The other day I posted a list of the percentage of all Americans who believe various supernatural truth claims of Abrahamic religions. The proportion of Yanks who accept things like a personal God, miracles, heaven and hell, angels, the resurrection of Jesus, and so on, ranges between 54% and 72%. Brits, famously more secular than Americans, usually rank lower (i.e., more rationally) on these polls, but a new study commissioned by the BBC suggests that Brits are more credulous than I thought. Click on the screenshot to see the short article:
The survey was taken by telephone of 2002 British adults in August, and here’s their summary of the results (direct quote):
- 62% of British adults believe some form of miracle is possible today
- Nearly three-quarters aged 18-24 say they believe some form of miracle is possible today, more than any other age group
- 43% say they have prayed for a miracle
- 37% of British adults who attend a religious service at least monthly say they believe the miracles of Jesus happened word for word as described in the Bible
- Half of this group say they have prayed for a miracle which was answered in the way they had hoped
- But 37% of Christians have never prayed for a miracle
I’ll add these data in the article:
- 59% of those who identify as Christian have prayed for a miracle
- Half of those who have prayed (29% total) said their prayer was answered “in the way they hoped.” (That is, God said “Yes” instead of “No,” which could also count as an answer from above.)
The higher proportion of miracle-believers among young folk than adults suggests either that Britain is becoming more religious, which goes against all the data, or that the striplings haven’t yet come to their senses. As for the 43% of British adults who have prayed for a miracle, well, that’s just bizarre.
The article goes on to quote some believers who experienced or accept miracles, but then we hear of an accommodationist Sophisticated Theologian™ who thinks miracles are just metaphors:
Monsignor Peter Fleetwood, a Catholic hospital chaplain in Liverpool, says families will ask him to pray for a miracle to bring someone back from the brink of death.
He believes in those cases a miracle would be a terrible thing because it would be prolonging a life that is already at its natural end.
He also thinks you can be a Christian and interpret the miracles of Jesus in a different light.
He uses the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 – where Jesus fed a crowd with five loaves and two fish, as an example of how spontaneous generosity can cause a sense of wonder.
“One explanation may be that he inspired people to share what they had with them in their baskets,” he explains.
“So rather than magically producing food, it’s making food appear in another way. There are all sorts of ways it can be seen and still be wonderful.”
Well, Monsignor Fleetwood is reading his Bible VERY metaphorically, for here, from the King James Version, is Matthew 14:13-21 (my emphasis):
13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
That isn’t an outburst of generosity! The people didn’t HAVE food with them. They were hungry, and Jesus, after praying to God, miraculously turned two fishes and five loaves into enough noms to feed 5,000 people!
If the good Monsignor thinks that’s just a metaphor, then why couldn’t the entire Bible, including the Resurrection of Christ, be a metaphor, too? (I could argue that the Resurrection was just a metaphor for the spread of Christianity after its founding figure had been killed.) I love to watch these religionists pick cherries from the Bible.