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Charlie has been a member of our household for more than ten years. He’s a handsome gray-and-white male cat, and when we acquired him, he quickly made it clear that he was not our “pet.” We were his servants.


We have fulfilled our duties over the years. He has shown us what food he likes, when he wants attention and petting, and when we should leave him alone so that he can get his necessary beauty sleep, to maintain his regal demeanor.

And then, it happened. Suddenly, a few weeks ago without warning, Charlie stopped eating, or even drinking liquids. He hid in a closet, never came out to demand attention, and his motorboat purring stopped. For two days, we tried to tempt him with treats and goodies, especially liquids. We knew he couldn’t survive long without water.

I feared that he had abdominal cancer, or possibly kidney failure. Finally, we took him to the vet. They poked and prodded, but found no evidence of cancer or any other problems that plague older cats. They thought he might have an infection in his mouth, due to his deteriorating teeth, and gave him a shot of antibiotic, and provided us with some medicine to promote his appetite. I was not optimistic, and did not want him to suffer. He had already lost a lot of weight. If he didn’t improve in a couple more days, we would have to put him down.

At first, we didn’t see much change. He drank a little water, and nibbled a bit at some food, but still spent his day in the closet. And then, on a Sunday morning, I was watching a classical music program on the TV. I went out in the back yard to do some much-needed weeding for a few minutes, and when I came back in the house, the music program had ended, and a TV evangelist was preaching about Jesus. I would have turned it off, but the cat was sitting in front of the TV watching intently. This was not unusual. He often watches the kiddie cartoons that come on after the morning news. I left it on and let him absorb the Biblical quotes, dire imprecations against sinners, and beatific promises of Heaven for the righteous.

Meanwhile, I sat down and started reading the current issue of Church & State, the magazine published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. When the program ended, he jumped on my lap, the first time he had done that since he became sick. It may have been my imagination, but he seemed to have this look in his eyes, as if he had just learned the meaning of life. He nuzzled up to me and purred.

A while later, he went to his food and devoured a whole plate, and demanded a saucer of milk and some of his favorite treats. And then he went into his usual bed and slept for hours. When he awoke, he demanded more food. Over the next few days, he downed plate after plate of food and drank lots of water and milk. He seemed to be completely back to normal, except for the weight loss. Since then, he has regained his weight, and seems to be a happy cat.

Religious believers around the world often attribute such seemingly miraculous cures to their gods. Usually they are talking about humans, though, not animals. I don’t know if Evangelical Christians would try to claim that Charlie has seen the light and become a believer, and that Jesus performed one of his patented miracles reserved for the righteous. Skeptics would point to the medications, but it’s impossible to determine if either, neither or both contributed to his recovery. And, of course, the same can be said for all those other prayed-for miracles that are attributed to the Almighty.

I asked Charlie, but he just gave me a look and a lick.

Bert Bigelow is a trained engineer who pursued a career in software design. Now retired, he enjoys writing short essays on many subjects but mainly focuses on politics and religion and the intersection...

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