Explaining Good Fortune

“Firstly, congratulations on your deconversion, your new job and everything else. Secondly, don’t underestimate coincidences or sell yourself short.”

Question from David:
My wife and I deconverted from christianity about two years ago. Ever since then I have been an atheist. When we were christians, we would attribute good events in our life to god having favor on us. I know that’s not true now but some recent events have me perplexed. In the last two weeks, the following great things have happened: I landed a job without an in-person interview, I was able to get out of my rental agreement in order to move to my hometown and the house beside my parents became available to rent during the week I moved. When I was a christian, I would’ve attributed this to god. I know that’s not the reason. However, how can these things be explained? I’m having a difficult time thinking of this windfall as a bunch of good coincidences.

Firstly, congratulations on your deconversion, your new job and everything else. Secondly, don’t underestimate coincidences or sell yourself short.

Imagine standing in heavy rain. The chances of any given raindrop hitting you are miniscule beyond comprehension, but stand there for only a few seconds and you will be soaked. Why? Because of the sheer amount of raindrops that fall on every square foot in every minute. There’s still a chance that every single drop will miss you, and indeed you do get the odd moment when you hardly feel any, but it’s just too unlikely to keep you dry on any occasion in one human lifetime.

Likewise, while any particular coincidence you can imagine is unlikely by definition, the other possible coincidences that could happen in any situation are practically infinite in number. The tiny chance of each one is balanced out by the many different chances, to the extent that we may expect to see a certain amount of coincidences in our lifetimes. It would be a strange life that was never touched by coincidence.

Let’s consider your two-week windfall specifically. I said earlier that you shouldn’t sell yourself short; your own people skills and other talents had at least something to do with your success in the remote job interview and with your rental agent, though of course you were still fortunate. As for finding the house next to your parents, that’s where the above really comes in. Think of different events which would have been as good as finding that house, or nearly as good. Any house within several blocks of your parents would have been convenient in the same kind of way, or something on the same bus or train line. Your parents could have had some reason to move near where you were going instead, or you both might have got apartments in the same building. All unlikely, yes, but if you keep on thinking, the alternatives just keep suggesting themselves. Look up from the raindrop you’ve caught and you can see the downpour.

I’m not saying it was likely that things would fall into place for you and your wife. I’m saying that there are such a huge number of ways in which things could have fallen into place for you that it’s not so inconceivable that one of them actually, simply, happened.

Again, congratulations.


6 thoughts on “Explaining Good Fortune”

  1. I think part of it is that we also pay more attention to the bad things that happen to us then the good things. It so that we can learn from our mistakes and not make them again. Because of this, when we have something good happen to us, it sometimes comes as a surprise. So when multiple good things happen to us, it must be a freaking miracle ! Religion takes advantage of this and assigns their god as the cause of the good things happening in your life. You should be grateful to your god, the preacher will tell you. You should honor your god by giving to his church, the preacher will tell you.
    In truth, its as SmartLX has stated. Good things happen. Bad things happen. They just happen. No gods needed. Who is to say moving next to your parents will be a good thing in the future just because you believe it is now ? How many ” Good things ” happened in your past that ended up being not so good in the long run ? We assign these labels according to our perception at the time, but they are never fixed. Good, bad, are whatever you want them to be.

  2. When good stuff happens to me I thank God. When bad stuff happens I try to thank God. read (James 1:2-4) if you wish.

    And I have known a few people who seemed to never catch a break but were still always able to give God praise anyway.

    Having said all that, Jake is right about learning from our mistakes and trying not to duplicate them. But who thinks moving in next door with their Parents is a good thing ever? I mean about 20 minutes away and thats about close enough?

    Peace, feeno

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