Tim Minchin thanks God…

There has been some discussion in a group I belong to on facebook about this video from Tim Minchin, including quite a bit of suggestion that Minchin was being arrogant and bullying.

Oh dear. Let me preface this by saying that I’d dearly like divine healing to work, and I do pray for it on occasion. But I don’t believe it does, at least not in the simplistic sense which Minchin’s Sam was clearly suggesting. Even trying the conventional “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief”.

I have seen a few apparent cures myself (all for relatively minor ailments), but *massively* more cases of no cure at all. Notably, perhaps, none for anyone in my family or who I care about deeply.

There are, of course, all the factors Minchin mentions which can skew reports of cures, but above and beyond that, in order to say “God caused this to happen” we would need to see something at least approaching correlation, and we don’t. The results of attempts by scientists to demonstrate a statistically significant correlation are, to say the least, disappointing.

At best, one might say that perhaps, just perhaps, God might work *with* some other factor or factors, and without that (or them), nothing will happen. That is probably not, so far as I can see, the level of belief of the person cured or of those praying – I’ve seen too many cases of rock-solid belief producing nothing, and a few of at best lukewarm belief apparently producing a cure to accept that – and I don’t like that explanation for practical purposes, because it tends to end up with blaming the victim. (I will mention that a reasonably positive outlook of the sufferer does seem to have some effect in recuperation rates and perhaps on illnesses with a track record of remission, to be fair).

There is, of course, the possibility that what is needed is one or more human beings with a healing talent (possibly in combination). Some of my friends, mostly in the past, have been entirely convinced that this occurs (and some of those haven’t believed that prayer is of any assistance, but still report some positive results – or, of course, pray to “the wrong God”). I can’t say I’m convinced by that either, but if there is to be an effect at all, and if God is remotely reliable, some combination of people seems the only possible route.

Otherwise, if cures *are* the result of divine intervention, God is totally capricious and arbitrary. This is not what I understand God to be, but it may be that that is what is effectively being said. Were that to be the case, I would have to re-examine Gnosticism, and probably conclude that the interventionary God was the demiurge and so a created usurper of God’s position.

Back to Mr. Minchin. Yes, he comes over as somewhat arrogant, I suspect because “Sam” is not one incident but many – but what of “Sam”? He expects Minchin to be convinced of the existence of God on the basis of one hearsay report, assuming, possibly (and if so with little regard to knowledge of him), that Minchin is too polite to suggest that he may be mistaken or worse. And extremely ill-informed and/or gullible.

I’ve had a number of “Sams” talk to me in similar terms, and have some difficulty not giving them a piece of my mind, and I actually believe in God (for some value of the term, not including a supernatural theist one). What I actually do is concentrate on the positive; it’s great that X has been cured, let’s thank God for that (not sarcastically, like Minchin, but genuinely). And move on.

Back in my atheist days, I’d probably have been a LOT ruder than Minchin… but that was before a mystical experience left me with a compassion overload and over 50 years to mellow a bit.

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