Did not a famous theologian recognize the absurdity of admitting the existence of a God and arresting His course? “To us,” he said, “who believe through faith in a true God, an individual substance, there ought to be no trouble in believing everything else.
This first mystery, which is no small matter of itself, once admitted, our reason can not suffer violence in admitting all the rest. As for myself, it is no more trouble to accept a million of things that I do not understand, than to believe the first one.”
Is there anything more contradictory, more impossible, or more mysterious, than the creation of matter by an immaterial Being, who Himself immutable, causes the continual changes that we see in the world? Is there anything more incompatible with all the ideas of common sense than to believe that a good, wise, equitable, and powerful Being presides over nature and directs Himself the movements of a world which is filled with follies, miseries, crimes, and disorders, which He could have foreseen, and by a single word could have prevented or made to disappear? Finally, as soon as we admit a Being so contradictory as the theological God, what right have we to refuse to accept the most improbable fables, the most astonishing miracles, the most profound mysteries?
Meslier points out one of my favorite things about religion: if you’re so open-minded you’ll believe some of it, you may as well believe anything at all. It makes as much sense to believe that snorting bat’s piss up your nose will cure baldness as to believe that a virgin gave birth, or a burning bush talked, or any of the other foundational tricks accepted as “miracles” by the faithful. Meslier’s attacks are often along epistemological lines: how do we know what we know? And how do we handle the things that we don’t know? Meslier’s answer is to accept that he does not understand some things.
My personal attitude toward miracles is that I won’t accept as a miracle anything that I think Penn and Teller could do. I saw Penn and Teller “disappear” a submarine. I saw Penn saw Teller in half, and – Lo! Teller was made whole again!! I’ve seen Teller produce not loaves and fishes but entire fire extinguishers out of thin air! When I watch Penn and Teller do miracles, I am in a state of heightened disbelief: I expect that they are scamming me to produce amazing effects. Yet, when I talk to believers – even in this day of rocket ships and designer molecules – they seem to accept that a young girl in Palestine gave birth without the necessary precondition. “Which is more likely,” Monty Python famously asked in Life of Brian, “that a virgin got pregnant, or that a woman lied and said she hadn’t had sex?”