Religion

The Soft Bigotry of Lowered Expectations (Pope John Paul II Edition)

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A French nun has attributed her cure from Parkinson's to Pope John Paul II. That might count as the miracle necessary to kickstart the late rapper's beatification process, which in turn might lead to his canonization as a Catholic saint, which in turn could turn into a lucrative plaster statue and scapular concession:

Her cure came on the night of June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the pontiff's death, she said. In her room after evening prayers, she said an inner voice urged her to take up her pen and write. She did, and was surpassed to see that her handwriting—which had grown illegible because of her illness—was clear. She said she then went to bed, and woke early the next morning feeling "completely transformed."

More on that here.

As a recovering Catholic, I perhaps follow this sort of thing with more interest (and, to be honest, disdain) than the average bear. But a coupla aspects of this story rankle me. First, procedurally: JP2 hisself "streamlined" the canonization process in 1983–most famously, he got rid of the "Devil's Advocate" post, which was pretty much the best part of the whole thing (sadly, this had no effect on the subsequent release of the Al Pacino-Keanu Reeve's joint Devil's Advocate, for which all involved deserve to burn in hell without access to indulgences). So will JP2 benefit from his own relaxing of the rules? That's something Pinochet would do. For a pope, it just doesn't seem right.

Second, and more immediately, Pope Benedict–supposedly a by-the-book-sort guy–has already bent the rules for his predecessor, waiving the five-year waiting period after death for the beatification process to begin. To which any Catholic–past, present, future, or perpetual–really has to ask: If the Baseball Hall of Fame could wait five years after Cal Ripken's retirement before voting him in, where does the Vicar of Christ on Earth get off? This would be like inducting The Strokes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the release of their debut.

Arguably more important for a Reason audience (and Hit & Run's massive crossover audience with John Sebastian, Jefferson Starship, The Ramones, and Hot Chocolate): Do you believe in miracles? Or did the age of miracles end in the first century A.D.? Or did it never exist?

Without becoming as odious as professional village atheist-cum-idiot Sam Harris, is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?

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  1. I BELIEVE IN SCIENCE

  2. I believe that extraordinary things happen.

    But not supernatural things.

  3. Hey..don’t bag on the Devil’s Advocate. There were some hot nekkid chicks in the flick.

  4. Do you believe in miracles?

    Three words: Regis Philbin’s career.

  5. Is there a Youtube link to the great Father Guido Sarduci SNL monolog compaining about the cannonization of Elizibeth Seton over other more deserving Italians? It was hysterical. “We have Italians with five and six miracles who can’t get in becuase there are too many Italians saints and she gets in with two rather the required three and I hear one of them was a card trick.”

  6. I dont have any formal training at this but
    isn’t God supposed to do the healing? And arent we supposed to give the glory to God?

  7. BrotherBen,

    Catholics believe that Saints can intercede with God on your behalf and get him to work miracles. It is a serious bone of contention with Protestants, who refer to it derisivly as the “cult of the Saints”.

  8. If this doesn’t turn into another one of those “we believers are being persecuted” vs. “how can anyone believe that ****” snark-fests, THEN I’ll believe in miracles.

  9. It is all in the definition of miracle.

    I witnessed both of my sons being born. Anyone that witnesses that and doesn’t see a miracle isn’t looking.

  10. “I understand that two of them was card tricks.” -Father Guido Sarducci

  11. Aresen,

    Why would anyone want to deny athiests the opportunity to feel smugly superior to theists?

  12. I witnessed both of my sons being born. Anyone that witnesses that and doesn’t see a miracle isn’t looking.

    That confirms that every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great.

  13. I stand corrected Jesse. Was that routine hysterical or what?

  14. Every catholic I know is a recovering catholic.

    The only miraculous happenings I know of are almost always bad. Good things happen and you can find out why, but bad things just happen because no one ever deserves them. By the sarcastic theory, I will henceforth believe that all saints are mischievous evil-doers.

  15. “…all involved deserve to burn in hell without access to indulgences.”

    Nick, you should have paid attention in catechism class. Indulgences can get you out of Purgatory; nothing can get you out of Hell. See you there.

  16. It is all in the definition of miracle.

    I witnessed both of my sons being born. Anyone that witnesses that and doesn’t see a miracle isn’t looking.

    Congrats on the births of your sons. It was, no doubt, one of the highest points of your life, and a wondrous event. But it what not a miracle.

    A miracle, by definition, is something that is outside the normal working of nature. There’s not much that’s more natural than having children.

  17. For the record, I’d like to say,
    *yAWn*!!

  18. Is it possible to believe in science and be a libertarian? What is the scientific basis for notion that freedom is the ultimate good?

  19. Fast-tracking sainthood is crap-scapular.

  20. …Catholics believe that Saints can intercede with God on your behalf and get him to work miracles. It is a serious bone of contention with Protestants…

    Shouldn’t be a bone with all Protestants. There are a lot down south who still think the right preacher can heal with a layin’ on o’ the hands. Maybe their problem is the saints were never on TV.

  21. If this doesn’t turn into another one of those “we believers are being persecuted” vs. “how can anyone believe that ****” snark-fests, THEN I’ll believe in miracles.

    No one is going to say anything new on this topic.

    Therefore, I’ll take it as another opportunity to pat myself on the back for the courage and intelligence that makes me better than others.

  22. What is the scientific basis for [the] notion that freedom is the ultimate good?

    What is the scientific basis that slavery is?

  23. Are there many Libertarian Catholics or should it be Catholic Libertarians? Anyway, it seems most L.P. members that I see (emphasis on “I See”) are of the fringe protestant sort. I’m sure more liberal Catholics are Libertarians, but Catholicism doesn’t seem to coincide with Libertarianism very well, unlike the home-school crowd.

  24. Joe- To answer your question: “sure.” Science deals with the natural, observable world. The idea that freedom is the ultimate good (which is not held by all libertarians; some are consequentialists, utilitarians, and who-knows-what-else) is a philosophical statement not really subject to scientific investigation. The consequentialist arguments, however, are sort of subject to analysis, although I’d hesitate to call that scientific.

  25. I witnessed both of my sons being born. Anyone that witnesses that and doesn’t see a miracle isn’t looking.

    Other than the phalanx of medical staff and the machine that goes ping, just how many other people saw your sons being born? I kid, I had a better view for the birth of both of my daughters than my wife did, and it was the coolest thing of all time. But I do not think I saw a miracle.

  26. Sorry John, I wasn’t trying to be pedantic – I hadn’t seen your comment when I posted mine. Yeah, that’s probably the funniest routine Don Novello ever did in priest’s garb. (The only one that’s possibly better was when Father Sarducci explained how he reconciled creationism and evolution. “Yes, God created man in his own image, but God evolved too. Here we see Neanderthal God…this is Cro-Magnon God…”)

  27. You don’t have to live in a cave to see that God, as Author of Liberty (and creator of free will) is the ultimate Libertarian. Hell, more than one libertarian I’ve met has told me “Only I should be God/King/etc.). So, in this regard, He thinks the same way, and He can make it stick.

  28. swillfredo, I know what you are saying.

    Science can explain how things happen, but not why. I saw a whole lot of science that day that seemed miraculous to me.

    When the doctor delivered my second son, I told him, “A miracle, no matter how often witnessed, is a miracle none the less.”

    He looked at me like I was nuts.

  29. “Laws of science”? When it comes to medicine?!? THat is really just too rich.

    When it comes to the human body, we really just don’t know squat. The old “take two asprin and call me in the morning” routine, which happens today all the time, is basically a doctor saying “I don’t know what the hell is up with you. Maybe it’ll go away on its own.”

    Did the nun ever have Parkinson’s? Did she get cured? Did God have anything to do with it? Did J-Paul have anything to do with it?

    We have our beliefs (I would tend to guess no on the last two), but no one KNOWS. No-one knows because when it comes to the human body, human heterogeneity is so great that there are no “laws.”

    In my opinion, heeling someone should not be grounds for saint-hood, because of this. Talk to a billion people, one person happens to get better afterward and you call that a miracle! Give me break. ANYONE could do that. If you talked to a billion people and NONE of them got better, now that would be a miracle, but maybe it would not be good grounds for Sainthood.

  30. I’ll believe in miracles when, instead of mysterious recoveries from internal ailments, we see mysterious regenerations of lost limbs.

  31. There are events that happen too rarely for science to explain. Statisticians call them outliers. Some people think they are miricals.

  32. Maybe, unbeknowst to her, some Shakers were praying for the nun.

  33. If Reason one day changed editorial policy and said, “Whatever religions do that isnt connected to fundemental libertarian issues isnt of concern of this paper”, that would indeed be a miracle

    I dont believe in miracles.

  34. “it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?”

    No.

    Thanks for playing!

  35. Catholicism doesn’t seem to coincide with Libertarianism very well, unlike the home-school crowd.

    Well…not really true. The practice of those who believe they should apply their beliefs on other’s conduct is not unique to Catholocism, and is quite against Libertarianism. However, I don’t see any conflict between someone practicing Catholicism and allowing others the freedom to do what they would within Libertarian practice.

    I think what you’re referring to is the percieved interference in the lives of others by Catholics. The interesting aspect of this is that the more guilty are typically Protestant, it’s just that the Catholics present a monolithic target. It’s not monolithic, it’s just a monolithic target. The Southern Baptist Convention is much more at odds with freedom than the Catholic Church, but it’s a smaller target so doesn’t get the press.

    As for the question posed, to claim “I believe in science” implies that we know everything, though they may be more on target than they realize. To me, “miracles” are just things which we don’t understand yet. The taoist practitioners have gotten the closest in my view, but that’s based on my personal experiences and I don’t ask others to believe my experiences, they’re mine, not theirs. I have had experience which others have called miraculous, or ESP, or psychic forces, or whatever, but to me they’re just more experiments in my quest to understand. The problem is, until we get to the point where you can feel the sensations as I do, I cannot adequately explain how I percieve these things, which is where most people revert to “faith.” For me, I revert to “Cool, let’s see if I can figure that out…”

  36. I’d just like to ask who is the “God” of this “Pope?”

    I’ll tell you who!

    You’re “white man’s God!”

    Also: “where does the Vicar of Christ on Earth get off?”

    *snicker*

  37. Goldwater Conservative,

    I’m a Catholic Libertarian. They coincide quite well. As a libertarian, I try to maximize the freedom to exercise free will. As a Catholic, I prefer to limit my own actions according to what I believe.

  38. What Matt said.

    JP2: one of the greatest popes ever, but diluting the canonization process may come back to haunt the Church in the future.

  39. What does St. Augustine matter in the Catholic Church nowadays? Cause he’s as anti-Libertarian as they come.

  40. Catholicism doesn’t seem to coincide with Libertarianism very well, unlike the home-school crowd.

    Uh, do you know what organization most non-public schools are run by?

  41. Billy Jack,

    Good call! The Church being such a monolith of consistant unchanging thought, who knew there would be any diversity of opinion within it’s vast history? Anyway, as I recall, St. Augustine’s ideas of predetermination aren’t wholly endorsed as church doctrine.

  42. If the Baseball Hall of Fame could wait five years after Cal Ripken’s retirement before voting him in, where does the Vicar of Christ on Earth get off? This would be like inducting The Strokes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the release of their debut.

    Hee hee!

    I am not surprised that the last pope is already up for beatification. I am also of the ex-Catholic, cynical ilk.

    Hey Nick: Are you ready to rock?

  43. I stumbled upon this site the other day

    http://www.rationalresponders.com/

    They call themselves the “rational response squad” and they wear little badges! HAHAHA.

    They challenge people to commit blasphemy since its the only unforgiveable sin!

    They have forums where they do nothing but talk about how there is no god!

    They sell autographed pictures of themselves!

    HAHAHA. I almost expected to see posts from otters.

  44. Are there many Libertarian Catholics or should it be Catholic Libertarians?

    Reporting for duty!

    Remember that Catholics run an excellent system of private schools. Sure, the cream of the crop private schools are frequently non-sectarian places where rich WASPS send their kids, but for a good and reasonably priced private school in your neighborhood, the Catholics are very competitive.

  45. he interesting aspect of this is that the more guilty are typically Protestant, it’s just that the Catholics present a monolithic target. It’s not monolithic, it’s just a monolithic target. The Southern Baptist Convention is much more at odds with freedom than the Catholic Church, but it’s a smaller target so doesn’t get the press.

    Maybe in the USA, but in other countries (like Poland) the Catholic church is in fact just as at odds with freedom as the SBC here.

  46. “is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?”

    Yes. It’s called “compartmentalization.”

    Is it possible to believe in the literal truth of the Bible and function in modern society? Obviously, yes, for the same reason.

  47. I like Dupont’s creed.

  48. Without becoming as odious as professional village atheist-cum-idiot Sam Harris, is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?

    Sure, it is possible. One can question whether this is a consistent position, but it is possible.

  49. thoreau,

    Remember that Catholics run an excellent system of private schools.

    Do they run a “system” of private schools? Anyway, I suspect that there is a ton of variability when it comes to quality in this “system.”

  50. Matt,

    The Catholic Church fought vigorously Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” proposition. What individual Catholics I am sure varied, but what the institution did was to try to stop advocates in Oregon from enacting a law which broadens the legal freedom people have to choose how they wish to die.

  51. Although it varies from place to place, the Archdiocese usually plays a strong role in setting standards for local Catholic schools. OK, so I guess that would mean there are multiple systems. But they typically out-perform urban public schools.

    And a Jesuit school is in the final four. Not to mention that the Jesuits were wise enough to hire me to teach grad students. (Now, if only they’d shown the wisdom to promote me from adjunct to tenure-track…)

  52. Anyway, given the significant number of “miracles” which have been demonstrated to be, well, outright frauds, given all the claims of miracles practiced by other apocalyptic preachers in the first century and their followers, as well as the “miracles” practiced by classical world figures for thousands of years prior to the existance of Christ (that is if he really existed), the latter two of which most modern folks find dubious at best, it seems persuasive that one should be highly skeptical of claims of miracles. Then again as Hume argues if one tries to “prove” miracles one ends up undermining any claims of such.

  53. is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?

    Could a miracle simply follow laws of science that aren’t known by people on the scene at the time? Give me a powerful flashlight, drop me in among a Stone Age tribe, and watch me wow them with “the cold sun I hold in my hand/” Maybe the real miraculous part is the timing.

    Are there many Libertarian Catholics or should it be Catholic Libertarians? Anyway, it seems most L.P. members that I see (emphasis on “I See”) are of the fringe protestant sort. I’m sure more liberal Catholics are Libertarians, but Catholicism doesn’t seem to coincide with Libertarianism very well, unlike the home-school crowd.

    The L.P. conducted at least one demographic survey of its membership at one of its national conventions; the libertarian magazine Liberty reported the results and twice conducted the same survey of its own readership.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find the results online anywhere. But I seem to remember one question asked respondents to identify themselves as atheist, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or “other.” Atheists were exceptionally well-represented as you might expect, being a very large minority IIRC. Catholics were another large minority, possibly the largest group among theists if not the largest subgroup overall — again, IIRC.

  54. Stevo Darkly,

    Could a miracle simply follow laws of science that aren’t known by people on the scene at the time?

    Well, that is at best a “miracle” in the sense Spinoza wrote about. But it ain’t a miracle in the sense that most people think of miracles. Keep in mind that Spinoza was a uber-rationalist.

    A personal God that works through history is in part dependent on a certain concept of miracles. You take that away and turn the flood story into just a big flood on a river that people freaked out about and this God seems to become far less plausible. What’s left is the God of Spinoza, which is really not much of a God at all in the sense that most monotheists think of God today.

  55. Where ya’ from, you sexy thang?

  56. Of course Epicurus had me at the “problem of evil.” 🙂

  57. JP2

    Looks like a good logo for a band “Jacks and a Pair of Deuces”

  58. The concept of miracles is hardly unique to Roman Catholicism, so they should not be deferred to as having an exclusive right to define what constitutes a miracle. (Note that miracles occur fairly frequently in the Old Testament, too, for example.)

    Look, much of this debate is like trying to reconcile the various meanings of law. If you posit the existence of an all-powerful being, then it follows necessarily that such a being could alter or suspend the laws of nature to effect a particular purpose. That’s merely definitional.

    Whether such a being would be required to change or suspend the laws of nature (which laws such being also presumably decided upon in the first place) in order for it to count or be considered a miracle is rather beside the point. If such a being is capable even of using or working within those laws to effect whatever he wants in a manner we could not possibly do (e.g, simply will it to occur), that would be, from our perspective, miraculous, too.

    Finally, though many scoff at the “birth is a miracle” comments, isn’t it in at least the sense of instilling wonder and awe miraculous that life and human consciousness and the universe exist? Not strictly relevant for purposes of this discussion, but not, I think, entirely irrelevant, either. Depends on what you insist on as being the minimum necessary criteria for miraculous.

  59. God, like Judge Dredd, is the law.

  60. Saint’s are basically baseball players of the catholic church. When you consider how many varied patron saints there are, you begin to realize many people stopped taking the whole thing seriously long ago. They’ll beatify anybody.

    Hell, there’s a patron saint of small animals and one of beer. We might as well be collecting their stats cards.

  61. D.A.R.,

    The concept of miracles is hardly unique to Roman Catholicism…

    I don’t think anyone claimed that claims of such are unique to that particular entity.

    Look, much of this debate is like trying to reconcile the various meanings of law. If you posit the existence of an all-powerful being, then it follows necessarily that such a being could alter or suspend the laws of nature to effect a particular purpose. That’s merely definitional.

    Sure, issue is one of evidence though.

    If such a being is capable even of using or working within those laws to effect whatever he wants in a manner we could not possibly do (e.g, simply will it to occur), that would be, from our perspective, miraculous, too.

    As Heraclitus might ask, how would you even know?

    …isn’t it in at least the sense of instilling wonder and awe miraculous that life and human consciousness and the universe exist?

    Not really, particularly given the vastness of this universe and all. The Earth is one planet amongst billions of planets after all.

  62. D.A.R.,

    Indeed, if one takes the multi-verse notion seriously then our particular universe was apparently highly likely to occur. While that doesn’t do away with the God of Spinoza, it does call into question the Gods of the Old and New Testaments, the Qu’ran, etc.

  63. Do I understand this right? God does the healing but sometimes others can persuade Him through intercessary prayer to move in certain cases?
    The pentecostals I used to roll with believed that through consecration and humility, a person could reach a point where God could perform miracles through them. Like He did with Moses, among others.

  64. Grotius, I know no one in particular claimed the RC perspective the only one, but there is a tendency among Roman Catholics, recovering or otherwise, to presume so and focus accordingly. Let me put my final point a bit differently (though I doubt it will sway you even then), the mere fact of existence can be seen as miraculous, though it can of course be seen as not miraculous as well. To my mind, the odds are irrelevant; the fact that various collections of leptons and quarks arranged just so can be having this discussion is pretty damned amazing.

  65. D.A.R.,

    That something is amazing or neat or cool, etc. doesn’t make it miraculous.

  66. I date the start of the Age of Miracles to 1971.

    Kevin

  67. One or two more cycles and one won’t even have to be dead to be proclaimed a Saint.

  68. …is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment…and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?

    In the words of Ben Matlock, not only no, but hell no…

  69. Hey did you people read about the chocolate Jesus statue? Would that be considered a miracle?

  70. “One or two more cycles and one won’t even have to be dead to be proclaimed a Saint.”

    Actually, I think that is one of the reasons the Church put the time delay in the first place. Of the first 60+ popes, only a couple didn’t make Sainthood.

  71. Well, at least unlike other Catholic saints, we’re pretty sure JPII actually existed.

  72. A hint for this recessive real estate market: burying a plastic statue of Saint Joseph on the front lawn (upside-down is best) will help sell your house.

    Saints are a dime per dozen in the Catholic church. But to join the club of power-Saint like Peter, Jude, and Francis he’ll still need centuries of prayer and devotion. JP2 is only taking the first few footsteps in this long journey.

  73. Miracles can only happen against a background of predictable laws of nature. If the world was totally chaotic, and every event was completely unpredictable, there would be no miracles, because in a sense everything would be a miracle.

    So belief in miracles can hardly militate against belief in the laws of nature.

  74. The Catholic Church is just now catching up to me. I thought that all popes were canonized after the died. My husband corrected me, saying “It’s not like Roman emperors with the ‘afterward deified’ thing.”

  75. “Or did the age of miracles end in the first century A.D.?”

    I’ve heard numerous Catholics talk about an “Age of Miracles”, but I’ve never heard a Protestant ask this question.

    “Without becoming as odious as professional village atheist-cum-idiot Sam Harris, is it possible to believe in the Enlightenment (yes, with a capital E and all that implies) and not simply religion but miracles–acts which by definition contravene the very laws of science?”

    I suppose too it must be a Catholic view that miracles by definition contravene the laws of science?

    When I read in the New Testament that someone was cured, I imagine God abiding by his own laws when he wiped out the bacteria that caused leprosy. The mechanism by which H20 molequles were manipulated and turned into wine–that’s a mystery to me. …but I assume it was done, if it was done, using the laws of physics and chemistry, being what they are.

    Now, I have doubts about that. I don’t know for certain it was done in harmony with natural laws. I have some uncertainty about whether it happened at all, but uncertainty isn’t unknown in the realm of science either.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallibilism

    Scientists say “uncertainty”; Theologians say “faith”.

    Tomayto, Tomawto, Potayto, Potawto, let’s call the whole thing off.

  76. SNL Season 4: Episode 15 (3/17/1979)

    Jane Curtin: Millions of Americans are celebrating St. Patrick’s day today, and here with a comment is our good friend Father Guido Sarducci. Father Sarducci?

    Father Guido Sarducci: [ smoking cigarette ] Thank-a you, thank-a you. Most-a people are very aware that-a Saint Patrick is-a the patron Saint of-a Ireland. He lived around-a the year 400, 500, right in-a there. Most people-a know him because-a they think that he chased-a the snakes from-a Ireland. But actually, that’s not-a the truth. Really, he didn’t-a chase them, he kind of-a led them. He was-a kind like a pied piper for snakes. I don’t know, it was-a just something about him that snakes liked-a to follow him around, you know. And-a you may think-a that snakes go very fast and they do if they’re just going short distances. But, like-a, when they’re on a long journey, they go very, very slowly. And-a Saint Patrick, he had-a to walk-a very, very slow, and all of the snakes followed him, and then he tricked them. He went into the ocean, and they all followed him, and he went way, way out, and he waited till they all drowned, and then heswam back in. That’s-a what he did.

    You see, he was a good-a saint. But he wasn’t a great-a saint. Like-a Saint Joseph, the patron saint of Italy. He’s a great-a saint and not just a good-a saint. You know, Saint Joseph’s named day is-a coming up-March 19th, only two days away. But-a, there won’t-a be no parades, no parties, not even a song for Saint-a Joseph. And-a the reason is-a because of-a Saint Patrick. You know, it’s just like having a birthday two days after Christmas-you just don’t get-a the same attention, you know. And it just-a breaks my heart that he was a great-a saint, and this good, mediocre saint gets all-a the glory.

    You know, you don’t have-a a patron saint for the United States, but there are some American saints. Just the last couple of years they made-a some. The first was-a about-a two years ago. Her name was-a Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Mother Seton-is-a what they call her. And she’s got-a these nuns of her own order who lobby-they’re real heavy-they came to Rome and everything. And it’s amazing, you see. To be made a saint in-a the catholic church, you have to have-a four miracles. That’s-a the rules, you know. It’s-a always been that-a. Four miracles, and-a to prove it. Well, this-a Mother Seton-now they could only prove-a three miracles. But the Pope-he just waved the fourth one. He just waved it! And do you know why? It’s-a because she was American. It’s all-a politics. We got-a some Italian-a people, they got-a forty, fifty, sixty miracles to their name. They can’t-a get in just cause they say there’s already too many Italian saints, and this woman comes along with-a three lousy miracles. I understand that-a two of them was-a card tricks. Next thing you know, they’re gonna be making Kreskin a saint. Saint Kreskin-they’ll probably call him. It’s a good one.

    Well, I’m-a very happy to announce that-a next time you see me, I’m-a gonna be monsegnior. That’s right. I was-a promoted. (audience applauds) Thank-a you, yes, thank-a you. Actually it’s not until next week that-a they sign-a the papers, but nothing can-a stop me now, and I’m-a real excited getting the new costume, everything, you know. When you’re monsegnior, you get to have a nice-a red stripe, (points to his right sleeve) and they say that-a nothing brings out the good veal in Italian restaurants than that-a red stripe, you know. I’m-a really looking forward to it. I just wish I was-a feeling better. Last night I got-a this-a tattoo (scratches left sleeve) and it’s-a really been itching me. I have a little fever, and-a I hope I feel better by the ceremonies.

    Well, it was-a more than-a wonderful spending a couple of moments with you. Bill, you can-a take it-a back-a please.

    Bill Murray: Thank you, Father Guido Sarducci.

  77. The pentecostals I used to roll with

    * Mwah! *

  78. Hey did you people read about the chocolate Jesus statue?

    No, but there’s a Big Butter Jesus?

  79. Ken Shultz,

    I’ve heard numerous Catholics talk about an “Age of Miracles”, but I’ve never heard a Protestant ask this question.

    Actually, that was how the lack of miracles in the modern world was explained to me when I was growing up a Protestant.

    Pray reveal, why didn’t this supposed God just wipe out leprosy altogether?

    And sure, uncertainty isn’t unknown in the realm of science, but “faith” isn’t testable.

  80. “Pray reveal, why didn’t this supposed God just wipe out leprosy altogether?”

    I’d have to speculate. Like I said before, I’m not entirely certain that he cured it in those isolated cases.

    Maybe he was making an example for us? …Saying those who follow him should care for the sick? …even as the world spins on its axis and bacteria multiplies, in line with natural laws.

    “And sure, uncertainty isn’t unknown in the realm of science, but “faith” isn’t testable.”

    I contend that faith is testable. Turn to any page in the Old or New Testaments (or in the Quran, for that matter) and chances are you’ll bump into a story about someone’s faith being tested.

    Further, I’d argue, that a believer’s faith is testable today. Believers take what wisdom they find in the text they believe in and test it against the world around them all the time. What is the best way to conduct one’s affairs, to live one’s life? Has God abandoned me in my hour of need? Believers question or test, rather, these questions of faith all the time.

    What impact do scientific discoveries regarding the origin of the universe and the origin of life have on my faith? Must I ignore or reject science to protect my faith, or can I reinterpret my faith in light of scientific advances? There are many for whom faith is a malleable material–just like uncertainty. …and just like a scientist, they test their faith, their hypothesis, empirically, against the world around them, all the freakin’ time.

    Faith is testable. I’ll concede, however, that most religious folk, generally speaking, don’t have a good track record for applying reason to their faith. …but there are others.

  81. I witnessed both of my sons being born. Anyone that witnesses that and doesn’t see a miracle isn’t looking.

    I witnessed my daughter being born. No miracles anywhere to be seen. Just sex, fertilization, a correctly functioning sequence of hox genes, and presto, a baby. She’s great! — I love her. But she got here the way the rest of did with no outside intervention.

    Anyone who witnesses the birth of a child and sees a miracle isn’t looking.

  82. THE MALE CATHOLIC BOSSES ie,Pope, cardinals etc, will elect who they want when they want SAINTS and change the rules to suit their own purposes! Jesus had a different plan and HIS way doesn’t always fit theirs..get over it.

  83. Ken Shultz,

    Maybe he was making an example for us? …Saying those who follow him should care for the sick? …even as the world spins on its axis and bacteria multiplies, in line with natural laws.

    A God which can cure a disease in a particular person can do so in all persons. We are forced then to deal with the problem of evil.

    I contend that faith is testable. Turn to any page in the Old or New Testaments (or in the Quran, for that matter) and chances are you’ll bump into a story about someone’s faith being tested.

    That’s not what testable means in a scientific, materialistic context. Furthermore, using so-called holy texts as evidence for a particular God, for the merits of faith, etc. is at best a bit of circular reasoning.

    Believers take what wisdom they find in the text they believe in and test it against the world around them all the time.

    First, clearly most theists don’t take much stock in the actual contents of their holy books.

    Second, this isn’t testing one’s faith. This is at best testing the “wisdom” of the particular texts at issue. That says nothing about the source of that “wisdom,” etc. I can do the same thing with the ideas of Epicurus.

  84. Ken Shultz,

    Anyway, we’ve clearly moved away from discussing the merits of claims of “miracles” towards something far more amorphous and subjective.

  85. We were moving away a bit.

    I wanted to respond though, that on further reflection, yes I appreciate that the evidence in support of how to live a better life, etc. is highly subjective, but that isn’t to say it’s beyond the scope of reason.

    …any empirically derived answers live in a cloud of uncertainty. The size of that cloud, I think, should be a function of the level of objective scrutiny the evidence can be subjected to. I have more “faith” in mathematics and physics than I do in economics and anthropology. The questions I was talking about above are derived from evidence even more subjective still–so the answers come with an even higher degree of uncertainty.

    But uncertainty and subjectivity aren’t new problems.

    So anyway, back to the topic, I don’t see miracles necessarily as violations of the laws of nature. …with the possible exception of resurrection. The consciousness of life and its origins remain a tough topic for scientists. Someone above suggested that there was nothing miraculous about the process by which gametes morph into persons… I think that misses the point.

    There is something “miraculous”, not necessarily supernatural, about a gamete morphing into a consciousness that wonders at it’s own place in the universe and experiences existential panic. If the “miracles” Nick asked about above actually were in line with natural laws, with the exception of resurrection…

    I haven’t seen anything in the natural world that proves to me that resurrection is entirely impossible. When we understand the origins and nature of consciousness better, perhaps we’ll see that there was nothing “supernatural” about resurrection either. …that if there’s an omnipotent God, that he acts within the bounds of his own natural laws.

  86. The miracle of birth is that after a woman goes through 18 hours of labor and multiple stitches, that she will ever have sex again. Wait, this is not a miracle, this is amnesia.

  87. When the current batch of Reasonoids figure out that they’re not furthering the cause of libertarianism by writing things that a) offend people, while b) having little to do with libertarian thought, that will be a miracle.

    For the record, I’m not Catholic, just a libertarian who sometimes gets tired of people stinkin’ up the joint.

  88. I was present when the doctors got tired of waiting and did a C on my wife to get my son out, about ten days after their best ETA.

    The only miracle I see is that anyone can stand to do stuff like that.

  89. guy has already bent the rules for his predecessor, waiving the five-year waiting period after death for the beatification process to begin. To which any Catholic–past, present, future
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  90. I was present when the doctors got tired of waiting and did a C on my wife to get my son out, about ten days after their best ETA.The only miracle I see is that anyone can stand to do stuff like that.
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  91. Hmm, they release the information…good. Michelle puts it on her website, giving them MORE publicity….bad. Stupid woman kills herself…….we must find someone to blame. The liberal mantra. Its never “my” fault. There’s always someone else to blame. Ignorant.
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  92. I was hoping for much, much more. If Paul didn’t write these screeds, he should tell us who did, or assign someone from the campaign to do some research, and reveal the authors’ identity. He should explain his relationship with the authors, and how it is they came to write
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