Monday, September 23, 2013

The Man With the Red-Faced Monkey


A long time ago, my mother told me this story. I don't know where she got it from, or if it really happened, but here it is, as best I can remember.



There was a street magician who lived in a very superstitious town, and he always had a red-faced monkey perched on his shoulder. His best trick he would perform with a simple wooden bowl. He would place it face down on the table, and when he turned it over, money would have magically appeared underneath. All the while, the red-faced monkey would stare silently from his shoulder. People passing by would be amazed by the magician's trick, but even more amazed when he offered to sell them the bowl.

"Will it work?" They would ask.

"Oh yes!" The magician would reply. "Just do as I did. You can use it as many times as you like!"

The price of the bowl seemed fair enough, considering you could, in theory, produce infinite money from it. So they would eagerly hand over their money in exchange for this magical bowl. But before they left with their prize, the magician would give them one final piece of advice.

"Whatever you do, don't think about the red-face monkey when you lift the bowl. Otherwise, it won't work."

Heeding this advice, the customers would rush home to try and strike it rich. But no matter how many times they tried, they couldn't produce a single coin from the bowl because they couldn't stop thinking about the red-faced monkey.



One must appreciate the deviousness of the business that magician had going. If any disgruntled customers came back wanting a refund, he could simply ask them if they thought about the red-faced monkey, and they would have to admit that they did. The bowl's failure to produce money would be their own fault.

I'm reminded of this often when certain religious types defend their claims. You didn't pray sincerely enough; that's why God didn't answer you. You didn't have enough faith; that's why God didn't heal you. You didn't believe hard enough, you didn't have the right mindset, or you had sin in your heart. Somehow it's your fault that their voodoo magic didn't work. Don't buy it.

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