Perusing the recent theist vs. non-theist arguments appearing in The Mensa Bulletin (Brainwaves, October p. 9) one is astonished to behold how many Mensan theists are seriously convinced they are the ones possessing logic and common sense. Perhaps the most assertive claim was made by Faith O'Brien - a self-professed Roman Catholic from Chicago. According to Faith (no pun intended):
“I always felt it was just logical and sensible for smart people to be believers”.
Why, when that implies accepting assorted, unverifiable claims without evidence? Is it not “smarter” to base acceptance on demonstrated evidence?
Consider the claim of a man (or claimed "god man") walking on water. How much common sense is there in believing that - given human properties, weight, surface area etc. - claimed to defy gravity – even for a nanosecond? What evidence is there for this? The answer is none, but “smart” Mensans are expected to believe it according to Ms. O’Brien.
Prof. Hugh Schonfeld, The Passover Plot, 1965) offered a simple, prosaic explanation: a scripture mistranslation of the Hebrew word “al” which can mean “by” or “on”. So, when a scribe supposedly wrote “walking by the water” it was translated to “walking on the water”. This is not a red herring at all. Especially given that textual analysis of ancient scripts is a learned skill not all scribes - ancient or modern - may possess. See e.g.
Brane Space: Some Fundamentals On Textual Analysis- Exegesis That Religionists Ought To Know For Holy Week (brane-space.blogspot.com)
Here it is useful to consider philosopher Dav)id Hume’s principle to establish a miracle, any miracle:
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish
Is the simple claim of mistranslation more or less miraculous (or rational) than a man or claimed 'god man' (which also demands proof) actually violating the law of gravity and walking on water? The common sense answer is obvious!
Consider the alleged “miracle” at Fatima in 1917. By Ms. O’Brien’s template we are “lacking in common sense” if we (atheists like me) don’t believe it. That is, that the Sun actually spun on its axis visibly in seconds and alternately moved back and forth toward Earth. Why believe atheists are the 'illogical' ones when that implies accepting outlandish claims of solar activity without evidence? For reference let me give one of the accounts by a witness of the Fatima "miracle" from Richard Dawkins' essay, 'Unweaving The Rainbow':
"The rain ceased and the clouds seemed to part, revealing what one witness described as 'a disc with a sharp rim and clear edge, luminous and lucent, but not painful to the eyes.' Its color was 'as changeable as the luster of a pearl.' The 'sun' then began to spin on its axis like a pinwheel. As it whirled, streamers of light came from its rim and flashed across the sky, coloring the landscape and faces of the spectators with a variety of constantly changing colors.
After about four minutes, the 'sun' stopped spinning. Then, after a
brief rest, it resumed its spinning and its fantastic display of varicolored light. Again, it stopped, and then resumed spinning for a third time, again throwing off light of different colors. Then, retaining its rotary motion, this 'sun' departed from its position and boldly advanced on the earth, threatening to squash the people with its huge and fiery mass.
As the heat increased, the crowd began to pray. Just as it seemed that the orb was about to crash into the crowd, the disc retreated into the sky.
All the above bear the hallmarks of delusion, not reality. There is simply NO way the Sun could undergo any of these manifestations without the entire world knowing of it. To believe so, is to believe that 3 billion people around the world were simultaneously placed into a temporary (~ 4 minute) mass coma – including lost time- while the ‘select few’ thousands at Fatima managed to actually behold reality and the Sun’s antics. This is pure poppycock and baloney. Indeed, it indicates the inverse is true: the tens of thousands at Fatima experienced mass delusion while the rest of the planet (especially including all solar observatories) detected nothing amiss. As Dawkins writes (op. cit.):
"On the one hand, we are asked to believe in a mass hallucination, a trick of the light, or mass lie involving 70,000 people. This is admittedly improbable. But it is LESS improbable than the alternative: that the Sun really did move...If the Sun had moved in truth, but the event was seen only by the people of Fatima, an even greater miracle would have been perpetrated: an illusion of NON-movement had to be staged for all the millions of witnesses not in Fatima."
Dawkins- Britain's most prominent atheist- chose the Fatima miracle of 1917 to apply Hume's principle because it is the most glaring example given the outlandish claims. The improbability associated with these claims is less than getting a royal flush in poker 6.5 million times in succession. It is actually less probable than the proverbial "monkey on a typewriter" , supposedly re-typing Shakespeare's Hamlet in its entirety by sheer chance.
The preceding may be difficult for those like Ms. O'Brien to swallow, but swallow it they must. That is, if they truly regard common sense and logic as attributes of intelligent people. Not accepting it can we say - to use the old Mensan jab- She "needs a retest"?
No, I wouldn't go so far, only that she seriously examine her own unfounded assumptions and try not to let her beliefs blind her intelligence. Oh, and common sense!
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