We believe in miracles say 72% of young people

Angel: Lily Groesbeck survived a car crash after a “mysterious voice” guided rescuers to her.

Are miracles possible? According to a new survey, three in five British people think miracles can happen. If so, it could explain the remarkable survival story of baby Lily Groesbeck.

On the evening of March 6, 2015, Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck lost control of her car on a bridge in rural Utah. The vehicle smashed through the rail and plunged into the icy river below.

Groesbeck was killed on impact, but her 18-month-old daughter, Lily, survived. The scene of the crash would not be discovered for another 14 hours.

When police arrived, they did not know if anybody was inside the car, which had come to rest upside down near the river’s edge. However, as they approached, several officers heard a mysterious voice: “Help us! Help us!” it rang out.

They pulled Lily out of the car, alive but unconscious, but her mother was long dead. Where did the voice come from? “It’s a miracle,” claimed Officer Tyler Beddoes.

Later he recounted this tale to CNN, which posted a clip of his testimony to YouTube. Beneath the video many comments also express belief in divine intervention. “It was the mother’s spirit protecting her child,” says one — “this was the work of God,” asserts another.

These people are not alone in their belief. A new survey has revealed that three in five UK adults believe that some form of miracle is possible. Furthermore, 72% of people aged 18 to 24 believe miracles can happen — more than any other age group.

The figures may surprise some, as other studies have reported a fall in religious belief. In 2017, a poll found that over half of the UK population has no religion, and only 3% of under 24’s describe themselves as Anglican.

Miracles have long been a cornerstone of Christian faith, from the resurrection of Jesus Christ to his turning water into wine.

However, they came under sustained attack during the Enlightenment. Philosopher David Hume proposed a naturalist view of the world — that events can only be explained by physical and naturally occurring stimuli.

This view has influenced thinkers like Richard Dawkins, who claims that miracles are simply “coincidences which have a very low probability, but which are, nonetheless, in the realm of probability.”

Are miracles possible?

By God

Of course, some argue. It is arrogant to claim that everything can be explained by science. Whether God intervenes in your life is a matter of faith. But allowing for the possibility of supernatural events, and the notion that nature’s laws can be broken, is sound judgement. Humans simply cannot declare miracles impossible.

Nonsense, others respond. Belief in miracles is an offence to reason and goes against the weight of humanity’s collective experience of how the world works. People who witness “miracles” are often influenced by religious zeal, psychological stress or confused by unfamiliar surroundings. There is always a rational explanation.

You Decide

  1. Do you believe in miracles?
  2. Does God need to exist for miracles to happen?

Activities

  1. In your own words, write a definition of the term “miracle”. Share it with the class and discuss your ideas. How are they different and how are they similar? As a class, can you agree on the best definition?
  2. Watch the top video in Become An Expert. It shows the emergency service workers who responded to the Utah car crash describing what they saw and heard. In your opinion, did they witness a miracle? What precise reasons would you give to back up your opinion?

Some People Say...

“Miracles are not contrary to nature but only contrary to what we know about nature.”

Saint Augustine

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The survey also reports that 43% of people have prayed for a miracle. While a lot of people believe that some form of miracle can happen, many are sceptical of the role of God — 38% of people stated that miraculous things can happen, but that these things are not necessarily related to God. Furthermore, 46% said they did not believe that Jesus Christ performed miracles of any kind.
What do we not know?
What explains the disparity between a belief in the possibility of miracles, and a comparative disbelief in the role of religion. It could be that some people believe that supernatural phenomena can take place in a non-religious way. Others may consider the term “miracle” to mean something extremely unlikely, rather than an event which specifically breaks the rules of nature.

Word Watch

14 hours
Authorities were amazed that Lily survived this long. She was subjected to extreme cold, was suspended upside down the whole time, and had no food or water.
Miracle
Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.”
Clip
Watch for yourself by following the link in Become An Expert.
Survey
Comres poll commissioned by the BBC.
Poll
British Social Attitudes survey. Read The Guardian link in Become An Expert for more.
Anglican
Relating to the Church of England. The church was separated from the Roman Catholic church in 1534 by King Henry VIII, after the Pope denied him his desired divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Theologically, the Church of England then turned to Protestantism.
Enlightenment
European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries which emphasised reason and individualism rather than tradition and mysticism.
David Hume
Scottish philosopher (1711-1776).