In this modern age, an unsceptical acceptance of supernatural events–those which cannot be explained as part of the natural order of things–is less common than it once was. This trend is reflected in the declining frequency of miracle-cures certified by the Medical Bureau at Lourdes. Yet miracles past, and the promise of possible miracles in the present, still attract multitudes of religious pilgrims and tourists to sacred sites all over the world. While the frequency of miracles goes down, the appeal of miracles goes on, and the number of religious visitors has not declined. What role do miracles now play in religious tourism?

The miracles associated with religious pilgrimage and tourism will be distinguished into two categories. Archaic Miracles are those that occurred in pre-scientific, often medieval, times. These often involve very implausible stories, and have the air of folklore and fairy-tales. Modern Age Miracles occur after the development of science and the Enlightenment commitment to understanding things through reason.

This paper will conclude with a ‘compatibilist solution’ between two seemingly contradictory positions–miracles and science. A miraculous event is often taken as one that is contrary to the laws of nature; while religious sceptics reject miracles as unscientific. Yet the scientific demand for complete explanations is too demanding and may be impossible to satisfy. Inspired by a physicist, Marcel Glieser, I explain that there are fundamental limits to our understanding of the universe, which implies that mysteries will always remain. However, an inescapable mystery is no support for supernatural explanations. A modern-day pilgrim need not believe in the supernatural to find meaning in unexplained events, but merely needs to recognise that even ordinary things remain fundamentally unexplained. I defend this ‘wonder of existence’ solution to the problem of miracles, and provide examples, and show how this is relevant to religious tourism.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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