My grandfather believes in reincarnation. He grew up on a hand-irrigated sugarcane plantation. His family was so poor he walked to school without shoes. Grandpa once took me to a Daoist temple because I insisted on going, because he likes spending time with his grandchildren and because Taiwan is a small island without much else to do.
The temple compound is surrounded by a wall. The inside of the walls is lined with a hundred or so doll-like statues of various gods, spirits and so on. In Chinese and Japanese they are all 神. I asked grandpa who the 神 were and what they did. He didn't know.
The temple is built around square courtyard. The doll-like statues line two opposite sides of the courtyard. A gift shop sells lucky charms on the third side. Opposite the gift shop are three giant statues of the most important 神. They live in a fancy throne room open to the air. Visitors can see inside but cannot enter. Many people made small offerings. Grandpa bowed to the important gods. I followed suit. I asked grandpa who they are, why they were important and what they did. He didn't know.
I asked grandpa if he had ever prayed at this temple before. He insisted he had. I asked if he knew anything about any god in the entire temple. He said yes. I wondered what god could be matter so much more than the creators of the universe. Grandpa took me around the important gods to a dark hallway in the back of the temple. We passed more gods as the hallway turned left and then left again until we reached a dead-end.
At the end of this hallway was a medium-sized statue decorated with hundreds of lucky offerings from the gift shop. I asked grandpa what this god did. He said it's the god you pray to when you need good scores on your exams.
Grandpa is a retired architect. He earned his degree in Canada. This is astounding achievement for someone who grew up so poor his mother would turn his oil lamp to the lowest setting while he did homework.
In desperate situations you don't have the luxury of theological debate. You need to do whatever maximizes your chances of escaping poverty. I would be surprised if the holistic net expected value of his praying at the temple was not positive.
There are no atheists in foxholes
I prayed to God once. I mean—I've prayed to Jehovah many times. I've prayed to Buddha. I've prayed to my ancestors. I've even prayed to R. Daneel Olivaw. But there was one time I prayed to 𝔊𝔬𝔡.
I don't want to talk about the details. Let's just say that it was about as dangerous the New Hope Death Star trench run would have been if Luke Skywalker had never flown a Skyhopper—and it required similar reflexes to not die.
Praying to God to guide me through the valley of the shadow of death was the correct course of action. Anything else would have been lunacy.