There are four recurring types of miracle stories in world religions. Here’s a short reminder of what they are:
- Birth miracles of religious heroes: a hero’s mortal mother is impregnated by a God; astronomical phenomena appear at a hero’s birth; an infant hero evinces signs of greatness, perhaps by talking or emitting a glowing aura that can be seen for hundreds of miles; spontaneous healing occurs in an infant hero’s presence. And so on. No religious literature suggests infant heroes miraculously leapfrogged over the diapering years.
- Healing miracles performed by adult religious heroes: blindness is cured, not the general state of blindness but particular instances of blindness; lameness is cured, again, not generally but specifically; various consumptive disorders are remedied. And so on. No religious literature suggests anyone was ever miraculously healed of male-patterned baldness or severed limbs.
- Nature miracles performed by religious heroes or by a God: a religious hero makes rain; a religious hero stops rain; a hero calms an angry storm; an angry God floods the world by storm; a hero kills a tree or an animal with a word; a hero augments an animal’s strength with a word. And so on. No religious literature suggests natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, viral pandemics, and extinctions, were ever miraculously prevented.
- Celestial miracles: a religious hero or some other person is taken to a heavenly or hellish realm by a celestial figure. No religious literature suggests a person of one religion was ever escorted to the heaven or hell of another person’s different religion.
Many religions have rationalistic members who reinterpret the miracle stories of their tradition, and they do so in ways they should deem as incredible as the miracles themselves.
That is, religious rationalists try to retain some trace of fact in miracles even as they deny the miraculous:
- The baby hero indeed showed signs of precociousness, but no miracles occurred.
- The healed lame woman was on the mend even before the hero touched her.
- The rain was imminent anyway.
- That was a dream of heaven, not an actual visit to heaven.
But one must go all the way with miracles: either believe them all—even those of other religions because when you believe one miracle you’ve no excuse for disbelieving all other miracles—or disbelieve them all.
Stopping mid-way between these two either-or options is a miracle of rationalization—a true-blue spectacle, a marvel to widen the eyes and flare the nostrils, a sign of the times.
Featured image ‘…sometimes a miracle happens’ by Naniel via Flickr