A Skeptic’s Encounter with Mysterious Ways

The publisher of Skeptic magazine was touched by events he couldn’t explain…

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Posted in , Oct 2, 2014

Mysterious Ways blogger Adam Hunter

Know your competitors–it’s a rule when launching any new product. Especially a new magazine, in a world where the audience for the printed word seems to be shrinking by the day.

As managing editor for Mysterious Ways, I familiarize myself with other publications that deal with these kinds of stories, and in the course of my search, I stumbled upon Skeptic magazine.

Now, as you can probably tell from the title, Skeptic is a publication that takes a critical eye to the type of story our magazine shares. Our contributors often believe that the incredibly unlikely and powerful events they experienced were the work of a higher power–but Skeptic seeks other explanations.

According to the magazine’s publisher, Michael Shermer, “We investigate claims that are testable or examinable. If someone says he believes in God and he can prove it through rational arguments or empirical evidence... we say ‘show me.’

“If in the process of learning how to think scientifically and critically,” he continues,  “someone comes to the conclusion that there is no God, so be it–but it is not our goal to convert believers into nonbelievers.”

Thankfully, Skeptic wouldn’t be stealing away our readers. It did, however, make me think about Mysterious Ways. I’d always viewed these stories as evidence of a hidden hand at work in our lives. But we’re not talking about something you can weigh on a scale or examine under a microscope.

Our evidence doesn’t add up to an airtight case for God–faith doesn’t work that way. What these stories do is shake up our assumptions of what is “rational.” When that happens, we see room for something that science can never fully explore.

That’s something that happened to, of all people, Michael Shermer, on his wedding day.

One special person was missing from the celebration. His bride’s grandfather, Walter, the closest thing she had to a dad growing up. She was 16 when he died, but when she imagined her wedding, it was her grandfather who gave her away.

He’d been on her mind a lot lately. When she shipped her things to Michael’s house, several of her grandfather’s heirlooms were lost or damaged. One item arrived intact: his 1978 Philips 070 transistor radio. It hadn’t worked in decades. Michael tried everything to fix it, but to no avail.

After exchanging rings in a home ceremony, Michael and his wife snuck into a back room for a moment alone. That’s when they heard music. They searched for somebody’s iPhone, even opened the back door to check if it was coming from the neighbors…

“At that moment Jennifer shot me a look,” Michael recalls. “She opened the desk drawer and pulled out her grandfather's transistor radio, out of which a romantic love song wafted. We sat in stunned silence for minutes.”

Michael’s daughter reported hearing the music play just as the wedding ceremony began. The newlyweds went to sleep with the music playing, but by morning, the radio was silent again. It hasn’t worked since.

“Had it happened to someone else I might suggest a chance electrical anomaly and the law of large numbers as an explanation,” Michael writes. “Yet the eerie conjunction of these deeply evocative events gave Jennifer the distinct feeling that her grandfather was there and that the music was his gift of approval.

“I have to admit,” he said, “it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well. I savored the experience more than the explanation.”

However we choose to explain these moments–it’s clear they have a powerful impact. Enough to make even the publisher of Skeptic magazine wonder…

Got your own story to share? Send them to us at Mysterious Ways–not our competitors.

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