So Many Saints, So Many Miracles

Question from Jacob:
Hey, So this post won’t be on any specific miracle, but mainly on those of the Saints before they can be canonized. Many of these miracles go through some very careful Investigations by the Vatican. So how does a skeptic explain so many of them?

Answer by SmartLX:
Go and read about some specific saints from post-Biblical times and the miracles attributed to them. I’ll wait.

There’s no good evidence for any of them, but to the Church doesn’t need the evidence to be good. The miracles that supposedly occurred during the saints’ lives are anecdotal, but many of the saints are canonised based on events that occur after their deaths. Amazing medical recoveries after praying to the right figure are probably the most common “miracle” and, as in the case of 19th century saint Francis Xavier Bianchi, the required evidence for even this is mere testimony before Church-appointed “judges”, and not by the doctors but by the patients themselves.

The position of “devil’s advocate” is a real thing in the Church, but its role even at its most active seems to have been to seek clear evidence of hoaxes and signs of a potential saint’s poor character, because being utterly discredited was about the only thing that would stop the rise of a new saint once the process was in motion. The judges could disregard anything that turned up if they chose. And then in 1983 Pope John Paul II changed the role of the position and removed nearly all its power, and the rate of canonisation skyrocketed. Relatively speaking, it’s an open door now.

The sheer number of miracle claims would be more worrying to skeptics if there were any indication that the average quality of the claims were beyond the level that only an already devout Christian would accept. There’s no such indication, so skeptics only pay attention to the few that Christians really push as being incontrovertible. Even those are all eminently controvertible.

2 thoughts on “So Many Saints, So Many Miracles”

  1. Jacob wrote: [So how does a skeptic explain so many of them]

    Let me ask you a question, Jacob: How do you explain so many claims of bigfoot sightings? How about UFOs? How about leprechauns?

    The number of times something supposedly happened doesn’t make the claim more likely to be true. Despite many claims of miracles done by saints, there is exactly zero empirical evidence or data supporting any of them. There is no proof for them, Jacob. It’s no different than a lot of people swearing that they’ve seen unicorns before.

    Personal experience claims are NOT evidence. People lie, or they make up explanations for events they cannot explain, or their imperfect senses do not accurately relay reality to their brains. If we had testable, verifiable evidence of miracles, we could then say that miracles do indeed happen. But we don’t have that. What we have is a lot of people claiming something good happened, and it happened because they thought of or spoke the name of the saint, without the ability to prove that it is connected.

    The volume of claims does not make up for the total lack of proof…

  2. The church (or temple, or mosque, or synagogue, or monastery … ) is heavily invested in there being a god. So despite vigorous investigations, it is likely to see miracles and divine interventions here and there. And it does appear that standards for calling out miracles have been falling somewhat as SmartLX points out.

    Its no biggie … it happens with scientists too (think of the thousands of theoretical physicists invested in string theory).
    But science has a self correcting mechanism in place. Though its part of how scientists like to believe science works, a lot of times it is also because independent, alternate answers to the same questions are being investigated by a different team of researchers.
    Religion doesn’t really have such a mechanism.

    Also, I wouldn’t be overly worried about the quality of a miracle claim either … considering that there are 7 x 10^9 people currently in the world, an improbable event (say something with a probability of 1/(7 x 10^9) is likely to happen to at-least one of us.
    That’s not a miracle, that’s an event with a rare probability occurring. But reading “miracle” into such an event is usually our go-to response.
    Unless, god does like to play dice and hides his/her/its work behind probability πŸ™‚

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