I am a Christian, and I have witnessed miracles with my own eyes. I have friends who have been healed by prayer and I have witnessed demon possession. How can you, as an atheist, deny that these events happen?
Despite the fact that I'm an atheist, I don't emphatically deny that these experiences happen, although I'm naturally skeptical of miracle claims as many of them are anecdotal in nature. I think I can get to a point of agreement with Christians over the existence of present day miracles and instances of demon possession. However, I will differ with Christians over the cause of these experiences.
When I was a Christian, I had two very strange experiences that could have been mistaken as supernatural occurrences. The first occurred when I travelling with a Christian drama and music team for a year after high school. One night while I was lying in bed, in the dark, I thought I heard strange, guttural voices in the room, talking in an unknown language (this happened during a week of intense 'spiritual warfare’). It was only for a few seconds, but it was quite spooky. Demons, perhaps?
A few years later, when I was at university, I woke up in the middle of the night and 'felt' a malicious presence in the room. I suddenly found that I couldn’t move, and although I couldn’t look around, I could 'sense' the presence moving around me. It was an incredibly frightening experience for me, and when I recounted the story to some of my friends the next day, they suggested that it had been a ghost or a demon.
I now know that it is highly likely that both these experiences were not supernatural, but had entirely natural causes. With regards to the voices: auditory hallucinations are normal and they happen to everyone at some time or another. In terms of my second experience: the symptoms were totally consistent with sleep paralysis, an experience that happens to some people just before they fall asleep or wake up. If I had lived in the Middle Ages, I would definitely have attributed both of these experiences to supernatural causes. In fact, witches or hags were once thought to have been the cause of sleep paralysis.
And this brings me to my point: our increased knowledge of the human body has enabled us to conclude that both auditory hallucinations and sleep paralysis are natural. And likewise with many other views of nature: humans once thought that lightening and thunder were caused by the gods – we now know that lightening is simply a movement of electrons; humans once thought that frothing at the mouth and spasms were signs of demon possession – we now understand what causes epilepsy, and how to treat it.
Humans seem to have the tendency to ascribe supernatural causes to experiences we do not fully understand. As someone once said: ‘magic’ or ‘the supernatural’ are simply synonyms for the word ‘unknown’. Present day miracle experiences that various religions describe might indeed happen, but is it premature to emphatically claim that they have a supernatural cause?