Are miracles only religious/supernatural? What is their history?

So this question popped into my mind whilst I was thinking about my own ex religion. As I pondered more, I realized I haven’t really encountered this word “miracle” in any non-religious or non-supernatural setting. It is always used in a way to explicitly or implicitly refer to something outworldly, or something beyond this world or beyond the human grasp.

I wanted to talk about miracles. What do you guys think about miracles? What is a miracle anyway? How do you define it?

Are they, by default, associated with religious or supernatural events only?

Where did this word come from, did self-proclaimed prophets of religions invent this world to attempt to prove their allegedly divine source of knowledge?

What about scientific miracles? Some religions like Islam are very obvious here as they depend heavily on making claims of scientific miracles to try to fool people into believing that their book or prophets were inspired by some sort of divine, because allegedly the claimed knowledge couldn’t be humanly possible to learn. Does Christianity, Judaism and other monotheistic and polytheistic religions also make claims of scientific miracles that are either in their books, or performed by their alleged prophets?

Do all religions depend on claims of miracles, whether scientific or not, to impress others?

I guess from my perspective the oldest miracles are the feats of ritual magic which Egyptian or Mesopotamian priests claimed to perform around temples. There’s stories from King Cheops and the Magicians, a ~3,000 year old text, about a priest splitting a pleasure-lake to retrieve a hairpin. Priests also supposedly brought statues to life, statues which then ate and drank. Those are miracles, to use that term.

I don’t see miracles as possible. They assume the reality of supernatural forces that we either know not to exist now, or have no proof exist. It’s better to look for natural causes when something happens because nature seems to explain just about everything. What it doesn’t, we’ll figure out.

I remember years back (I was in my 20s) about some tribe where the shaman did a ritual on cliffs (overlooking the sea) for his tribe members or the very young that were sick and had diarrhea. Part of the ritual and magic was licking the ground.

Anyhoo - turned out that a natural Imodium was present in the soil AND viola, diarrhea (mostly) cured.

Miracles are by-and-large the welcome results of things we may not yet understand… or the imagination of others explaining “reasons” for things (usually linked to the supernatural-something that also has no evidence).

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Possibly my favorite video, and it does a good job dealing with “miracles”. The good stuff begins at 10:00

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The concept of ‘miracles’ is similar to that of ‘round squares’ which is just like your reference to ‘scientific miracles’, both are oxymorons. Within spiritual cosmologies populated by supernatural deities and angels and demons, that theists generally believe in, miracles are the beneficent works performed by a god in answer to prayers of supplicants, or through divine capriciousness.

In the mundane reality we all live in ‘miracles’ by definition are events that defy or suspend the natural order ie physics; the very much dead are brought back to life, seas part to make dry walkways, mere snacks feed multitudes, water becomes alcoholic, time stops to allow slaughter quotas to be met. Impossible events, like impossible objects, such as round squares are simply that, impossible, in this world at least.

And it’s highly unlikely that the Christian god, depending as he supposedly does on the test of faith, would interfere with his only true test of the faithful by leaving any sort of clear irrefutable evidence of his existence. Once his existence can be established as fact the whole faith issue becomes redundant.

The word miracle is much abused and has lost much of its descriptive power. Instead of describing those majestic events where the almighty exerts his influence from his place outside Time and Space to effect the utterly impossible inside our physically restricted reality, that magical word is frequently pressed into tiresome service to describe lesser events like the underdog’s unexpected victory in a football game, the single mangled near-dead survivor of a tragic crowded airliner crash, the remission of a cancer, after hours of chemotherapy…the media delights in at least one such miracle every day. One example gets me every time, the ‘miracle of birth’ which is so commonplace, every day, it even stands as one of the many threats to the sustained future of humanity.

The word ‘miracle’ is a fantastic word in that it describes a very singular specific event, an event that is impossible, but I class the concept of miracles along with other impossible concepts like unicorns, flying horses, talking snakes and me ever becoming a chess grandmaster or even a reasonably good player.


First, what’s a miracle? For the sake of argument, I’ll accept anything claimed as such by the Catholic church.

So far, I’ve never seem empirical evidence for any miracle at any time.

The church has still demands two miracles in the name of a potential saint before canonisation. They are invariably cures of some ghastly disease, but never include the regrowth of body parts. The church has apparently never heard about spontaneous remission, the rates of which are 30,000: My current position is I do not believe in miracle. Kind a goes with not believing in god(s) or any kind of supernatural realm or event.

Not sure if all faiths believe in personal miracles. However, they pretty much all believe in miraculous events, such as special myths about birth of a god.EG Horus, the Buddha and Krishna.

Many religions include the miraculous appearance of and conversations with a god, goddess, demon or other spiritual being. Voodoo rituals are pretty interesting in that way.

People still believe in miracles because they’re gullible. I guess once a person believes in gods, other fantastic beings, and happenings are not much of a stretch.

The history of miraculous things probably predates homo sapiens, with shamans who became animals.

Until quite recent times, the distinction between reality and a spirit/supernatural world was blurred. EG In Europe during the middle ages, prayers were often still included as part of healing procedures. Even today astrology is taught as an actual science in India and is an honourable profession.

Miracle: When the unexpected meets the ill-informed.

(I just made that up myself and I am ringing the bell! Drinks on me… (~)0 (~)0 (~)0 (~)0 (~)0
I would think that was a good quote even if Old Man had said it.


To use the dictionary definition, a miracle is, according to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of miracle

  1. : An extraordinary event manifesting
    // divine intervention in human affairs
  2. : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
    // The bridge is a miracle of engineering.
  3. Christian Science : a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law

Clearly, it is an event that requires divine intervention in some way. Or, alternatively, an event that the audience or the narrator(s) cannot understand how is performed, and thereby interprets it as a supernatural/divine intervention. However, strange events that defies explanation are only strange and supernatural until they have been explained. I have linked to the indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku before, and I now draw attention to him again. Sanal Edamaruku[1] and the Indian Rationalist Association are bad-ass guru busters that have travelled the Indian countryside to explain to people how gurus cheat and they perform and explain their stage-magician tricks to the audiences. Have a look at the videos in this YouTube playlist:

Without access to their rational explanation, these stage magician tricks could easily be interpreted as supernatural or due to divine intervention. And through a long game of telephone, first hand witness stories easily morph into major miracles with a religiously motivated explanation.

[1] Sanal Edamaruku is the founder of Rationalist International. Look him up on a search engine, and do a search for him on YouTube for more goodies.



Never heard of this guy- awesome :sunglasses:

I wonder what an exact definition of a miracle is?

In my mind, the microbiologist Maurice Hilleman (August 30, 1919 - April 11, 2005) is more deserving of sainthood and a title of “miracle worker” than any 100 Catholic saints put together.

He discovered more than 40 vaccines, which has saved the lives of over 225 million people . . . or approximately 8 million people per year.

If we suppose that there is a God, then will anyone tell me that the source of his drive to create vaccines wasn’t Divinely Inspired?

The alleviation of human suffering accomplished by Hilleman dwarfs anything ever accomplished by all religious organizations put together . . . so does his work count as a divine miracle?

Why doesn’t someone like Hilleman get cannonized as a saint?

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I’d like to come up with a good answer here, but there is not enough sarcasm available on the internets.


…this is the antithesis of the bible god. Why then should religions based on this book acknowledge “miracles” by humans on behalf of humankind.

Oh and the bullshit isn’t thick in either example you gave :wink:

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I don’t know why.

But your post kind of reminds me of that quote that Jane Foster was using in her argument against Eric Selvig from the movie “Thor” that she quoted. She said:

“Well, “magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.” - Arthur C. Clarke.”

Just a thought though really.

Only the catholic church officially canonizes people. What such a declaration means is that the church is formally stating a person in heaven with god, that’s all. I don’t know of any other Christian church which has the hubris

Oh, Hindus have living saints, by popular acclaim. Islam also has saints, also by popular acclaim. I think the meanings might be different from the Catholics


Secular saints are made by popular acclaim. I think the meaning is along the lines of a benefactor to humanity. Have look at a couple I’ve listed below.

I can think of five off hand:

From Australia, Fred Hollows, eye surgeon.

Oskar Schindler

John Rabe, the Good Nazi of Nanjing

Raoul Wallenberg

Norman Bethune. He remains a hero of the Chinese people.

These are some of my choices. You may not agree.

I can agree with your choices . . . they were ones I might have made.

And I agree with your points.

What is it people have against dictionaries?



  1. an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.

So by definition a miracle is an argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy.

Note that all events would be miracles by definition, until science explains any natural phenomena or cause.

They then slowly get discarded as “god” is moved into a new gap in our knowledge.


God is the name for what we don’t know. Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson both made this same point several times.

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That guys sounds like a fuck’n moron lmao.

Indeed, pretty much the entire approach of the usual suspects can be summed up as “I’m too stupid to understand science, therefore a cartoon magic man from a goat herder mythology must have done it”. Which would be comical if it were not for the pernicious effects of this attitude.

But I’m going to offer a hearty “thank you” for pointing out that concept, in the sentence above I subjected to additional emphasis. That’s definitely one for the collection that I may ruthlessly “borrow” in future!


A meagre offering but you’re very welcome given your own expansive scientific exposes of mythology.

I’m currently being told alternatively in another forum that I have a) “a closed heart”, and that is why I reject God, and that it is my desire to do whatever I want, that is a barrier to me “seeking the truth”.

My favourite was a theists who claimed repeatedly to believe something, but she cannot prove it, while simultaneously claiming to have evidence. When told her claims carried a burden of proof she said, and I am quoting verbatim, "I am not making any claims that a deity exists or that there is evidence, only that I believe a deity exists, and believe there is evidence, give me strength…

Many many hours of tortured semantics ensued, and she has sulked, pouted, said she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, said she doesn’t understand why I care enough to respond, said I can ignore her if I don’t like what she’s saying (not claiming, I kid you not), but there’s nothing I can do about it anyway, whatever that means…

It’s both tragic and hilarious…

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