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How can I denounce "miracles" and "prophecies" to my religious friends?

I have many friends that are religious that ask how miracles can happen and how God can show them future events that come true, if there is no God. So, I need answers on how to combat this, because I am obviously an atheist.

Posted: July 6th 2009

George Ricker www

You don’t have to denounce anything. It’s not incumbent upon you to prove that miracles and prophecies are false. It is incumbent upon them to prove they are true.

Require clear statements of just what happened. What’s the evidence? What’s the documentation? Who are the sources? Ask for specifics. Refuse to accept generalities or anecdotes that have no verifiable evidence to support them.

Above all, reject any effort to put the burden of proof on your shoulders. “Prove me wrong” isn’t an acceptable argument. It’s an attempt at intellectual bullying. Don’t allow it.

Posted: July 9th 2009

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Eric_PK

Great stuff on miracles here:

Why won’t god heal amputees

As for predictions, ask them what useful predictions were made ahead of time.

Posted: July 8th 2009

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Reed Braden www

Demand evidence. Miraculous stories are almost always, “So-and-so had cancer and God took it away after prayer.” These are usually second- or third-hand, in my experience. Also, in my experience, a lot of miracle stories are about cancer survivors, so I’ll hit that issue as well while I’m on the topic.

Cancer is something that isn’t usually immediately obvious, being internal, so many people are misdiagnosed with cancer and later shown to not have cancer. Cancers also can go into remission or be rejected by the body naturally, but theists latch onto these storied as proof of their God.

A woman I know tried to convert me with a story about a friend of hers who had stomach cancer and it went away, “over night.” She even brought pictures of scans that showed the mass that—over the course of a month, according to the dates—went away. The cancer was simply in remission and returned, killing the man about a month after my friend tried to convert me with his story.

Almost all cancer patients are going to have people praying for them. Most people are religious and even most Atheists have religious family and friends, so I would wager that a good 99% or more cases of cancer are specifically singled out in prayer by individuals or by groups. If miracle cancer cures were the result of prayer, why would most cancer patients die? Does God only listen to some of the pleas for life and ignore the others? Why is there an equal rate of cancer deaths among cancer patients of different religions?

Ask your friends why the diseases God cures are all things that might have gotten better anyway. There’s a reason why the question, “Why won’t God heal amputees?” is so overused: It works. it’s logically sound.

That tackles the most widely abused misconception passed off as a miracle. For anything else, just demand evidence. Second- and third-hand stories are not evidence.

As for the “gift” of prophesy, consider this:

There are almost 7 billion people on this planet and most of them dream. If 7 billion people dream one dream each every night for a year, that’s 2,555 billion or over 2.5 trillion dreams a year. Dreams are just random visualizations of an amalgamation of past experiences and thoughts. So with 2.5 trillion randomly generated amalgamations of nonsense every year, someone will be able to convincingly reverse-engineer a few of those dreams to say that they predicted events.

No one had a clear vision of 4 hijacked 747s flying into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania before 11 September 2001, but after the attacks, millions of people claimed to have dreams in the year prior that were somehow similar, if they applied a few justifications to random imagery.

Prophecy is bullshit and only works in retrospect… but then it’s just called memory.

Posted: July 8th 2009

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SmartLX www

The question isn’t how, it’s whether these things have happened. Ask them to establish one miracle or prophecy which can actually be established to have occurred, and to have been impossible without divine assistance. Asking how is effectively assuming that they have happened, which I doubt you do.

In the case of prophecies, that’s different from asking for one which simply came true. It can be very easy to make an accurate prediction if for example you predict something obvious, or the prediction itself spurs its own fulfillment. I go into more detail here.

Posted: July 7th 2009

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