Do Virgin Births Happen?
Although most Christians hail Mary’s Virgin Birth as a miracle, the fact is that the claim of a virgin birth happens far more often than a mere miracle would suggest. And this is not in 2000 year old books with dubious credibility – these claims are documented in studies completed as recently as 2009. Among 7870 women in this statistical analysis, 45 claimed to have virgin births.
So, they obviously did.
I mean, let’s face it – the evidence that Mary had a virgin birth is, in many ways, far less convincing than the evidence that these women had a virgin birth. For one thing, Mary’s claim happens secondhand and was written down at least around 60 years after the fact; this is coming from the women and was published within months of their responses. And as for copies of these instances – there are many very recent copies of the scientific study (and it is readily available on the Internet) – with many tools to make sure each and every copy is right. Whereas, of the Bible – no copies exist telling of Christ’s virgin birth until over 200 years later.
So by those standards, the evidence is strong. The women had virgin births, and there are about 45 miracle babies walking the world right now.
What’s that you say? You still have your doubts? Why? Do you think the results may be able to be differently interpreted, or that they are somehow unreliable? Worse yet, do you think these women would LIE?!
Hmm…let’s compare notes.
The punishment, according to Old Testament law, for a betrothed woman to have a baby by someone she wasn’t betrothed to was to be stoned to death.
Death. So if Mary had said, “Um, actually I had sex with Philip, guys, even though I’m betrothed to Joseph,” she would probably have been stoned to death. You remember that whole story in the New Testament about the woman caught in the sin of adultery who was getting stoned to death until Jesus came in and was like, “Hey, let him who is without sin cast the first stone?” Yeah. If Jesus hadn’t have been there, the woman could have gotten stoned and would have been completely kosher with the law of the time. So, of course, if Mary had said she had the baby by a man other than Joseph, there's a good chance she would have been killed.
“But,” you say, “Mary still told the truth. Because she was the Holy Mary of God who would never do something like that.”
Fair enough. All I’m asking is for you not to apply a double standard. It’s true that the women who said they were virgins were more likely to have taken chastity pledges – so if they had not been chaste, they probably would get a lot of social backlash and have to endure plenty of shaming. Some people might think this would be a powerful incentive for them to lie. But not you, of course. Remember – you trust Mary, even though avoiding death would be a much higher incentive to lie than a chastity pledge, for most people. So why don’t you trust these women?
Now, you might want to pause here and consider the skepticism you probably have towards these 45 supposedly virgin mothers, and the faith you have that Mary was a virgin. That skepticism you feel – that’s the skepticisim we atheists feel about the virgin Mary’s birth. Oh, it’s an interesting story – but we tend to think it’s fiction. It’s hard to notice that the belief sounds strange if you’ve grown up with it all your life, but when you hear it for the first time, or see how ridiculous it is and then come back to it with more rational eyes…it obviously doesn’t make sense.
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s a man in Australia who says he’s Jesus – that he walked on water, healed the sick, and died for the sins of the world – and is now reincarnated. Now, you probably have your doubts there, too, and rightfully so. What I’m trying to tell you is that this is what our thoughts, as atheists, are like when you say that Jesus raised a man from the dead or walked on water or rose from the dead. It sounds fantastic to us. It’s absolutely bloody incredible to even begin to contemplate – not in an “oh it’s so awesome it happened that way” way, but in a “that doesn’t make sense – give me your evidence” sort of way.
And this is a completely rational stance to take. It seems that Christians resent atheists seemingly challenging their faith and paint them with horns oftentimes, but that doesn’t really seem to make sense to me. Of course we’re incredulous. Of course we’re not going to just take your word for it. Of course we’re going to think it’s a fairy tale, which means we’re generally not going to like it when you enforce its ideals on us.
So don’t look at us as evil people with horns. And if you’re an atheist who asks questions – take this post as an encouragement for you. You might get a lot of flack from people, but keep asking those perfectly reasonable questions. Good sense depends on it – there's no good reason to give undue respect to a lie, and every reason not to.