Have you thought about (HYTA) the problem with miracles? (Mother Teresa’s controversial sainthood)

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          Whether we are hardened sceptics or unrepentant nihilists, we all start out either believing or wanting to believe in miracles. Fervently and every so faintly, we hope, with the atypical selfishness that comes with being human, that a compassionate gesture is thrown our way so that for the briefest of moments, the unfeeling laws of nature will bend for us. Miracles seemingly defy scientific or natural laws, and consequently, by definition, are events problematically allergic to evidence. Miracles are claimed by every faith that has ever existed (how else could they prove the authenticity of their Gods?), can be found in the toolbox of the con-man, and is part of the spiritual repertoire of the mystic, shaman and oracle.  

          That miracles share a bed with religion, the supernatural and the seedy is highly disconcerting. Some miracles claim to have evidence of some sort – a blurred video (with convenient camera angles) of a man walking a tightrope with nothing but faith guiding him; blood pouring from the orifice of a deity’s statue; an image of God found in a bread or glazed window; or someone who went to heaven and then came back. The last example though, was especially deplorable. Written by a boy who was left paralysed in an accident under the title “The boy who came back from heaven”, it gained enormous success that led to a film adaptation. His experience was often cited as a miracle performed by the Christian God. And how starkly embarrassing it must have been when the author finally admitted that he had never read a Bible, and only wrote the book to get attention.

          The predictable fallout was quietly played down. As the philosopher David Hume once said “Which is more likely? That the laws of nature have been suspended, and in a manner of your choosing, or that you quite simply made a mistake?”. Going by the lackluster records of  miracles, it is with almost certainty that all miracles fall into the second category – a fatal misstep of the human mind that we now understand has overly generous tendencies to see meaningless patterns from useless noise.

          Many supposed miracles in our long past, whether they were abrupt changes in the weather or the remission of a disease, can now be explained with present day knowledge. We now know how we acquire immunities to infectious diseases, and we understand sudden revivals are not the result of divine intervention. Whether it is performing exorcism to cure a person writhing on the floor or sprinkling holy water to purge diseases, Science has repeatedly at every corner, undermined these supposed ‘miracles’. What we cannot explain now, we have characteristically understood later. In the absence of knowledge, we shouldn’t round up the closest and most convenient explanation.

          Yet, the Vatican, a religious organisation exempt from taxes and an authority that legislates the masses in ‘moral’ values (with many of its priests found guilty of sexually abusing altar-boys), has recently declared Mother Teresa a saint, citing two miracles attributed to her. Supposedly, by praying to her, an Indian woman had her stomach tumour miraculously cured. The thinking and rationale that accompany such a declaration has something so infuriatingly bad, so incorrigibly stale and so wretchedly putrescent, that one has to stand at attention and wonder at how much incredulity is needed to believe such a claim. Even her husband doubted it had anything to do with the prayers! What tool, what insight or what erudition does the Vatican possess to determine a miracle? Sadly, it’s just a gathering of old men who prey on the infantile mind of the religious.

          Even better, the Vatican has a wonderful track record of ‘exemplary’ saints. Thomas More, who burned and tortured people for daring to read a Bible in English (Latin was preferred back then), was declared by Pope John II as a patron saint. Another saint, Junipero Sera, who introduced Catholicism to Califoria, was complicit in the mass extermination of Native Americans. And Mother Teresa is no exception. She’s often celebrated for her devotion to faith and dedication to the poor. If Mario is the frontrunner of Japanese culture, then Mother Teresa is the poster girl for Catholicism. And yet, through her letters, interviews and investigations, it was found that many donations to her organisation were unaccounted for, with medical care often shoddy and deliberately withheld, and in her final days, began doubting her faith.

          Mother Teresa’s order inflicted suffering needlessly. When explaining to a cancer patient why no painkiller was given, she said that,“You are suffering like Christ on the cross, So Jesus must be kissing you.” She denied antibodies to a boy with a kidney problem and insisted prayer would suffice. How is it possible for a human mind to be so warped and twisted, if not for the existence of faith? Why was she made a saint? What mysterious criteria(s) counts towards sainthood? How many have died a painfully agonising death because of the delusions of religious fundamentalists who believe God would provide all answers? Not only have the controversies remain unaddressed, the Vatican has decided to continue playing up Mother Teresa’s positive image by granting her sainthood and recognising her ‘miracles’. No justification needed except “you just have to believe us because we know what we are doing”.

          So have you thought about (HYTA) what miracles (and sainthood) mean to you?

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