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Dec 21 2011

Next time, try it without the antibiotics, then I’ll be impressed

Jake Finkbonner was in big trouble: a minor injury led to necrotizing fascitis, and the bacteria chewed up his face, head, and neck in a horrible life-threatening infection. Fortunately, the family placed a relic from a 17th century Native American convert to Catholicism named Tekakwitha on his pillow (it is not clear whether it was a chunk of Tekakwitha’s bones, or one of these lockets, which you can buy for $19.99), and he got better! A miracle!

Now they’re planning to canonize Tekakwitha.

On Monday, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognized the miracle attributed to Tekakwitha – the last step on her way to canonization.

Tekakwitha, known as “the Lily of the Mohawks,” was born in 1656 in upstate New York to a Mohawk chief and an Algonquin mother. A smallpox epidemic killed both her parents and left her with partial blindness and a disfigured face. She converted to Catholicism after meeting several priests. Ostracized from her tribal community, Tekakwitha devoted herself to a life of deep prayer. She died in 1680 at age 24. According to the Catholic Church, witnesses said that within minutes of her death, the scars from smallpox completely vanished and her once-disfigured face suddenly shone with radiant beauty.

Oh, I forgot to mention…in addition to the magic locket, Jake spent 9 weeks in a modern hospital, received major surgeries to extirpate the infected tissue, massive doses of antibiotics, and apparently substantial cosmetic surgery. If only St Tekakwitha had been able to get the same, instead of relying entirely on Catholic hoodoo — maybe she wouldn’t have died at 24.

Oh, and there’s a poll. It’s got over 60,000 votes on it already, so I doubt we’ll be able to budge it much, but you can take a stab at it anyway.

Do you believe in miracles?

86.9% Yes
9.5% No
3.6%Not sure

“Do you believe in modern medicine?” would have been a better question. They never ask that one, though.


I do have to say I’m much more impressed with Jake Finkbonner. Here’s what he had to say about it:

There’s been a lot of media around me lately especially with the announcement of Blessed Kateri becoming a Saint based on my story. Please don’t confuse the issue which is that my survival is a miracle. We thank the doctors at Children’s Hospital for all that they did to save my life. I wouldn’t be here without them. I also thank all the people that prayed for me. Obviously, God heard their prayers. This decision to canonize Blessed Kateri is something that the Vatican and the Pope declared, not us. Although we are a part of this story, we did not have any influence on this decision. Congratulations to the Catholic Church and the Native American culture in the canonizing of the now Saint Kateri.

He seems like a gracious and sensible young man.

43 comments

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  1. 1
    mikeym

    Say what you will, but it’s hard to deny that “the Lily of the Mohawks” would be a fantastic stripper name.

  2. 2
    Glen Davidson

    So…death cured her smallpox scars. I’m in awe at the wonder of that miracle. I bet she got a hot guy after that happened…

    The later miracle is about as amazing as the girl who miraculously survived rabies–along with intensive medical intervention. Seems that God can work wonders just so long as mortal science is involved.

    Oh what a God! I would love to serve a God who just maybe could be slightly affecting survival and cures (no, I know that there’s no evidence for it, but it can’t wholly be ruled out, thus God). Only orders of magnitude less powerful than modern medicine (at best, zero being the best bet), almost like homeopathy.

    Glen Davidson

  3. 3
    feralboy12

    According to the Catholic Church, witnesses said that within minutes of her death, the scars from smallpox completely vanished and her once-disfigured face suddenly shone with radiant beauty.

    At which point her once radiantly beautiful face began to be eaten by bacteria.
    Killed By Fish

  4. 4
    Seabisquick

    Perhaps atheists should set up living will instructions that if they are ever unable to care for themselves, a picture/photograph of Satan/Hitler/Galileo/Hitchens/PZ/Caligula/Dahmer should be placed by their bedside. Eventually a “miracle” will happen. Get a few of these down and you can start a “Satan cured me” movement.

  5. 5
    TV200

    We thank the doctors at Children’s Hospital for all that they did to save my life. I wouldn’t be here without them.

    Good on him for keeping things in perspective.

  6. 6
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Yeah, maybe I’m just being shallow here, but if I were going to be magically altered into (even more) radiant beauty, I’d rather have it happen when, you know, I can experience it and not when the only people who appreciate are necrophiles and the Catholic Church (I know, redundant).

  7. 7
    rtootie

    I was reading a Stephen King commentary on one of his short stories, “Ayana.” He was discussing how the presence of miracles would be a burden in and of themselves, I think because of the mental difficulties they would generate.

    It got me thinking about a time, in my adult life, when I was wondering the woods looking for my dog. He was old and arthritic, but my wife and I decided we’d let him enjoy his life his way in our country surroundings. Well, he’d been gone a day or so and I was off from work and worried. So, I went looking.

    After some time, feeling a bit gloomy, I decided to head back but I prayed first that he would be home when I got there. But in that prayer, I expressed concerns over several things, one of which was the question of “Why should this dog should be helped?” and the other was “Will I even know if it was an answer to my prayer if I get home and he is there?”

    As it turned out, the dog was home and stretched out in the yard when I returned. Was it a miracle? I guess, if all of life is a miracle. I’m thankful for the extra time my wife and I had with him. But I definitely wouldn’t take my story to “Real Time w/ Bill Maher” as proof of miracles, thats for sure.

  8. 8
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    I assume that with cast-iron evidence of the relic’s healing powers it was immediately rushed around the rest of the hospital, curing everyone, and is now being flown around the entire country, bringing miraculous healing to the sick, with plans for it to be taken overseas (heavily guarded, naturally – it’s a national security matter now!) to bring healing to a troubled world?

  9. 9
    AussieMike

    Why only a part miracle? Why didn’t he get the new clean unblemished skin as well. Is god not able to deliver the full deal? Fuckwits!

    My daughter has spin bifida, low grade, as she can run and jump but has no bowel or bladder control and has a shunt for the hydrocephalus that goes with it. She is bright, chatty does well in class and you could not tell looking at her. Some fuck told me that it was a “miracle’ it was not worse and I should be thankful to god for that.

    That really shits me off. Why did my daughter get a “part” miracle? Why not the whole deal? She has still had two major surgeries (spine and brain) and will need more as shunts do not last forever. She will need a MACE and has to alter her life style to deal with the whole lot.

    Physically, her body looks remarkably like a child who has her grade of Spina and has had medical intervention. Where is the mirical?

    I know you don’t like violence PZ but I really do feel like punching these people in the face sometimes.

    I’m thankful to the doctors who did what they did to bring her safely as possible into the world. And I am certainly happy it did not turn out worse for her as so many others have it. But fuck off with the miracle shit!

  10. 10
    frankb

    Jake didn’t want to say anything negative about the RCC, but there seems to be a bit of rebuke in his statement.

  11. 11
    ChristineRose

    This is unbelievably cruel, and one of the big reasons I turned away from Christianity. If your disease does not respond to the touch of a cheap locket that once touched a cloth that once touched a nice lady with smallpox they say it is because you have insufficient faith or that God wants you to suffer until you’ve learned to properly appreciate Him. Thank science that this kid was able to get heroic medical treatment. I’m worried about the millions who don’t even have access to water clean enough to wash in. These people are the most likely to be desperate enough to be taken in by these crooks.

  12. 12
    jt512

    In comment #5 to the poll, someone wrote:

    “Miracles are a 50-50 chance either yes or no. The odds are too great to over look.”

    One would like to think that they were being facetious; unfortunately, they probably were serious.

    Jay

  13. 13
    tiffkramer

    This comic sums it up rather well.

  14. 14
    spyro

    Hang on…are we defining miracles as unexplained, inexplicable phenomena that have an observable physical effect? If so, I would like to thank god/s for the mystery illness I had a couple of years back that affected me for 9 months with pain so severe that I couldn’t even keep the anti-nausea meds down long enough to work. I had all the tests they could think of; the only conclusive result was that my immune system was reacting like a bastard to some unknown thing. Well, praise fucking be. I would also like to offer my thanks on behalf of all the people dying every day who have had the benefit of intercessory prayer, and action forgone for the sake of worship. Cheers and shit.

  15. 15
    unbound

    Nothing more than an insult to the doctors that worked on the boy, and an insult to science that developed the anti-biotics.

  16. 16
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Spyro @14
    -I’m reminded of the scene in “The Invention of Lying” where Ricky Gervais’ character is answering a veritable round robin of questions…

    Tony

  17. 17
    imthegenieicandoanything

    Faith is the sexwax that allows the biggest, ugliest, most barbed lies to be inserted into the assholes of the believer, however difficult it must be when their head has already preceded it.
    The comments there beggar belief, or rather are buggered by it.

    Pope is one of the slimiest professions ever foisted upon humanity: offensive in the abstract as well as in the flesh. I can’t imagine any crime anyone willing to accept, much less pursue, such a title wouldn’t be willing to promote if it was determined to be a safe investment.

  18. 18
    spyro

    @sunnydale75 (love the nym, BTW)

    I’m reminded that I need a vodka topup, and that if any xtians read this, I’d probably be accused of being cursed as a non-believer.

    Bitter? Me? Never…? :)

  19. 19
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    As I recall, the Roman church did away with its “Devil’s Advocate” a few years ago. That was the role at deliberations about sainthood that asked questions like, “What if it was the antibiotics and surgery that cured Jake”?

    Removing the rational side of the debate seems to have sped up the canonization of crowds of potential saints.

  20. 20
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Part of a cure depends on the body and immune system of the patient. The boy could have taken a turn for the worse (in which case no one would have given God the credit) or for the better. Doctors don’t control the organism; they simply give it the best chance to resist the ravages of disease.

  21. 21
    a3kr0n

    Glen Davidson #2 – Do you think God might be as least as strong as a magnet?

  22. 22
    David Marjanović

    Yes: 52,593 (84.4 %)
    No: 7,591 (12.1 %)
    Not sure: 2,199 (3.5 %)
    Total votes: 62,311

  23. 23
    thomasvos

    Some miracle. God gave her back her beauty just in time for her to rot.

  24. 24
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Jeez, that poor kid. :(

    Assuming we can take that fairy tale “on faith” (if you will), I guess Jeebus didn’t see fit to heal Tekawitha while she was still alive. Oh, right, suffering “purifies” you.

  25. 25
    NotAProphet

    I guess their god is so busy stopping little white kids from dying, yet leaving them permanently disfigured, and helping mediocre American football players throw dead animals’ bladders that he has precious little time to address anything like famine, cancer or cot-death.

    Omnipotent my right testicle!

  26. 26
    'Tis Himself

    Do you think God might be as least as strong as a magnet?

    Fucking gods, how do they work?

  27. 27
    michaelswanson

    …the scars from smallpox completely vanished and her once-disfigured face suddenly shone with radiant beauty.

    For God so loved Tekakwitha that he healed her corpse after murdering her family and afflicting her with a wretched, painful, disfiguring disease. Ostensibly, her soul was in Heaven, and she had no further use of her body. But that’s when he fixed it.

    What a dick.

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    Oh, I forgot to mention…in addition to the magic locket, Jake spent 9 weeks in a modern hospital,

    you can be assured the Vatican will too.

    I was about to add you would be in good company, but then I’d be lying, since it’s abundantly clear that being in company with the Vatican is akin to being in league with a barrel of rotting hagfish.

  29. 29
    Ichthyic

    For God so loved Tekakwitha that he healed her corpse after murdering her family and afflicting her with a wretched, painful, disfiguring disease. Ostensibly, her soul was in Heaven, and she had no further use of her body. But that’s when he fixed it.

    now, why does that story sound so familiar…

    must have been yet another bet the old boy had with Satan.

  30. 30
    ronsullivan

    So death will make my extensive acne-scar collection disappear? Or do I have to go back to being a Good Catholic for it to work?

    It matters a lot, because I’ve been contemplating who should get them in my will.

  31. 31
    Ichthyic

    It matters a lot, because I’ve been contemplating who should get them in my will.

    well, obviously you should will your acne scars to whomever prayed for you the most to be rid of them.

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    Some miracle. God gave her back her beauty just in time for her to rot.

    I’m totally dating myself, but as Fernando Llamas always said:

    “It’s better to look good than to feel good!”

  33. 33
    madscientist

    One day Jake may even realize that gods and dead native Americans had nothing at all to do with his recovery.

  34. 34
    rtootie

    There is a story in the gospels of the bible where Jesus performs a 2-part miracle. I forgot the details, but it was a “Healing the Blind” type.

    The first phase (by prayer or some sort of physical touching) left the man with blurry vision. The second phase (rubbing a “spit-mud” mixture on the mans eyes, I think; and I hope it was over the eye-lids) left the guy with what apparently was wholesome and normal vision. Its not one of the more elegant miracle stories, to say the least, and it might strike some as biblical proof that God is not omnipotent.

    Here is what I’m getting at: the biblical God, whether an object of myth, history, or otherwise, doesn’t particularly mind throwing curve ball miracles in either the real world or the fictional.

    And I’m not sure exactly why it is (neither in the present, the past, or the bible) that God is holding back on regenerating missing limbs. The thing is, if you want to create your own cult, it doesn’t make sense to embed in your teachings counter evidence against your claims. Here is another example: why would you tell your flock that they could move mountains if only they believed–when, in fact, you know not a single one of them is ever going to move a mountiain. Somebody, somewhere, should do it at least once, right?

    I can’t stress enough the burdens that miracles place on my mind from time to time.

  35. 35
    Ichthyic

    The first phase (by prayer or some sort of physical touching) left the man with blurry vision. The second phase (rubbing a “spit-mud” mixture on the mans eyes, I think; and I hope it was over the eye-lids) left the guy with what apparently was wholesome and normal vision.

    what really happened:

    Jesus runs across a guy who hasn’t bathed in months, and his eyes are crusted shut. Nobody wants to even touch the guy, let alone figure wipe the crusty bits off his eyes.

    Jesus rubs his hand on them, but that just makes things blurry.

    one good spit-rub, and the crap is finally removed enough the guy can see again.

    Yay for Jesus!

    and it WAS a miracle. A miracle that someone had the guts to wipe the months of crust of the stinky bums eyelids.

    yes. I went there.

  36. 36
    chigau (違う)

    There is/was no such thing as Jesus.

  37. 37
    =8)-DX

    Wow, antibiotics, facial surgery and modern medicine actually work. Who would have thought.

    But, of course I believe in miracles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-m9uG50mSw

  38. 38
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    AussieMike
    I feel with you. I have a kid with a kidney disorder which is, fortunately, not affecting her in any way, but some people have the cheeks to tell me (not many, fortunately, I hate shouting people down) that thank god we’re lucky.
    Wait, it would have been a very, very minor thing for god to make sure the sperm with the defect affecting kidneys (they run in Mr.’s family, it’s a safe guess it was the sperm) got distracted on the way.
    +++++

    I think the boy is pissed at this whole thing. Sounds like he realizes pretty well who saved him and is angry at being hijacked.

  39. 39
    puppygod

    @jt512

    In comment #5 to the poll, someone wrote:

    “Miracles are a 50-50 chance either yes or no. The odds are too great to over look.”

    One would like to think that they were being facetious; unfortunately, they probably were serious.

    Jay

    As my statistics prof used to say: “when you throw a coin, there are only two possible outcomes: either it falls flat or ends standing on the edge”.

  40. 40
    scottplumer

    I would have been a miracle if his face had been healed without a scar. Is that the best you can do, Tekakwitha?

  41. 41
    nathanwren

    Being from British Columbia, Canada, and knowing the penchant the Catholic church had for forced internment; sexual and physical abuse; and destruction of language and culture of First Nations children in their residential school system, the idea of a Native American Catholic saint strikes me as a particularly gory irony

  42. 42
    innerchild

    Absolutely hilarious!!

    This reminded me of Zach Weiner’s comic from last Friday.

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2463#comic

  43. 43
    WithinThisMind

    The odds of getting struck by lightning are tiny, yet several people die from this each year. The odds of dying when hit by a truck speeding down the road at 45 mph over the speed limit are immense, my dog didn’t even need a cast.

    So, what’s a miracle?

    Seems it’s a ‘miracle’ every time something works out for your benefit when the odds aren’t in your favor.

    ‘Miracles’ are coincidence, not the supernatural at work.

    It’s amazing though, that events like this make the news, yet constantly occurring events of someone dying in spite of being blessed, prayed over, or given ritual objects. Five minutes after a family member told me to pass the message to my mother in law that she was praying for her, I got a call from the nursing home saying they were taking my mother in law to the emergency room. Is that not also a ‘miracle’?

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