An atheist is someone who believes there is no god, so the answer for them is very simple. If there is no god then there are no actions of god! There are no miracles.
In the same way, in Buddhism, there is no all-powerful God (there are ‘gods’ in a different realm but they are not the same things as we might mean by God, they are more like ‘daemons’ or ‘jinn’ – just powerful beings who are part of the cycle of life death and rebirth like everyone else). For this reason ‘God’ does not perform miracles, though Buddhists do believe in the idea of miracles – they just don’t think they are performed by God! We’ll look at this later on!
Christianity is built on the idea that God created the world and maintains control over it. The Christian Bible is full of the stories of miracles performed by Jesus, from raising the dead; walking on water or curing the sick and lame. As Jesus was God in human form these are all miracles performed by God.
Hindu Beliefs about Miracles
Hindus believe that Brahman (the world spirit, or ultimate god) is not directly interested in the world, though could perform miracles as he is all-powerful. However, they believe that Brahman is known by many aspects (or avataras) such as Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva and they directly intervene in the world. Thus most miracles will be the work of one of these avataras rather than Brahman. The Bhagavad Gita, for example, is full of the miraculous actions of Krishna.
The Jewish sacred text (the Tenakh, which contains the Torah and other things) is also part of the Christian Bible (Christians call it the Old Testament). Many of the miracles that Christians believe that God performed are also believed by Jews. Jews just don’t believe all that stuff about Jesus! Still, the parting of the Red Sea (for example) is an action of God believed by both Jews and Christians.
The Jews have a special relationship with God, called a COVENANT. God has frequently intervened to help the Jewish people, from stopping the Sun in the sky to help Joshua to parting the waters of Red Sea to allow the Jews to escape from slavery in Egypt.
Muslims believe that only Allah (God) can perform miracles. Whenever any of the prophets, including Muhammad, performed a miracle (Muhammad once made goats give milk to a starving family, for example) this was really the power of Allah working through Muhammad. Muhammad himself has no power. Jesus (or Isa) was also a prophet in Islam and Muslims believe in many of the miracles performed by Jesus, but this is not his power but the power of Allah working through him.
The greatest miracle in Islam was the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, the direct work of Allah, given to the prophet Muhammad.
Sikhs believe in the power of God, saints and prophets to perform miracles but what makes something a miracle is not the person or power that performs it but the fact that it helps people. Miracles are not about proving the power of God; they are about making life better for people. For this reason many Sikhs will count things as miracles that do not break the laws of nature if they bring about great good.
What do miracles tell believers about the power of God?
There are two main things that most of the major world faiths (apart from Buddhists) believe about God:
- He is OMNIPOTENT – all powerful – can do anything – such as breaking the laws of nature.
- He is OMNIBENEVOLENT – all loving – he loves and cares for everyone and so would want to reach into people’s lives and help.
Miracles are a way of proving these things are true about God. He must be Omnipotent if he can stop the Sun in the sky or part the waters of the Red Sea. He is obviously omnibenevolent as miracles help people who are in need. In Christianity the greatest example of this is Jesus, God sacrificed his only Son for the sins of others (see John 3:16)! Clearly he must care a lot about them!