Every evening my brother in law and I watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We began at the beginning and have been watching them sequentially. Tonight we watched Episode 6 of Season 3 called "The Booby Trap." Then a few minutes ago I was surfing the news and noticed an article on the Huffington Post about Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) having his first piece of pizza (an odd thing for a 72 year old man). The article contained a clip of bloopers from one particular episode of Star Trek - the episode we happened to watch tonight!

Now if there were any "meaning" associated with the elements of this coincidence, say if it were a coincidental "answer to a prayer", I certainly would have had a very deep sense of conviction that it really was proof that God answered. But no, I'm pretty sure it was just a meaningless coincidence. Given the complexity of life such things are likely to happen rather frequently. I think this is why believers can be so convinced that God actually answers prayers even though he only "answers" them about as frequently as we would expect for random coincidences.

In my old days, when I was a "magical thinker" who believed that God was controlling reality and communicating through coincidences like this, even this simple of a coincidence would give me the sense that there was "meaning" behind it. I would have wondered about it and would have begun looking for "meaningful connections" with other events which I surely would have been able to find. Perhaps I could even have woven the elements into what would seem like a meaningful message from God. It's not very difficult to do, especially with a tool like Google that can enable you to cherry pick precisely correlated bits of random data. To see how it works, watch this man weave a narrative about the Mystery of 4 AM. It's masterfully done: