When I was washing my hair tonight, my mind wandered to what-if scenarios involving gunshots and holy texts. Imagine, if you would, a group of friends (or strangers) traveling in one car on the way to an interfaith service. With their destination just around the bend, they get caught in a crossfire at an intersection between a band of thieves and a few off-duty police officers. Each of the five inhabitants of that car gets shot. Legs, arms, torsos, and abdomens get punctured.
Or do they?
Customers at a nearby gas station hear the gunshots and call the paramedics. After arriving at the emergency room and receiving treatment from the hospital staff, it becomes apparent that even though these individuals were each struck three times, none of the injuries were life-threatening. Major arteries missed by centimeters, ball-and-sockets missed cleanly, and no reproductive parts were put in disarray.
Imagine the look of disbelief or curiosity on the nurses and doctors’ faces when they summarize the condition of the patients to the patients. The Buddhist was saved by his Star Trek dvd box set that he clutched against his chest while driving. The Muslim, sitting shotgun, was saved by the Qur’an leaning against his chest. The non-denominational Christian was saved by the pocket NIV Bible he kept in his breast pocket. The Wiccan was saved by an Oxford Dictionary, you guessed it, leaning against her bosom. The football player was saved by his playbook and his 10,000 Youtube Subscriber award.
Would each person thank their god? Would each person feel that their surviving is proof that there is a god and that there is only their god? Or, would they be back to square one wondering that if they all lived, it’s impossible to know which god is “right” and if there really is a god at all? Which holy text is right? Moreover, the football player puts a variable on things. Either he made it because he was with deists or because it was a coincidence and his presence somehow negated the certainty that the rest of them had regarding the nature of the Divine. The Buddhist would probably be the most chill, right? He’d chalk everything up to the rhythm of life as would the Wiccan.
On the other hand, if this car were filled with atheists and one law-of-attraction practitioner and they were saved by various non-holy texts (a Bluray box set, a cookbook, an iPad, a giant stuffed bear), would they attribute their survival to coincidence? Dumb luck? Or look at the law-of-attractioner for an explanation?