How do atheists explain Eucharistic Miracles

Unfortunately for the theologian, your statement here is correct. In order to say something is miraculous (a form of supernatural) we must have a method of differentiating that which can occur naturally vs that which cannot. Metaphysically, one cannot say “this cannot occur naturally” as it would require omniscience of nature. We can “infer” certain things cannot occur naturally (resurrections, limbs regrowing, etc.) but we could never say “this could not have occurred naturally and is therefore supernatural”. Otherwise it’s all just inference and whenever these supernatural inferences CAN be investigated we find that the reasons for the event can be explained naturally.

I see no other logical method of concluding things on a supernaturalistic basis as these inferences can easily lead to mutually exclusive supernaturalistic conclusions and is therefore an unreliable epistemology.

Ex. we found a heart cell in this host…therefore Jesus wants us to know he is present in this church VS we found a heart cell in this host…therefore we know Loki is playing a trick on the Catholics

We just have no way of dis/confirming that the conclusion we have come to based on “the unexplained natural event” equals a confirmation for the God we already accepted to exist.

I once asked this question of a Protestant friend of mine and was very surprised when he didn’t even try to deny that such miracles happen, but his explanation for them was that they were the work of Satan trying to trick people into believing a false church. Which, in my opinion, raises a far better question: How can we be certain such miracles really are the work of Jesus and not some other unknown spiritual actor?

I should specify in relation to this particular investigation you are embarking on as per eucharistic miracles. If you are not willing to revise your belief system in this matter, is it worth my time? Since you do not yet accept that a miracle is even a possibility, according to your list of requirements.

Briefly:

  1. No natural explanation
  2. Demonstrates the credibility of transubstantiation
  3. Belief on the testimony of witnesses.

Sure. No particular Eucharistic miracle has a major influence on my life, if you want to compare that point.

In that case, you really do not need to spend any more of your time on this discussion, and I struggle to understand why you find it interesting enough to engage in.

That is a fair point. I am not yet convinced that “eucharistic miracles” are even a possibility because I have not been presented with the demonstration that the supernatural manifests in a detectable manner. I realize that the supernatural is conceptually possible, however, I do not believe it is logically possible as an explanation when we have no method of distinguishing supernatural from unknown natural. The argument for supernaturality on this basis is by definition an argument from incredulity.

On your second point it sounds like your criteria for concluding something is miraculous is the following:

  1. No Natural Explanation
  2. Demonstrates the credibility of transubstantiation
  3. Belief on the testimony of the witness

I would suggest we explore the first number. How did you determine that there is “no natural explanation?”

Miracles can be an edifying way of encouraging and inspiring the faithful to greater acts of love, compassion, and sacrifice, but their purpose isn’t to convince people that may be in a state of rejection, not even Eucharistic miracles.

Human beings are predominately creatures of the passions and if a certain ideology or belief is rejected by a person on those grounds, it can’t be changed through any sort of presentation. The easiest contemporary, non-religious example is climate change: if a person doesn’t want to believe in it because of ideological grounds, then they won’t believe in it and this isn’t something that can be changed through making a case to them.

Peace.

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I’d also invite you to start a new discussion topic if you want to explore a particular Eucharistic miracle in detail.

In order to avoid turning the issue into a semantic technicality or my own subjective knowledge of natural science, let’s forge ahead with you offering a natural explanation for the facts.

Would you agree that if we invoke supernatural phenomena as a possible explanation for this event, there are an infinite number of post hoc explanations that can be used to explain the circumstances?

Naturalistically, I can think of a number of explanations. The one that immediately comes to mind (which turns out to be the most common explanation for these supernatural events) is that it’s mostly an unverified story passed around the catholic community. There are probably kernels of truth in the story, but after a time the legend grows.

I can think of a number of issues related to this story, however:

  1. what was the name of the person that found the host and delivered it to Fr Pezet?
  2. was there anything in the water that he then deposited to the host into that might react with the wafer?
  3. On which date did this mass occur (I would assume Sunday)? The article you sent it was Aug 15, '96 (Sunday), another article states Aug 15 '96 (Thursday). This tells me misinformation is spreading rather rapidly for easily verified information at the time. The person that seemingly gets the date wrong claims to be the investigator on the case personally verifying the information…
  4. Where was this host found? On the floor, in the back of the church, in a candleholder. Various articles describe the events different (links below). More misinformation spreading that was not verified.
  5. On which day was the host discovered to have NOT dissolved? One article says Aug 26, one says Aug 20.
  6. Three years later they send the host in for examination via photographs? Seems like quite a while for cross contamination or other unknown and unverifiable events to happen.
  7. In 1999 they sent the host to Dr. Zugibe for examination and after 6 years he finally announced his findings? It does not take 6 years to analyze blood cells (or heart cells). Also for someone specializing in studying the heart probably could have easily cross contaminated the sample. After 6 years tihs was probably not a priority which tells me he wasn’t taking great care with the sanitization of the sample. Hardly an unbiased researcher having already published works on the efficacy of the Shroud of Turin. No real surprise that his “findings” were that of something miraculous and related to the heart (his two areas of academic focus). I find it very hard to believe that he was studying this communion wafer without any preconceived notions of WHO asked him to conduct his research or WHAT he was studying.

All of these instances come across very fishy to me and create a “cumulative case” (pun intended) to not be reliable. One doesn’t need to necessitate intentional foul play to come up with many explanations as to why this is NOT believable as a supernatural event and far more likely to be explained naturalistically.

*I would also caution against you stating these events as “facts”. We have no verification of these events to conclude they are factual.

Links:

  1. https://emmanuel.info/en/the-eucharistic-miracle-in-buenos-aires/
  2. https://shroudstory.com/2013/09/23/the-eucharistic-miracle-of-buenos-aires/
  3. https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/zugibe-frederick-t-1928

Fair enough, “alleged facts.” I presumed you would accept the report and offer a natural explanation for the event. Otherwise we’re back to “it’s hearsay” and we’re testing the admissibility of the evidence. But you did imply above that regardless of the physical facts, we cannot conclude a miracle unless we somehow have omniscient knowledge of nature (practically impossible). So it seems entirely moot to begin with if you start with that kind of requirement.

For example, assuming the Hindu statues actually did absorb the milk offered to them as reported, there is also a natural explanation by way of capillary action. However, if the consecrated wheat wafer actually did turn into living heart tissue, there is no natural explanation.

I’d recommend this Strange Notions post on why Catholics accept miracles and why atheists don’t. If you are unfamiliar with this site, it’s a Catholic site dedicated to discussions with atheists.

One thing I’ve noticed is that believers approach a miracle claim as true unless proven false while atheists assume it’s false unless and until it’s been proven unexplainable otherwise. Miracles, for atheists, never reach this level of certainty, especially because the chain of evidence is lacking and disinterested specialists are almost never brought in.

My issue with Eucharist miracles that are found to be heart tissue never have residue of host material and access to the evidence is too easily accomplished allowing a switching to take place. The prior probability of fraud is just too high and it only takes one person to commit the fraud. I’d love to believe that no one would ever commit fraud to advance a religious (or any) agenda but I just know that’s unrealistic.

Anyway, the Strange Notions article is a good one.

Yes I think we agree here Neithan. Ultimately, if someone allows in “the supernatural” as an explanation, there is nothing that cannot be rationalized post-hoc via a supernatural explanation. If however, we do not presuppose the supernatural until we have confirmed demonstrable supernatural events, we simply must use naturalistic means to explain things. Otherwise how would you recommend we go about differentiating between the unknown natural vs the supernatural? And how do you define supernatural?

No way of doing this with absolute certainty, of course. While “dark matter” is “unknown natural” because we do not have a physical model of nature to explain it; I would say that some event that upsets areas of nature that appear to falsify otherwise reliable laws would not be “unknown natural” as much as “preternatural” — something else that is not explicable with our otherwise reliable models of nature.

Something which is necessary to explain the existence and operation of nature. This goes back to the cosmological argument; so I would start there if you do not yet accept that the supernatural is metaphysically necessary.

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It is original sin. Atheists do not believe because they do not want to give up their sin.

Eucharistic miracle of Sokolka.

This is off topic but there are plenty of Catholics and Christians who do not want to, and in fact do not, give up their sins. There are many atheists who simply do not have faith, and part of that may be because of significant intellectual obstacles that may have been built up and reinforced over many years of thinking, amounting to practically insurmountable cognitive bias. Many are convinced, because of our methodologically naturalistic education, that nature is uniform and cannot admit the possibility of anything miraculous, it just does not enter their ability to assent to (and least not on their own).

G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were particularly astute at describing this effect of modern education and the “modern mind.”

This old canard is really ridiculous and overused. I don’t know any atheists over the age of about 50 that are atheists because they want to keep sinning. If I became Catholic tomorrow I wouldn’t have to change my current morality a single bit to fit within Catholic morality. Atheists are atheists because they don’t believe in God. Period.

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The difference is that the faithful recognize their sinfulness before God and humble themselves before Him for HIs mercy. We are all not worthy but we humble ourselves in our weakness before God. Those who do not believe in God do not humble themselves or recognize their sinfulness. This is the great deception of Satan.

You do realize that atheists don’t believe in Satan, either?

Do you even know and interact with any atheists? I realize it’s quite easy to demonize any you disagree with but you may just be surprised at how closely your and atheists morality agree with each other…but, then you might have to humble down your opinions a bit!

What strikes me about the Buenos Aires miracle is that I can’t comprehend what the supernatural explanation of the miracle would be. We know that Catholic teaching is that the host retains the accidents of the Bread. Why didn’t this host? Was the sacrament incorrectly confected? If this is a miracle, then it is a miraculous … what exactly?

God loves you regardless if you believe in Him. Satan will destroy you and lead you to hell for all eternity if you don’t believe in him. Atheists do not believe, I get it. That does not change objective truth.

For which we have no objective evidence.

Yes, you are a good Catholic and stick with the Catholic message. Threats of Hell will not serve you, however, in making Catholisism look appealing. A person can not make themselves believe in something which they don’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

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