It’s that man again! I tried saying: Get thee behind me, Satan. But he took no notice. We’ll just have to face up to Advocatus Diaboli again.
Hello, folks! I seem to have spent some time in the past laying out some of your more foolish ideas for you to think about. I am afraid that you haven’t convinced me of anything yet. So here is an easy subject for you – to give you another chance. It must be easy because you have to be aware of the problem several times a week. I am all the keener because Quentin’s last column “Silly me” has put you all on warning that you find it easy to fool yourselves.
I am talking of course of those mysterious conversations you keep having in your heads. You call them prayer. I call them comforting fantasies. You tell me that you are speaking to God but, for all you know, you are speaking to the tooth fairy. (No harm done, I use worry beads.) Of course you could prove it to me easily. All you have to do is to show me that when you pray for things, God gives them to you.
Or perhaps it’s not so easy. There’s Dad praying for a fine day for his golf tournament, and Mum, kneeling on the other side of the bed, praying for rain to save her parched vegetables. What is God to do? How about all those Spanish Catholics praying that the Armada would succeed, and your nasty English Protestants praying that it wouldn’t? If that proves anything, it proves that your God wants people to be Protestant rather than Catholic.
Of course you’ll be able to tell me of dozens of times that you’ve prayed – and got what you asked for. That doesn’t prove a thing unless you can show that you get what you ask for in prayer significantly more often than the atheist next door. And I don’t think you can do that. (If you could, of course, you’d have everyone on their knees the next day – particularly before going to the betting shop.)
Of course the scientists have done their measuring, and there are lots of studies. Unfortunately they show such mixed and vague results that they simply don’t help.
And you have some more explaining to do, haven’t you? I mean: you’re supposing that God will hear your prayer, stop in his tracks and fiddle the outcome for you. Given the millions of prayers for contradictory favours, his head must be in a whirl trying to fix things that he has to change from moment to moment. If he can see the future why didn’t he get it right first time?
But then you arrange things so that no one can prove you wrong. One friend of mine said that his prayers weren’t always answered because he didn’t pray hard enough. The next time I asked him he said that he guessed that he wasn’t holy enough. And on a third time he said God must know that I would be better off if he refused my prayer. All that tells me is that you lot have arranged things so that you can’t be shown to be wrong. Be my guest – but my question is how can you show me that you are right? And if not, why are you bothering? If I found that the tooth fairy never gave me my sixpence I would soon conclude that either it was useless or, more likely, a figment of my imagination deceitfully triggered by my parents. How about you?