Atheist Causes Christmas ‘Miracle’

Is there a more misused word in the English language than “miracle”? I can think of only a few others that can compare to it. Note this article in the Washington Post that talks about a “Christmas miracle” that happened when an atheist found a priceless engagement ring (it belonged to the groom’s grandmother) and returned it to the owners. I’ll skip the absurd amount of detail in the article and cut to the chase:

Siranjan Kulatilake, 55, walked down his steps, and there, on the sidewalk, he spotted a diamond ring.

The band was so small he wondered if it belonged to a child. Puzzled, Kulatilake hooked the ring onto a lanyard that held his keys…

Desperate, he and Plack searched their trash, picking through wet coffee filters and rotten lettuce. They re-rode her bus route and got a number for the people who clean the vehicles. At the Metro station, they found the manager.

As riders walked past, Plack broke down.

“I’ll pray for you. Keep your faith in God,” the manager told them. “Let’s hope a godly person finds it.”

Oh yes, because only a “godly person” would have the moral fiber to return it, right? Wrong.

Kulatilake, who describes himself as an atheist, returned to his apartment and examined the ring.

“What do I do with this?” he wondered. “It’s obviously precious to someone.”…

Kulatilake, who has lived in the District for about 15 years, placed the ring into a vase for safekeeping. He and his wife discussed how they might find the owner. The Internet? Local jewelers? He had no idea.

The next morning, on her way back from the farmers market, his wife saw one of the fliers Plack had taped up around the neighborhood.

“LOST ENGAGEMENT RING,” it said. “***REWARD WILL BE OFFERED***.”

Plack and her mother had just finished wedding dress shopping and were on their way to a florist in Annapolis when her cellphone rang. She ignored the call, but listened to the voicemail.

“Hey, Hayley,” Kulatilake said in his clipped British accent. “I think I found your engagement ring on the street. Give me a call if you get a chance.”

She screamed, then called him.

She asked where he had found it. He told her. He asked for a description. She gave him one.

But before Plack got her ring back, before she texted her fiance a message that ended in 11 exclamation points, before their mothers cried, before she once again looked forward to holiday parties, Kulatilake asked her an important question: “So you said a reward would be offered?”

Plack panicked. Yes, she told him. How much do you want?

“I don’t want the reward for myself,” he explained. Could she make a donation to the Washington Humane Society? Even $50 would suffice.

So no miracle at all and no need for a “godly person” to have found it, just a kind and decent atheist who knew that what he found held great meaning for someone.

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  • peterh

    What have atheism and Christmas to do with what is best described as serendipity?

  • grumpyoldfart

    That story sounds a bit too cute to me. Especially that quote from the Metro manager. I have the feeling it doesn’t come directly from his or her mouth and has been enhanced slightly in order to make the conclusion to the story just a little more dramatic. (I could be wrong)

  • david

    Christians tell the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s the same. A non-christian who does a kindly deed, from the goodness in his heart. Yet they generally fail to take that as the point of the story.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Miracle: A statistically improbable event that while rare is still within the realm of possibility given the “laws of reality”*. Examples: A person is cured of a usually lethal disease. A person is the only survivor of a catastrophic event.

    Or

    An event that is impossible given the “laws of reality”* without supernatural intervention. Examples: An amputee regrows a severed limb. A person survives a total decapitation.

    *Whatever you want to call it, given current knowledge.

    When the impossible happens, we will all become believers. Until that is, science shows us how it’s done.

  • hunter

    Sounds like your basic decent person, to me — doesn’t matter if he’s Christian, atheist, or anywhere in between.

  • zenlike

    I remember a time when miracles included feeding thousands of people with two loaves of bread and bringing the dead back to live.

    Oh, how standards have fallen…

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    So no miracle at all and no need for a “godly person” to have found it, just a kind and decent atheist who knew that what he found held great meaning for someone.

    A kind and decent Athiest? Sounds like a Miracle to me!

  • birgerjohansson

    In The Science Of Discworld, the authors point out that not only “good” miracles exist.

    Statistically unlikely events can have bad consequences as well. The unlikely convergence of incompetence that allowed Bin Laden to destroy the World Trade Centre is a case in point.

    .

    A random bullet, travelling a mile from the shooting range and hitting someone in the head -that happens too.

    All safety features in a nuclear power plant getting fucked up in the aftermath of a tsunami -unlikely, but it happened.

  • John Pieret

    Could she make a donation to the Washington Humane Society? Even $50 would suffice.

    Nice humanist touch. Well done, sir!

    Sometimes in our world we mistake basic human decency for a “miracle.” That says more about us than I care to contemplate.

  • colnago80

    Re birgerjohansson @ #8

    Actually, what happened at the Japanese Nuclear Power plant was totally inevitable. The plant, which came through the earthquake itself in good shape, was designed for a 15 foot tsunami. Unfortunately, that tsunami that actually occurred was 30 feet high, which flooded the diesel backup generators, which are required to shut the plant down safely. A textbook example of penny wise and pound foolish.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    To be fair, colnago80, the Godzilla attack didn’t help.

  • Sastra

    Kulatilake, who describes himself as an atheist,…

    Okay, maybe I’m picking nits here, but is there ANY other belief description which wouldn’t just be accepted and reported as is, without the sly little wink*wink*nod*nod of the additional “… who describes himself as an X.” Do people routinely “describe themselves” as Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc in factual news stories? Or are they Christian, Muslim, etc.?

    The implication seems to be that this self-proclaimed, self-declared, self-admitted, self-described “atheist” sure doesn’t act like one so he probably does believe without knowing it. You be the judge, Reader.

    Maybe this is being touchy, but language sometimes matters.

  • Scr… Archivist

    Sastra @12,

    I suspect that reporters use that kind of attribution to avoid the appearance of accusing the person of being a Bad Thing. Cox (or his editor) is telling us, “I’m not accusing him of atheism. Kulatilake is admitting it himself!”

    Maybe we will see this practice much less often when atheism is neither uncommon nor denigrated.

  • Sastra

    Scr…Archivist #13 wrote:

    I suspect that reporters use that kind of attribution to avoid the appearance of accusing the person of being a Bad Thing.

    That too — though the fact that there is the answered-prayer-Christmas-miracle story here makes me suspect the Dear Reader is being led to the other conclusion.

    Either way it’s annoying at the very least. And yes, I hope the trend becomes less and less common in the media and “accused of being an atheist” gets put up there with “accused of being Jewish” or “accused of believing in evolution.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ross.balmer.92 Ross Balmer

    What has the Washington Humane Society got to do with atheism? It’s “humane”, not “humanist”. It’s about the ethical treatment of animals, nothing to do with religion or the lack of it.

  • Sastra

    Ross Balmer #15 wrote:

    What has the Washington Humane Society got to do with atheism? It’s “humane”, not “humanist”. It’s about the ethical treatment of animals, nothing to do with religion or the lack of it.

    Yes, it’s secular. It has nothing to do with religion.

    One could also make an argument that the ethical treatment of animals became an issue at roughly the same time as the ethical treatment of human beings, both of them products of Enlightenment humanism.

  • dingojack

    Luke 10:30-37. Don’t they read their own ‘holy’ book?!?

    Dingo

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka

    @ Sastra,

    “Who describes himself as a bishop”.