Many Christians or religious people of any faith tradition, argue that miracles are compelling evidence for the truth of their religion. There are plenty of atheist rejoinders — the most obvious is that many religions claim the evidence of miracles. Either miracles are the result of natural processes or delusions, which are plausible enough to fool a wide variety of people, or there is some kind of supernatural force, but good luck linking it to any single religion.
Telling the difference between the first and second outcome isn’t as easy as I would like.
Consider the video below:
[The magician’s video got pulled several years later, but I don’t feel like rewriting specific references in the rest of the post]
I ‘know’ that the impressive tricks are all illusions, but I definitely can’t debunk the video. I have my suspicions about the construction of the fast-appearing candles, but I cannot prove them. Despite my ignorance, and no matter what the magician claimed at the beginning of his act or how many times he showed me there was nothing up his sleeves, most people would agree I was justified in assuming the whole thing was a trick.
Magic-faking is so pervasive and so professional that no lay-person (including me) could be expected to tell illusion from the supernatural. This is a weak analogue to the impossibility of any god proving he/she/it was omnipotent. Surely a sufficiently powerful, but limited being would be able to impersonate omnipotence well enough to fool me.
I run into the same trouble when I try to evaluate miracles or worse, second or third-hand accounts of miracles. Their occurrence across religions and the large number of sham miracles make me reluctant to give credence to new claims, and I do not have the expertise to tell false from true.
I tend to treat claims about miracles the same way I do claims about magic or extraterrestrial life — with a high degree of skepticism. I would be converted only if a large number of people with expertise investigated the claim and were convinced by the evidence. (Think of Houdini investigating and debunking mediums). Without that kind of data, I have trouble imagining changing my view.
Does this seem like a reasonable standard?
How do you judge supernatural claims outside of your faith traditions?