I hope I am allowed to say things like this on Think Atheist.

I feel like whenever I humbly ask God for a sign, or to help me with something, he answers. I don’t know what to believe, because the things I ask for are usually simple, and could be explained by coincidence easily. But it keeps happening, and this is what I was trained to recognize as God at work.

Today I sat down to eat pancakes and watch this atheist video about one hour after going for a run. When I started eating, I found the pancake was really ‘thick’ and sticky. Also my stomach felt sick for some reason. I left the table because I felt like I was going to throw up.

A minute or so later, I felt a little better so I came back and tried to eat again. I started the video, but only a few bites in and I felt like puking, so I stopped again. I told God if he was trying to get my attention, he had it. If I read my bible and it cured my stomach, I would stop watching the atheist video.

So I read my Bible for less than five minutes. Then I sat back down and put on an audio Bible to listen to while I ate. And this time my stomach was fine. I didn’t really want it to be. I wanted to get sick again, to prove that this was something physical and not spiritual. But I finished my pancakes and the rest of my food and felt perfectly fine.

And that’s certainly not “proof” that God is real. It could be my stomach was still weak from running, since I rarely ever run and when I do it’s hard on me. It could be that all I needed was a little more time. After all, I was taking it easy and drinking water to try to make myself feel better, as well. But it seems interesting to me that the incidents happened so quickly. Less than five minutes after I felt sick, I suddenly felt fine when I was hearing the bible instead of Steve Shives.

This happened to me last week, I was trying to watch the same video in bed, but I really needed cough drops. I searched all over my apartment for my cough drops. I gave up, then went back and looked again. I probably looked three times. Finally I said, God, if you help me find these cough drops now, I’ll turn off the video and read the bible instead. I said, it better be soon, God, because I’m going to keep looking, and I’ll eventually find them on my own and I won’t give you the credit for that. But just as I was saying “It better be soon,” I found them.

And of course that doesn’t prove anything either. I was just praying for something that was likely to happen anyway.

Months ago (I remember because I wrote in my spiritual journal) I was asking God for a sign. I wanted him to speak to me, and I said he could do it by putting a specific message for me in a daily devotional. If he wanted me to come back to him, he should tell me to pray.

Well, I went and looked at the devotional for that day, and it said that if you are having trouble in your life, you should try praying, even if it’s just five minutes a day. I thought that was kind of striking, but of course prayer is a common topic for a devotional. So I started looking at the other days in the devotional. I went back one month and forward one month. There was one day that sort of talked about prayer, but nothing that specifically told you to start praying, like I’d asked for. I prayed for a message on the one day that entire month (or two months, I can’t remember) when that prayer could be answered, and I didn’t know that beforehand.

Other things like that have happened. I prayed that God would give me a sign by making me find some money under a certain pile of shirts. I’m messy enough that it would have been possible but unlikely. Instead, I found my credit card statement, which shows how much money I have spent—as if God is teasing me.

Simple random coincidences like this happen often to me. I know very well that it could be my own mind seeing patterns when there are none. It’s called selective memory: You just remember all the times it works, and ignore the times it doesn’t, and then you think you’ve got good evidence that it’s working.

If you pray for things that would likely happen anyway, of course that doesn’t prove anything. And I can’t say that I find things faster when I pray, because I have no control group. It’s not like I can find something by praying, and then find it again without praying, and see which one goes fastest.

But it just really feels like, sometimes, in these small things, prayer does work. It feels like God is gently trying to get my attention and draw me back, out of this atheist mindset. I just keep trying to seek what is true, but it is hard. And it’s hard to be confident in my atheism when I keep seeing things like this. But I can’t be a confident Christian either, because I have too many objections to the faith.

Your thoughts?

Views: 302

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 10, 2013 at 6:40pm

I have a theory that the voice of God is the answer to the question, "what is the most compassionate thing to do?", if compassion is defined very widely to mean the promotion of wellbeing.  Apart from that, many of the incidents you mention seem like coincidences which you seize on as having meaning, when they really are just random.  Or a mixture of the two.  The fact that you're questioning things so thoroughly is an example of what I mean by compassion: "seek and survive". 

Comment by matt.clerke on September 10, 2013 at 7:16pm

If you roll a dice a bunch of time, you will a get a 6 once in every 6 or so rolls... your own selection bias makes it seem much higher. My wife, for example, is convinced that if she thinks about and says a number when rolling, that she is more likely to get that number.

But I can’t be a confident Christian either, because I have too many objections to the faith.

I think most people here will agree that christianity is a lie at best. Have you considered other religions? deism?

Comment by Doug Reardon on September 10, 2013 at 9:29pm

Don't listen to the skeptics, they'll use logic and reason to confuse you!  you know, in your heart that this is exactly how god speaks to someone.

Comment by Sagacious Hawk on September 10, 2013 at 10:02pm

Well, I went and looked at the devotional for that day, and it said that if you are having trouble in your life, you should try praying, even if it’s just five minutes a day. I thought that was kind of striking, but of course prayer is a common topic for a devotional. So I started looking at the other days in the devotional. I went back one month and forward one month. There was one day that sort of talked about prayer, but nothing that specifically told you to start praying, like I’d asked for. I prayed for a message on the one day that entire month (or two months, I can’t remember) when that prayer could be answered, and I didn’t know that beforehand.

But if you hadn't said a prayer you know what would have still been there? That daily devotional. It wasn't put there because you prayed and you didn't choose it because it was there. It happened to be there and so did you. Sometimes a person happens to be in an intersection the same time someone else runs a red light. Sometimes someone happens to be looking down at just the spot where someone dropped their wallet moments ago.

These run-ins happen all the time. What made me realize that they were never God to begin with was when they kept happening to me when I didn't believe and when I realized that they can be as disastrous as fortuitous. And you're right. Our memories are selective and they are faulty as well. It's often we build false memories to fill in the fuzzy parts. What you are describing is called confirmation bias. Here's a list of some other cognitive biases. It's easier not to do it if you are aware you of what you are doing.

Oh, and your first example sounds like you were experience the placebo effect.

When I was a Christian and questioning things, I came to realize that there was no compelling reason to believe. God's existence had to be taken on faith because there simply wasn't any evidence to say as a matter of fact that "yes, this is all true." I realized that I was believing because I wanted to believe. I thought I was better off believing than if I wasn't. There seemed to be good reasons to continue to do so even if I couldn't say it was true. For myself, those reasons eventually faded and I was left believing because I simply wanted to. When circumstances caused me to reevaluate my beliefs, I realized I had no reason to believe anymore and that was the end of it.

My point is that asking God for signs of his existence is to me on the face of it at least an indicator that you still want to believe. Do you still want to? If so, why? (Rhetorical questions, by the way. I don't expect you to answer them.)

Comment by Physeter on September 10, 2013 at 10:07pm

Would you still feel such anxiety and uncertainty, and stress, and worry if there was no eternity?

Would I be worried about God if there is no eternity? Hm...would I be worried about eternity if there was no God?

I think the two go hand in hand. If a God (like the one I once believed in) exists, then there is an eternity, and I'll have to answer to him for how I've lived. But more than that, if God has created us and loves us and wants us to be in relationship with him and is also the source of everything good, THEN I can be a better, more compassionate, more complete human being by following him and living according to his rules. I'll have more happiness in this life, and a better outcome to everything I do, in that case.

I don't know. When I first started doubting, I used to worry a lot about going to hell. I really didn't want to go to hell. I haven't thought about it for a long time, haven't consciously worried about it. I've just been focused on what I'm doing right here and now. But I'm kidding myself if I think that concern isn't still there.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on September 10, 2013 at 11:22pm

Simple random coincidences like this happen often to me. I know very well that it could be my own mind seeing patterns when there are none. It’s called selective memory: You just remember all the times it works, and ignore the times it doesn’t, and then you think you’ve got good evidence that it’s working.

It seems to me that you've answered your own question about a personal God right here.

Comment by Yahweh on September 11, 2013 at 12:25am

For the record, I did not do these things for you. 

besides If i really wanted your attention it would not be subtle. If I really wanted someone to believe in me, why would I make them unsure of my existence? That would be silly!

Comment by Mike 2000 on September 11, 2013 at 10:33am
  • I think the two go hand in hand. If a God (like the one I once believed in) exists, then there is an eternity, and I'll have to answer to him for how I've lived. But more than that, if God has created us and loves us and wants us to be in relationship with him and is also the source of everything good, THEN I can be a better, more compassionate, more complete human being by following him and living according to his rules. I'll have more happiness in this life, and a better outcome to everything I do, in that case.

All of that is IF a god like the one you once believed in exists.  There would need to be logic for that, and the only way that I can imagine this would be if we're living in a Matrix sort of simulated environment whose builders/owners/users are playing some type of Second Life sort of game.  As for answering to this being after one's death, well, I can imagine how such a user would want to make a few tweaks before starting again, but blaming the course of the game on the game character (or avatar) would not be fair at all.

For an avatar with any degree of freedom of choice, whatever that might mean, it would be quite incorrect to think of its (one's) designer/user as the source of everything good.  Unless, of course, the user wishes to sadistically coerce the avatar to love the user by threat of violence, and if the spiritually broken avatar's only goal is to avoid punishment from the user. 

If this is the case, the user certainly does not love the avatar.  The avatar does not become better, more compassionate, and absolutely not more complete by partaking in this relationship.  Fortunately, there's no sign at all that any rules of any sort have been delivered to our world, and there's been no sign of meddling, so we can feel safe if we choose to ignore the idea that such a being might be watching. 

Comment by Davis Goodman on September 11, 2013 at 9:53pm

If god made you vomit up pancakes because you watched an atheist video or played hide and go seek with cough drops ... I would say he is an extremely bizarre man who plays passive aggressive games with people to communicate the vaguest of ideas that need Sherlock Holmes to decrypt just what god wanted from you.

Fortunately he doesn't exist. So you don't need to worry about this angsty funny business. It's such wasted time.  Go take your dog for a walk and learn Spanish and grow your own tomatoes and listen to your fathers favorite Beatles album. It's time better spent than playing connect the dots and what if what if what if.

Comment by RobertPiano on September 11, 2013 at 10:24pm

I Know what you mean about pancakes......

BTW This forum used be have a lot of fun with them, if someone posted something stupid, they

got free pancakes...

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