Is God in the bank or the machine?

Many people, when confronted with tragedy or great difficulty, turn to a higher power. For example, when faced with job loss and foreclosure, some pray or seek help from a God. All of us know people who feel they got a good outcome from doing so, though there are believers who attribute the outcome to God and skeptics who attribute the outcome to luck.

Then there are those who seek help from real world sources. Some people would not describe themselves as “praying” but they would apply for relief from 25 different organizations and spend the next week fervently hoping for relief. Most observers would attribute a good result in this case to hard work, those others would credit divine intervention or luck here, too.

Some people would do both.

What’s the difference between those people? Presumably, each recognizes that the other choices exist. Are they hoping for the same thing, or a different thing? One could argue that the people in the second group have less ability to imagine the somewhat abstract concept of God showing them the way, so they turn to something more concrete, like Chase Bank or Countrywide Lending.

All seek the same result at first. Some of each group have bad outcomes. Some have exactly the good outcome they hoped for, and many have a good or acceptable outcome that is substantially different from what they were orignally seeking.

One could argue that the folks in the second group are more likely to get help because they are seeking it from institutions that can actually provide help. Whatever powers we attribute to God, most agree he’s not a cash lender.

It’s actually not clear to me which group is most likely to get a good outcome. My first thought is that most that turn to real world sources can only be satisfied by a loan or a job, but actually that’s not true.

I already understood that the folks who ask God for an answer could end up with many satisfactory outcomes. They could find a lender or employer. They could find a person who takes them in. They could join a church or a mission. They could move back in with elderly parents and experience personal growth. Clearly, when facing the loss of a house there are many possible good outcomes, some of which involve retaining the house and some following different paths.

I had thought the “different paths” answer would mostly apply to people who asked God for help, as opposed to, say, Chase Bank. But upon reflection I see that isn’t so. There's just as much diversity for this group as for the God group. Many of you will remember fortuitous events in your own lives that happen in the course of dialy life/business. Events like those prove you can find a different path anywhere at all. The lender may say, “we can’t help you but these people can . . . .” You may meet someone on the way to the bank. You may see a sign in a window. You may pick the winning lottery ticket out of the gutter in front of the bank.

So if those two actions (pray to God or put hope in Chase Bank) are essentially the same in intent and range of outcomes, could we infer that, if there is a God, He is in both? How would that affect the spirituality of the different people and their goals?

Now, some of you may ask, “Does this have anything to do with Asperger’s or autism?” Yes, it does. Many Aspergians (me included) don’t “dream” of abstract concepts. We plan. We don’t say, “I want to be xxxxx,” with xxxxx being some life goal. Rather, we break xxxxx down into 100 discrete steps and then we begin following those steps to a goal. That being the case, some of us would find the idea of prayer or a God too abstract but we might break the same journey down into steps and pursue the same goal.

Are people who do that any less spiritual? Why?

I suspect more Aspergians will be found in the second group because of our tendency to literal-mindedness. Even though we have many religious Aspergians, I suspect this manifests itself in more concrete or real-world thoughts and actions.

Is the difference essentially that some people are more literal-minded and hence choose the Bank because it's clearly defined and visible? Certainly that applies to Aspergians and Nypicals alike.

How might we interpret the spirituality of different people in light of this?


Michelle O'Neil said…
I don't think anyone is less spiritual than anyone else. We're all made of the same stuff. All a different facet of the same "God" diamond.

There are as many paths as there are people. No two experience anything the exact same way. The intricacies of the Aspergian mind ARE God, and so are the workings of the "Nypicals" (love the words you come up with!)as long as those workings are of the loving variety.

God is in the prayer, and in Chase Bank, and God is the one tapping people on the shoulder suggesting they go there to apply for relief.

Ahem. I mean, Amen.

Can I get a witness?
Momathon said…
This is a wonderful blog entry. You have asked a number of very good questions. My favorite is this:

"So if those two actions (pray to God or put hope in Chase Bank) are essentially the same in intent and range of outcomes, could we infer that, if there is a God, He is in both? How would that affect the spirituality of the different people and their goals?"

People usually answer that one of two ways: humility or pride. God is in it all--the trick is to believe that He is good, even when the outcome isn't what we want or what we think we deserve.
Heather said…
First off, we'd have to buy into the idea that God is abstract. What if God isn't abstract?

There are some that believe God is not separate from us or anything on this plane. Thus, God is in the physical form of trees, grass, myself, my kids, even in banks.

What is there is no "real world" that isn't God? Just a question to ask!

I have to ponder...are we suppose to interpret other people's spirituality?

All I can handle is the interpretation of my own spirituality and that's not always clear either.
Sandra Cormier said…
I practiced Catholicism all my life, but never got it right so I gave up.

I don't consider myself to be spiritual -- I take a practical approach to most problems.

But sometimes, late at night while my husband drives us home through a snowstorm, I press my foot on the imaginary brake in the floorboards and pray silently to some higher power to get us home safely.
The Anti-Wife said…
I'm extremely practical and well prepared for most things, but believe -considering some of the situations I've put myself in - there's a higher power out there as a back up if necessary. I don't think she needs to be worshipped though.
The Muse said…
It is interesting that you chose to compare spirituality in a manner that can be measured. This post is very revealing about your Aspergian mind. What does it really mean to have faith? Perhaps those people who are the MOST faithful are not passively waiting for divine intervention. "God helps those who help themselves." Believing in a higher power and demonstrating your faith is act of courage. On the contrary, true faith is not passive. It also requires planning and a clear vision. I think that prayer may be a thought process by which many people are able to achieve a sense of heightened focus. Also prayer teaches us acceptance and to let go of those things over which we have absolutely no control. I believe that faith is the most centered act of the human mind. As for your example, a person of strong spiritual convictions would accept either outcome as being their destiny. While a skeptic would choose to see any negative end results as evidence of “Godlessness”. With all due respect, John, you have missed the point about spirituality in your illustration. Many of life's lessons are paradoxical. Spirituality is more than just an abstract concept. It is a disciplined way of thinking and being that is not self-centered. It has intrinsic value that cannot be measured or be deduced by linear thinking. Sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers...
Julie L. said…
My, you have been philosophical lately. First you pondered about the internet and now God vs. the bank/money (a good analogy). My husband, who has Aspergian traits, was raised in an evangelical home.
He'd believe if God just talked to him.

Yes, some people may take more comfort in the aspects of life that are more empirical (concrete) in nature. I suppose the extent of one's spirituality depends on personality type or maybe even genetics (there are studies about this I believe).

We don't go to church, but my son, nine and diagnosed with ASD, has just started to pray over his food. I have no idea where he picked that up. Maybe they talked about praying in Sunday school when he's gone to church with his Grandpa in Ohio. He loves to go. Am thinking about making sure he gets to attend regularly. My friend who has a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome believes that all children on the spectrum are spiritual in nature (Ever hear of Indigo children?)

As for me, I have known people who have lost children. One received quite a bit of money in a lawsuit. Would she rather take comfort in God or in the money? I don't know...

I'm thinking I should probably start praying. All one has to do is read my post (semi-humorous in nature) on nine year olds and driving to figure out why I might be insired to pray.

Anyway, I dedicated today's post to you. However, it isn't related to this post. It's about guitars...
Sandra Cormier said…
My cousin held on to her faith throughout her little son's five year battle with Neuroblastoma. I was often amazed at her outward show of optimism, when she may have been a total wreck inside.

Even after she lost little Austin, she continued to show us her inner strength and her conviction that her son was with God, although her deep sadness often showed through.
This feels like one of your Dad's classes.

Amy MacKinnon
Trilogy said…
I really wanted to post a comment here and not having done so before I tried to sign up so that I could. however the machine told me I already had an account. I tried to sign in but I had the wrong passwoord. so I clicked the option to reset my password. Then I tried to sign in with my new password but could not, I do not know why, the machine did not tell me. I began to call on the son of God. That didn't give me an imediate resolution (you seem to know what you're talking about mr. Robison)

Well, being the type that sees things logically I knew that this dilema, this problem, temporary as it might be, had a solution. Every problem has a solution, I believe this. Everything has an opposite in this world, light vs. darkness, love vs. hate, happiness vs. sadness, and apparently logic vs. spirituality, interstingly enough niether one works well without the other for counterpoint.

My god! I exclaim, in a seemingly inherent or automatic (somewhat machine like)soul searching(spiritual)moment. What kind of crap is this I have to endure just to post a comment? Logically, I thought, if it doesn't work this way - The way I expect it to - there must be another way to do it. So I go to Google and log in there, then I return to Mr. Robison's blog (which I read often btw) and attempt to sign in and pray that it works this time.

Low and behold and let there be light, my got my wish, my prayer answered and I came up with a logical solution to my problem, albeit by thinking out of the box -And here it is, my comment;

Everything has an opposite in this world, light vs. darkness, love vs. hate, happiness vs. sadness, and apparently logic vs. spirituality, interstingly enough niether one works well without the other for counterpoint.
Lisa said…
This is a fantastic post! I sometimes think that belief in God and unquestioning faith as opposed to a more concrete belief in things we can know and see are separated by semantics. I'm very much a realist and try to find opportunity and possibility by positive action and keeping my eyes open to recognize what's around me. While I question (to myself) how it is that so many people can believe in things that can't be proven or that don't seem logical (to me), I also believe that there are plenty of things that exist that we can't necessarily see or understand so I don't discount them, I just can't categorically state that I believe any anything I can't specifically prove. To your point about God and the ATM machine, the outcomes are very often the same regardless of which belief system you hold.
Jerry Waxler said…
I love the way your book has opened avenues of discussion about things people ordinarily consider so private they typically don't talk about it at all. This is terrific. I would throw in my 2 cents here, but I have way too many thoughts about it for a comment. That's why I write essays, hoping to make sense of all these darn thoughts.

Thank you so much for opening these doors.

Jerry Waxler
Memory Writers Network
Anonymous said…
I find your blog rather helpful, since it has something to do with the Chase. On the I found plenty of complaints in the address of the bank and now I doubt whether I should deal with it. The clients are not satisfied. This means the services and conditions are far from being perfect. The financial institutions are all about making profits of their own and they do not care about the customers.

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