Depending on what side of the religious fence you're on, you can find this book to be either annoying and even offensive, or a great reference book about gullibility, to teach us how to think better. I have to confess I'm in the latter category.
What's often befuddles many devout believers is why someone would even analyze miracles in the first place. After all, life without belief in miracles seems to be empty. What Nickell points out, simply, is that before we jump to conclusions, and impulsively accept a supernatural "explanation" for such phenomena, we should at least take a look at NATURAL reasons why they occur -- or look like they occur. He provides one or more natural, logical reason(s) for every "supernatural wonder" he describes. What he's telling the reader is "Examine and test extraordinary claims". Even religious ones, taught to us by people we admmire. If we don't do that, then we're liable to be suckered into swallowing whole any belief system. And in doing so, we can lose touch with reality.
I don't get the sense that the author is singling out the Catholic Church as an evil entity, or that he's coming down hard, personally, on individuals in that organization. However, he uses Catholic claims of miracles as an illustration of the way in which beliefs, once they're given official sanction by authorities, are easily accepted. He might have used Hinduism, Christian Science, or UFO-ology, for that matter, to serve his same purpose. But traditional Catholicism is familiar to many Americans. For that reader, Nickell gives a different slant on a lot of beliefs they would be already acquainted with. He also aids the non-Catholic believers, and the non-religious, to understand Catholic (and some Pentecostal) miracle claims, in scientific terms. In other words, he scrutinizes them, to see if the claims actually have any common-sense or logical basis, and if there's really any proof to back up the claims. It's up to the reader to decide whether he's made a case against belief. I believe he has, based on his thorough research of these cases. Of course, you disagree. But I would invite you to read what he has to say, and make up your own mind.
As Nickell implies, there might be deception in some of these astounding instances. But that's not always easy to prove. In my opinion, his research has uncovered cases of blant trickery. Other times, from what I can see, they're just deeply-held convictions, in spite of evidence which refute the claims.
His arguments may never sway the most loyal religious folks. That's understandable. Faith is definitely a strong force in an individual's life. One thing is certain: faith in miracles is at least a matter of great sincerity.
But one problem with that sincere exercise of faith, Nickell shows, is that it doesn't guarantee truth. Very well-intentioned believers retain ideas they've held since they were kids. But Nickell's point is that we have to be careful about what we continue to hold onto, and take things with a grain of salt, when we hear about things like weeping icons or healings.
I think that the value of "Looking For A Miracle" is the lesson that faith in supernational powers, and magical thinking, isn't necessary for wholeness and happiness. From his many examples, it's obvious that such faith can instill a feeling of security and love. But Nickell says that isn't enough. He offers a different, more accepting view of life's varied experiences. His outlook, from what I gather, is that one can live in and appreciate the natural world, even with all of our limitations, like gravity, sickness and mortality. So it's a great book for helping us view life as thinking, realistic adults.
If you read it with that thought in mind, with a desire to learn a different point of view, you should get a lot out of it. Highly recommended!