Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

everything happens for a reason 2

The Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, and Mormon, along with many new agers and “spiritual” people, believe EVERYTHING happens for a reason. They all believe that God or the Universe or some sort of divine energy/consciousness orchestrates our lives and that nothing happens by chance or accident.

According to people who think like this, everything that happens in our lives is part of a bigger purpose or plan. No matter what happens to us, it happened because it was meant to happen.  According to this way of thinking, the irresponsible, dumb-ass, youthful driver who pulled out to pass a slow-moving truck on a double yellow line and missed hitting Polly and I head on by a few feet was acting according to some greater purpose or plan. If he had hit us, our death would have happened for a reason.

As I think back through my life: my Mom’s suicide at age 54, my Dad’s death from surgery complications at age 49, my sister-in-law’s death from a motorcycle accident, my wife’s favorite uncle’s death at age 51 from a rare heart virus, my wife’s younger cousin’s recent death from Myasthenia gravis, all of these all-to-soon tragic deaths had no positive effect on those left behind and their deaths certainly, outside of releasing several of them from pain, had no positive effect on them. If these deaths had some greater cosmic purpose, I’d sure love to know what it is.

When Polly sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005, several family members suggested that if one soul got saved through Kathy’s death then her death would not have been in vain. While I still a Christian at the time, I made it clear to everyone standing there that if the choice was between Kathy still being alive and someone getting saved and avoiding hell, I’d choose Kathy living every time.

As I look at the world, I see pain, suffering, and death. I see hunger and thirst. I see violence and deprivation. I see poverty, animal abuse, and environmental degradation. Yet, I am told that all these things happen for a reason. Pray tell, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things? What reason could there be for children starving, a woman being raped, and a family having no means of support?

Two years ago, a horrific, violent storm ripped though NW Ohio. People and animals were killed, buildings and trees were destroyed, and millions of people were left without electricity for days, all during a time when temperatures were setting new historic highs. Again, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things?

War rages across the globe. The United States has troops stationed all over the world and is currently waging war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. U.S troops, bombs, and bullets are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths of innocent civilian men, women, and children. Again, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things?

It is not enough to say that the Christians God has a perfect plan and we must not question him. It is not enough to quote Romans 9:20:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

or Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I not only question this God, I charge him with gross negligence and malfeasance. Any human acting as this God does would be considered a manic, cruel, serial-abuser of his fellow human beings. Such a God we would or should not want as family or a friend, yet billions claim this God as their friend, confidant, family member, and lover. They fawn over and worship this God who is so inept that he can’t even feed a hungry girl in Africa or quench the thirst of a homeless family in India. While this God always seems to come through for Granny when she can’t find her car keys, he is AWOL when it comes to relieving his creation from pain, suffering, and death. Forgive me for saying this, but this God is not worthy of obeisance and worship. If I’m going to worship anyone, it is going to be my fellow humans who devote their lives to reducing the suffering of others. They are the gods who are worthy of worship.

everything happens for a reasonI prefer the agnostic, atheist, deist way of looking at life. Shit happens. Good and bad happens to one and all and often what comes our way has no purpose or reason. It just h-a-p-p-e-n-s.

This does not mean that I can not learn from the bad things that happen in my life. My own physical debility and life of pain has been quite instructive. My past experiences have indeed helped to make me into the man I am today. (good and bad)

But, to suggest that God or the universe or some divine energy/consciousness is behind how my life has turned out?  I reject any such notion. I gladly embrace what my life is and all that helped to make it what it is, but I have no place in my life for some sort of divine puppeteer pulling the strings of my life. Seven years ago, I reached up and cut the puppeteer’s strings, and from that day forward my life has been my own.  My life is an admixture of my own choices, the choices of others, genetics, and random events and circumstances.  I need no other explanation, nor do I need a God to make my life more palatable. It is what it is until it isn’t.



A good read on this subject is Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens.

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  1. Karen the rock whisperer

    I admire, love, respect, and/or am impressed (positively) by some people. But worship? I’m done worshipping.

  2. Randy

    I’m hoping you can shed some light on one of the most abhorrent forms of theology I know – Calvinism. From reading many of your previous posts I understand you adhered to it. First let me say how I tend to see things in my continued life of faith.
    From my understanding, this world is in chaos and out of control. Bad things happen a lot, and not always with a purpose or a plan. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Life is not fair. Sometimes God intervenes, many times he does not. At this point in my faith, I am okay with that.
    However, what I don’t understand is the deterministic philosophy of 5 point Calvinism that says God has planned and predestined everything. Each one of those things is part of a divine plan he wrote before time began. Some of the most outspoken pro-life people are Calvinists…but didn’t God plan for those abortions? Some of the most outspoken anti-LGBT people are Calvinists…but didn’t God predestine the sexuality of those people? In fact, isn’t here found a great irony – you aren’t born gay, you choose it? So God predestines everything but your sexuality and in that you have free will? In fact, I’m not sure why Calvinists evangelize or even bother to protest and speak against things they disagree with because it is all God’s will and plan. When I come under attack by a Calvinist I tell them to not get so mad at me because obviously god predestined me to not be a Calvinist.

    1. Charles

      Calvinism is one of the biggest pieces of bullshit ever invented. The whole notion of Substitutionary Atonement was invented by John Calvin in the 1500s. It did not exist as belief, theology, or doctrine anywhere in the Christian world prior to his time. But Calvinism is a great racket too: “I just killed 200,000,000 people. Oh well, I am off the hook because God surely preordained it.

      Of course, if you were to kidnap a Presbyterian preacher and put a gun to his head, I sincerely believe this is the answer you would hear about Calvinism and predestination:

      “Now be careful with that gun and try to calm down. Please. Predestination is just our unique “gimmick” to differentiate our churches from all the other churches. You cannot go through this world and be successful without a gimmick, you know, a special hook to draw people in. All the advertising agencies on Madison Avenue know about these gimmicks. There is even a formal name for it. It’s called “branding,” Everybody does it. Predestination was just John Calvin’s attempt to uniquely brand his new churches. That’s all. Such a small thing. Such a common thing. Nothing to get all upset about and kill a person. Can I go please?”

  3. Daniel Wilcox

    I agree with your powerful article. Even during the many years I was a committed Christian, I, too, hated when Christian leaders would claim some horrific tragedy was part of God’s great plan, and that we needed to accept suffering and evil in our lives, just knowing that it was all meant for good.

    Such obscene reasoning! But at least the many Christians who supported it, based their belief on a God who loved everyone, every single human and opposed the deaths and the evil.

    No doubt you saw the posts several years back where John Piper, wrote the opposite! Even before loved ones could bury their 80 some family members in the Midwest slaughtered by tornadoes, Piper
    got on his theological high horse (thanks for the loan of the word:-)
    and claimed
    that those winds were Jesus’ winds, that the tornado funnels were God’s fingers reaching down to kill us.

  4. Daniel Wilcox

    You also asked, “What reason could there be for children starving, a woman being raped, and a family having no means of support?”

    I realize that you are using that rhetorically, but I need to respond.

    But, of course so many Christian leaders claim that every evil horrific tragedy, even the Holocaust by the Nazis ultimately only happens for
    God’s glory.

    If I hadn’t read and heard this repeatedly in the last 10-20 years, I wouldn’t believe any human could concoct such an abhorrent belief.

    “So the Bible is teaching that these evil monsters were actually created by Jesus, FOR Jesus; to show God’s glory to the universe. (This is brought out wonderfully in John Piper’s Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ.”
    The first way evil ultimately glorifies God is by providing a reference point , or point of comparison, to highlight God’s excellencies. Evil exists to show what God is not. This way we appreciate more fully what God IS. When we see evil, we can know what God is not like. God’s gloriousness is more fully known because we have something to compare him to.

    Even hell glorifies God! The existence of hell (and the sinners who will be punished there forever with the devil and his angels) will eternally show the attribute of God’s wrath; his extreme and just hatred of sin.”
    Minister Cary Cox, The Church at Meadowlake

    So yous see, Bruce, now we know why those tragedies happened to your loved ones and why billions of us will be tortured for ever and ever–because before time began, God wanted more glory so…

  5. Kenneth

    Thinking everything happens for a reason is just a coping mechanism when tragidy hits close to home. Pinning it on God is much what people did long ago before the Bible was written. It’s what they used to “blame” others for their shortcomings. I’m okay with thinking some are dealt a better card than others, it’s what you do with it that counts. Sometimes life sucks, sometimes things go well. You can easily find the positive in the negative without God if you look hard enough.

  6. Charles

    As an independent Christian, I have never believed that God has planned every split second of the happenings in the universe or the moments in peoples’ lives. The thing that has been hardest for me to understand is how so many Christians take comfort (apparently) in the notion that God planned and orchestrated the auto accident that killed four teens on high school graduation night. If you go to the funeral home a couple of days later, some old lady with white hair is always going around to every family member to say: “God took these four boys. It was just their time. You can be comforted in knowing that.” Sometimes, I would just like to haul off and slug her. Whether you believe in God or not, I just think it is wrong to blame all the events in the universe on one entity—especially when that entity is supposed to be kind and loving. This is a universe that is very random in many ways, and only statistics can account for some of it. Or, as Bruce so accurately said: “Shit happens.”

  7. Karen the rock whisperer

    The notion that things happen for A Reason is, in a way, breathtakingly arrogant. We are a dominant species, true, but just a species; others came before us and others will come after us. We’re located on a backwater planet in a middling galaxy in this vast universe, and our time on this planet is finite. That something should happen to each individual one of us, for a reason, is kind of mind-boggling. That, coupled with the fact that God’s Plan often makes no sense at all, should really make one question the whole thing.

  8. Aussie Kath

    I was in a parish that had a wonderfully refreshing parish priest, who would say things that drew gasps from the congregation and letters to the Archbishop. One particular comment that stood out to me was when he said that God had bigger things to worry about than looking for your lost keys or helping you pass an exam. It was up to us to look after ourselves and look to God for guidance in what to do, and then do it.

    He also hated being told by “well meaning ” people that it was God calling people to heaven when they died. Especially young people and children. He was a priest who was down to earth and didn’t bullshit with pleasantries and overworn phrases that mean nothing. Of course, he was both loved and hated. But he was genuine. Since moving a long way away, I have never been able to meet his equal in theology, common sense and pragmatism.


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