Mark Twain on the subject of miracles.

    “There is nothing more awe-inspiring than a miracle except the credulity that can take it at par.
    – Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1904

5 thoughts on “Mark Twain on the subject of miracles.

  1. “The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive … but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.”

    —Mark Twain, from Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, a Biography (1912)

  2. Quite real. Here’s a relevant passage from Scientific Medicine vs. Theology By George B. Whatley, M.D. published in the April 1999 edition of Freethought Today:

    In all of its fight against the advancement of medical science, the Church was most obstructionist in the field of pain relief and anesthesia. It seems to be a dogma of the Church that people are supposed to suffer because of original sin and God telling Eve in the Bible story that she would bring forth her children in sorrow. Apparently Christ on the cross chose not to atone for humankind’s original sin.

    As far back as 500 B.C. in the time of Hippocrates, opium and hyoscyamus (an extract of mandrake root) were used to relieve pain. While these drugs do not produce anesthesia, they are effective sedatives and are used today in conjunction with anesthetics.

    It is recorded in the history of Scotland that in the year of 1591 a lady of rank by the name of Eufame Macalyane was burned alive on the castle hill of Edinburgh. She was burned alive because while giving birth to her twin sons she asked the midwife, whose name was Agnes Sampson, to give her something for pain. Now, Agnes Sampson, out of Christian love for this suffering woman, must have reported the incident to the church authorities.

    In 1847 a Scottish physician by the name of James Simpson first used chloroform for anesthesia in the practice of obstetrics. Later came ether, nitrous oxide and novocaine. Now we have sophisticated anesthetics but ether and nitrous oxide are often used in conjunction with the anesthetics. Chloroform was discontinued years ago because of its toxic effect on the liver.

    There was strong Christian opposition to the use of anesthesia up to the middle of the 19th century. It was Dr. Simpson himself who started the wall to crumble when he went to the Bible and reminded the Christians that God had put Adam into a deep sleep before removing that famous rib.

    Resistance to anesthesia weakened rapidly after 1853 when Queen Victoria demanded chloroform during the birth of her 8th child. It was about this time that a very charismatic clergyman by the name of Thomas Chalmers began preaching in favor of the use of anesthesia in the practice of medicine—and the sheep followed the shepherd.

    An article in the November 10th, 1997 issue of U.S. News and World Report stated that as late as the 1970s some doctors and midwives’ organizations maintained that the pain in childbirth is a wonderful experience for women.

    Then there’s this bit from UTOPIAN SURGERY – Early arguments against anaesthesia in surgery, dentistry and childbirth:

    During the Middle Ages in the West, the practice of using natural soporifics, sedatives and pain-relievers to ease the agonies of surgical intervention fell largely into disuse. This neglect was mainly due to the influence of the Christian Church, many of whose leading lights were more adept at causing pain than relieving it. Saving the soul from eternal damnation was conceived as more important than healing the mortal body – a reasonable inference given the assumptions on which it was based. Afflictions of the flesh were commonly understood as punishment for sin, original or otherwise. Pain was supposedly the result of Satanic influence, demonic possession or simply The Will of God rather than an evolved response to potentially noxious stimuli. Investigators who aspired to relieve mortal suffering and understand the workings of the body were not highly esteemed. Surgery and anatomical dissection were widely perceived as shameful activities, not least because they threatened the long-awaited Resurrection of the Flesh. In retrospect, it’s clear the theological conception of disease retarded medical progress for generations – no less than the theological conception of mental disorder impedes progress toward a cruelty-free world to this day. Viewing our Darwinian pathologies of emotion as God-given rather than gene-driven obscures how biotechnology can abolish suffering of the flesh and spirit alike. Tomorrow’s genetic medicine promises to turn heaven-on-earth from a pipedream into a policy option; yet if pain is a punishment for original sin, then it is wicked as well as futile to try and escape it.

    It’s worth noting that the last link I provided above has a lengthy and very interesting history of the development of anaesthesia that is a great read for the curious.

  3. Funny: Buddhism begins with the observation that “life is suffering” and yet has no problem with soporifics.  Christianity began with paradise and opposed the relief of pain.

  4. Les: It’s worth noting that the last link I provided above has a lengthy and very interesting history of the development of anaesthesia that is a great read for the curious.

    An interesting read.
    We’ve come a long way despite xianity. smile

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