This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← "Everything happens for a reason"

"Everything happens for a reason" - Comments

ghost of numf-el's Avatar Comment 1 by ghost of numf-el

All of the ones that spring to mind can't really be repeated in polite company - so it depends how polite you are.

Perhaps make it incredibly personal - ask her to imagine the very worst thing that could happen to her child (murdered on a street corner for the contents of her purse by a junkie who is never found is a starting point), and then ask her what possible good could ever come of it.

Bad things happening to strangers is never quite as bad as when similar things happen to our own.

If she then repeats her mantra then call her a self-centred fuckwit (or whatever) and walk away.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 11:48:21 UTC | #496099

Jay G's Avatar Comment 2 by Jay G

This the game called "you can't win". There is nothing you can say that will make a difference. I have had this conversation many times with religious people. It always comes down to the same thing:

God knows the entire "master plan" and we puny humans only see our small slice of the pie. God loves us and cares for us and wouldn't do anything that's bad for us. Just like a parent who takes his child to the doctor to get a shot (pain) which is really for the child's good, so too God gives us pain which is really for our own good.

Give up, my friend, because you lost this game once you began to play.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 12:04:14 UTC | #496108

Mr Aardvark's Avatar Comment 3 by Mr Aardvark

If suffering is part of a 'master plan', it's a pretty lousy plan.

Shit happens sometimes

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 12:54:50 UTC | #496136

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 4 by SaganTheCat

"It all happens for a reason" is one of those sayings that people use to trup any reasoned argument.

The reason for this is because they're right by their own standards.

Now I believe everything happens for a reason, however in my opinion the reason is the cause (tsunamis happen for a reason, the reason is undersea earthquakes). of course you're talking about the magical reason that proves the event is in itself planned for the greater good.

utter rubbish I know but the reason you can't argue against it is because at some point in the future, something good will happen that will have, among all the other countless causes, some aspect to a bad event happening in the past.

The problem is, like with all forms of woo woo prophecy, there is a limetless amount of time between the bad event and the good reason that unfolds from it. It's subjective, take your pick of good things that have happened since and use it to prove you're right.

These people are incapable of seeing that while a "miracle" might happen, an example I'll take is the mother in Haiti who was convinced her child had burned to death before the earthquake. If it wasn't for the earthquake she might never have seen that her child was alive and woohoo you have a miracle reuniting. It's a poor analogy knowing the facts but you get what I mean.

The chances are for any good to happen to any one person during a massive event. untold amounts of bad must happen to others (don't worry, they go to heaven, case closed).

"everything Happens for a reason" is what we say when we're convinced we're more important than everyone else. When a christian mother says to her child who escaped a disaster that killed others "someone was watching over you" it means, "someone doesn't give a toss how much suffering they cause for the sake of relatively minimal happiness"

kudos to Jay again

you can't win it. as long as an event appears that justifies their belief they can claim a win. if not they claim the game isn't over so you haven't won yet

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 12:55:27 UTC | #496137

jel's Avatar Comment 5 by jel

If everything is happening for a reason and that reason is god's plan, what then happened to free will? They can't have it both ways, but, as others have already pointed out, you can't win this one because they will insist on having it any way they like.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 13:11:09 UTC | #496150

Jay G's Avatar Comment 6 by Jay G

Comment 5 by jel :

If everything is happening for a reason and that reason is god's plan, what then happened to free will? They can't have it both ways, but, as others have already pointed out, you can't win this one because they will insist on having it any way they like.

Foolish person, you thought you had them tripped up. However, in the exciting game of "you can't win", anything is possible. They have you on this one also.

You see, everything fits into God's plan. However, we have free will. So, for example, if God's plan is that Mr. Smith will die, then he will die. If YOU choose (from your divinely given free will) to kill Mr. Smith, then God's plan came out just fine. IF you choose NOT to kill Mr. Smith, then God will find another way for Smith to die.

You see, "YOU CAN'T WIN".

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 13:22:48 UTC | #496154

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 7 by Follow Peter Egan

It's a certain mindset, I guess. Unless you think in that way it's pretty impossible to understand and pointless to argue against. It's part of the solipsism of religious thinking that reckons the whole universe was created with them in mind.

Though how terminally ill children, to use an obvious example, can all be part of a benevolent deity's plan is not something I'd ever be willing to allow my mind to somersault around in order to fit it into my worldview.

Although I did make my dad laugh when he rhetorically asked, "Why the hell has it started raining just as I was about to go out and mow the lawn?" by telling him that Allah willed it so. You either see it's ridiculous or not.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 14:39:29 UTC | #496193

Think Floyd's Avatar Comment 8 by Think Floyd

"Happiness is not a reward - it is a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment - it is a result." -Robert Ingersoll

I find that this quote explains the situation well for a rational person, but in your case I would suggest bringing up a hypothetical situation where the woman herself is the victim of senseless violence.

If she continues her ignorant ravings just withdraw from the argument, she will never admit defeat.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 14:57:44 UTC | #496202

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 9 by hitchens_jnr

If Christians think that everything happens for a reason and as part of God's plan, how would they explain the prodigous success of Richard Dawkins?

Is he, perhaps, the Antichrist?

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:01:58 UTC | #496205

Jay G's Avatar Comment 10 by Jay G

Richard's success is because the great Loving God is giving him whatever reward he might deserve for whatever nice things he's done. Richard gets his reward now and then......BAM!!!!!!!!!!!! The God of Love who loves all his creatures will take delight in paying Richard back with all the horrible punishments HE (in his Loving Mercy) can think of.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:05:00 UTC | #496208

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 11 by hitchens_jnr

When I suggested Richard was the Antichrist, I was of course being silly.

But then I found this:

http://atheismexposed.tripod.com/dawkins_satan_possessed.htm

A charming little fundamentalist website which poses the question "Is Richard Dawkins Satan-Possessed?"

The good news is that, according to the clearly sober, reasonable and well-qualified author, Satan is "probably" not possessing Richard, Richard is merely Satan's "beloved child". That's a relief!

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:21:18 UTC | #496216

Jay G's Avatar Comment 12 by Jay G

Comment 11 by hitchens_jnr :

When I suggested Richard was the Antichrist, I was of course being silly. But then I found this:

http://atheismexposed.tripod.com/dawkins_satan_possessed.htm A charming little fundamentalist website which poses the question "Is Richard Dawkins Satan-Possessed?"

The good news is that, according to the clearly sober, reasonable and well-qualified author, Satan is "probably" not possessing Richard, Richard is merely Satan's "beloved child". That's a relief!

Hmmmmm...... Does that mean that Richard and Charlie Manson are related?

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:24:28 UTC | #496220

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 13 by hitchens_jnr

Nah. Come on, you know how fundies think.

Richard denies the existence of God. Manson only killed a bunch of people. Richard is far worse.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:25:35 UTC | #496223

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 14 by Sean_W

For future reference these conversations should go something like this:

"Everything happens for a reason."

You mean god has a plan for everything?

"Yes, God is working his plan."

What about cancer?

"Well, we don't know what God's plan is."

Or you're wrong and god isn't working a plan. You could be wrong, right?

...at this point you'll either hear a smug and righteous "no", or the same smug attitude in some false humility "yes, it's possible I suppose, but..."

In either case it is your duty to laugh out loud, and I mean laugh man,and it shouldn't be fake because it is genuinely funny, and you should feel it when you laugh long and hard in their face.

They will feel insulted and rightly so, that's our intent, to insult harmful stupid when we encounter it.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:33:15 UTC | #496226

Jay G's Avatar Comment 15 by Jay G

Comment 13 by hitchens_jnr :

Nah. Come on, you know how fundies think. Richard denies the existence of God. Manson only killed a bunch of people. Richard is far worse.

I guess Charlie has something to strive for.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:36:43 UTC | #496230

Jay G's Avatar Comment 16 by Jay G

Comment 14 by manilla_wise :

For future reference these conversations should go something like this: "Everything happens for a reason."

You mean god has a plan for everything? "Yes, God is working his plan."

What about cancer? "Well, we don't know what God's plan is."

Or you're wrong and god isn't working a plan. You could be wrong, right? ...at this point you'll either hear a smug and righteous "no", or the same smug attitude in some false humility "yes, it's possible I suppose, but..."

In either case it is your duty to laugh out loud, and I mean laugh man,and it shouldn't be fake because it is genuinely funny, and you should feel it when you laugh long and hard in their face. They will feel insulted and rightly so, that's our intent, to insult harmful stupid when we encounter it.

You can't insult these people because there is no way they can be wrong in their own eyes.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:37:50 UTC | #496231

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 17 by Sean_W

Comment 16 by Jay G

I appreciate the point, I'm still going to laugh though and they'll still feel it.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:41:11 UTC | #496235

sundiver's Avatar Comment 18 by sundiver

I hate that platitude. About 3 years ago I had CVA. Heard that bullshit so many times I started to respond with " Yes the reason was an artery in my brain had a weak spot in the wall which formed an aneurysm which then ruptured and isn't unfortunate for all and sundry that my personality wasn't affected and I'm still a grouchy SOB!!", said with steady increase in volume and speed. It worked.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 16:38:56 UTC | #496254

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 19 by Jos Gibbons

One moving response (you can judge how good it is) I have seen comes from David Tennant's portrayal of Arthur Stanley Eddington in Einstein and Eddington. I imagine it is a fictionalised scene, and in any case bear in mind Eddington was a Quaker, not "one of us". But, in the scene in question, both he and Sir Oliver Lodge have lost someone in the Battle of Ypres (though Eddington's someone is a man he loved, so he can't admit it), resulting in Eddington having a crisis of faith, and Eddington's fellow astronomers, led by Lodge, wish communication between German scientists and the Royal Astronomical Society to cease. Eddington, interested in Einstein's work, disagrees. Sadly, it's not on YouTube. However, here's the extract of which I was reminded:

Eddington: Mercury.

Lodge: We've had this before.

Eddington: What?

Lodge: The orbit of a planet that Newton couldn't account for, Uranus. And what happened? Neptune was discovered - and where was Neptune? Exactly where Newton predicted it must be -and what did that mean? The orbit of Uranus made sense with Newton after all. WHEN WILL YOU LEARN? Everything happens for a reason!

(Eddington stands)

Eddington: Ypres.

Lodge: How dare you mention that name. What do you know of Ypres, what do you know of grief? I have lost my son, but there is order in the universe.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 16:55:43 UTC | #496261

Tord M's Avatar Comment 20 by Tord M

If everything that happens, happens for a reason, and will turn out to be for the good in the long run, according to God's divine plan, then we are all free to steal, murder, lie, rape and pillage as much as we can, because every time we do so, it must necessarily be part of God's plan, and will turn out to be for the good in the long run.

Ask your fatalist friends to jump off a tall building. Because if they do, then that must also be part of God's plan, and will also be for the best in the long run. You might even argue, that if they don't jump off a tall building, then they are defying God's will, which of course they can't, so they'll just have to jump.

There position is absurd. No use to argue with them. What they need is therapy.

Updated: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 17:14:00 UTC | #496264

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 21 by Jos Gibbons

Yes, Tord M. As Professor Farnsworth put it,

And remember, don't do anything that affects anything, unless it turns out you were supposed to, in which case, for the love of God, don't not do it!

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 17:26:02 UTC | #496268

katt33's Avatar Comment 22 by katt33

I have had this debate for years with people, including my own mother and to no avail. Are there certain laws of nature at play in things that happen, sure, but that is something else all together.

In every situation, you can find a light bulb moment, where you come to some realization. I can accept that, but to say that the "powers that be" tortured your child so you could learn something, or have a moment of enlightenment, well, that kind of God, keep him.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 18:39:52 UTC | #496308

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 23 by DefenderOfReason!

A similar topic I created some time ago....
http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/470346-thanking-god-disgusts-me

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 18:56:24 UTC | #496318

elmo14's Avatar Comment 24 by elmo14

People like that, I mean the ones that truly believe it all, are impossible to deal with. Its like with Dennet's version of memetics where religious ideologies can be thought of as an evolved mind virus. This "everything happens for a reason" is a perfect example of a built in survival mechanism to combat against what would otherwise be overwhelming contradictory evidence.

This stuff is so obviously frivolous and transparent to someone who is equipped with even a rudimentary sense of logic, but unfortunately, due to indoctrination at such a young age, this virus takes hold of so many before they can become inoculated with the tools of reason.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 20:17:08 UTC | #496364

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 25 by jonjermey

If they are bright enough, and you really want to pursue this, you could say something like:

"You agree that there's no point having a discussion unless each side has a chance of influencing the other, right? So to keep our discussion going, tell me: what kind of evidence would I have to provide to make you change your mind? You don't have to be specific -- just indicate the kind of facts I would need to supply in order to make you consider the falsehood of your position."

If they can't or won't, or their 'facts' are impossible to obtain, then you exit with dignity. Otherwise you provide those facts.

Updated: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 20:59:21 UTC | #496391

elmo14's Avatar Comment 26 by elmo14

@jonjermey

But there lies the whole problem. Once the premise is accepted, "everything happens for a reason", there is no conceivable evidence that can refute that position. No matter what you bring up, no matter how egregious an incident, it can be explained by stating that humans are short-sighted and should not expect to be able to understand god's master plan.

Though your argument does clearly show the innate ridiculousness of their position, it is still perfectly logical for them to believe what they say given their presuppositions that the 3-O god exists and a human mind cannot understand its plan. And now that I think about it, it also gives them extra support in their willful ignorance..."well I don't know, but I can't possibly know, so why bother trying to know?"

btw, 3-O meing omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 21:10:43 UTC | #496397

Tord M's Avatar Comment 27 by Tord M

We perhaps shouldn't make fun of them. They are touching on some very difficult questions about determinism and free will. These thing are not easy to get one's heads around. And it's not difficult to imagine how some people can get it completely wrong.

The way to fix it would be by giving them the basic education that they never had. Explaining to them the basic laws of physics, for instance. But that might take considerable time and effort. They've had a faulty operating system installed, and that's not easy to remedy by some small patches and fixes.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 21:27:11 UTC | #496405

alexi's Avatar Comment 28 by alexi

No I disagree, I blame them for getting it wrong. It's not rocket science. The "everything happens for a reason" is so obviously bullcrap. I remember when I was in 6th grade and we kept getting bomb threats at our school (they were just kids who wanted an excuse to leave school, but it was still stressful and annoying for the teachers), and my mom told me how inspired she was when one of the teachers said "God is testing us." I was just like ".... um yeah I guess that could be... or some people could just be calling in bomb threats because they don't want to go to school..."

Anything can be twisted to mean something. I remember hearing a rock star remark during a difficult time "Things seem to work themselves out eventually. For better or worse, things have a way of working themselves out." Well DUH. That's what it means for an event to be in the past and not the present. I have no patience for people who insist on seeing everything through such a dumbstruck and juvenile paradigm (at least no patience for listening to them expound that worldview).

I was talking to a theist friend once, and he was talking about all the good things that had happened to him that he attributed to God, and I was like "well what about when bad things happen? Does that mean God's mad at you?" And he just said, without any sense of irony "hey, sometimes bad things happen. That's just how life is." I was totally incredulous. I managed to put it into words - "well.... why can't good things just happen?" He was just kinda like "huh." I can never believe how provincially stupid the people putting forward these views are.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 22:48:38 UTC | #496440

secularjew's Avatar Comment 29 by secularjew

Remember Voltaire's "Candide", a satirical attack on the notion that this is the best of all possible worlds? It seems that this is the new age reincarnation of that idea combined with the usual God's mysterious ways clap-trap. http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-cites-moving-in-mysterious-ways-as-motive-in-k,535/

I suppose when dealing with such level of idiocy, debating is a losing battle. As my mother likes to say, "If a man's an idiot, it's a long term condition." Still, if you must, you might try turning into a lawyer and simply asking with as much disdain as possible, "And you know this how, exactly?" and then going from there. Otherwise, just quote the old PT Barnum line, "There is a sucker born every minute" and stop wasting your energies talking to a wall.

However, don't pass up future opportunities to ridicule that person in front of a third party. Say, for example, you are discussing 9/11, and this person joins the conversation. At that point, tell the third person something like, "By the way, Jack (or whoever) thinks that 9/11 was a good thing" and then have that person try to deny it, "What? I never said that." "Sure you did. You said that everything happens for a reason and God knows best, so even though something seems bad it's all for the best in the end. Oh, and Jack also approves of the holocaust, because it's all part of God's wonderful plan. And since God could not conceive of a plan without the holocaust, genocide is an essential part of God's plan. We're just too small minded to see it. But Jack sees that Holocausts are for the best." When the person tries to respond, just skip on to the next attrocity, "Of course, Jack thinks that serial killers are part of God's grand plan. Really, it's astounding how much Jack knows about God's plan. We, foolish mortals, can't grasp it, but if anyone knows the mind of God and secrets of the universe, it's Jack, the part-time cashier at Target. Why, it's almost like he's pulling this shit straight out of his ass." Anyway, you get the idea.

Updated: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 23:54:52 UTC | #496458

The Plc's Avatar Comment 30 by The Plc

I remember listening to A.C. Grayling calling this the "Fred did it" response. No matter what evidence or argument you put forward, their position can never be falsified because three magic words squares the circle in the blink of an eye.

Fri, 06 Aug 2010 00:54:07 UTC | #496471