I watched part of a CNN special called Sole Survivor. It was about individuals who were the only survivors of, I presume, jet airliner crashes. As I watched I heard a few times that it was a miracle that the one person had survived a plane crash. What is miraculous about one person surviving when, say, 199 other persons perished in the crash ? It might be conceivable that it was miraculous if everyone had survived a plane crash, but even in such a case it wouldn't really be a miracle, it would be mere happenstance, i.e., it might seem that everyone surviving may seem to have been arranged, but was really just a fortunate happening by mere chance.
Most people are too quick to invoke miracle when some tragedy occurs wherein only one or two people survive a major disaster. Does anyone remember when that religious loon Wolf Blitzer asked the young woman who survived the tornado if she was thankful to God, and she flustered ol' Wolf when she said that she was an atheist ? She certainly didn't think her surviving was a miracle, she knew it was mere happenstance. Atheists are among the bravest of people, because they know that they live in a world where the majority of people believe in a God who takes care of them, but we atheists know there is no one out there in the beyond watching over us, yet we don't despair. We have not the comfort of an afterlife in heaven, but neither have we the fear of an afterlife of eternal torment in hell. We bravely face reality head on and deal with it the best we can. We refuse to give in to comforting delusions and fairy tales with happy endings. We know that ultimately there are no happy endings, but we accept that without fear, knowing that death is just another facet of nature. Then again, maybe the eternal non-existence that comes with death is itself a happy ending, at least for some of us, since we know that in death we cease to exist, cease forever being conscious or aware.
Tragedy is always a win-win situation for religious people. If only one person survives while all others are killed, it's a miracle. If all survive and nobody dies, it's a miracle. If half survive and half die, it's a miracle more weren't killed.
I like what Bill Maher said about a plane crash once, where only 1 child survived. "It wasn't a miracle. It was god blowing a no hitter in the bottom of the 9th."
Other than one distant - in all ways - sibling, all of my family is gone. The friends of my youth died or dissipated, some due to the AIDS epidemic. One at a time, not a plane crash or tornado. Sometimes I feel like a sole-survivor even though I'm not.
There is an existential fog in that. It's better to me than thinking "I am special! God killed all of those other people but not me!".
In wars, disasters, and genocides, there are many sole-survivors. Among the millions dead. If there was a god in all of that, he's a malevolent, evil, narcissistic, cruel, hate-mongering piece of shit. Not the cuddly character who wraps his arms around a child and saves her in a plane crash.
The common feeling among those who survived the holocaust was guilt at having made it out alive when so many others died—and died horrible deaths. Two authors who survived concentration camps—Primo Levi and Jean Améry—had such a difficult time living with their guilt that they ended up suicides. What is hard for people to understand and accept is the lack of any reason for their own survival when others have perished in a plane crash or tsunami. The notion that it is all really random goes very much against the grain. It means that life is more fragile than we want to believe and that good luck and bad luck are both undeserved much of the time.
When a tragedy happens and everyone dies, no one thinks of it as a miracle. Then one happens and a single person survives, had they died along with everyone else then it would have been one of those non miracle situations, but since they are alive people can pose the question. It is like people who say it is a miracle that the earth is the right size and orbiting at the right distance from the sun etc to support life. If it wasn't we wouldn't be here to pose the question.
Your observations are right on here, Tony. My opinion of what causes this type of thought process involves what we are all taught about self esteem. The biblical viewpoint tells you that "every hair of your head is numbered" so god must think every person is very special. (Religion both builds you up and knocks you down. The individual is nothing and yet everything.) Imagine life as one great big mega dollar movie and YOU are the star! Ultimately every person in that film is the star, depending upon the viewpoint, or whose head consciousness is in at any one given time. What is your purpose in life? What are YOU supposed to do?
When a person thinks like that they leave themselves open to the delusions of religion in any form, so there has to be a "miracle" of survival and not just chance. Religious zealots are produced, but so also are inventors, developers, scientists, etc. Perhaps we need this as a race. Perhaps we need those among us who see pure happenstance as a "miracle" in order to continue our human evolution.
A true atheist sees no "miracles" but just a few thoughts here.