Here’s an example of the kind of story we might have told when I was a fundamentalist believer.
We’re expecting up to 6 inches of snow to be dumped on us tonight. When I was a fundie, we might have counted that as a minor miracle, because people will be hunkered down in their homes from the snow and won’t be spreading the Coronavirus. So God is actually sending us a blessing in the form of a small blizzard.
I understood even then why we told ourselves stories of this sort:
- We would have felt threatened by the Coronavirus, and we searched for stories of how God was looking out for us, in order to make ourselves feel better, less threatened, more secure.
- We needed to believe that our god-story was true, and we searched for any circumstantial evidence we could find that confirmed it (while ignoring all the evidence that disconfirmed it).
- We could not solve the problem of evil, and so we did what all theologians do: we sought a diversion. Don’t look at the Coronavirus, because I can’t truly explain why God allows innocent people to die from COVID-19; rather, look at the snow, because I have a story about the snow that makes it seem like God’s doing a good thing.
We never bothered to ask ourselves the obvious question: Which is less likely?
- There is a god who allowed the Coronavirus to spread across the Earth, killing many.
- There is a god who allowed the Coronavirus to spread across the Earth, killing many, so that he could send snow to New England, slowing it there for just one night.
(Note that I have not heard anyone use this story. But it feels so normal to me, except that I know that it’s preposterous and can even be destructive.)