A common phenomenon in religion is the miracle. Miracles appear in a variety of faiths; from Buddhism to Christianity to the Hindu mystics of India. Often they are reported to encourage the faithful to remain steadfast in their belief. Generally, when an individual performs a miracle great deference and respect is shown to him or her. The miracle worker is considered to be above the common folk in a moral sense by virtue of his or her supernatural abilities.
There is, however, a dark side to the supernatural. For example, in Voodoo it is said that some practitioners use their arts to turn people into zombies. If we accept that some miracles are possible, then perhaps these are, as well. In these cases, the question of morality arises. How ethical is it to turn a person into a zombie? I would be inclined to think that this is an immoral use of power. Alternatively, how moral would it be to raise someone like Adolf Hitler from the dead? Again, I think such would be an immoral use of power. From this it would seem that there are good miracles and evil miracles. Clearly, however, what makes a miracle good or bad is independent of its supernatural origins, since both types are inherently supernatural, yet they differ in their moral character. Evidently, when a miracle is performed it is not necessarily a good thing simply because it is a miracle. One must make a moral determination for every miracle performed, weighing the various moral facets of the case.
Suppose someone can walk across water. What does that really prove? That his powers come from God and are therefore good? Not necessarily. I can think of at least two other possible explanations for such a feat. 1) His powers come from Satan or whatever name you wish to give to the Forces of Darkness. Or alternatively, 2) his powers are psychokinetic, that is, he is a natural psychic and his powers have nothing to do with God or Satan. Basically, we have three possible explanations: a supernatural good force, a supernatural evil force, or a supernatural ability (which is really a natural ability we have yet to explain) that is inherently neutral in character. There may be other possible explanations, but these three suit the purposes of this article. In the absence of other data, we can’t conclude one way or the other about what the true origins of the ability are. Consider Jesus of Nazareth. Supposedly he performed numerous miracles in the course of his life including walking across water, raising the dead, healing others, and even coming back from the dead himself. Given the way Jesus lived his life and the work he supposedly did, unless he was duped by the Forces of Darkness, we can probably rule them out as an explanation. Otherwise one must postulate some rather bizarre theory where the Forces of Darkness are interested in doing good for a time. That leaves either explanation one or three. Here, however, we are at an impasse. Were his powers God-given, or was he just a benevolent psychic?
Note, however, what has happened. We have used Jesus’ morality to eliminate one of the possible theories explaining his powers. We would like to make a further determination by referring to his morality, but we just can’t do it. It is impossible to differentiate via hearsay between God-given abilities and those of a benevolent psychic. However, we were successful in eliminating one type of explanation. And we must note that there is still a tendency to look to morality to make further distinctions. This shows that the morality is primary and the miracle is secondary, not the other way around. Typically, miracle workers say “listen to me because I can perform all these great signs and wonders.” But we’ve just shown that the morality has precedence over the signs and wonders. One should listen to a “miracle worker” because he or she is a moral person with something important to say, not because he or she has a bag full of parlor tricks. One could argue that someone like Jesus would be incapable of performing signs and wonders if he or she was not a moral person, but then, how does one explain the dark miracles?
Personally, I think there is no causal connection between morality and miracles. In my experience, psychic phenomena are real. I believe psychic ability is like a skill such as basketball. In this light, Jesus of Nazareth could be seen as a very rare and gifted psychic. He’d be kind of like the Michael Jordan of the psychic world. And someone like me, who has very limited psychic ability would be analogous to a little kid who can barely dribble.
Additionally, contrast miracles with technology. It is conceivable that as humanity explores space, we will encounter intelligent creatures not as advanced as us. To them, our technology may seem miraculous. Does that mean we have the right to tell them what to do and rob them of their right to think for themselves? I don’t think so. Why then do we think one of our own miracle workers should be given such authority, when it is conceivable that in the coming centuries our science will explain the nature of miracles?
Ultimately, I believe miracles will very likely be explained by science. When that happens, the religious who cling to miracles as a source of strength may have to make some serious psychological adjustments. My advice: focus on the morality of a religion, not on its mystery.