I’ve had more than one person tell me something to this effect. I don’t believe God is real because I haven’t seen any conclusive evidence. God has never spoken to me. I haven’t seen a miracle. I haven’t seen an angel. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of the soul. And so on.
Just as one example, a friend once told me that if I could show him evidence of a miracle that was witnessed by skeptics who could give no scientific explanation for it, then and only then would he consider that a reason to believe in God.
I immediately mentioned the thousands of miraculous cures attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes. I also mentioned that out of those thousands that have been reviewed by the bureau of doctors that looks into cures attributed to Lourdes, over 60 have been determined to without any doubt be beyond explanation from a purely natural standpoint. I encouraged him to not simply take my word for it but read the findings of the bureau for himself.
And then a rather odd thing happened. Rather than read the reports of those doctors who reviewed the claims of miraculous cures from Lourdes, rather than weighing the evidence contained in those reports, rather than deciding whether or not to accept it himself, he rejected it all sight unseen.
First he stated that we can’t trust the word of a bunch of Catholic doctors because they have a vested interest in supporting their own faith. I countered that the doctors who have sat on the review board over the decades have come from a variety of different faiths, or even no faith at all, and this is a fact he can see for himself if he reads the evidence given in their own personal testimony.
Then he said that reading those reports would mean taking their word for it rather than witnessing it himself. I mentioned that this was a new criteria, one he had not initially given. Besides, why not read the testimony contained in their study of the various cases and see for himself if what these men of science (many of whom have been and are to this day skeptics) had to say is believable?
He brushed that aside and followed with further objections. Excuse after excuse was made to not only reject the evidence, but to NOT EVEN LOOK AT IT.
If, as the modern world likes to mistakenly claim, faith is belief without evidence, then this is a clear example of faith in the non-existence of miracles. The evidence is not examined. The peer-reviewed studies are not read. The miraculous is denied not by examination and study, but by mere assertion that it is not there.
It is denied by blind faith.
Of course this does not surprise me. In one of his writings from over a century ago, GK Chesterton had the following to say:
In the same way, there is in modern discussions of religion and philosophy an absurd assumption that a man is in some way just and well-poised because he has come to no conclusion; and that a man is in some way knocked off the list of fair judges because he has come to a conclusion. It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism. I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him (such as the quite unproved proposition of the independence of matter and the quite improbable proposition of its power to originate mind), and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: “Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science or philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?” I said, “With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnson, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere—as many more as you please.” To which that quite admirable and idealistic young man made this astonishing reply—”Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians.” First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view. The argument thus stood in a charmingly convenient form: “All men that count have come to my conclusion; for if they come to your conclusion they do not count.”
A similar thing is at work here. Non-Christian doctors who remain non-Christian even when they state that they have no scientific explanation for some of the cures attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes cannot possibly be relied upon. Therefore I need not examine what they have said and can dismiss it outright simply because they did not dismiss the miraculous after conducting their review.
As Chesterton would have said, a charmingly convenient form of argument.