Look at the birds, they sow not, yet they eat
August 11, 2008 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I believe in God. The strange thing is that God does seem to give me everything I ask for. Even stranger, I don't actually believe that a God can exist. The question: If you are a believer in God, do you notice yourself having your requests consistently answered?

I have been an atheist and a firm believer in Science ever since I was young. However, some years back, I came up with a theory as to how God could exist. Basically, I thought that what people called God, was actually some form of my subconsious.

Immediately after that, I would simply call on God whenever I was faced with a situation where I could not consiously deal with. And it seems to work.

Stuff like:

- I need $2500 this month
- I need to find a girlfriend this week
- I need to get extra high scores in my exams
- I don't want to be alone this weekend, I want to do something exciting

What usually happens is that some situation will come up that could lead to any of the results above, and I would take it, and without even remembering that I had made this request, I suddenly find that my request has come true.

Yes, I know it sounds silly, but it really happens to me - consistently and all the time.

I realise that I am somehow influencing myself into taking actions that lead to those situations that I asked for previously.

The question: Am I alone with this? Are there other believers in whatever who also get the same thing? Any atheists who get similar things?
posted by ChabonJabon to Religion & Philosophy (48 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Confirmation bias?

What usually happens is that some situation will come up that could lead to any of the results above, and I would take it, and without even remembering that I had made this request, I suddenly find that my request has come true.

Well, you clearly remember at some point. I would assume that your memory is jogged by the "granting" of your request. So, presumably, you makes some requests that are not "granted", forget about those requests, and are never reminded of them by the hoped-for event.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:11 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Any atheists who get similar things?

If your question is "Are there atheists who have developed ways to compensate for their lack of belief in a higher power by finding ways to gratify their own personal questions, requests and desires?" then my answer would be "Yes." but I'm not totally sure what you're asking.
posted by jessamyn at 2:13 PM on August 11, 2008


Psalms 82
posted by hortense at 2:14 PM on August 11, 2008


I am an atheist. I get everything or nearly everything that I set an intention on (which might be the same as your asking.) My theory is that this intention sets in motion actions on my part that are more likely to lead to my intention. People ignore the vast majority of opportunities that are presented to them - usually by just not paying attention. By setting an intention, our mind searches for those opportunities that past experience and reason suggest would lead to accomplishing our intention.

As an example, when I was 23 I wrote a list of 10 things I wanted to accomplish before I was 40. (This included career, travel, and relationship goals.) I had accomplished all 10 before I was 30.
posted by hworth at 2:17 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Isn't this is thesis of "The Secret"?
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


What you practice and 'believe' seems to be right in line with the DVD "The Secret". It's all about the Laws of Attraction and that you will bring into your life that which you constantly keep your mind focused upon.

Of course if you want to get Biblical about it, you can refer to: "Ask and you shall receive."
posted by TooSlick at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2008


This kind of reminds me of how my mom described The Secret. Essentially, if you think something can be done, you seem to be able to make it happen pretty consistently.
posted by fogster at 2:18 PM on August 11, 2008


I'm an atheist and good things happen to me all the time. People are nice to me, and when I put my tax return in early, because I have a low income and children, the government gives me a fat cheque back. That's the nice thing about being human, you can like stuff that happens that isn't painful. And, I didn't even have to ask a god for any of this.

(Are you talking about The Secret which implies if you wish hard enough, you too can be Donald Trump but with more and better hair?)
posted by b33j at 2:22 PM on August 11, 2008


It seems that your wishes/prayers are fairly mundane, banal ones. I mean, if you are consistently find paper sacks with $2500 in them, sign me up. But finding someone to hang out with? Not really a big deal.

That being said there are lots of intelligent people who get into that whole 'ask the universe' thing. It has a name but I forget. I think there is a really popular book based on the theory.
posted by ian1977 at 2:23 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


oops, should have previewed... b33j, The Secret, that is the book/theory/lifestyle that I hear people who should know better getting all excited about.
posted by ian1977 at 2:26 PM on August 11, 2008


Confirmation bias. This is also the secret of selling lots of books called 'the secret.'
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2008


Obligatory devil's advocate: I take it you quit drinking Coke then?

Anyway, there's nothing supernatural about desiring to do well on an exam and then doing well, or desiring to have fun over the weekend and then doing something fun on the weekend -- you set a basic goal for yourself, and then you achieve it. If you can start picking lottery numbers on a weekly basis, though, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by scody at 2:29 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Yes, that whole quiting coke thing does not seem to be something this God can influence. Wierd.
posted by ChabonJabon at 2:33 PM on August 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


As an atheist, I don't call on God for things.

If calling on God provided consistent results, I wouldn't be an atheist.
posted by box at 2:38 PM on August 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


I thought that what people called God, was actually some form of my subconsious.
Well try not to get a big head about that, pal.

So when you call on god you will receive? Well, it sounds like there could be a test to make sure you're right. Be sure to document everything and get some skeptical science-minded friends to help you... you'll have to pay them for their time of course (I suggest $1000/hr) because doing anything else would be more interesting than dealing with yet another supernaturalist.

(essential The Secret material: this youtube video and this write-up)
posted by holloway at 2:39 PM on August 11, 2008


Yeah confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is so difficult to accept in practice, because it happens so often and is so apparently special. Strange coincidences happen to me fairly often. But, when I step back and consider the tens of thousands of tiny thoughts and actions that I take daily, it makes sense that a few actually emerge positively once in a while.

A side story

A friend of mine was once into astrology. One day they had noticed that 7 out of 8 of my closest friends all happened to be born in the same month. Wow! that was really cool - maybe there was something there.

The next day I did the math, and the numbers weren't all that startling.

Just be careful - there are a lot of hucksters out there that know these innate psychological needs of ours, and they'll play us out to make an easy living whenever they can.
posted by brandnew at 2:40 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I realise that I am somehow influencing myself into taking actions that lead to those situations that I asked for previously.

We call this 'Lesser Magic' in the Church of Satan. The general idea is to psych yourself up in such a way you consciously or subconsciously begin to make the ideal decisions to get you to your goal. It predates that The Secret crap, but it does not predate all the theories on personal and social dynamics of thought.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 2:42 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


The strange thing is that God does seem to give me everything I ask for.

If that's true, based on your ask.me history, you are asking some ridiculous questions.

Your definition of "God" is not a revolutionary concept. And it's not very new too - rather it is merely a deification of self. You are, for the most part, rising your self to where you think a "God" would be. This amount of pride is, of course, going to be fulfilled. How can your God ever be wrong when it's you? You remember the good, you forget the bad, and you ignore anything beyond what reinforces your self-deification. When you are the golden calf, it's pretty hard to ever see any reason why it shouldn't be worshipped and why it wouldn't grant your requests.
posted by Stynxno at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2008


If I remember correctly, something like this was a theme or device in Hermann Hesse's book Demian as well.
posted by XMLicious at 2:50 PM on August 11, 2008


I consider myself a technical catholic with a deist bent.

Basically, I don't ask for anything material. Just that some people are "okay" and they get through whatever trauma/crucible they may be in.

I can't ask for $2500, sure it'd be great, but I have a feeling I'd get disappointed. If I asked for $2500 cash to instantly materialize in front of me, then I'd set myself up for failure. But if one prays for the fortitude to ask for a raise at work, and ends up making $2500 more every quarter, then you could say you prayed for $2500 and got it. Basically, one keeps the laws of physics in mind when praying, usually.
posted by hellojed at 2:55 PM on August 11, 2008


God is just a placeholder for things that people can't (or won't) explain and Heaven is a placeholder for the fact that a person's effect on others persists after they die. As above, confirmation bias takes care of the former in this specific context.
posted by rhizome at 2:57 PM on August 11, 2008


Isn't this is thesis of "The Secret"?

Yes.

All of the evidence is both anecdotal and, because of the self-selecting nature of positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, highly susceptible to misinterpretations like confirmation bias and selection bias.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:22 PM on August 11, 2008


Mod note: few comments remnoved - please stop with lulz answers or go to metatalk thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:24 PM on August 11, 2008


You buy, say, a red Prius. Suddenly the roads are filled with red Priuses. They were there all along, but now your brain is primed to notice them, so you do. We notice what our brains are primed to notice, the likely objects of our cognition.

We can take an active role in this priming process, imagining things before we see them. And we can break big things into little puzzle pieces. To imagine these pieces ahead of time, to create them before they're manifest, is to gain the capacity to see them in the world. The pieces have often been there all along. Once you notice them, you can use them, and this gives you tremendous leverage to get what you want. It seems almost mystical to bystanders, but it's not.
posted by zeek321 at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2008


Yeah, this is known as The Law of Attraction, and what the movie The Secret is about. So if you want something and you don't get it, you're thinking about it wrong.
It may or not be about God, but it gives people an optimism that they will be provided for by The Universe (whatever that means to the individual.)
Personally, if it makes people happy and motivates them to behave in such a way that they achieve their desired goals and it doesn't hurt anyone, I'm all for it.
posted by goshling at 3:42 PM on August 11, 2008


If you're a firm believer in science, as you claim, an experiment is in order. As you ask for things, write them down immediately. Then, check them off as you get what you want. Report back your results, and we can analyze.

If I was you, I'd ask to win the lottery. That would be pretty sweet.
posted by hwyengr at 3:53 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is probably just the power of positive thinking.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2008


In addition to The Secret, what you describe is also an aspect of Satanism and its take on ritual magic.

Whereas you "pray" to your subconscious, the Satanist engages in pseudo-religious ritual and uses its imagery in a contrarian way. In both cases the intended result is the harnessing of your will in order to manifest some state that you thought wasn't possible before.
posted by CKmtl at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is a form of narcissism that you indulge at your peril. You're imagining that your desires, both the trivial and the serious, are somehow addressed by non-human cosmic forces. You're smart enough to realize that this isn't the case, and yet you continue to entertain the possibility. You could put this head-game away in an instant by, for example, wishing yourself cancer. Or someone you love serious harm. The resulting cognitive dissonance would give you something else to focus on while you got your ideas about causality and your own cosmic smallness sorted out.

I say that this is a perilous indulgence because you're currently living in a world that gives you plenty of opportunities to confirm your obsession. You're probably young, healthy, reasonably attractive and have access (though not necessarily immediately) to funds. These inbuilt advantages sustain your narcissistic fantasy of godhood. But this won't always be the case. Sooner or later, you'll hit the limits of your agency. Bad things will confront you for which you are not immediately prepared. Then, your emotional fortitude and intellectual adaptability will win or lose the day. To the degree to which you presently imagine yourself a demigod in a moderately challenging cosmos, you are not preparing for that coming challenge.

Good luck.
posted by felix betachat at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2008 [13 favorites]


You can't prove God isn't doing special things for you.

But I think it can also be what they call self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't think there is anything supernatural or mystical about it. By verbalizing, imagining, writing, listing, thinking about specific things, you become aware of how to attain them.

I see this all the time in my freelance design work. When I don't want to take on any work, there doesn't seem to be any around anyway. When I do want work, then everything I see looks like an opportunity.

If you believe opportunities exist, you will look for them. If you don't believe it, they can knock you down in the street and you'll curse them for being clumsy.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:05 PM on August 11, 2008


if it makes people happy and motivates them to behave in such a way that they achieve their desired goals and it doesn't hurt anyone,
Well that's a tall order. Against that is the idea that encouraging people to cope in supernatural ways (rather than in natural ways) means they respond to problems by praying/wishing rather than by dealing with problems through getting help from the community, saving money, and taking action. You can easily imagine scenarios where responding to problems in supernatural ways would be harmful.

Be sure, ChabonJabon, that you're not ever so convinced that you choose your method instead of conventional physical actions. When your approach is challenged with life's real dilemmas you don't want to (for example) respond to your doctors news of malaria with homeopathic treatments rather than science that can manage it.
You can't prove God isn't doing special things for you.
Well this claim is about the supernatural world affecting the natural world. If the idea is that the supernatural world affects one person more than others then this would be testable.

Speaking more generally here: you cannot disprove gods, or fairies, or unicorns, the flying spaghetti monster, or Russels Celestial Teapot or anything supernatural. There are millions of supernatural beliefs that people cannot disprove. This isn't evidence of their existence.
posted by holloway at 4:54 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the idea is that the supernatural world affects one person more than others then this would be testable.
Sorry, just to recant and clarify: this would prove that something was happening outside of our understanding, but it wouldn't prove a deity.
posted by holloway at 5:34 PM on August 11, 2008


And if a "supernatural" power is testable and provable, it's no longer supernatural -- it's "natural".

Back to the original question: Most of my family (and, I think, most Christians) would say that God *very often* gives them what they pray for. If they don't get what they pray for, it's either conveniently forgotten or chalked up to not being "part of God's Plan". So... praying that one finds the car keys results in a little miracle of found keys, but praying that a family member will be cured of a horrible disease results in nothing but "God must be teaching us a lesson." (Come on -- God can flip gravity if He wants! What's a little genetic rearrangement anyhow? How hard can it be if you're omnipotent??)

My personal opinion is that if a prayer could provide God with information that He didn't previously have ("Golly, I didn't realize Johnny Watson wanted a shotgun for his birthday! Thanks for letting me know -- I'll get right on it!") then He isn't omniscient and thus not God. He should already know not only what you want but whether it's something you should have.

In addition, there is an incredible hubris in the implicit assertion that one knows better than God what's best for oneself and indeed for the Universe. He knows everything. You don't. If He wanted something done differently, it would already be so.

One last thing: I also see "Intention Manifestion" mentioned in some of the same places as "The Law of Attraction". While I certainly think there is a tendency to achieve what one sets out to achieve, the people that are into this often get woo-woo supernatural weird about it, and that's where they lose me. Anyhow, here's Steve Pavlina's forum on Intention Manifestation that has a ton more misinformation on the subject if you want to dig deep among the True Believers.
posted by LordSludge at 6:18 PM on August 11, 2008


What usually happens is that some situation will come up that could lead to any of the results above, and I would take it, and without even remembering that I had made this request, I suddenly find that my request has come true.

...

The question: Am I alone with this?


Nope.

Are there other believers in whatever who also get the same thing?

Yes.

Any atheists who get similar things?

Yes.

this was pretty easy. I'm not sure what the real point of the question was. You make requests of a god you don't believe in, opportunities present themselves, you avail yourself of the opportunities, and you remember the times this happens and forget the times it doesn't combined with a healthy dose of asking for pedestrian things that would happen anyway.

As miracles go, these are pretty lame. Like praying that your taxes get done this year or the car starts tomorrow or something.
posted by Justinian at 7:05 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, so you're a "parking spot theist." You believe that God got you that sweet parking spot you prayed for, but he somehow overlooked little Jimmy's request for a bone marrow match to cure his leukemia?
posted by availablelight at 7:26 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


"parking spot theist"

Cousin of the "playoff Catholic": Jesus, Mary and Joseph, please let [FAVORITE TEAM] go all the way this year, please.

posted by scody at 7:29 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, so you're a "parking spot theist." You believe that God got you that sweet parking spot you prayed for, but he somehow overlooked little Jimmy's request for a bone marrow match to cure his leukemia?

No brainer. That's why God, in his infinite wisdom, gave me a car, and he gave little Jimmy cancer. Who are we to question God?
posted by felix betachat at 7:46 PM on August 11, 2008


That's why God, in his infinite wisdom, gave me a car, and he gave little Jimmy cancer.


Heh. And then you can explain further that God gave little Jimmy cancer to make the other parents praise God for their own healthy children, and to teach Jimmy's classmates valuable lessons about life and love.

There's a rabbi who might want to have a word with you
.
posted by availablelight at 8:21 PM on August 11, 2008


Kushner will have to get in line. My rabbi says Jimmy is the reincarnation of a sinful soul. Of course, that means that Jimmy's suffering exists to remind me how good I was in a past life.

Isn't God weird?!
posted by felix betachat at 8:45 PM on August 11, 2008


Yes, I get the same thing, but the exact opposite. Whatever I ask for, I don't get. Rather, I get the proverbial lump of coal. It coincides with my strong belief (and Old Testament supported) that God, should he exist, is a rather malevolent asshole and I doubt I'd really enjoy sharing heaven with that man. Hell, Freddy Krueger would be a better roommate, at least he's predictable.

My life "turned around" about the time I totally gave up all hope and spent time discussing bankruptcy + being a lifelong welfare bum rather seriously with the wife.

For a long time I'd wished that things could go better. And, of course; after being beaten to the point I'd given up on my favourite career; put myself through school for a new one; got myself into debt that will, even with the great pay in the new job, take 5 years to dig out of; unsuccessfully applied to jobs in Ft. Mac (Canadians know that a married man doing this is seriously desperate); flunked out of several unsuitable jobs; having had to give up the car for a year and walk to work because I couldn't afford anything else; got myself into a situation where it's highly unlikely I'll ever afford a house before I'm 50; even taking on a job that scared the living shit out of me (afraid of heights, worked on 40 ft. high ceilings all day in a factory on a skyjack)...

...I magically got dumped into the job I've always wanted (without hardly applying, although that's another story) at a pay rate that literally made me cry after I hung up, and with hours that I thought companies stopped offering 50 years ago.

Thanks. I think. They do say you don't know how good things are until you've experienced how bad they can be.
posted by shepd at 9:25 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe in God and I haven't found my wishes being granted any more so than non-believers.

I mean, there are times when I'm in a really bad situation and I'm like "oh God, let me get past this" and it turns out I do get past it, but there are always other factors at play. I try not to over analyze it. I don't know if a professor was kind and passed me in a class or if I just did well enough on the exam or if God intervened in some way.

Having your wishes granted isn't a reason to start believing in a God or continue that belief. I've had a bad string of situations where I ask for things that should be possible but don't happen. It would really suck to believe that God hates you or the world is against you.
posted by abdulf at 11:26 PM on August 11, 2008


Well, if you believe the canard that magic is the act of changing consciousness through will, you're not a theist at all, you're a magician. Congratulations!
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:51 PM on August 11, 2008


Kushner will have to get in line. My rabbi says Jimmy is the reincarnation of a sinful soul. Of course, that means that Jimmy's suffering exists to remind me how good I was in a past life.

Isn't God weird?!


OK, that's the "theology is fun", inhumane, batshitinsane trump card.

Well played. (And God help us all.)
posted by availablelight at 5:16 AM on August 12, 2008


nthing Law of Attractrion, but with a specific reference to the interesting work of Esther and Jerry Hicks, upon which The Secret is essentially based. Esther has for many years channeled an entity named Abraham. As I understand it, they were asked to be part of the movie/book project but objected to the way it was presented and so were not included.

I have been familiar with Abraham's teachings for over fifteen years now.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:44 AM on August 12, 2008


Alot of information up there friend.

Lets be clear and honest, you dont believe in God and God, the God of the universe has no obligation to "grant" wishes, infact, thats unbiblical. I love God with all my heart and you get to a point in your faith where you realize God doesnt do stuff in your timing, He is under no obligation to give you squat.

So, what makes us who are believers differnt than say the 90% of the atheists above? We trust and believe that God will take care of us EVEN in our hard times (see the book of Job if you think God gives people whatever they want because they ask). You also state that you dont really believe in God and so then that kinda ends your "quest" so to speak on why He is not acknowledging you.
Now look, when I am praying I always ask Christ that I pray in accordance to His will, because anything outside of His will cannot, and will not happen. Let me give you a huge real world example that happened to me.
I am now in my late 20s and I grew up a single child, I prayed every day that God would give me a brother or a sister, I mean all my friends and family had 2 or 3, why not ours and as time went I got more and more cynical about the fact that this wasnt happening and in fact, God allowed my mother to miscarriage and it was devistating (and I mean horrible for our family). Why would a God who I have put my faith and trust into do this garbage to us...and so eventully, I strayed off and followed the way of the atheist, that I am my own person and I can do my own thing and I can rely on myself and everything will be ok.
I got married had a little boy and by God, wouldent you know, one summer afternoon I get a call...my mom was in tears, she was pregnant...and this happened because my mom continued to pray and plead and ask God for another child and low and behold He delivered.
God isnt like what you see in Bruce Almoghty, answered prayers like a genine, why should He most people (as you can see above) have turned their back on Him and when crap gets bad (and I have been to war, so I know bad in a sense) the first thing you hear are people crying, pleading with God, God help me, God please...but where where they when things were going well? They didnt acknowledge Him and his grace and his sacrifice.

Anyway, I say all that to say, the theory you have concocted leaves no trace of the true God and so my friend your asking thin air for stuff that thin air cannot give.

Take Care...
posted by TeachTheDead at 7:54 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


About 25 years ago I was thinking about this whole suitcase of money thing and knew I would freak out if it happened. So I settled on something...less. I decided to try and manifest a pile of wood. I was really a bit vague about it, couldn't decide if it should be cut and stacked outside my door or if I should just go for long poles that I would cut and split. I was dedicated in spite of being vague. After about two weeks of this a neighbor I hadn't met called to me as I walked past, "Hey, kid, you want this wood?" I had to say yes. It was the gnarliest, most impossible to split wood- that section of the trunk where all the limbs branch out. We used them for stools and a picnic table.
posted by pointilist at 7:58 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just mostly call it optimism. I see tha tthings tend to work out for the best. Even if I don't think something should happen, it turns out to have been good, anyway.

Whether it's God, intention manifestation, or just good luck, I have no idea. I find people get mad at me though because things just work out for me. I don't question it.
posted by Perpetual Seeker at 8:08 AM on August 12, 2008


The Secret, is essentially the harnessing of your free will. Free will, that's all that's going on here. Yes, we can make decisions. Movin' right along.
posted by ageispolis at 5:35 PM on December 31, 2008


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