I once knew a woman named Mary. She told me this story. One time, she was walking around in Baltimore, and she saw a man on the street who looked bedraggled and hungry. God told her, she says, to pop in at the 7-Eleven to pick up lunch for this guy. As she headed to the cash register, she felt an impulse to purchase a pack of gum. She gave the bag of food to the hungry man, and he thanked her, and asked her if she had any cigarettes. 'No, but is gum okay?' She says that he said yes.
Mary takes this impulse to pick up the pack of gum, when she wouldn't ordinarily have thought to, as a sign of God's work in her life.
I call shenanigans.
What smoker thinks finds gum to be a satisfying substitute for nicotine?
Worse, though, Mary thinks that God's telling her to pick up a pack of gum, and the hungry man's acceptance of it, is a satisfying reason to believe in God. That she doesn't see God smiting with plagues or healing lepers or parting seas or raising the dead doesn't bother her, because she's settled for God telling her to pick up a pack of gum. If God is real the way that Mary says that she thinks he is, she wouldn't bother telling this story about the gum‚ she would find it mundane.
When believers tell lame stories, I lose confidence that God is real.