Guess what!? God finally presented evidence for His existence to an atheist! I know, right–pretty amazing, huh? Yeah, and apparently He decided that the best way to go about presenting evidence of His existence was to make some religious woman win the lottery! Wow, what a truly novel and great way to show He cares about people! This is certainly the kind of act through which the existence of an omnipotent Creator of the universe proves most convincing. I’m sorry to keep you waiting, all right, here’s Fox News–as always–with a fair and balanced report of the facts.
What I love about Sal is his high standard regarding what constitutes evidence. We have a true skeptic here in Sal.
No we don’t, he’s an idiot.
I read about this story a few days ago and had a sneaking suspicion that it would end up on Fox News sooner or later and . . . ta-da! Fox has a raging hard-on for God and every half-brained drooler willing to tell their story. Whether it be about how some little girl with cancer saw angels, or about a little deluded boy who saw Jesus, Fox News readily wallows in the trough of their muddy thinking. This story is a little different in that nobody had any hallucinations, but instead had their faith confirmed by winning the lottery. Yes, that’s right, the lottery. I mean, who the hell has ever won the lottery?
This story exemplifies an all-too prevalent mental failure–a self-induced illusion caused by cherry picking events which leads one to believe that said event is significant and meaningful, otherwise known as a confirmation bias or selective thinking. This bias basically results from counting the hits that conform to a preconceived view of the world, with hindsight, and ignoring all the failed experiments regarding prayer. The thing to note is that improbable things happen all the time. It’s just that we don’t notice the coincidences that don’t stand out or conform to a pattern. Our brains are good at seeing patterns. You may think to call a friend, immediately realize your phone is ringing, and to your amazement it’s your friend whom you were just about to call, calling you. Spooky, you might think. But if you’re close enough friends that call each other rather frequently and are given enough time, you’re bound to have that happen sooner or later.
Take, for another example, a deck of cards. Let’s say you saw me shuffle the deck extremely well. I then decide to place the deck on the table, face up, and in one motion spread them out linearly on the table. If you see the cards laid out, and they’re in no particular order–what you would likely expect from a thorough shuffle–you would think nothing of it. However, if I were to spread them out and you observed them to be in perfect order by number and suit, you would rightly be in utter disbelief at the odds, or more probably accuse me of prestidigitation.
If you’re really inquisitive you might then correctly calculate that the odds of that particular sequence of cards occurring is 8.06582X10^67 to 1 (which is 8 followed by 67 zeros, which is very roughly the number of atoms in our galaxy, to 1). Surely, I must have used trickery. But wait, what of the first time I splayed the cards out on the table and they appeared in the seemingly random order that you would expect from a thorough shuffle? What were the odds of that arrangement? The answer: 8.0658X10^67, or the same as the odds of producing the completely ordered splay. It’s a statistical truth because no order of cards is more probable than another. We are only astonished when one of these events happens to have an easily recognized pattern.
This is why religious people think that prayer works. If your extremely religious you are likely praying for a bunch of random crap every day. What these people fail to realize is that a bunch of random crap actually happens every day and, given your high frequency of prayer, there’s bound to be some overlap between the random crap you pray for and the random crap that happens in every day life. If a prayer doesn’t get answered (which is the vest majority of them), then God must be working in mysterious ways. But if something happens that they’ve prayed for, even if it’s years down the line, they fall to their knees and praise Jesus’ name!
Now for a few comments about the story itself and its main characters: Sal, Sal’s mother, Gloria, and the wide-eyed, gullible interviewer whose name I don’t care enough to Google.
Sal. There is a lot to say about this confused individual. For one, he is ticketed as an atheist during this interview, though his beliefs are more in line with those of an ignorant, fence-sitting agnostic which is evidenced by his plea to God to reveal Himself (bold mine).
I took what she said at face value, but I just didn’t feel it inside.
Taking his joke further, Sal then prayed out aloud saying, “God, I don’t know if you’re real or not, but if you are there, please let my mother win a million dollars.”
Secondly, Sal believes that the best way for God to prove His existence is to rig a lottery for his mother to win. Really? That’s what pops into this man’s head when contemplating the criteria that would convince him of the existence of an omnipotent, supernatural Creator? People win the lottery all the freakin’ time! Some people have even won the lottery multiple times! That’s a major problem with these types of tests–somebody is guaranteed to win, and the probabilities are easily calculable. Why not choose a test that would be more demonstrative of an all-powerful God? Why not ask for the limb of an amputee to be restored? Surely if Sal believes in the potential power of prayer, he must be aware of the fact that no amputee’s limb has ever been restored in the history of mankind. People commonly testify to the power of prayer without addressing the reasons why God selectively doesn’t answer the prayers of this kind, yet supposedly answers prayers having to do with promotions, sporting events, and rigging lotteries. How petty.
And now onto Sal’s mother, Gloria. This lady is a true Jesus freak. She actually said that she has splashed holy water on her son, Sal, while he was sleeping. OK, that’s just friggin’ creepy in the extreme. I’m guessing that critical thinking wasn’t on display often if at all during Sal’s upbringing, which explains why he was so quick to equate winning the lottery with the Divine hand of Jesus. Also, take a look at her whacked-out logic and complete about-face regarding how prayer works.
Sal: “Why don’t you just ask Jesus for a million dollars?”
Gloria: “It doesn’t work like that. You can’t ask for more than you need. Jesus and God only provide what you need.”
Sal: “OK, I’ll ask Jesus for a million dollars for you.”
Gloria: “It doesn’t work like that. You can’t do that.”
Then, when Gloria wins a million dollars–BOOM!–PRAISE JESUS!! Do you see how flawed that reasoning is? Things went completely counter to her prediction of how Jesus acts in the world, and all-of-a-sudden this now counts as a complete validation of his existence. That is so stupid it hurts.
And the interviewer. This guy is so sold on Jesus that he literally can’t understand how Sal could have been skeptical of religion. He is shocked that the Catholic faith failed to rub off on him.
“What about it didn’t connect with you?”
“You won on his birthday number, for a dollar, and it was specifically a million dollars of which you have asked. So, now that this experience has happened to you, and your mom is now a millionaire winner. . . Unbelievable; what more do you need?”
First off, GRAMMAR POLICE! You ask FOR something, not OF something (unless you’re asking “what do you ask of me?”). It should be “. . .a million dollars for which you have asked.” Secondly, how come Sal couldn’t connect with the Catholic church? I have a few ideas. The complete lack of evidence? How about the fact that the Pope is more interested in covering up for child molesters than he is in actually helping children? Gee, I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t embrace this cult! And regarding his “What more do you need?” remark. . . Uhm, how about real, testable evidence? Is that so much to ask for?
One last take on Sal. I think I have him figured out. He sarcastically asked Jesus to give his mother a million dollars. Despite his mother being against the idea that Jesus would ever intervene in such a way, she buys it–hook, line, and sinker–when it happens because she is a delusional Jesus freak. Sal, shocked as well, is now in an interesting situation. His mother is now completely convinced that Sal has played a central role in her acquisition of one million dollars. Perhaps you could even say that she feels indebted to Sal now. And Sal, who was previously in disfavor by his mother for not taking religion too seriously, and not likely a wealthy fella, sees an opportunity to simply ride the gravy train on the tracks of his mother’s stupidity. Go to church with her a few times, spout Jesus nonsense, and land a hefty portion of that million.
Maybe Sal is smarter than I had previously thought.