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…

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Newavocation

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

  • 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*

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

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • Rich Wilson

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

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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. 

  • Mr Atheist


  • josiechic

    I think she & I share the same mother.

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • Really? Really?! Ay…..

  • 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.

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

  • 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”?

  • Anonymous

    That doesn’t happen.  Riiiiight.

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

  • Devious Soybeans

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

  • 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. 

  • 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.

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

  • Michael

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

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Sulris Campbell

    what’s a novena?

  • 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?

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

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

  • It’s a type of Catholic prayer: