suppose it was the problem of evil that first caused doubt, but not because the idea of a benevolent god is incompatible with the existence of evil in any logical sense, but because a god that allows evil but does nothing about it, even for our own good, is an asshole.

See? Emotional, not rational.

That's not to say that I can't parry with logic when confronted by silliness.

Last night at dinner, while my daughter was stuffing her face (literally, two hands, crumbs on her chin, not her most attractive), I laughed out loud, and my wife referred to Mickie as "my little miracle". Then she said, "Your daddy doesn't believe in miracles. Do you?"

"Nope."

"Well, I think she's a miracle."

Okay, I said, deciding that I was going to let it go, because we've discussed this before, and gotten nowhere.

But she said something else; she believes that Mickie is proof that god exists, the hand of god interfering in our lives, and unique occurences are miracles.

In my opinion, that's stretching the definition of miracle to a point where it becomes meaningless: every occurence is unique, either spacially, temporally or both, and there are no two things repeated. If everything that happens is a miracle, then miracles aren't proof of anything.

I love Mickie, and I think she's beautiful, but she's proof of Mickie, and little else. She's proof that my wife (and I, presumably), are fertile, but not much beyond that. Furthermore, although she's unique, she's not really that special. Hundreds of thousands of people are born every day. People are disgustingly fertile. People are as common as dirt, and although Mickie is beautiful, she's not a miracle, unless you make it mean nothing, the way that Christians do.

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. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior.
A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature: burning bushes that aren't consumed, dead men coming back to life, wet altars being struck by lighning on command. These are miracles, and they just don't happen. Common things aren't miracles, no matter how cool we think they are. Unique just isn't miraculous, no matter what Christians would enter into the vernacular as an alternate definition.

A baby is born, and she's beautiful? Happens all the time.

It's a recurring theme in my discussions with theists: we aren't speaking the same language, even. It's another essential gap in our expectations.
For theists, things are proof of god.
For atheists, things are proof of things.

2 comments:

S said...

She is beautiful :)

Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

Definitely looks like a miracle to me...without a doubt...