Miraculous Healing, Still an Atheist

Rebuttal

I saw a post recently by a Christian blogger on Patheos claiming that about 18 years ago he was healed of some incurable disease and that it was evidence of God’s existence. I have a very similar personal anecdote…and oddly enough I find little to no evidence that it was indeed divine intervention that saved me. Here goes.

After high school I opted not to go directly into college because I knew that I was not disciplined enough to continue my education at that age. I began working construction and moving around the labor market. I was heavily involved in church and still a devout Christian at the time. I was actively involved in church activities and spent a lot of time helping out youth group activities, taking part in the young adults group, and generally being pissed off at the incredibly ignorant pastoral staff. I had some personal issues the authoritarian approach that the staff at church took towards anyone who disagreed with their ‘interpretation’ of the word.

Nonetheless, I had been working construction and other labor jobs for over two years and in the fall of 2004 I began to lose a lot of weight without any explanation. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. I’ve always been very active, physically fit, and involved in some type of physical job. I hadn’t changed my diet and I hadn’t been exercising any more than normal. If anything, I was so tired that I actually was working out less.

I was hesitant to go to the doctor because I was uninsured (another blog topic for another time). I was a young man fresh out of high school without a very good paying job and couldn’t afford the insurance since my work was so sporadic. I would end up working and coming home to sleep. I felt very weak all the time but knew that I couldn’t find another job that would allow me to afford my car and insurance.

I also had a very small frame. I always have and until I joined the Marine Corps I was a pretty small guy. I was 5’9″ and weighed roughly around 160 lbs. Within a few months I had dropped 40 pounds and was hovering around 120…which was the smallest I had been in a long time. I was nothing but skin and bones. I finally decided that I had no choice but to go to the doctor. I went to a “free clinic”. It was supposedly designed to help the poor and those that couldn’t afford to go to the emergency room. I got tested for a multitude of things. They took blood and stool samples and I ended up going back and forth for more than a few visits.

I was told that I had hyperthyroidism. I had no idea what that was. I was informed that the thyroid gland was what regulated your metabolism, heart rate, and essentially the organs in your body. Without proper treatment, surgery, and possibly medicine for the rest of my life it could be very very dangerous. I was scheduled to do an Iodine Thyroid scan to determine whether or not it was just a single node or the entire gland. The results from that would determine whether or not I would need surgery. The problem with the surgery is that a result can be hypothyroid. With hypothyroid I would have the opposite effect. The thyroid gland would not be working enough. From one problem into another.

Then came the bill

I opened the mailbox one morning to discover a bill from the free clinic. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew there might be a co-pay but when I saw the dollar figure I did a double-take. One visit alone had cost me over $500. Add on the other visits, the tests, and some medicine and I was suddenly in a huge hole of debt. It turns out this “free clinic” was a private clinic that was authorized by the state to conduct medical service for the poor and underpriveleged. If anyone had income of any kind they had legal loopholes into how to bill them without fear of repercussion. I mean, when you’re preying on the poor and unhealthy it’s pretty easy to act nefariously since you know they can’t afford to litigate. I wanted to give up.

I stopped going to the doctor. I stopped going to work. I just ended up sitting in my tiny apartment feeling myself, my health, and my life whittle away. I was always tired, my muscles or what were left of them were in pain, and I was drowning in debt that I wasn’t sure I could recover from. I had friends, family, and a girlfriend that I just didn’t know how to talk to, either. I was stuck. I started drinking my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’d show up to church pretty disenfranchised and finally I came to my senses. I knew I had to do something.

I knew that hyperthyroid, left untreated, could result in Graves Disease. Graves Disease is a condition where the body will recognize it’s own cells as intruders and attack them. It can be deadly and sounded somewhat similar to what the HIV virus does. I’m not a scientist nor a doctor so it’s not an exact comparison – symptomatically nor with danger level – so please don’t make that a topic of debate. I just knew I had to find a way to get treatment and I couldn’t afford it.

My ‘saving grace’

I called my father. Every time I’ve been in a rough jam he’s dropped everything he’s been up to (including his own job at times) to make sure I was taken care of. He lived over 2000 miles away and once drove up to see me because I was in a bind, and another time made his way up there to help me move across the country. This time he came through again. I broke down to him and told him I was sick, uninsured, and needed help. He bought me an airline ticket and told me to hurry up and get down there. I made some preparations, told a few close friends, said goodbye to everyone else at church (who all told me they would pray for me) and jumped on the flight down south in mid-December.

When my father and stepmother picked me up from the airport they were shocked at my appearance. They couldn’t believe how ragged and fragile I looked. I’d always been a healthy, robust, athletic individual. My stepmom hugged me and told me everything would be okay. Of course, I doubted it but smiled anyways. We set up an appointment for a few days later and I spent those days at my father’s house just eating and sleeping. We went to the doctor, their family doctor who was also a good friend – my stepmother is a Registered Nurse at the local so she makes lots of friends. The doctor asked me a lot of questions, showed genuine concern, and conducted a few tests. I was told we could come back in two days and he’d have all the results.

I spent a lot of that time worrying…and honestly who wouldn’t? The doctor walked in to the office and I held my breath, having already heard how bad it was, and waited for the worst.

You’re fine. Perfectly healthy. No hyperthyroid. If you had it before you don’t have it now.

I asked him if he was sure and continued to inquire as to what could have been happening to me. He had no idea and, although friendly, seemed a little annoyed every time I asked if he ‘was sure’. After many assurances that I was healthy he stated that he thought I never had it, or that the other doctor had been lying to me. While I didn’t doubt the other doctor may have been lying in order to funnel money into his own pocket…I knew the symptoms I had developed and the life I had been living. I knew it wasn’t in my mind because I absolutely detest the mindset of those who get sick with every small symptom. I had fought it for so long before I finally broke down and went looking for help. But now suddenly and without explanation I was cured?

I flew back home the next week and saw my health return quite quickly. The strength returned to my muscles, all the weight I lost came back, and I felt as if nothing had ever happened to me. Once people at church found out they began saying that they’re “prayers were answered” and that it was a Miraculous Healing of God. I even had one of the pastors confront me and say that I was lucky and should realize it was a healing from God. He told me I needed to dedicate my life to God and let other people knew what had been done for me. I nodded my head but really didn’t believe any of it. I had doubts.

The fact that I had been “healed” or whatever you would like to refer to it as didn’t give me any of peace of mind on the issue of God. If anything, it made it all the more confusing. I doubted more, trusted less, and saw no evidence of having been healed by god. It just didn’t sit well with me. There was not enough evidence for me to believe…and I was still a Christian.

 Evidence

So this is what it boils down to: evidence. What the hell is evidence, then? All these Christian apologists always attempt to change the facts when the facts don’t line up with their “holy” book. It’s understandable on a certain level. If you declare that this book is inerrant then you MUST do that as a matter of cognitive survival.

From what I have observed evidence in Christian Apologetics is whatever facts help substantiate the claims that are made in the Holy Bible. And the facts that don’t corroborate are philosophically spun into supporting evidence. Like the word ‘faith’. I’ve heard the word faith defined as “The evidence of things unseen”. That sounds noble and honorable to these Christian apologists but let’s be honest…faith in that sense is the evidence of gullibility and reasonophobia. I coined that just now. It’s not in the DSM-IV…yet.

My healing was no more evidence of a divine being than anyone else’s. Sometimes it just happens. Medical science has yet to explain it but let’s just think of the possibilities if and when they do! If scientists could somehow replicate the process and enable other people to be ‘miraculously’ healed….ooh the possibility gives me goosebumps! But no, so many of us want to stay wrapped in the dark ages. Science has helped humanity far more than faith. And when science doesn’t have the answer they’re still looking for it. Which is more than I can say about prayer, faith, or God…or god. Whichever one you think did it.

About Paul Loebe
  • Guest

    I had hyperthyroidism too. I was given medication for it (we have a public health service). I went off the pills and didn’t renew my prescription for a while (I don’t like taking pills). When I went back, they gave me a blood test and my thyroid hormones were back to acceptable levels. I guess it’s one of those things that can correct itself.

    • Paul Loebe

      That’s good to hear! I hope we can figure out ways to reproduce that with all the other examples we’ve had here as well. I’m glad for you. :)

  • Jeff See

    You’ve actually gone against the trend. In one clinical study, participants who were aware that they were going to receive intercessory actually experienced more complications during recovery.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567

    • Paul Loebe

      Yes. I did go against the trend. But then again I didn’t believe in their prayers even though I was a believer. I assumed I was pretty much done for with or without prayer. I think this experience made me lose my faith in prayer….long before I lost my faith in God.

      In fact I never prayed again after this incident.

      • Jeff See

        Well thanks for sharing your story. I had similar instances in my life, where things worked out (or didn’t), regardless of how much prayer I threw at it. Sometimes I would sense a ‘voice’ (later I realized it was just mine), sometimes there would be absolutely nothing. This constant inconsistency, helped lead me where I am today.

        On an aside; I find it interesting how many people, pray to avoid death, even though it would ultimately lead them to their intended destination. I just find that a bit off.

  • Christy Stahnke

    When I was 18 I was diagnosed with M.S. and my Neurologist gave me an approximation of 15 years before I would be in a wheelchair, although she was clear that it can take its own course. I put off college and started a family instead knowing it would be my only chance. For some reason the M.S. never got worse and in fact I have no symptoms that became permanent. At age 25 after my son was born I felt awful for a couple years before heading again to the doctor and finding out I had Lupus. After extensive testing it has been determined I have a very rare benign form of Lupus and also a rare benign form of M.S. I am now 38 and aside from Ibuprofen for achy tiredness at times, I am perfectly healthy. Can’t help but roll my eyes when people say “someone up there is looking out for you.” I agree with the author when I say I am hopeful the scientific community can replicate my own good fortune for others someday. Others looked at his health anomaly as a miracle and he lived through it, knowing all the while it wasn’t. Ditto my friend.

  • Brian Westley

    Nonetheless, I had been working construction and other labor jobs for over two years and in the fall of 2004 I began to lose a lot of weight without any explanation. I wasn’t sure what to think at first.

    Witch’s curse, no doubt about it. You need a pie.

    • Paul Loebe

      LOL! Yes, absolutely!

  • Sven2547

    Sometimes it just happens.

    This.

    Sometimes, in certain illnesses, spontaneous regression happens. It is an uncommon and poorly-understood phenomenon, which is exactly why it’s so attractive to religious apologists. It’s just another example of the “God-of-the-gaps”: the habit of certain people people to look at “gaps” in human knowledge and baselessly attribute some unknown phenomena to whatever god they might worship.

    I pity people who worship the “God-of-the-gaps”, for theirs is a tiny god that thrives on ignorance, and only gets smaller as human awareness and understanding increases.

    • Thierry Béchard

      Well put Sven. The common case of “I don’t know what caused that, therefore God!”

  • Donalbain

    A statistically uncommon thing happened. Therefore god. Surely there are worse arguments than that, but I can’t think of many..

    • Paul Loebe

      lulz

  • Alexander Richardson

    I get where you’re coming from there, bro, but actually, I can see how even that unexplained healing that has yet to be learned of, so on, so forth, I can actually see how that can be linked to God and science. My mother is fond of saying “God is the ultimate scientist.” I think that is a very dumbed-down version of the truth. I think that it IS a miracle, but in the same way that the expansion of your lungs causing negative pressure, bringing air in, absorbing the oxygen in the air, then being distributed to your blood via the heart and delivered to your muscles is also a miracle. The same way the Earth (theoretically, yet to be proven or disproven) distorts space, causing a sort of attraction effect causing nearby objects to stick to its surface (gravity) is also a miracle. The same way the Sun’s constant nuclear explosions send light, heat and radiation to us, but that we’re far enough away that it doesn’t hurt us, and close enough that we’re not frozen is a miracle. Same way our Magnetosphere keeps us from being microwaved by said radiation is a miracle.
    You probably get my point by now.
    Yes, your healing IS a miracle. And like so many miracles we have, scientists can take that phenomenon and learn how to duplicate it and cause more healing. All through the grace of God.

  • Elizabeth Licitra

    I have struggled with faith during my life, and I must say: I don’t think someone saying they were healed or not healed can “make someone believe”. That argument hasn’t worked for me, and I know personally of individuals who claim to have been healed. I have come to the conclusion that it takes faith to also believe there is no God, as one cannot prove He doesn’t exist. I felt I had to make a choice in which to believe. That said, your medical condition has been known to resolve on its own. Also, the author of the healing account you are debating, gave his doctor’s honest report: it was never the condition they originally thought (b/c that condition is not know to resolve on its own). What is interesting about cases of reported healing, as in the linked article, the person’s condition resolved quickly after prayer. It is a compelling story in that he himself didn’t initially believe he was healed when his friend told him that he was. That said, I would encourage individuals not to base their faith solely on a healing: true faith is believing even when our prayers aren’t answered.

    • Gehennah

      Faith isn’t an issue when it comes to atheism, at least with agnostic atheism (which is what most atheists I know are).

      They do not necessarily believe there is no god, they simply do not believe in a god. This doesn’t take faith since the default position is disbelief until sufficient evidence is provided.

      Just as I technically cannot claim there are no unicorns with absolute knowledge, I do not believe in them because there is a lack of evidence for unicorns.

      • Elizabeth Licitra

        Gehennah, I think I get what you are saying, but I respectively disagree (or rather I differ on what I consider faith). I think we all choose what to believe, and I call that “choosing”, faith. I would argue that there is no default position, we all have a “faith/choice”. Even when looking at early hominids, they appear to have buried their dead and had religious paintings. I humbly suggest that a consciousness has been placed in us by a Creator. I believe that our Creator gives us a choice, and I call that choice faith. I hope my reply makes sense; I am neither a writer nor philosopher, but have thought and prayed about my beliefs. My father is a “no god” atheist, and others in my family are like you, agnostic.

        • Thierry Béchard

          Dear Elisabeth, I consider myself an agnostic atheist. The agnostic part, addresses knowledge of there being a god or not. In my case, I don’t know and therefore an agnostic. The Atheist bit is my lack of belief in a god. i.e. I am simply not convinced. I am not positing that there is no god. I’m just saying that there is not enough evidence to convince me that there is a god. Now what’s important is that I do not choose to be an atheist. I am just naturally skeptical on the question of god and my atheism is just the product of my skepticism. You also apply skepticism in your life all the time. My guess is that you would apply skepticism if a scientologist came to you and told you that god is a extra-terrestrian. Do you choose not to believe him or are you simply not convinced by his arguments? You say that you choose to believe in a creator and that this creator gives you a choice to believe in him or not and you call that faith. My definition of religious faith is “belief in a god for no good reason other than that it makes you feel good”. Could this be your position?

          • Elizabeth Licitra

            Hi, Thierry,
            I have several reasons for my belief in the Christian God, but, no, not b/c it makes me feel good. In fact, I sometimes battle w/severe depression and even though I know God is real, I still have had depressive episodes (as do my atheist family members).

            My have knowledge of God is based on:
            1. The teachings and resurrection of Christ. There is strong reliable historical evidence.
            2. The fact there is evil in this world; there is an unspoken moral code.
            3. The universe is expanding and will one day “run out” of energy. It is believed to have had a beginning (big bang); I believe there must have been a Big Banger.
            4. Origin of life and the fine tuning of the universe.

            More controversial (but makes our conversation more interesting!) and not what brought me to faith, but I include in my knowledge of God:
            5. Existence of the soul. My mind is not my brain. If my mind were removed from my body, it would continue to form thoughts and make memories. There have been some cases of NDE’s where people were pronounced dead and yet made memories in which they saw and reported things that were not occurring in the same room as them. How? Yes, I realize the argument for oxygen deprivation, but could it be true we are more than our brains?
            6. God is moving in this world: people do see angels; have experiences w/demons; there are medically verified healing that follow prayer. And not a few healing stories, but thousands (not all medically verified). Since this was the subject of this article: I would see Miracles by Craig Keener.

            As far as your other question goes, ” My guess is that you would apply skepticism if a scientologist came to
            you and told you that god is a extra-terrestrian. Do you choose not to
            believe him or are you simply not convinced by his arguments?” I would say I choose not to believe him based on the fact that I know the God (of the Bible) is real.

  • Thierry Béchard

    Ask yourself: what’s the use of prayer? Now I’m talking about intercessory prayer – praying to ask god to intercede in your favor. I’m not talking about the kind of silent prayer, which some of us call meditation or prayers where you glorify your god and praise him without asking anything in return. Now about intercessory praying: If God is the omniscient (all-knowing, all-seeing) and knows the past present and future, therefore, the outcome has already been decided, isn’t it? Whatever happens, even if he changes his mind about healing someone whom he had planned not to, he knows in advance that he is going to change his mind, no? So what’s the use of praying? Do you see the uselessness of praying?

    • Alex

      There is so much wrong with your logic… He knows the future, not us. If He needs us to pray in order to work on the Earth, we still need to pray. It’s not like He’s made up His mind about helping or not. The outcome has already been decided, but our actions make up that outcome.

      • Thierry Béchard

        “The outcome has already been decided but our actions make up that outcome”. So you’re saying it is possible for you to ask your god to change his mind by praying to him – that he needs you to pray. Why? He’s omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). Like I said even if you could make him change his mind, he must have known that if he sees the future. e.g. you pray that Manchester United wins the FA Cup in 2014. He already knows who wins. Let’s say the other finalist (e.g. Arsenal) is supposed to win. Now with the millions of fans praying that MU wins, your god will change his mind? What about millions of Arsenal fans praying for their team to win? Is it a numbers game? Or who prays the most sincerely? Ok that’s just a game right. What about war? The civil war in the US. How many were praying on both sides? And sickness? Your god will cure some and not others. For the ones weren’t cured or that died, didn’t the families pray hard enough? What about amputees? If your god can cure cancer surely it can grow an arm back can’t he? But no! In this case, no prayers have ever been answered. I guess your god doesn’t like amputees. C’mon Alex. Wake up man! :)

  • Vn

    It is my understanding that God gives a choice to believe & receive His love or not. Just because you choose not to believe God is involved in your life does not deny His existence. We choose to believe whatever we want regardless of proof.

    • Thierry Béchard

      Our lack of belief in your god is not a choice. If I tell you that I have a blue spotted fire spitting dragon in my back yard do you choose not to believe me? No! You just don’t believe. You will be skeptical about my claim and until I give you sufficient evidence, you will not be convinced. The burden of proof will be on my shoulders since I made the claim that the dragon exists. Until I meet the burden of proof that my dragon exists you will not believe me. You will not be convinced. I’m an atheist because I am not convinced that a god or gods exist. That’s all there is to it. My atheism is a product of my skepticism to the claim that a god or gods exist. Not a choice. The non-belief comes naturally.

      And don’t say I’m closed minded. I’m not. I think it would be very cool if someone came up with evidence of an after-life, ghosts, etc. I love and always loved films with ghosts and demons. But so far, nothing has stood up to scrutiny, to knowledge, to science.

      Oh and btw, you’re as much an atheist as me with regards to other gods. Ask yourself: is your non-belief in Hanuman the Hindu monkey God a choice? What about the other Gods. Poseidon? Thor? In all probability, you’re not convinced that they exist just like me. My list is one god longer than yours.

      • Vn

        So if I have a experience and can’t prove it and it is a memory – does that mean it didn’t happen because I can’t prove it to you?

        • Thierry Béchard

          Of course it happened Vn. It would be disrespectful of me to say that you lied and I’m sure that you had the experience. I would need to know more about your experience first of all. However, I must say that it will take some convincing to make me believe that your experience was of a divine origin. The point I wanted to make in my first post is to make you see that non-belief is not a choice. It’s just the result of applying natural, healthy skepticism or scrutiny to the claim “there is a god”. Theists generally apply that skepticism in all aspects of their lives because, like everyone, they care for what’s true. Yet when it comes to religion and god matters their skepticism flies out of the window. They accept claims for no good reason (other than it makes them feel good) and they call it “faith”. In these circles, faith is even encouraged, condoned. I can almost hear: “When it comes to God, I must not ask questions, or if I do, I can just accept that the Bible has all the answers or I can just read books written by apologists that will spin some fancy answer for me, so I won’t have to do the thinking myself. And if I do start thinking, if this god exists after all, he will smite me, send me to hell for daring to question his existence, so better be safe and believe…”.

          • Vn

            I am sorry I have to stop communicating with you as I thought you were interested in communicating but, I feel from your writings you are more about your position than finding any truth other that what serves your viewpoint. I wish you all the best and I am sure you feel more satisfied and justified even more by my response because I won’t prove or debate with you further, therefore you have intimidated me with your intellect and sound logic, so you are right.

          • Thierry Béchard

            Ok Vn. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way. Have a great life! :)

    • Paul Loebe

      I deny his existence. You want me to believe. Prove it. Evidence is all I require to change my mind. If you were shown evidence otherwise would you change your mind? Or are you the close-minded one?

  • Alex

    You have no explanation for a thing you do not understand, and yet you fault another for giving you an explanation? The fact of the matter is this: assuming God does exist, people attribute a great multitude of things to His doing, whether they are or not. However, is it not better to give thanks for the possibility of divine intervention rather than pass it off as a statistical anomaly? Cynicism to the faith of others is easy to get, I understand. But using this as the backing of your loss of faith simply seems a bit childish and unreasonable. Faith seems ignorant to you, but the most ignorant thing you can do is entirely ignore an explanation to a seemingly inexplicable event.

    • Thierry Béchard

      Passing it as a statistical anomaly is saying “I don’t know”. It’s an honest answer. The answer that most scientists would give, albeit I would add a “yet” at the end. You, on the contrary say “Oh you don’t know? Therefore God!” The famous God of the Gap. Except that this God of the Gap has become smaller and smaller with the advances and discoveries of science. I don’t think he chooses to ignore an explanation using faith. You just haven’t convinced him with your god explanation. You certainly haven’t convinced me.

  • Jas25

    It’s all begging the question. There’s no evidence of miracles because everything that could be evidence of miracles has to have another explanation because there’s no evidence of miracles.

    If you do a little digging you will find plenty of evolutionary biologists (some of whom are quite vocal about how God doesn’t exist) admitting that they primarily push their theory due to distaste for the alternative.

    It’s no surprise they’ve back-petaled further into punctuated equilibrium. Darwin was certain that generations of similar transitional fossils would abound and when they didn’t they needed an explanation that allowed for dramatic leaps from one creature to another where the gaps existed.

    That, and most biologists were probably sick of trying to explain how the exact opposite of the concept of “vestigial structures” would actually improve survival over those without them (I.E. an organ who’s function isn’t fully realized is better than a fully functional body without it).

    There is plenty of information out there if you’re willing to look. I didn’t realize that either (having been taught my whole life that materialism could explain everything as well). We’re all brainwashed most of our lives in the society we live in.

    Ironically, we’re all told that it’s the minimal time we spend in church that’s brainwashing people! =P

    You’re not smart unless you listen to the “smart people”, and the smart people are smart because they agree with the smart people that taught them, etc… all the way back to the first self-proclaimed smart person. Unsurprisingly, such a movement didn’t originate with those who believe they have a reason to be humble.


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