It takes great courage to hold yourself responsible for the things that go wrong in life. But at the same time, when you take credit for the good things that happen, you are accused of hubris. There is a tendency among people to attribute all the successes in life to “miracles”.
A miracle is a positive spin on superstition. All over the world, miracles are frequently said to occur and after a great deal of hue and cry, eventually they are forgotten. Perhaps the most hilarious miracles have to do with images of the “Virgin” Mary or Jesus Christ appearing on pieces of toast. Consider the absurdity of this – assuming God exists and Jesus Christ is his son, the best way for an omniscient and omnipotent being to advertise his presence is to appear as a burnt photograph on someone’s breakfast.
The absurdity of these claims makes me question the average intellectual prowess of even the most rational people I know. Everyone has heard about the Godman Satya Sai Baba. His organization brought water, education and electricity to many impoverished regions of Andhra Pradesh in India and it deserves recognition for these things. These acts alone would have brought respect to anyone but he found it necessary to proclaim himself God.
Not only that, as proof of his divinity, he resorted to cheap conjuring tricks which any magician worth his salt can reproduce in an instant. Yet, people are gullible enough to fall for his tricks and even worship him.
People are sensitive about their beliefs. They have made an emotional investment in their icons which is a far more important investment than mere monetary involvement. When a person’s deeply held belief is challenged, he would go out of his way to refute the evidence and it usually culminates in an ad hominem.
Consider the case of Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku. He has been at the forefront of exposing godmen and busting fake miracles all over the country. Recently, Sanal was called by a TV channel to investigate a supposed miracle in Mumbai. Water had started dripping from a statue of Christ in a church and it was quickly proclaimed a miracle. Sanal looked around and discovered that Capillary Action was causing the water from a drain behind the statue to travel up the wall and leak from the statue. People were consuming this water from the sewer as it was said to be “holy”. Later, during a debate on TV with members of the catholic community, Sanal was threatened with arrest for “hurting the religious sentiments” of the people on the debate.
When it comes to religion, I can appreciate why people want to believe in a supreme being. Being under the watchful gaze of a puppeteer gives people the false reassurance that they are not truly responsible for their actions and in some ways, this gives them a licence to indulge in tasks that they would otherwise not consider ethical or moral. And it hurts nobody’s ego to imagine that the most supreme being in the Universe is taking an interest in their day to day lives.
But it annoys me when people take a feeling of being in awe of the universe and condensing it into a series of irrational beliefs. Take for example the Indian pseudo-science of “Vaastu Shaastra”. Supposedly, the answer to all of mankind’s problems is redecorating. Would moving the bed to align with the rising sun help a person’s alcoholism? Similarly, should the sight of a man producing ash from his hands make people bow their heads in awe?
At a time when technology has given us so much power and made life so much easier, do we really need to be in awe of cheap tricks and call them miracles? The miracles of science are here for everyone to enjoy and not for a special few. Please, let’s not waste our time on false Gods and fake miracles.