My brother  recently found out I am an atheist and is having a hard time dealing with it. He feels that I am lost and that I am not thinking things through. I just woke up to find I was tagged me in a note on facebook. I will post it below and if anyone would be willing to help me with a well thought out reply to it, I would really appreciate it. (On a side note, he tagged a few other people, one of whom being the pastor I debated a few weeks ago. This should be interesting.)

Science only concerns itself with explaining scientific phenomena. The scientific method is based on the observation of repeatable, measurable
events. Any event that is neither repeatable nor measurable is of no
interest to science since theories can not be developed nor validated
for events that can’t be duplicated, predicted or measured. But, what
happens to the stuff that science can’t explain? Miracles. Things that
only happen once, often not caught on camera, but in unexpected times.
It’s funny that people who experience such events can’t explain them,
nor can science. But if science requires repeatable, measureable events
then what is it? If this event violates the rules of cause and effect,
but undeniably happens, what can it be? Does this mean that proven
science is true, but only within its limited scope, and that there are
things beyond which science cannot go. The existence of miracles, or
just one miracle, will never be proven by scientific method. Its funny
though if it happens to you in is a miracles, but if it happens to
someone else, there has to be a natural cause behind it. Couldn’t this
be part of God’s plan? By God’s existence not being proven by science,
or by natural cause, it makes us rely on faith. By not having faith, we
only have fact, and faith in fact is truly important to God’s plan.
Some Christians I know have spoken movingly of a personal miracle that
convinced them that God exists, and that he loves us. For them, this is
the single event, an effect without any possible cause, that
demonstrates that science is true but incomplete, that there are
phenomena that lie outside of science, that there are events that are
neither repeatable nor measurable but still very real. They are lucky
indeed, but as Jesus said, “Even better blessings are in store for
those who believe without seeing. Of course, for Christians, we all
have one miracle that is very personal and very universal at the same
time: the risen Christ. This too, is unconvincing as scientific
evidence, and has been explained away countless times. But for those of
us who have experienced this truth personally, if no other miracle ever
occurred, it is all the proof that we need.

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I could do that, but that wouldn't prove to him that I think things through and that I didn't become and atheist for emotional reasons, but rather for intellectual reasons. Also, in his post he is making the claim that science cannot say anything about miracles, but this statement is fundamentally flawed because if the event happens in the observable, natural world, then it can be tested and science can make a claim about it. I'm just not sure how to formulate a rebuttal based on this statement.
The James Randi foundation has put up a $1,000,000 reward for anybody that can "show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event."

To date, nobody has claimed the prize.
I thought I had heard some of this before...
There really is no "winning" an argument with someone who believes in supposed miracles, because he is debating from a position of belief. And belief by it's very nature needs no supporting evidence, no rational thought process. Religious thought, if viewed clinically, would be defined as delusional.

And why does someone who believes in miracles, like your brother, need proof of a decision you made about your life? Try telling him you have "seen the light"!

Also, a perceived miracle my not be repeatable within a human lifespan but given an infinite time line and all possibilities may come to pass. Life is bigger and more variable that a human mind (at this stage in our evolution) can fully comprehend. "Miracles" are nothing more than undiscovered science.

And check this from NPR: Passover Miracles Meet Scientific Explanations
Every miracle, too, has a rational explanation. Until I see a documentary and video footage of an amputee regrowing a limb after prayer, then I'm not convinced. Even then, we might one day reach a point in medical science where we can regrow limbs like salamanders. Then where's God now?

What's so miraculous about people praying to God for a baby to survive a terrible disease only to see that baby die while they say "Well this was also part of God's plan"?
Miracles actually work more against Christianity than other religions.
The Abrahamic flavors are one of the few that claim to be the ONLY god/(s)
So what happens when a Hindu experiences a miracle?
Either THEIR god/(s) were responsible, or the Christian god/(s) intervened with the result of further solidifying that person's devotion to Hinduism. Wouldn't that mean the Christian god actually WANTED them to be more devout Hindus?
Better yet, what happens when a good, upstanding Christian DOESN'T experience one in a time of need?
That is what irks me the most.
Experiencing a miracle isn't about god's love. It's about divine intervention. It means the person whose life was altered by god was apparently so important to his master plan, that the lord had to come down here personally and defy the laws of reality to put them on the right track.
This whole mindset stinks of elitism and feeds the human desire to feel important. In fact, it feeds it to such an extent that all natural explanations will be dismissed. It's also always confined to a very small, select number.
How come god doesn't work on the large scale?
I want to see a REAL miracle. No more of this 'I was saved from a falling tree' bullshit.
I want to watch a tsunami slam across land and leave absolutely no injuries or deaths for that entire country.
I want to see the victims of the Haitian earthquake raise from the dead and go about their lives like nothing ever happened.
Is god too busy saving cats in trees and appearing on burned toast to accomplish these things?
By putting faith in a select number of miracles, you are in fact dismissing the validity of other people that needed one, too.
Just because Uncle Harry survived his liver operation does not mean god has a special plan for him.
It just means Uncle Harry is a mean old coot and too crotchety to die.
that the lord had to come down here personally and defy the laws of reality to put them on the right track.

So what's this about God being all powerful? Wouldn't you think that a perfect God wouldn't allow chain events to "get off track"?
The thing about "miracles" is that people ascribe events to being a miracle far too easily. What seems like a miracle to one person is just a low probability event. Consider this: a one in a million event happens to more than 6,000 humans - is that just a low probability event or a miracle for each of those 6,000 folks? Consider the incredibly unlikely fact of your own existence. Imagine the odds of that particular sperm that became you reaching that egg - what if your parents had waited 10 seconds? Or decided to get some sleep instead? Or what about your grandparents? Or if your dad had stepped in front of a bus when he was a kid? Or if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs had missed Earth that day? Looked at in this way your existence is an impossibly unlikely occurance! But you are here, so in reality, P(you)=1.0. You do exist so you can exist.

You are using repeatible in a somewhat incorrect way. What you might not be able to repeat easily might still be repeatible given a larger sample size or a better experiment. And just because a witness said it happened a given way doesn't mean it did - eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable and are subject to modification & interpretation, often based on hearing other accounts of an event. Apparently independent accounts can be quite dependent!
The biggest flaw in his argument is the assumption that there ARE miracles. Sure, they're by definition not repeatable, verifiable, etc. But he gives absolutely zero reason for you to believe that such an event has ever happened.

"The personal miracle of Christ" is just word play nonsense. What does it even MEAN? That a God (that he can't prove exists) punished all of humanity for the sins of his original creations (who we can't prove exist, nevermind the injustice of all humanity paying for the price of 2 people, who just acted out the behavior God wrote into them). In order to relieve said punishment God (who doesn't exist) sent his son (who was God himself, and also isn't proven to have existed) to die for us (but come back to life, so PSYCH! on that whole dead thing). I still haven't ever gotten a satisfactory answer as to why Jesus' sacrifice, even if it was permanent, would have any bearing on our punishment. If I murder my brother, and my sister goes to jail for me, does that actually alleviate my obligations to society for my "sin"?

I don't need something to be repeated to believe it happened. However, if I can explain the effects with scientific reasoning, I'm not going to believe any superstitious explanation for it. As Christopher Hitchens says, any claim asserted without evidence can be as easily dismissed without evidence.

It is not the skeptic's responsibility to DISprove miracles. It is the responsibility of those making extraordinary claims to provide extraordinary proof.

I have no need to convince the believers that they're wrong. They believe what they do because of whatever life has dealt them. My life has dealt me events & evidence that do not support the idea of a supreme being. But, just because my scepticism does not bear any weight to dissuade them from their beliefs, they cannot expect their personal experiences to bear any weight to change my mind.

All I ask from the faithful is that they let me have my unbelief in peace. I won't shake your world by telling you you're wasting your time in church, if you don't tell me I'm going to suffer for eternity for not paying lip service to an entity I can't believe in.
Every "miracle" is just something that science HASN'T explained, not something that science CAN'T explain. A true miracle is the suspension (or outright defiance) of the natural laws of the universe; in short, there is no such thing as a true miracle. If there is a God, then he evolved and he exists within the laws of the universe. If Jesus rose from the dead then he did so by a scientifically explainable means with which we are currently not familiar. If there is an afterlife then it is a NATURAL phenomenon!

Those are a lot of "if" statements, not a single one of which has a shred of evidence to even suppose that they might be the case. For me, this argument wouldn't even be worth having. Miracles are nonsense and, by their very definition, CANNOT occur! The fact that people claim "personal experience" with miracles only means that they have experienced something that they lack the knowledge to explain, NOT that there is no explanation besides hocus pocus.

It's the same old argument from ignorance and it is impossible to argue against because it's not an argument! It's like a little brat's favorite game that he made up and loves to play because if you ever start to win, he'll just change the rules to make you lose. How can you argue with "there is no proof because God doesn't want it that way, amen?"

It's nonsense, plain and simple.
I love that your brother is so concerned that he copy and pasted an article. He can't even articulate why it bothers him. This would be my point of attack. He's admitting a weakness and I'd expose it. This is a response assuming that he's directing it at you. There's a "You're so vain" attitude here so only use it if you are sure. I don't even know that I would respond to it myself unless it's directed at you. I can't see much good coming from it.

What are these single events that are unexplained? Do you have an example? I would suspect that if you accurately lay out the scenario, science can address nature. If you can provide an actual example instead of an ethereal non-existent example, I'd be happy to work with it.

Saying that someone had experienced a miracle third hand doesn't implore me to find credibility in the content of the claim. give me an example. Again, without a claim being made accurately, I can't address it. People talk about the miracles of God whenever you can't see them but only infer them. This is why I love the question, "Why won't God heal amputees?"

Science has made your life better in many ways, You accept it everywhere except where it challenges your desire for an afterlife. It's not my, nor sciences, fault that claims of stars being small enough and close enough to have 1/3rd of them cast to the surface of the earth by a flying dragon's tail doesn't wash (Revelations 12:4). I didn't write the book. Nor did I claim a genealogy line shorter than agriculture or Damascus' existence. Science only addresses the facts and it's left to you put the pieces together. Sadly for the case of religion, your glass has been reduced back to sand and you are left without a tenable solution.
Perhaps your brother can give an example of something science cannot explain, where "God did it" is a better answer than, "we don't know... yet."

I can think of at least one event that can't be duplicated that science is INCREDIBLY interested in. It's called The Big Bang Theory. Many scientist have devoted their entire lives to studying this theory, and we are understanding more and more of it each day.

What your brother calls "miracles" I would call something that either nobody has tested scientifically, or that our current scientific understanding cannot yet explain. I say, "cannot yet explain" because it really wasn't that long ago in human history when people thought the sun revolved around Earth, and that an eclipse was a sign from God to sacrifice a virgin. We now know the exact cause of eclipses, because scientists worked to find an explanation for them while religious zealots were sharpening their knives or bowing their heads and scraping their knees.

There are things beyond which science cannot CURRENTLY go, and the world's major religions would prefer to keep it that way. This is exactly why scientists have been branded as heretics and murdered in the past.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has offered a $1,000,000 prize "to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event." To date, no one has even passed the preliminary tests.

When something happens to me that religious people could possibly interpret as a miracle, I think "WTF was that? I'm going to try to figure out what happened." I don't fall on my knees and start praying - I to try to find an explanation. In short, I THINK!!

The idea that a supreme being would make human beings with flaws so he can torture them for eternity is abhorrent. It flies in the face of what would be described as an "all-knowing, all-loving God". If he's all-knowing he would know exactly how we would turn out no matter what happened to us along the way. If he's all-loving, he would forgive us for anything and everything we do. I think Epicurus summed it up best when he said,
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

Your brother wrote, "...there are events that are neither repeatable nor measurable but still very real." They are very real to the person experiencing them only. Such "events" have lead many a believer to commit acts of atrocity. A quick search on the Internet will display thousands upon thousands of cases of murder, committed by people who honestly believed God told them to kill.

How could your brother have "experienced this truth [Jesus' resurrection] personally"? Was he there? What "proof" is there that it actually happened? Can he "prove" that David Koresh wasn't really the son of God? Can he "prove" that I don't have God locked in my invisible dungeon, doing my own personal bidding? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Lastly, you might want to ask your brother to read this: Have him give you an honest answer to ALL of the questions in it. Make him explain why he believes it if he says he does. Don't let him just say "yes" without thinking about it and investigating it himself.

Best of luck to you!


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