Monday, April 2, 2007

Just 'beatiful'....

Religious processes never cease to amaze me. Say a few words in Latin (which nobody understands anymore) and sprinkle a bit of water (holy or not, it's just water…) and your soul is cleansed. Sound glib? I don't think so. Heck, I have yet to see even the slightest evidence in favor of the existence of the soul. Holy water is just good ol' H2O.

Take for instance the current beatification and canonization of the late Pope John Paul II. Since John Paul can not be considered a martyr (though this was almost the case), it must be shown that a miracle has taken place by his intercession. These days this miracle almost always takes the form of a disease. Catholicism, with all its saints (that are really lesser deities), makes the hierarchy of Hinduism looks simple.

So, what was John Paul's miracle? "John Paul's cause has been bolstered by the testimony of a French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, who says she was cured of Parkinson's disease after she and her fellow sisters prayed to the late pope." Wow. Why do I remain unimpressed? First, how was her Parkinson's diagnosed? There are similar paroxymal dyskinesias which can undergo spontaneous remission that can easily be mistaken for Parkinson's. Even if the diagnosis was correct, temporary or (more rarely) permanent remission is not unknown.

Statistically speaking, if you have a large body of believers that are afflicted with Parkinson's disease that pray to John Paul (and I'm sure there are more than a few), some of them will show signs of a recovery. This is hardly miraculous, though the person afflicted might feel that way, and not incompatible with the known course of the disease. Certainly, the prayer to the specific individual has not been shown to be causal and is mere happenstance. But the Church needs to be seen to go through the motions to make those clamoring for John Paul's deification happy.

Miracles are getting scarcer, aren't they? Is it because God isn't granting them as much? Or is it that there are fewer individuals with the required purity of heart? How about this one- Miracles are scarcer because they don't happen. What people long ago took to be miracles simply have natural explanations. Back in the days of Jesus if you didn't perform miracles you were nothing. Miracles were indeed commonly claimed back then, and not just by Jesus. Today we are better educated and the supernatural is failing more and more to be a satisfyingly explanation for anything. People are taught to think more critically (with the exception of those religious zealots of the American bible belt) and analyze events more deeply. As Martin Luther once remarked, "Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding." Why? Because reason, sense and understanding lead to the truth: "there is no spoon".

As an outsider looking in, this so-called miracle just doesn't cut it. The lack of a connection between cause and effect of this nun's prayer makes it look ridiculous and at best over-reaching, but not to the truly faithful. This suspension of reason is what all religions, even those I might call more moderate, have in common. You have a brain, people. Use it!

I just wonder what Karol Józef Wojtyla would think of all this.

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