Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Should We Credit God or Simply Change Our Perspective?

Parkside High School 3
Parkside High School
(I don't work here, it's just a nice picture of a high school)
I work at a high school, and school is about to start up again so we are doing our in-service days leading up to next week when the kids return. Part of the first day of this is meeting the new teachers, hearing their stories and telling them ours. One of the new teachers was telling the story about how she got her job. Basically, a series of very unlikely events led to her meeting the superintendent of our district and he encouraged her to apply for the job and she ultimately got it.

She then was telling us she had several potential career paths in front of her and she was having trouble deciding which way she should go and before that fateful meeting she had asked God to open whatever doors he wanted her to follow and close any others. As it turned out, interviewers for 2 other jobs had left messages on her phone asking her to follow up on their application process, somehow she had missed those calls and didn't see those messages until after she had accepted this job.

I've left out any identifying details so the story has lost most of its impact, but it was quite emotional and impressive the way she told it. I can totally see how a religious person would hear this story and think that it is amazing that God has worked in this woman's life to lead her to where she needs to be. There are 2 problems I can see with this point of view though, one is that it is jumping from a coincidence to God, and the other is that she would have attributed any outcome to God.

One thing that is interesting about probably is that really rare things happen all the time. I've written about this kind of thing before, but basically if you have enough people doing stuff some of those things will look extremely unlikely on their own. Hell, people win the lottery all the time. A powerball ticket has about 1 in 175,000,000 chance of winning, so if you buy a ticket you shouldn't expect to win. But if we know that 200,000,000 people are playing, you shouldn't be surprised if someone wins.

So what about this woman? How unlikely was this meeting really? It certain seems like a bit of a long shot. But what about from the perspective of the superintendent? He's a pretty outgoing guy, I bet he talks to people out in public quite often when he is out and about. He was also aware of the unfilled position and it was on his mind, it doesn't seem too unlikely that he would bring it up in a conversation. If he hadn't met her he could very well have run into someone else, or maybe in another week they would have gotten some applications just from it being posted online. From this perspective it doesn't seem too unlikely that he would run into some qualified person and encourage them to apply.

The other thing I was thinking about was that no matter what happened to her, she would have attributed it to God. The fact that he was so impressed with her shows that she's well qualified and would likely have landed another job if she hadn't met the superintendent. She even has some other very promising leads based on those voice mails she told us about. If she hadn't gotten this job she probably would have been telling a different group of people about how she initially missed the call from HR, but God led her to see her missed voicemail messages which ultimately led to her getting that job. It really boils down to one of those situations where God just can't lose no matter what happens in the end.

My Most recent amazon review: Equal Rites (Discworld Book 3)  [4 stars]


  1. I will give credit to God when someone can actually prove God exists and was directly responsible. Until then, you might as well be asking me to credit Bigfoot.

    1. I would tend to agree with that sentiment. But what if someone is brought up to believe that God is real and it is part of their base assumptions? Questions like this could claw away at the power of their God and hopefully make it safe for them to question his actual existence later.

      I know for myself, my deconversion was a really long process. At the beginning of it, if someone boldly suggested that God doesn't exist, I probably would have just dismissed whatever they had to say out of hand. However, clawing away at God's power a little bit could get my brain working. After doing that kind of thing enough times it was safe enough for me to start considering that God might not even exist. I figure you gotta meet people where they are.

    2. Most deconversions are long processes. It isn't my job to deconvert anyone or convince anyone that their beliefs are wrong. I am only responsible for what happens in my own head. It really doesn't matter what anyone else believes or says or claims, I can only accept it or reject it based on the objective evidence they present. If they have none, I will reject their beliefs, I will tell them why I reject their beliefs and whatever they do with that information is entirely up to them.

    3. That's a fine way to go, I do like the idea of helping people along on their deconversion process, even in a small way. I will often imagine I am talking to my past self at some point in the process. Obviously there would never have been a silver bullet or anything, but I know at times some ideas might have gotten me thinking, where a more blunt approach would have just been dismissed out of hand. Of course there were also plenty of times where the blunt approach is exactly what I needed.

    4. When I was seriously religious, my past self would never have listened to me, no matter what I said because I simply was not ready to hear it. I absolutely understand modern fundamentalists, I understand why they act the way they act and why they believe what they believe and why they spend all their time with their fingers in their ears and will never deal with reality as it is until they find their way there on their own. There is nothing I could have said, no amount of evidence I could have presented that would have proven my younger self wrong, at least not until I was open to the idea. That's why I'm becoming increasingly convinced that debating the religious, at least the extremist religious, is just a waste of everyone's time.

    5. That's probably true a lot of the time, for a lot of people all the talk in the world will do nothing at all. But we just never know. Even if someone seems to dismiss you out of hand, maybe some idea will get in there and help get them moving.

      I know that is what happened to me. I think anyone arguing with me would have thought I was just stubborn and they were wasting their breath, but I was so defensive because their arguments spoke to me on some level. I just pushed them away at the time, but the ideas did their work.

      Of course, I was also young and I really like to think about things that most people don't seem to care about. I've always been detail oriented and those little problems nagged at me, where most people don't seem to mind. So maybe I'm really atypical. But who knows.


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