“God answers prayers. Sometimes he answers ‘yes’, sometimes ‘no’, and sometimes ‘wait'”.
The above tidbit of “wisdom” is often trotted out (typically by Fundie Protestants), whenever they end up being confronted with something that a genuinely honest observer would regard as an unanswered prayer:
For the record, the whole “faith moves mountains” and “ask, and it will be given” thing. Keep that in mind.
So, for example: let’s take an example from my own youth.
At one point back during my teens, I used to hang out with a blind guy. For some reason, this guy tended to humor religious types, whenever they did the whole “laying on of hands” thing, or decided to “pray” for him to be “healed” of his blindness.
Now, any sane person would admit – at the very least – that a medical procedure which produced no result whatever – neither improving, nor worsening the “symptom” – had done nothing, and was in fact, exactly equivalent to not doing the “procedure” in the first place.
In other words, TOTALLY ineffectual.
Not with these Fundie, however.
See, let’s assume that their procedure had actually worked, and my friend had “miraculously” regained his vision. (We hear a lot of this sort of “healings” in the Bible – typically involving spittle and mud, for whatever reason).
THAT sort of “miraculous” healing – corroborated both by subsequent medical evidence (say, totally regenerated retinas) and my friend (for example) subsequently managing to get the CDL licence and become a truck-driver – wold be definitive evidence in favor of the efficacy of prayer.
NOT specifically of the underlying Christian theology – but merely of “prayer” being efficacious, as such.
But, what about the fact that every single time my friend allowed these fundies to “pray for” him – he remained blind?
Now, THIS is where that special brand of Fundie “Cherry-picking” and doublethink comes into play:
1. Maybe “God” said “no” (because my friend is “supposed to” continue to be blind – as part of the inscrutable “mysterious ways” of God Fundies are always blathering about.
2. IF my friend (for example) would happen to undergo a medical procedure later in life, which WOULD restore his vision (but which hadn’t been available for whatever reason, at the specific time the Fundie decided to “pray for” healing) — then the Fundie (or any would-be apologist) can simply – retroactively – declare that “God” must have answered “wait”.
There is no possibility of getting the fundie to even entertain the possibility that the “prayer” was ineffective – much less that they should probably rethink their whole underlying theology.
And THIS is what makes the whole fucking thing so insidious:
A popular example of Christian “evidence” is that when you pray and get what you wanted, then God did it. When you don’t get what you wanted, God did that too.
If I point to puppies, sunsets, and other good things in life, the Christian might say it’s because God is a perfect designer. If I point to cancer, tsunamis, and other bad things, that’s because of the Fall. God can’t lose.
When something good happens, that’s God’s gentle and loving hand taking care of his special people. But when something bad happens, that’s God testing us or improving us.
If someone is good, then that’s due to nudging from the Holy Spirit. If they’re bad, that’s their fault.
There’s a snappy answer or rationalization for every situation. If God’s existence is always a given, then we’re going to bend the reality to fit that assumption. But no one approaches truth that way in any other sector of life. We don’t start with an assumption and then try to twist the facts to support it. It’s the other way around: we start with the facts and ask what the most reasonable explanation is.