A friend of my wife recently mentioned an anecdote from her life which – at least according to her – is clear (even incontrovertible) evidence for the “miracle-working power of God”.
Several decades ago (when her children were infants), she was supposedly down to her last two dollars, and confronted with the choice of whether to put the two dollars into the collection-plate at her church, or whether to use that two dollars to buy milk for her children.
Predictably (at least for someone who had been brainwashed since childhood, in a specific way), she “chose” to put the two dollars in the plate – thus, tacitly starving her own children, as a result.
Now, here’s where the story becomes inane:
Evidently, this was right around the time of year when it gets colder in PA. The Cold weather caused her to get her winter coat out of storage, and – wouldn’t you just know – she found exactly two dollars, in one of the pockets.
Now, here’s the thing:
When she told this story, it was (as I said) offered as “evidence” of the reality of divine intervention in her life (on a par with other “miraculous” events such as the supposed feeding of thousands, via a few fish, and some bread).
Except, there are serious problems with this:
Last week, my wife happened to be doing some laundry, and stumble across a few dollars which one of us had (inadvertently) crammed in our pockets – most likely when we got “change” during grocery shopping or something along those lines.
I fail to see how the fact that this woman happened to misplace two dollars several months previously – and then stumble across those two dollars exactly when she would be most likely to be wearing that particular coat – is anything other than a fortuitous stroke of “luck” — or more exactly, an instance of her prior negligence (misplacing two dollars) happened to “pay off” later.
Let’s examine this in some detail:
- If she hadn’t happened to stumble across exactly two dollars – while thinking about having squandered what she believed to be her last two dollars – the winter coat “miracle” wouldn’t have ended up imprinted on her mind, even decades later.
- If she had stumbled on a different amount of money, the situation would probably have played out somewhat differently.
Let’s say there had only been forty-five cents in the coat-pocket, instead of exactly two dollars: she wouldn’t probably (correctly) have found this to be no more “miraculous” than finding (say) a crumpled recepts, cough drops, or suchlike.
In Fact, she would probably have failed to even notice the 45 cents, both because 45 cents wouldn’t be enough to buy her children any kind of food, and because she had been stewing on the specific two dollars which she had recently squandered – and (by her own admission) feeling guilty about having done so.
3. It goes without saying that if she had found anything over two dollars, she would have automatically – and reflexively – decided to consider this as a “miracle”.
Thus, if she happened to stumble across (say) a crumpled five dollar bill, or if an acquaintance had happened to decide to pay her ten bucks the acquaintance had borrowed at some earlier time, etc. – the “Miracle” story would have been intact – with only the details (slightly) altered.
Now, what would have happened if she hadn’t happened to find the two dollars – and no other fortuitous happenstance had intervened to enable her to buy her children food?
They would have remained hungry, until such time as she managed to acquire funds/food for them, in some other way.
See, one of the cute gimmicks used by “Believers” is the notion that “God” answers prayers in one of three ways: Yes, No and Wait.
This is convenient for them, because it automatically renders their stories about “answered prayers” incapable of falsification:
If they happen to get something even vaguely approximating the outcome they wanted, then “God” must have answered “yes”.
If they don’t happen to get something even vaguely approximating the outcome they wanted, “God” must answered “no”.
If they happen to get something even vaguely approximating the outcome they wanted – after an arbitrarily-long interval, “God” must have wanted them to “wait”.
In every case, however, the a priori default assumption is that “god answers prayers”.
I honestly don’t know which part of this story is most galling: the level of “magical thinking” involved in mistaking your own (time-delayed) negligence for a “miracle” – or the fact that someone who otherwise at least approximates a sane and intelligent person would willingly forgo procuring food for her own hungry children, and would instead squander the funds by dumping them into the collection-late.
Now, one could make a fairly strong case that anyone stupid enough to buy into the above sort of “miracles” deserves to be fleeced (a la Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker).
To be honest, I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t even bring myself to condemn that sort of thing – stupidity SHOULD have consequences.
I do feel bad for her children, however.
The genuinely sad part is: the woman who inflicted this story on us is otherwise a (comparatively) kindly and (somewhat) intelligent person.
That’s the truly fuck-awful part: it would be easier for this to degenerate into contempt, if it was somebody like Marguerite Perrin, or Becky Wegner Rommel.
The whole thing is just abysmally sad, really.