I witnessed a miracle yesterday. A real one. I was sitting in my favourite coffee shop and pencilling in some edits to my current writing when I became aware of a conversation at the next table. Well, no, not a conversation. It was a monologue with a small audience of wide-eyed, open-mouthed admirers. A bit like some of those adverts for hotel chains in which beautiful smiling mum and kids gaze at smiling handsome dad as he flicks the tv remote while they all recline together on the wonderful family-sized bed.
The speaker was holding her protégées and herself spell-bound as she enthused about the truly amazing wonderfulness of their church. She spoke without even the sort of hesitation which would have been buzzed on Just a minute, and she kept it up until the time they all left when we were finishing our second americanos.
Among all this edification was this: at a recent healing service the healer or preacher or miracle worker or whatever he was announced that he could smell metal burning. Did anyone have any metal implants? 'Yes!' called a member of the audience. 'It's me. I have metal pins in my jaws.' He felt his face and his mouth. 'Oh wow!' he shouted. 'They've gone! They've burned away, I'm healed!'
These people believed this nonsense. They really, truly believed. And that is the miracle which I witnessed. It is astonishing what people will believe when they learn the technique of by-passing all processes of rationality.
I returned to editing my manuscript – a novel about the long and painful journeys of two young women as they struggled to break free of a religion like that.