Why Skeptics have an Anti-supernatural Bias.

Christians will regularly accuse skeptics with an anti-supernatural bias when they approach the Bible with a bias against believing in the miraculous. They claim we have an anti-supernaturalistic bias. This is true, although such a bias is a conclusion we’ve developed over time.

Most all of us started in the homes of people who believed in the supernatural, however conceived. But the real truth is that we first started out with an anti-superstitious bias. We rejected superstitious beliefs. I think most all modern educated people have such a bias, even if there are probably exceptions. Although, before acknowledging these exceptions I would want to know of their education before I could judge whether or not they are truly educated (which is why we have accredited schools).

According to Microsoft Encarta, Superstition is “a belief or practice generally regarded as irrational and as resulting from ignorance or from fear of the unknown. It implies a belief in unseen and unknown forces that can be influenced by objects and rituals. Examples of common superstitions include the belief that bad luck will strike the person in front of whom a black cat passes or that some tragedy will befall a person who walks under a ladder. Good luck charms, such as horseshoes, rabbits' feet, coins, lockets, and religious medals, are commonly kept or worn to ward off evil or to bring good fortune.”

The Christian, however, has his bias too. He approaches the Bible with a supernaturalistic bias, a specifically theistic one. And with such a bias he concludes that the miracles recorded there really happened in history.

So how do we decide which approach, which bias, and which set of control beliefs are preferrable when looking at the Bible? That’s the whole question! Why? Because the set of control beliefs we start with when looking at the Bible is the same set we will usually come away with. It’s a strange dilemna, correct?

I think I have better reasons for starting with my control beliefs, presuppositions and biases. For me it's all about seeing things differently. It's not about more and more knowledge. It's about viewing what we know in a different light. Let me briefly explain why (a much fuller explanation can be found in my book).

One) I have never seen a miracle, even when I was a Christian. Christians have their arguments for why I haven’t experienced one, but it doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t, and because of this I don’t think one happened in the past either. It is more likely to me that Biblical people were superstitious than that the stupendous miracles took place as recorded in the Bible.

Two) Because of the first reason, I find there is real power in Lessing’s Ugly Broad Ditch.

Three) I believe that the control beliefs a person adopts are the ones he picks up based on when and where he or she was born . Therefore, I am skeptical of any specific set of supernatural beliefs. I believe that religious diversity, along with the many splinter groups of each religion, provides us with a good reason to approach any religious claim with skepticism.

Four) Science has taught us to assume a natural explanation for every event, called methodological naturalism. We who live in the modern world operate on this assumption ourselves everyday. This assumption is the foundation of modernity. We now know how babies are made and how to prevent them; we know why it rains; why nations win and lose wars; why trees fall; why most people get sick and how to cure most of them, etc. In previous centuries people either praised God for the good things that happened to us, or they wondered why he was angry when bad things happened. If they lost a war, there was sin in the camp. If someone got sick, it was because of sin in his or her life, and so on. Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. Because of this, educated people question any unsupported claim. Even Christians do this. The problem is that Christians take the words of some ancient superstitious text as a fact, when they don’t do that with any claim in today’s world. If they were placed back in time with the same mindset they have today, they themselves would ask for evidence if someone claimed an axe head floated, or a donkey talked. But because it’s in the Bible they adopt it unquestionaly, and I find that to be holding to a hypocritical double standard.

Five) Because of reason four, I find it prima facia the case that miracles have a very low degree of probability. Therefore I will need more evidence to believe one took place than there is evidence that one didn't occur. Yet I have all of my waking life as evidence against a miracle happening (see reason one).

Six) The problem of evil. When it comes to theistic beliefs, enough said.