Erich and I have previously mentioned Christian selection bias — the practice of crediting “God” with prayers that are “answered” while ignoring the many examples of prayers that are not (also known as confirmation bias) — but today I saw, for the first time, an explicit call for this bias among Christians. A televangelist on one of the Christian channels was ridiculing Christians for mentioning the many times their prayers are not answered. He admonished his flock, “Don’t honor the Devil or your own lack of faith by complaining when things you pray for don’t happen, you should only honor God when your prayers are answered” (emphasis added).
See, that’s how it works. If you pray for something that comes true, then you should immediately spread the word about the power of God to answer your prayers. But if you pray for things that don’t happen, then you should just shut up and sit down, because it’s your own fault. If God doesn’t answer your prayers, it’s because your own lack of faith has allowed the Devil to run your life. You are explicitly told to behave this way, or risk being publicly ridiculed — a classic form of social manipulation.
God sure has great PR. Heck, with PR like his, anyone could be God. In fact, here’s how you, too, can be God:
Find a bunch of followers who will observe two simple rules:
(1) they must fervently believe you can answer their prayers, so you can gain the placebo effect that God enjoys; and
(2) they must ignore all instances when you fail to answer their prayers, and credit you (and only you) whenever you appear to answer them, so you can gain the marvelous selection bias that God enjoys.
If your followers do these two things, they will be unable to distinguish your prayer-answering ability from God’s. Indeed, this is how pagan faith healers (e.g., shamans) also operate, and for good reason: because it works.