Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, and Mormon churches, 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, accident, or luck
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 happens because it was meant to happen. In keeping with 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 me head-on by a few feet was acting according to some greater purpose or plan. If he had hit us, our deaths 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, these all-too-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’s 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 demise 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, a family having no means of support?
Years ago, a horrific, violent storm ripped through northwest 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 record highs. Again, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things? To increase generator sales?
War rages across the globe. The United States has troops stationed all over the world and is currently waging war in numerous countries. U.S troops, bombs, and bullets are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent civilian men, women, and children, along with enemy combatants. 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 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 starving 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.
I 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 cannot learn from the bad things that happen in my life. My own physical debility and chronic pain have 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. Twelve years ago, I reached up and cut the puppeteer’s strings, and from that day forward my life has been my own. It 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.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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