Although it seems that most Americans live as if there is no God, a very small percentage of then actually claim to be atheist. Today The LA Times inadvertently gave us one possible explanation for this phenomenon: Atheism is intellectually indefensible.
In an op-ed piece intended to disparage belief in the supernatural, Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, writes one of the more shallow assaults on God and religion I have ever read (the atheist-summer camp examples not withstanding.)
Shermer knows that miracles are one evidence of a supernatural worldview, so he tries to explain them away. He writes that if people just understood the concept of probability and the “Law of Large Numbers”, we would all realize that things we think are miracles (such as “thinking about calling someone at exactly the same time as they call you” to use one of his examples) are really just natural, albeit rare, occurrences.
Good grief. This warrants the op-ed section of the Times? Are they really that desperate for some anti-religion articles? . The weaknesses in Shermer’s article are numerous and glaring, and you can pick them out for yourself – I will just focus on one. He sets up a straw-man argument by defining miracles as “an event so improbable that the odds against it occurring are a million to one” and then gives as an example of such the phone call bit from above.
I do not know of any major religion that defines miracle this way or would consider the phone call example a miracle of the type that gives evidence of the truthfulness of the faith. However, even if there is, I know that the religion I am convinced is true – Christianity – scoffs at this notion.
The Bible is full of accounts of God intervening miraculously in human affairs and many of these signs and wonders are given by God as evidence of his existence and of the truthfulness of his claims. However, these miracles are not of the “phone call” variety. Instead, the God of the Bible sends fire from Heaven, judges nations through plagues and parts the Red Sea in delivering His people. He also comes to earth Himself teaching, healing the sick and raising the dead, then is killed on the cross. As the ultimate proof of his divinity, He then raises from the dead himself on the third day.
These are the miraculous claims that Shermer needs to explain away if he is truly going to defend his naturalistic worldview. Unfortunately for him, the supposed tools of his trade – reason and the scientific method (rightly understood) – support them. But that is a discussion for another day.