Why are there miracles for Africans but not Americans?

April 6, 2013 • 10:03 am

Inquiring minds want to know. All over Africa, the Lord performs miracles on a regular basis, including healing of the blind and lame—and even resurrections! But here in the U.S.? Not so much. In fact, beyond the quotidian Jesuses in tortillas and tree stumps, I haven’t heard of a good old-fashioned miracle in ages. No Fatimas, no sun spinning and dancing in the sky, no amputees with regrown limbs.

On the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson explains why. It’s because Americans are too sophisticated, scientific, and secular. God does miracles only for the “simple and humble” people who live “overseas.” Watch and laugh:

The transcript of Robertson’s words below is taken from a short essay in The Atlantic by Heather Horn, “Why are there so few resurrected corpses in the United States?

Cause people overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools! [chuckles] Well, we’re so sophisticated. We think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that say god isn’t real. We know about all this stuff and if we’ve been in many schools, the more advanced schools, we have been inundated with skepticism and secularism. And overseas they’re simple, humble, you tell them God loves them and they say “okay he loves me.” And you tell them God will do miracles and they say “okay, we believe you.” And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.

What an incredibly pretentious and condescending piece of tripe!  I’d belabor it but, really, attacking Pat Robertson no longer counts as serious criticism of religion. The man is simply addlepated, good for a few laughs but that’s about it. Does any religious person still take him seriously?

In fact, Robertson’s argument is the wrong way round. Presumably God should perform more miracles in the U.S. to convince all those sophisticated nonbelievers of His existence.  But Robertson unwittingly gave the real answer to his question in his last three sentences. Credulity.

Heather Horn shows why Robertson’s data are in fact wrong:

I suspect United States is in fact ahead of the African nations in bringing the dead back to life. It’s hard to find a good estimate of how many bodies are resurrected in the U.S. each year, but let’s go with this vastly oversimplified figure: 92,000. 92,000 is the number of people the American Heart Association estimates are saved in the U.S. each year after their hearts or their lungs have stopped moving, i.e. by CPR. Or let’s go with a percentage: 45.3%. That’s the success rate in the bottom-quarter of American hospitals in a 2012 study in restoring circulation to a body whose heart has completely flatlined. 14.5% of the bodies treated managed leave the hospital. And that’s in the hospitals with the lowest performance. Wait till you see American rates for getting the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Horn reaches an accommodationist conclusion: faith and science should work hand in hand, and Robertson should give God some credit for those people revived by CPR, and for the curing of polio and leprosy.  Horn doesn’t realize, though, that then he’d also have to give God credit for killing all the people in the Indonesian and Japanese tsunamis.
There are only 9 comments at the Atlantic site; here’s one:
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43 thoughts on “Why are there miracles for Africans but not Americans?

  1. This reminds me of years ago when I was reading Edward Gibbons monumantal Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He posed the question: why was it that miracles happened in the past, but not in his own time. Of course, his conclusion was that they never happened, and that accounts were simply passed down by the credulous.

  2. I suspect United States is in fact ahead of the African nations in bringing the dead back to life.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. One of the things our fancy book-learnin’ tells us is that people are not dead when “their hearts or their lungs have stopped moving”. That’s the whole point of CPR: to keep live people alive, not to bring the dead back to life. Misrepresenting the facts in such cases does not help us combat the ignorance of the Robinson brigade.

    1. I would agree with you about those revived in hospitals not being ‘dead’, but in fact I suspect many of the African ‘miracles’ were exactly the same case – somebody who was just comatose and who spontaneously recovered.

    2. Too true. Not only are the ignorant eager to misunderstand normal resuscitation as death and resurrection, but they will watch the medical professionals do their jobs…and then give god the credit.

      See: Biography’s lamentable series “I survived: Beyond and Back.”

  3. Wrong is right. Horn is over enthusiastic.

    “On average, only 5–10% of people who receive CPR survive.”

    WebMD Medical News. “Real CPR isn’t everything it seems to be”. Retrieved 2007-06-13.

    See also Wikipedia.

  4. ‘Why are there miracles for Africans but not Americans?’

    That’s easy.

    It is the same reason there are child witches in Africa but not in America.

    People take their Christianity more seriously in Africa.

      1. I find myself clapping and shouting “good answer, good answer!” as if caught in some malevolent dream of some cyber “Family Feud.” And the Spring Madness hasn’t even gotten good and started!

  5. Hector Avalos, in a 2004 debate with Wm. Lane Craig, said that as a Pentecostal preacher, he had people raised from the dead in his own church.

    I’m not sure it’s America vs. Africa as much as skeptical vs. credulous.

    1. Reminds me of a debate I got into over a”resurrection” by William Marrion Branham. Branham witnessed an accident and chose to drive the boy to the hospital. On the way, the boy died, Branham

      1. …continued… (sorry, fat fingers) Branham prayed, and the boy open his eyes. So I asked how did they know the boy was dead? “Branham couldn’t find his pulse.” Who couldn’t find it? “Branham.” Did a doctor witness this? “Just his wife and driver.”

  6. I see Pat and hear, “How simple do I have to make this? It’s all a giant con! I’m a charlatan and you “believers” are all rubes. Could it possibly be any clearer? *smirk* “

  7. I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forget their use.
    ~ Galileo Galilei

  8. Pat Roberston on religious con men, with no apparent sense of irony:

    Ladies and gentleman, beware of these scamsters — especially scamsters in religious garb — quoting the Bible. I mean, run from them. They are all over the place.

  9. Mortality is 100%.

    Even if corpses were resurrected, they would be granted only a temporary reprieve: a stay of execution. Not even the most ardent believers claim that Lazarus went on to live ad vitam aeternam in this vale of tears. So what’s all the fuss about resurrection miracles?
    For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath.

  10. I disagree. From what I read, it is a miracle that people like Robertson can find the hole in their face that food goes in on a daily basis, such is their level of intellect.

  11. What I smell in this particular slice of smarmy nonsense is racism, pure and simple. Robertson’s application of the terms simple and humble to Africans is just a retread of Uncle Remus and Aunt Jemima or any other condescending, demeaning, paternalistic black skinned icon you care to name.

    [Re-reading the quote, I see that Africa isn’t mentioned explicitly but I’m pretty sure that’s what this old gas bag means.]

  12. Religion needs both the stupid and the clever. The clever need material to shape, and the stupid need direction and cohesion.

  13. And overseas they’re simple, humble, you tell them God loves them and they say “okay he loves me.” And you tell them God will do miracles and they say “okay, we believe you.” And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.

    As John Hodges has written, in religion “Faith is believing what you are told. ‘Being good’ is doing what you are told.” It is a world view made for small children.

    If God loves the simple, then why does God get so upset when people follow false religions, fake prophets, and phony spiritualities? After all, the faithful will toddle after anything shiny. God doesn’t want them too bright themselves.

    I also think it’s more than a little strange that Robertson seems to accept the claim that in Africa those who believe in Christ have successfully managed to raise the dead.

    What? Really? Did he not think this noteworthy enough to either do a show on it — or declare that the Messiah has returned?

  14. Maybe it’s because people in the USA have caught on to the phony faith healers and realize there are no miracles? According to Pat’s bible all it takes is faith, praying and believing that you will receive what you ask for—even moving a mountain. And note it does not depend on the faith of the person who is being prayed for or about—it can be an inanimate object—but faith by the one who is praying. There’s a story in Pat’s bible where Jesus curses a fig tree because he’s hungry and the poor fig tree doesn’t have any fruit on it. The tree withers immediately, Jesus’ disciples are amazed and ask how it happened. Jesus replies

    Matthew 21:21 )NIV) “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

    So, come on, Pat, astound us skeptical Americans: curse a few fig trees, move a literal mountain, then raise some dead people and get James Randi to verify your miracles. According to the bible all you have to do is pray and believe because it doesn’t matter if we’re skeptical.
    (Lilburn Lowell Decker 04-06-2013)

  15. I’d just like to note that secular France has the number 1 rated health system in the world. Highest success rates in survival for various diseases. That includes treatment for Europe’s largest Muslim population- and not a small population of Jews.
    Not too many protestants, though- maybe they’re the ones god doesn’t like! 😛

  16. “Why are there miracles for Africans but not Americans?”

    Because God hates Americans? ; )

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Besides, you have UFO’s instead).

    1. Actually, I think Pat Robertson explained it quite well and he’s dead right. So long as you take ‘simple’ to include ‘ignorant and superstitious’ and, of course, put ‘miracle’ in quotes.

      Gave me a chuckle, though.

    The Guardian has just published a surprisingly sane feature about CPR specialist Sam Parnia:

    (Even though the “Lazarus Effect” moniker is corny.)

    Notable quote:

    Does he have a religious faith?

    “No,” he says, “and I don’t have any religious way into this. But what I do know is that every area of inquiry that used to be tackled by religion or philosophy is now tackled and explained by science. One of the last things to be looked at in this way is the question of what happens when we die. This science of resuscitation allows us to look at that for the first time.”

    1. I’m not so sure about the “sane” part. Parnia insists on calling people “dead” even as he takes measures to keep their brains alive and oxygenated. And he openly flirts with mind-body dualism as an “explanation” for NDEs:

      …we might justifiably begin to conclude that the brain is acting as an intermediary to manifest your idea of soul or self but it may not be the source or originator of it…

      1. Perhaps I should have qualified the attribute “sane” in relation to The Guardian’s recent fare.

        Regarding Parnia’s view of NDEs, I’d be wary of dismissing him merely based on a fragmentary newspaper interview, especially one in the Guardian. I’m not entirely sure what he’s hinting at, but what little is rendered here reminds me of ideas formulated by Roger Penrose. They have not achieved traction in the mainstream, and they may yet turn out to be completely batty, but Penrose is certainly no dualist (and certainly not religious to boot).

  18. Asking “Why do miracles happen only to gullible and superstitious people?” is like asking “Why do flying purple elephants covered in diamonds only appear to people high on LSD?” Nobody would answer the latter question by proposing that the elephants only wish to reveal their existence to open-minded free spirits, but when confronted with the former question, many people will do whatever mental gymnastics they need to to preserve their absurd faith. Another sad testament to the brainwashing power of religion.

  19. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate back in 2010, called Pat Robertson an “evil moron” after his comments on the earthquake in Haiti. He’s a complete fruitcake!!

  20. If Christians in Africa testify to the existence of amazing miracles, Westerners accept that.

    If Christians in Africa testify to the existence of child witches , Westerners reject that.

    Why the double standard?

  21. As has been pointed out in these comments; if you have a mind that trusts absolutely and faith beyond question, there is little a determined human brain cannot do. There just not so many of these brains running rampant in America. On that note, I have tried to convince people that the Church should build a water park at Lourdes. That way those in need of a cure could float along on intertubes and those that brought them can have some fun, too. I think it’s a gold mine no one will consider exploiting.

    As far as raising the dead, I studied in some detail what Science and Medicine believe to be the actual moment of death. The number of people who have ‘awoken’ suddenly, even if the brain shows no activity and nothing has been done to revive them (although most are on life saving machines because the body parts that can be harvested are in a much better state.) What all the ‘experts’ had to say is that it is a ‘process’. Possibly one of my favorite quotes not attributable to Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain.

  22. This is a science web-site so why not be accurate medically. People who are brought back to life are not flat-lined nor have their hearts stopped moving. Those people are irreversibly dead.
    CPR keeps blood circulating until electronic defibrillation converts arhythmia into sinus rhythm. In order to be revived the heart must have activity and in almost all cases is in ventricular fibrillation an ineffective and uncoordinated contraction of the heart muscle. No flat-line, no stopped heart.
    It is amazing how often the meme is used that people say they were clinically dead and brought back to life. V-fib is not clinically dead.

    1. Well, to be perfectly accurate, people whose hearts have “flat-lined” and are immobile are not irreversibly dead…they can be resuscitated, but it usually requires pharmacologic interventions (boluses of epinephrine, atropine, calcium, glucose, etc. until something works or you give up)since “shocking” is useless for a flat-line (despite what you keep seeing in TV shows!). It’s when the BRAIN flat-lines that, as far as we know, things are all over, and irretrievably so. Thus, CPR: Keep squeezing the chest and pumping the lungs so you can keep oxygen going to the brain until the heart and lungs can get back to work on their own again.

        1. I can believe it. That comes in the ‘is it switched on?’ category, I think.

          As I understand it, the heart usually wants desperately to start pumping all by itself. Fibrillation is when it gets out of sync and the ‘zap’ actually STOPS it, after which it restarts all by itself.

          Which led me to ask my cardiologist ‘how do you stop it to operate on?’ (since a moment’s reflection indicates you can’t operate on something that’s going boom-titty-boom). He said ‘we basically poison it’. Has a way with words, does my cardiologist.

  23. The whole issue of God answering prayers at all creates a massive conundrum for theists which I never see mentioned.

    While the typical rebuttal to a character like Robertson is to say that if God performs miracles (by answering prayers), then he must take credit for leprosy, childhood leukemia, etc.

    But if God was to perform fewer miracles among the educated peoples of the world because he chooses not to reveal himself, it means that we have power over God. In other words, just the act of conducting a study on the efficacy of intercessory prayer dooms all of the religious people in the study. Why? Because God doesn’t wish to be discovered so he must NOT heal those Christians in the study. The implication is that the scientist changes God’s mind (i.e. controls him) simply by including Christians in the study because if the scientist had not, God would have healed some fraction of those devout worshippers.

    Anyone wishing to claim that ‘God won’t be fooled by those silly scientist statisticians’ must admit scientists can change the mind of God. Further, praying itself may also change God’s mind. I suppose “Ask and ye shall receive” should have a corollary: “Ask while being observed and ye shan’t.”

  24. Why does God bother with petty miracles like resurrecting corpses or curing the occasional leper when he could be feeding the multitudes of Africa and putting an end to famine? For a deity which managed to cover the Earth with water to several kilometres, just putting an end to those pesky droughts shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it? Or how about eradicating some of those horrible parasites which cause untold suffering? What’s the use of omnipotence if you don’t do something with it? Ah yes, it’s all meant to test our faith.

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