Miracles and Evidence Index
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

Strong Centralized International Churches are Impossible
But the Catholic Church Exists
So God Exists

Monarchs and other autocrats normally do not want to share the allegiance of their subjects with a religious leader beyond their country's boarders. Recent examples include, Saddam Hussein's persecution of Shiite Muslims who were followers of Iranian Ayatollahs and the Chinese government's persecution of Catholics loyal to the Pope.

This has made it very difficult for a strongly centralized religion to hold the allegiance of even two independent countries. In the whole history of the world it is difficult to find any case other than the Catholic Church where a highly centralized religion held the allegiance of the majority, of two countries for an extended period of time. Nevertheless the Catholic Church has held the allegiance of the majority of dozens of countries for centuries on end.

I argue that the Catholic Church can only do this with supernatural help. As I am Catholic I believe the supernatural help comes from God, but this essay simply argues that this is strong evidence that something supernatural is happening.

Democracy, Religious Freedom, and International Religion

One might think that the above principle would only apply to monarchs and not to democracies, but strangely this principle seems to apply to democracies with traditions of religious liberty. Even though I would think a strongly centralized religion could hold the allegiance of a plurality in several independent democracies that respected religious liberty, I have not found any examples.

Perhaps history can explain this anomaly. Before democracy became really wide spread autocratic regimes so effectively prevented all politically powerful centrally organized international religions other than the Catholic Church from developing that we can not find them even though it should be possible for such organizations to exist in democracies that are sufficiently dedicated to religious freedom. Be that as it may, let us continue with my main point.

Two out of three common. Three out of three supernatural?

Before proceeding it should be noted that there are many religious organizations that have had two of the three characteristics at issue. For example, a religion can be both international and centrally organized. Both the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses are examples of this, but to the best of my knowledge neither group ever won the allegiance of the plurality of even one independent country let alone two. As they are politically weak in all countries where they operate, at least I have never heard of Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses toppling governments, they are acceptable to many governments most of the time. I am well aware both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have had their political difficulties, but this was because mobs or governments found their practices, pacifism for the Jehovah's Witnesses and polygamy for the Mormons unacceptable. The governments did not particularly fear them the way they do fear the Catholic Church.

A religion can also win the plurality of several countries if it is not centrally organized, Islam is an example. In the dominate Sunni branch of Islam there is no formal religious structure above the local mullah. To put it in Catholic terms the equivalent of the local pastor is the highest authority. Sure the local Mullah could encourage the Muslims who attend his mosque to revolt against a king, but if there are many mosques in the kingdom it is unlikely that a single Mullah would have enough followers to lead a successful revolt. Unlike a pope safely residing in his own country the local mullah is likely to lose his head.

There used to be a Muslim Caliph, but the Caliph was a political leader not a religious leader. Sort of like Europe's divine right of kings on steroids. Naturally the Caliph ruled only one country.

Islam does not have an equivalent of the pope, or even the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops. Theological disputes are settled, if they are settled, by the arguments among Muslim theologians.

The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church are similar to the Catholic Church from which they sprang. They are both international, a majority of several different countries, and have a central organization but not a strong one. Officially the highest bishop of the Orthodox Church is the Patriarch at Istanbul but his power is very limited, nothing like the pope. The highest official of the Anglican Church is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Recently I read an article about the archbishop's criticism of the war in Iraq and Tony Blair. I have never read about either the Patriarch of Constantinople or the Archbishop of Canterbury interfering in the affairs of countries beyond the one they lived in. Bishop Desmond Tutu was an Anglican Bishop who played a powerful role in South African politics, but he lived in South Africa, not Canterbury, England. Because they are weakly centralized neither the Orthodox Patriarch of Instanbul nor the Archbishop of Canterbury seriously threaten rulers outside the country in which they reside.

Finally, a religious organization can have a strong central organization and the loyalty of much of a single country. The Russian Orthodox Church is an example. The central religious authority can have a lot of power if the King can cut his head off. Kings do not want a religious leader to have a lot of power if the religious leader is safely in another country where they can not be touched.

Religious organizations can naturally have any two of the three characteristics. What takes supernatural support in the absence of democracies with strong traditions of religious freedom is to maintain all three characteristics: (1) international, (2) powerful (the allegiance of a large portion of the population), and (3) strong central organization.

Proposing a statistical measure

To illustrate the point and perhaps make it more convincing to the scientific mind that demands numbers and equations let me construct a number that could theoretically be measured if we had adequate historical records.

If a centrally organized religion had the allegiance of plurality of the population of a country for one year we would give it zero points, two countries it would get one point, three countries, two points, and so on. If it held the plurality of ten counties for ten years it would get ninety points.

If we were to calculate this number for the Catholic Church it would go into the tens of thousands. From my reading of history I think it might be hard to find other religious organizations where the number goes beyond ten. That one religious organization could exceed all others perhaps by a ratio of a thousand to one, and very probably by at least a hundred to one, strikes me as miraculous. It seems unlikely that it could be achieved without supernatural help.

Note that the issue is not that the Catholic Church is the largest, there are more Muslims and even more Sunni Muslims, than Catholics. Furthermore the issue is not that the Catholic Church's score is higher on the statistic just developed. The point is that the Catholic score is probably a hundred and quite possibly a thousand times or more greater.

A comparison of temples and pyramids provides an illustration. A temple dedicated to the famous serpent god of Mexico has about 29 percent more volume than the great pyramid of Egypt. If a follower of the serpent god argued that we should believe in the Mexican serpent god because his temple was 29 percent bigger, the reasonable seeker would find it unconvincing. If the great serpent god's temple was a hundred or a thousand times greater than it nearest completion this might give the honest seeker pause.

Does this prove that the Catholic Church is the true church founded by God? Not exactly. One could argue that the Catholic Church is a trick of the devil, or simply the product of some other supernatural intervention. As I am Catholic I believe that the Church was founded and is maintained by God, but the evidence I am presenting does not prove that. What the evidence may strongly suggest is that the Catholic Church has supernatural support, and that therefore there is such a thing as the supernatural.

Examining natural explanations

What other alternatives do we have. Chance, not likely. That one religious institution would stand out so far from the rest in this way is not likely to be chance. I have taken enough statistics courses to suspect it would be vanishingly small.

One could also argue that there is room in the world for one and only one religion that violates the rule against strongly centralized religious organizations that hold the allegiance of the majority of two or more countries. The reason that one religion, but not several, could achieve this is that the very fact that the first religion achieved it might be considered such a miracle that the first religion to achieve it might so impress people that it could resist the attempts of kings to split it up, but the second religion to attempt it would not seem miraculous and therefore could not repeat the trick.

To some degree this could have some truth. People are impressed by the large size of the Catholic Church. Some people may even be impressed by how international it is, but how many see it as unique. There are many other large, international religions. How many people besides myself have noticed that the Catholic Church has in remarkable degree the three characteristics discussed above? Probably just about no one, so it seems unlikely that this is the secret of the Catholic Church.

Perhaps a better argument would be that other religions simply do not aspire to central organization, international reach, and political power the way that the Catholic Church does. There is a lot of truth in that, but once again political powers have over the years beaten these aspirations out of most religious traditions. Political leaders have tried to do the same for the Catholic Church, but have strangely failed.

In Deuteronomy 29:5 God pointed out the the Children of Israel that in forty years of traveling through the deserts their cloths and shoes had not worn out. Apparently the Israelies had missed this. I suspect that there are similar things going on now. Miracles preformed by God so regularly that we do not even notice them, and even if we do we do not regard them as supernatural. We simply treat them as the natural order.

A new argument, not the only or best argument

Of course God, Christ, and the Catholic Church do not rise and fall on my evidence, either this essay or the other essays I have offered as evidence for God's existence. There is a whole field of Christian apologetics filled with what Josh McDowell calls, "evidence that demands a verdict."

While there are many lines of evidence for God, Christianity, and the Catholic Chruch. Nevertheless, I find it impressive that the mere name Roman Catholic provides a pretty good hint that Catholic Church is what it claims to be. The Roman Catholic Church is Catholic, which means universal, therefore not limited to one country. It is also Roman, ruled from Rome, and therefore highly centralized. So we don't even have to go beyond the name to find a miracle. The suggests to me the generosity of God displays in giving miracles the lead to himself.

While I am impressed by this argument, I am aware that God can address each individual separately as he draws them to his church. As a Catholic one of my principle objectives is to encourage you to pray and search for the truth. So I seek not so much to absolutely prove anything about God, Christ, or the Catholic Church, but to present enough evidence to encourage you to seek, so you may find.

Finally let me note that the above and several of my other essays are on the edge, they are raising new lines of evidence which have not been given offical backing. Who knows they maybe big or they maybe nothing.


Comments and responses

I have contacted a fairly major figure in the skeptics community and asked him to debunk the above material. He was nice enough to comment on it, so first let me repeat my thanks to him for spending some time with my material. Now on to my response

Our skeptic started by saying that there were only a billion Christians out of the six billion people currently living and a lot fewer Catholics than that. This in not relevant to my argument but it is also not correct. There are two billion Christians and one billion Catholics.

He also said that which religion had the greatest score on the statistic I suggested above was not relevant to the existence of God. Yes, that is exactly what I said, a mere first place means nothing. On the other hand, as the Catholic Church has a score which is probably 100 and perhaps 1,000 times greater than any other religion I think that that is at least interesting.

Allow me to provide another example to illustrate this. Suppose an athlete broke the world record for the mile and then claimed that this proved his religion was true. Pretty silly, the previous record holders probably had different religions. Now suppose a runner ran the mile in less than four seconds, sixty times faster than the previous record. You might think it is a trick, he is an alien from another planet, or had demonic help. It would not be reasonable to say, well I guess he is just a fast runner, this proves nothing. At very least it would prove that something other than ordinary human running was happening.

I have written an e-mail back to him but so far there has been no response, not that he has any responsibility to respond, I am sure he has other things to do. It should be noted that he does not concentrate on refuting the claims of traditional religions. His main target is the New Age.

All of this illustrates a basic point. When you find what may be a miracle, no one will necessarily have time to evaluate it. Skeptics frequently make some snide comments and then say they do not have time. I understand their time constraints, but believers need to understand there is no well oiled mechanism that carefully checks and debunks miracle claims. the skeptics often want you to think this well oiled machine exists, but that is simply one of their myths, be skeptical of their claims.

In summary the first skeptic did not provide an argument, perhaps I will have better luck next time. But let me note again it was nice that he spent the time to reply. He has a web site which gets six to seven million hits a year, about eighty times as many hits as I have on this web site. While I was not awed by his arguments, I am awed by his web site's popularity.

A couple of other people have commented on this site. I got a very nice note from what I assume is an Eastern Orthodox believer. He said that the Catholic Church sprang from the Orthodox Church not vice versa. No doubt Catholic apologists could provide a good argument on this point, but as this argument does not have much to do with the argument here I will simply thank him for his note.

Note that I have not really responded to his assertion, he did not make an argument to back it up. This is the way the world works. Everyone is busy and does not give detailed refutations.

Another reader said that the sole reason that the Catholic Church had a majority in the Roman Empire was it was the only legal religion. True or not this has almost nothing to do with the argument in the above essay. My point is that the Roman Catholic Church is a centralized religion that has maintained the loyalty of dozens of countries for many centuries. Rome is only one country and is a tiny part of the over all argument. But I thank the reader for their note.

In summary, there have been a few responses to this essay but no real attempt at a refutation. This is pretty much the way things usually happen.


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Last edited July 10, 2015