Obviously, Two People in Competition Never Ask God for the Same Favor

Reader Katherine sent along this conversation she had with her mother a day after she lost her job…

The frustration. It had to hurt.

Katherine: I really hope I get that job I interviewed for. I am tired of unemployment — one day of it is enough for me.

Mom: Well, why don’t you say a Rosary Novena if you want the job.

Katherine: …

Mom: You know, that is how [X]‘s son got his job with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Katherine: How? Because he prayed Novenas?

Mom: Yes.

Katherine: Maybe he just got it because he was the best candidate for the job?

Mom: No, no. That’s not it. He said the Novena.

Katherine: Well, what if more than one person in competition for that job said the same Novena? Why did god choose [X]‘s son?

Mom: That didn’t happen.

Katherine: How do you know?

Mom: It didn’t happen.

Katherine: Suppose hypothetically that it did…

Mom: No, that doesn’t happen.

Katherine: So you are saying that nowhere in the world two people applying for the same job have said the same Novena?

Mom: Oh no, it doesn’t happen.

Katherine: But just suppo–

Mom: No, honey, it doesn’t happen.

Katherine: …

So apparently, God would never find himself in a situation where two people are simultaneously asking him for the same favor.

And that logic explains why every athletic competition in the world ends in a tie…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    Surely this calls for an experiment. We must be able to make this happen and explode this woman’s brain.

    • Alt+3

      There’s an explicit ban against testing god in the bible. It’s how you know their legit, god got so tired of answering every test with clear, unambiguous evidence he had to put an end to it.

      • Rich Wilson

        If you set up a test then obviously you aren’t sincere, and God doesn’t listen to insincere prayers.

        • Mr Atheist

          Even within your own ideology you are wrong.  The god you believe in would hear all prayers.  It is the response that would be in question.

           

          But even if we assume such a god does not answer insincere
          petitions, then the god would have to go out of its way to make everything look
          like random and/or natural phenomenon to circumvent critical objective examination types of
          testing.  Such a god, in a petty desire to remain plausibly
          deniable, makes its influence moot.

          And if that weren’t ridiculous enough, can you please explain how someone
          wanting to know if their behavior is having the desired effect, is rendered
          insincere by objectively examining the results of their behavior?  If
          someone wants to get to work quickly and makes several timed runs on several
          seemingly optimal paths, does that mean they aren’t sincere about getting to
          work quickly?

          What you probably mean is that if you conduct an experiment wherein you toss a
          coin a thousand times and pray for Heads each time, no god is going to give a
          fig about such a prayer.  But let’s do this a different way.  Suppose you and the nine people you love most
          are kidnapped.  The kidnapper gives you a
          coin.  You are to flip it 100 times.  Every time it comes up Tails one of your
          party dies.  The tenth time it comes up Tails
          you die.  Each refusal to flip also kills
          one of your party.  Will your prayers for
          Heads be sincere?  Will you flip 100
          straight Heads?  Or do you think you’ll
          probably be dead before you reach your thirtieth toss?  Does the god allow itself to be tested or let
          you all die?  If there is a theological solution
          to this puzzle I doubt it has little, if anything, to do with sincerity. 

           

          The traditional solution is to point everything back to “god’s
          will.”  But if that’s correct then the
          only sensible petition is for a prayer like this:  “Thanks for everything.  I want you to do what you want.  You know, like, ‘your will be done’ and
          stuff.  I know you were going to do that
          anyway.  I just wanted to let you know I’m
          OK with it.”  Then when good stuff
          happens you can give the credit to the god. 
          And when bad stuff happens you can blame it all on… wait, that’s not
          right.  You’ll have to go with it being
          part of a bigger plan or blame it on the sins of man.  If you’re not sure which you can pray and
          flip a coin.

          • Rich Wilson

            Cool!  I’m a Poe!

            • Mr Atheist

              DOH!

              • Devious Soybeans

                That was a hilarious exchange! You two made my day.

      • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

        But apparently sometimes it is ok. Elijah is allowed to have a contest between Yahweh and Baal where Yahweh has fire come down and Baal can’t do anything.

        So apparently it is ok to test things but only when God has his flamethrower ready. 

      • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

        Does that mean that you can test god by testing him and see if he smites you?

  • http://www.nivex.net/ Kevin

    Ewan: This woman would not even participate in a thought experiment. What makes you think she will accept the results of an actual experiment?

  • Pinko

    That mom might as well have been covering her ears and yelling “Neener neener can’t hear you” while Katherine was asking her questions.  My stars.

  • Newavocation

    Come on, we know what happens! When two kids fight over the last Popsicle, the mom god gets it. 

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Can we use this to transmit information faster than the speed of light? Have 2n people, with n of them in one location and n of them in another location.  One from each is paired up to apply for a job. One transmits data by having selected people in one list start to  say a novena. Then the other one of the pair tries to say it. If they can’t then that transmits a bit.

    If this works, the next step is to see if the Virgin Mary is using muon neutrinos to communicate. One wonders if the apparent detection of the FTL neutrinos happened in Italy had anything to do with it…

  • Drew M.

    Novenas… Thanks for the flashbacks. *shudder*

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=804730646 Geralyn Mott

    that woman’s mother is NOT well.  mentally, any way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=804730646 Geralyn Mott

    that woman’s mother is NOT well.  mentally, any way.

  • Goldarn

    Maybe it only works for Rosary Novenas. Other, lesser, prayers are ignored as usual. :-)

    • Michael

      We need an empirical study. If prayers to Ra trump Rosary Novenas we could see the religious landscape changed forever.

  • Devysciple

    I’ve got a question: Do I start with a *facepalm* and continue with the *headdesk*, or was is just the other way round? And how many times is it recommended to repeat? It’s really hard to remember when you’re in a constant state of severe head trauma…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

      Jesus has all the answers to those questions that you need.

  • Roving Rockhound

    The way I see it, the mother was insisting that X’s son was not qualified for the job, and now doesn’t deserve it. The just got it as a favor from the boss.

    Meritocracy, people. That’s what the world should run on.

    • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

      Seriously. This is why religion poisons even the good thing in life. In this mother’s view, the police officer doesn’t even get to take credit for landing the job. How’s that for the “comfort of religion”?

  • Michael S

    “Mom: Oh no, it doesn’t happen.”

    “The loser wasn’t praying the right way.”

  • Timothy

    Mom: Oh no, it doesn’t happen.
    Katherine: But just suppo–
    Mom: No, honey, it doesn’t happen.

    Translation: “La la la, I can’t hear you, I am ignoring you, la la la!”

  • Erik

    The real trick is when we find out the position which [X]‘s son prayed for and got was the one she was recently fired from. Sorry Katherine, I guess god doesn’t like women in a position of power…

  • josiechic

    I think she & I share the same mother.

  • http://snigsfoot.blogspot.com/ Rob Crompton

    Some Christians are very careful not to put god in an awkward position. I recall once when a colleague had been interviewed for a job that he was very keen on. I wished him well and said I hoped he would get the job. “Oh, it’s okay,” was the reply. “I’ve prayed about it so I know that whatever happens, it’ll be the will of god.”

    God must be very grateful for that. How else would he get his own preferred candidates into post if guys like my mate don’t give him permission to do things his way?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

      This raises an interesting question:  If he didn’t pray about it, does that mean that what happened would not necessarily be God’s will?

  • http://snigsfoot.blogspot.com/ Rob Crompton

    Some Christians are very careful not to put god in an awkward position. I recall once when a colleague had been interviewed for a job that he was very keen on. I wished him well and said I hoped he would get the job. “Oh, it’s okay,” was the reply. “I’ve prayed about it so I know that whatever happens, it’ll be the will of god.”

    God must be very grateful for that. How else would he get his own preferred candidates into post if guys like my mate don’t give him permission to do things his way?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Really? Really?! Ay…..

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Really? Really?! Ay…..

  • Tom

    There’s an even worse variant of this nonsensical world-view: the notion that everything bad that happens to you is god punishing your actions.  Like the prayer example above, it becomes unworkable as soon as you apply it to more than one person at once.  The big problem comes when you factor empathy into the equation: it’s not at all infrequent for an empathetic person to feel bad because something unpleasant has happened not to them, but to someone else they know and care about.  And the answer still comes back sounding something like “what you’re feeling is god trying to teach you a lesson.”

    So what of the other person?  Unless they just entirely coincidentally needed to be taught the same lesson, at the same time, as everyone else who ever cared about them and would come to hear about it, the only possible conclusion is that god just ruined part of someone’s life for no reason other than to use their suffering as a means to send some incomprehensibly vague message to someone else, or to punish them to a lesser degree than the actual medium of the punishment feels it.  And people sincerely believe it; either because they have a shockingly broken sense of morality, because they are incapable of empathy, or because they’re so profoundly stupid, unimaginative or intellectually lazy that they just don’t think about it except in complete isolation from any real-world complications, such as the fact that other people exist.

    • Devious Soybeans

      I had a friend who believed that her teenaged son’s terminal illness was meant to teach her a lesson. I know grief can do terrible things to a person, but I was floored by that one nonetheless. 

      • Beth

        My mother thinks (or has thought) that my chronic illness is God punishing her. Worse, I was needing some comfort and understanding myself when she reveals this belief and starts crying, asking what she did wrong. But as far as I can tell, she’s a narcissist and definitely has limited capacity for empathy.
        She also seems to think that if she prays for all the traffic lights on her trip to be green and they’re all red such that she’s late to something, that’s God punishing her. If they’re all green but there’s a traffic jam that makes her late anyway, that’s God punishing her for asking the wrong question.

        • Rich Wilson

          I think you have a very interesting bio to write.

          (My mother also seems to have little or no capacity for empathy.  Sympathy yes.  She genuinely feels bad when she hurts someone’s feelings, but had NO clue how what she said could possibly be offensive).

  • Anonymous

    That doesn’t happen.  Riiiiight.

    Also, “It’s a duck” http://i.imgur.com/1BXxi.jpg

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    This brings to mind a classic moment from the TV show Survivor in which two people on competing teams were openly praying to Jesus for victory simultaneously.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      I’m getting tired of all the religiosity on  Survivor! I don’t remember it being this way in the beginning, but it’s gotten much more religious in recent years. Last season in particular was heavily evangelical (Matt could not shut up about his religion for more than five seconds) and this season has Brandon, who targeted a woman on his team because she was provoking lust in him while he was trying to be a “good Christian.” Ugh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

        Sucks :/  I haven’t watched it in years.  That’s a bummer.

  • Sulris Campbell

    what’s a novena?

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    I have no words. Just a *facepalm* and my icon.

  • Sherryll

    Well mr.Guju bhai I actually prayed the rosary novena 54 rosaries yes..and got a fantastic job .it was a miracle cause I was rejected for that same job position earlier.u should write about Gujus including your mom I am sure who fast 10 times a year hoping some named idol gives them money and prosperity.


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