If our Christ-worshipers claim that God endowed their saints with power to perform the
miracles related in their lives, some of the Pagans claim also that the daughters of Anius, high-priest of Apollo, had really received from the god Bacchus the power to change all they desired into wheat, into wine, or into oil, etc.; that Jupiter gave to the nymphs who took care of his education, a horn of the goat which nursed him in his infancy, with this virtue, that it could give them an abundance of all they wished for.
If our Christ-worshipers assert that their saints had the power of raising the dead, and that they had Divine revelations, the Pagans had said before them that Athalide, son of Mercury, had obtained from his father the gift of living, dying, and coming to life whenever he wished, and that he had also the knowledge of all that transpired in this world as well as in the other; and that Esculapius, son of Apollo, had raised the dead, and, among others, he brought to life Hyppolites, son of Theseus, by Diana’s request; and that Hercules, also, raised from the dead Alceste, wife of Admetus, King of Thessalia, to return her to her husband.
If our Christ-worshipers say that Christ was miraculously born of a virgin, the Pagans had said before them that Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome, were miraculously born of a vestal virgin named Ilia, or Silvia, or Rhea Silvia; they had already said that Mars, Argus, Vulcan, and others were born of the goddess Juno without sexual union; and, also, that Minerva, goddess of the sciences, sprang from Jupiter’s brain, and that she came out of it, all armed, by means of a blow which this god gave to his own head.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that their saints made water gush from rocks, the Pagans pretend also that Minerva made a fountain of oil spring forth from a rock as a recompense for a temple which had been dedicated to her.
If our Christ-worshipers boast of having received images from Heaven miraculously, as, for example, those of Notre-Dame de Loretto, and of Liesse and several other gifts from Heaven, as the pretended Holy Vial of Rheims, as the white Chasuble which St. Ildefonse received from the Virgin Mary, and other similar things: the Pagans boasted before them of having received a sacred shield as a mark of the preservation of their city of Rome, and the Trojans boasted before them of having received miraculously from Heaven their Palladium, or their Idol of Pallas, which came, they said, to takes its place in the temple which they had erected in honor of this Goddess.
If our Christ-worshipers pretend that Jesus Christ was seen by His apostles ascending to Heaven, and that several of their pretended saints were transported to Heaven by angels, the Roman Pagans had said before them, that Romulus, their founder, was seen after his death; that Ganymede, son of Troas, king of Troy, was transported to Heaven by Jupiter to serve him as cup-bearer that the hair of Berenice, being consecrated to the temple of Venus, was afterward carried to Heaven; they say the same thing of Cassiope and Andromedes, and even of the ass of Silenus.
If our Christ-worshipers pretend that several of their saints’ bodies were miraculously saved from decomposition after death, and that they were found by Divine Revelations, after having been lost for a long time, the Pagans say the same of the holy of Orestes, which they pretend to have found through an oracle, etc.
If our Christ-worshipers say that the seven sleeping brothers slept during one hundred and seventy-seven years, while they were shut up in a cave, the Pagans claim that Epimenides, the philosopher, slept during fifty-seven years in a cave where he fell asleep.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that several of their saints continued to speak after losing the head, or having the tongue cut out, the Pagans claim that the head of Gambienus recited a long poem after separation from his body.
If our Christ-worshipers glorify themselves that their temples and churches are ornamented with several pictures and rich gifts which show miraculous cures performed by the intercession of their saints, we also see, or at least we formerly saw in the temple of Esculapius at Epidaurus, many paintings of miraculous cures which he had performed.
If our Christ-worshipers claim that several of their saints have been miraculously preserved in the flames without having received any injury to their bodies or their clothing, the Pagans claim that the Holy women of the temple of Diana walked upon burning coals barefooted without burning or hurting their feet, and that the priests of the Goddess Feronie and of Hirpicus walked in the same way upon burning coals in the fires which were made in honor of Apollo.
If the angels built a chapel for St. Clement at the bottom of the sea, the little house of Baucis and of Philemon was miraculously changed into a superb temple as a reward of their piety. If several of their saints, as St. James and St. Maurice, appeared several times in their armies, mounted and equipped in ancient style, and fought for them, Castor and Pollux appeared several times in battles and fought for the Romans against their enemies; if a ram was miraculously found to be offered as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac, whom his father Abraham was about to sacrifice, the Goddess Vesta also sent a heifer to be sacrificed in the place of Metella, daughter of Metellus: the Goddess Diana sent a hind in the place of Iphigenie when she was at the stake to be sacrificed to her, and by this means Iphigenie was saved.
If St. Joseph went into Egypt by the warning of an angel, Simonides, the poet, avoided several great dangers by miraculous warnings which had been given to him.
If Moses forced a stream of water to flow from a rock by striking it with his staff, the horse Pegasus did the same: by striking a rock with his foot a fountain issued.
If St. Vincent Ferrier brought to life a dead man hacked into pieces, whose body was already half roasted and half broiled, Pelops, son of Tantalus king of Phrygia, having been torn to pieces by his father to be sacrificed to the Gods, they gathered all the pieces, joined them, and brought them to life.
If several crucifixes and other images have miraculously spoken and answered, the Pagans say that their oracles have spoken and given answers to those who consulted them, and that the head of Orpheus and that of Policrates gave oracles after their death.
If God revealed by a voice from Heaven that Jesus Christ was His Son, as the Evangelists say, Vulcan showed by the apparition of a miraculous flame, that Coceculus was really his son.
If God has miraculously nourished some of His saints, the Pagan poets pretend that Triptolemus was miraculously nourished with Divine milk by Ceres, who gave him also a chariot drawn by two dragons, and that Phineus, son of Mars, being born after his mother’s death, was nevertheless miraculously nourished by her milk.
If several saints miraculously tamed the ferocity of the most cruel beasts, it is said that Orpheus attracted to him, by the sweetness of his voice and by the harmony of his instruments, lions, bears, and tigers, and softened the ferocity of their nature; that he attracted rocks and trees, and that even the rivers stopped their course to listen to his song.
Finally, to abbreviate, because we could report many others, if our Christ-worshipers pretend that the walls of the city of Jericho fell by the sound of their trumpets, the Pagans say that the walls of the city of Thebes were built by the sound of the musical instruments of Amphion; the stones, as the poets say, arranging themselves to the sweetness of his harmony; this would be much more miraculous and more admirable than to see the walls demolished.
There is certainly a great similarity between the Pagan miracles and our own. As it would be great folly to give credence to these pretended miracles of Paganism, it is not any the less so to have faith in those of Christianity, because they all come from the same source of error. It was for this that the Manicheans and the Arians, who existed at the commencement of the Christian Era, derided these pretended miracles performed by the invocation of saints, and blamed those who invoked them after death and honored their relics.
Let us return at present to the principal end which God proposed to Himself, in sending His Son into the world to become man; it must have been, as they say, to redeem the world from sin and to destroy entirely the works of the pretended Devil, etc. This is what our Christ-worshipers claim also, that Jesus Christ died for them according to His Father’s intention, which is plainly stated in all the pretended Holy Books. What! an Almighty God, who was willing to become a mortal man for the love of men, and to shed His blood to the last drop, to save them all, would yet have limited His power to only curing a few diseases and physical infirmities of a few individuals who were brought to Him; and would not have employed His Divine goodness in curing the infirmities of the soul! that is to say, in curing all men of their vices and their depravities, which are worse than the diseases of their bodies! This is not credible. What! such a good God would desire to preserve dead corpses from decay and corruption; and would not keep from the contagion and corruption of vice and sin the souls of a countless number of persons whom He sought to redeem at the price of His blood, and to sanctify by His grace! What a pitiful contradiction!
It does seem that the gods and demigods have a limited bag of tricks. Limited, perhaps, by the human imagination.
Keep this one in your back pocket next time you run into a christian apologist talking about miracles.
A number of years ago, I read about cancer cures that allegedly happened at Lourdes. I tried to determine, based on the number of people who went through the holy place, and the typical base-rate of cancer and spontaneous remission, whether there were any miracles happening at all. I wasn’t at all comfortable with the numbers I was able to pull together (what about cancer sufferers where it’s not manifesting yet? what about remission probabilities by cancer type? then how do we find out what kind of cancer was miraculously cured?) but I was coming up with a remarkably low number that was arguing that going to Lourdes made your cancer less likely to go into remission. That might make some sense, actually, if the preponderance of cancer-sufferers who go to Lourdes were late-stage. It was too complicated to sort out, I’m sad to say; the miracles just aren’t very well-documented.