A chat with some Mormon missionaries about miracles

So my Mormon missionary friends returned today and had me watch a video about Jesus. They asked me what I thought and I explained to them that I’m highly skeptical of miracles.

First of all, I don’t believe that Jesus’s miracles were fabricated out of whole cloth. I think that Jesus was probably a real person and that he probably performed some feats which the uneducated and uncritical masses took to be miracles, but really weren’t all that miraculous. A combination of bad judgment, faulty memory, and the fact that the Gospels were written centuries after the fact based on oral tradition led to a massive instance of confabulation. People were considerably more superstitious back then. (People are still considerably superstitious, but now they use faulty science and lack of knowledge of simple math to rationalize their superstitions.)

I also mentioned that I find it unusual that there have been no recent instances of miracles, to which the missionaries replied that they’ve witnessed all sorts of miracles. They explained that they believe in faith healing and cited this as an example of a modern-day miracle. Instead of wasting my breath on a lengthy explanation of the fact that there has never been a documented instance of effective faith healing, I simply pointed out that we seem to have different definitions of the word “miracle.” For me, a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. (Some people say this is an incredibly narrow definition of miracles, but I say it is incredibly broad, as it includes any sort of paranormal or supernatural event, such as hauntings and psychokinesis.) Spontaneous recovery, the placebo effect, and the false placebo effect are not violations of the laws of nature. (I didn’t bother to mention the fact that most faith healing leads to disastrous results in the form of people thinking they’re healed only to stop medical treatment and have a relapse go undiagnosed and untreated. In retrospect, I probably should have brought this up.)

I still haven’t kept my promise to pray, but I figure I might as well since I can’t envision any harm coming of it. Maybe I’ll do that later.

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