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Everything Happens for a Reason (& Other Myths)
 
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WARNING: This thread is not kind on a theistic mindset, or at least invites to scrutinize same.

 

As I grow older (still debatable if I am maturing), I see how many beliefs sit unscrutinized in our culture.

 

The example in the subject of this thread is one I will use to tease apart what I now see and believe.

 

Please add your own examples.

 

'Everything happens for a reason' appears to be a comfort mechanism to help (some) human beings avoid the random elements of our human existence. Even when shitty things happen, such a belief invests in the notion that God has some higher wisdom, of which we humans are largely or even completely ignorant, and that we should maintain faith in His Infinite Wisdom, and certainly not question it.

 

Such a belief sits in an interesting context. Anyone familiar with the work of the psychologist Martin Seligman, will know that learned helplessness and optimism has a connection with our relationship with causality - of having a healthy grip on where the Locus of Control lies and our self-talk about same.

 

By holding to the belief that when tragedy occurs, that it was not sheer bloody minded randomness on the part of the Universe, can offer a reduction in anxiety. It is better for some people to accept that they might get a belting from God periodically and on no particular schedule, than to face the possibility that 'shit happens', and it may have nothing at all to do with a God; that whether it is you or your neighbour who gets struck by lightening is just sheer randomness.

 

The anxiety of the reality of a certain level of randomness, is less tolerable than the idea of a God, who has a strange set of rules that shift as humanities consciousness shift, but can also be capricious, and lets rip for no good reason occasionally (e.g. the Indian Ocean tsunami).

 

And those same people somehow appear to find solace when a few religious leaders link such events, effecting some of the world's poorest people, with such geographically and socially remote activities of sexual proclivities of gays and lesbians, half a planet away.

 

But we are talking about anxiety reduction here. And as if humans haven't enough real things to have a justifiable anxiety about, many religions have evolved to High Art, the ability to instill and manipulate anxiety through the most perverse and twisted logic, that eludes my rationality.

 

So, what other expressions have you observed than embody a subtext that goes frequently unaudited, and which you seeing as damaging to human wellbeing?

 

Daryl 

 

 

 

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and I am responsible for the metaphors that populate my mind.’ Daryl

 
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The New Age version is "The Secret" The Law of Atraction" "Like attracts like" "You create your own reality". All of these give people a false sense of control over  events beyond our control.  It also leads to blaming the victim for their misfortune.

 

Most recently "The Secret" teacher Joe Vitale said that the victims of the San Diego fires attracted the fire to themselves, or we all did, he wasn't clear which.

 

Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero » San Diego Fires

 

 

I also think that one could be a theist and without believing that everything happens for a reason.

 
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Rebellious Spirit:

 

 

I also think that one could be a theist and without believing that everything happens for a reason.

 Me. All I have the mental power to say right now.

 

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How about an audited version:

 

"If it wasn't unfair, you wouldn't know it was Life." 

Quote from Rosemary Edghill's book which I started last night.

 
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Born Free: My wife and I were discussing this last night. There was a news item in which a local church was gutted by fire. The pastor and his wife were using that old line that God must have had a reason for it and they saw it as a blessing.

 

On the one hand I think, "Hey, whatever helps you get through the tragedy is fine by me". But, on the other hand I am frustrated at how people buy into these non-falsifiable idioms. They would have viewed it as a blessing if the church had been spared of fire and they view it as a blessing that the fire did happen. I find the thought that "everything happens for a reason" dangerous when applied to things such as rape, disease, and killings.

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Hueffenhardt:

 I find the thought that "everything happens for a reason" dangerous when applied to things such as rape, disease, and killings.

I cannot even begin trying to list the ripple effects left after a close family member commits suicide. My very best friend told me, at one point,

 

"The place you are, is the place where you are supposed to be."

 

I went along with that at the time, however, I aways had a niggling in the back of my brain about the unjustness of my position dealing with the emotional consequences on my children and I, along with  the initial financial reprecussions because of someone else's actions. I was left to deal with the fallout of those actions on so many levels...this was the place I was SUPPOSED to be??? Who says?


Indeed, I find that remark ridiculous in light of Hueff's statement and those whose experiences are so much more traumatic than my own. 

 

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There were three little children, in our community, who climbed into a chest type freezer and the lid fell shut. A fourth child, having been admonished to never play in the freezer, hid without telling anyone.

 

Two of the children were the grandchildren of one of my friends and I went to the family gathering to express my sympathy. I couldn't imagine what I heard from a woman, in front of me, who had her arms around the bereaved grandmother: "Everything happens for a reason, you know, and God is testing you."

 

What kind of God gets his jollies off testing people in cruel ways?

 
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Interesting topic.

 

 

I have settled on Agnosticism after spending the last two years reading and thinking these things through. If there is a sentient involved God it certainly has not made anything clear. Based on that I choose to believe that whatever power or force there may be, it is not a caring involved God. Nor is it a retribution seeking entity embued with human emotions. As I have said before I think WE are God.

 

 

I agree with the idea of taking personal responsibility for our lives. If you want to be a certain way, or have certain things, then go make it happen if you can. I think within reason, we become what we think. I am the result of the thinking I did in the past. Tommorrow I will be different because I have started thinking differently. 

 

 

Nothing has been more exhilarating for me in the past two years than the peace that has come through rejection of the Judeo-Christian God. To me this God is an animal. Avaricious, capricious, and frankly just plain weird. I put that God to death in my mind and heart and something unexpected happened. I was surprised by a re-emergence of profound joy and confidence. Explain that if you can. In addition I have become more caring and compassionate.

 

 

I do not believe there is a God causing and fixing things in our lives. The thought of that to me now " makes reason stare".

 

 

ft

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free thinker:

 

I do not believe there is a God causing and fixing things in our lives. The thought of that to me now " makes reason stare".

 

 

ft

 

If there even is one, why would a Being care what happens to me if he is seemingly not concerned with those living under intolerable situations in areas like Darfur?

 

My personal mantra these days is "What is, is."

 

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I think most explanations for these things is a psychological protection mechanism in our brains.  People have gone insane when bad things have happened, the calm that believing there is a higher being who is in control is comforting to some people, to others it is maddening to think a being has power and doesn't use it for the good of all.  Depression is often a result of feeling out of control and "helpless".   Humans find ways to deal with all sorts of bad things.  Some of those ways are destructive (drug abuse etc..) some are positive (throwing yourself into charity work), inevitably life goes on regardless of how one individual chooses to deal with any situation.  Volumes of self-help books have been written to aid people in their search for peace.  So many different ways because there are so many different people.  No "one size fits all."  TSCC fills that need for many, but not all and it is not the ONLY way to peace.  I have also felt more peace in my life since I left.  Good luck to others searching.
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Alright, from a theist, specifically Christian, perspective....
"Everything happens for a reason" is, for the most part, a dumb thing to say. Although the Bible does speak quite clearly that there are times when God allows things to happen to test, in a way (take the book of Job as example), and it does speak of using things in our life to refine people, there is also the idea of a "fallen world" that goes completely against that idea. In other words, Christians (for the most part) believe that when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, sin entered the world. (And no, most Christians do not believe that God set it up that they HAVE to sin.)

Therfore, because sin is in the world, humans do horrible things. And God allows it because humans have free choice and he wants us to choose to follow him and be loving, rather then being forced. So yes, in Christian belief, God does sometimes test us, but I would think most Christians, rather then, "Everything happens for a reason," should say, "I don't know what possessed someone to do this horrible tragedy, and I'm going to choose to turn to God for my solace and my strength to get through this."

Please note, the above is my own opinion and interpretation based on what I know of Christian beliefs.
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When someone is in a crisis, I hate when people say, "God wouldn't give you more than you could handle." While I'm sure that is comforting to someone who chooses to have that mentality, putting that on to other people is cruel. There is nothing quite like telling people that if they were weaker, God would make their life easier.
 
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Hueffenhardt:

Born Free: My wife and I were discussing this last night. There was a news item in which a local church was gutted by fire. The pastor and his wife were using that old line that God must have had a reason for it and they saw it as a blessing.

 

On the one hand I think, "Hey, whatever helps you get through the tragedy is fine by me". But, on the other hand I am frustrated at how people buy into these non-falsifiable idioms. They would have viewed it as a blessing if the church had been spared of fire and they view it as a blessing that the fire did happen. I find the thought that "everything happens for a reason" dangerous when applied to things such as rape, disease, and killings.

 Hueffenhardt:

 

One of the prompts for me starting the thread was some numbskull here who had some maintenance job to do on the outside of a tall church. So, as 'one' does, he used rope to tie three tall aluminium ladders end to end, and lean then up the sloping exterior of the church roof.

 

Well, some time after he climbed this and started working, the 2 joins decided to go every which way, leaving him holding on for dear life by his fingers. Ultimately, emergency services had to come and save him.

 

And you would never guess the interpretation of all this stupidity?

 

Of course God saved him!!!

 

Now, why God saved this fool after he nearly killed himself and wasted the time and money of emergency services, but couldn't whisper in his ear that the ladders and rope trick was not exactly clever, was beyond me.

 

But then, I'm an aethiest.

 

Daryl 

 

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and I am responsible for the metaphors that populate my mind.’ Daryl

 
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Born Free:
Hueffenhardt:

Born Free: My wife and I were discussing this last night. There was a news item in which a local church was gutted by fire. The pastor and his wife were using that old line that God must have had a reason for it and they saw it as a blessing.

 

On the one hand I think, "Hey, whatever helps you get through the tragedy is fine by me". But, on the other hand I am frustrated at how people buy into these non-falsifiable idioms. They would have viewed it as a blessing if the church had been spared of fire and they view it as a blessing that the fire did happen. I find the thought that "everything happens for a reason" dangerous when applied to things such as rape, disease, and killings.

 Hueffenhardt:

 

One of the prompts for me starting the thread was some numbskull here who had some maintenance job to do on the outside of a tall church. So, as 'one' does, he used rope to tie three tall aluminium ladders end to end, and lean then up the sloping exterior of the church roof.

 

Well, some time after he climbed this and started working, the 2 joins decided to go every which way, leaving him holding on for dear life by his fingers. Ultimately, emergency services had to come and save him.

 

And you would never guess the interpretation of all this stupidity?

 

Of course God saved him!!!

 

Now, why God saved this fool after he nearly killed himself and wasted the time and money of emergency services, but couldn't whisper in his ear that the ladders and rope trick was not exactly clever, was beyond me.

 

But then, I'm an aethiest.

Daryl 

 

I've always wondered why a supreme being would not save a dumbass from himself.  But then, I'm the guy who drilled a hole in his hand putting together a mailbox

 

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I think this falls under the Theory of Natural Selection.
 
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Excellent thread, Born Free!

 

I think there is a critical corolary that goes with the notion that "Everything happens for a reason."  That is: God is in control.

 

And IF God is in control, He can change things if He wants.

 

And IF He can change things if He wants, perhaps I can persuade him to want what I want.

 

And all I want is to be safe and secure to appease this existential fear that haunts me.

 

I believe it is this idea that is the root of ritual and dogma.  There is the presumption of fairness in God's worldview, and He isn't going to change his mind on anything unless there is consideration on our part.  So we do what GOD wants, and then God will do what WE want.  Along the way, we have devised incredibly complex, rich, intricate rituals and dogmas in an effort to find sufficient favor in God's eyes to ensure a happy outcome for us.  And every tradition is convinced that THEIR rituals and dogmas are the one's that work...

 

Ultimately, and ironically, I believe that the notion that "everything happens for a reason" is CLOSELY related to our desire to control the outcomes of the universe.  We know what we want...we want safety and security.  We do all the things we can to ensure that God is doing his part, and because 99% of the time, we ARE in fact safe and secure, we tend to believe that whatever rituals we practice and dogmas we preach are in fact working...our own lives are the proof.

 

On the rare occassion when something goes awry in our lives, we assume WE missed the meaning and purpose of that event.  But since we're working so hard to ensure that God is blessing us, we naturally assume that this little "bump" is a part of the plan, we just can't see how.  But we will--in the hereafter.  If we DON'T assume this, then we run the very real risk of wondering if God is paying attention at all...

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peter_mary:

Excellent thread, Born Free!

 

I think there is a critical corolary that goes with the notion that "Everything happens for a reason."  That is: God is in control.

 

And IF God is in control, He can change things if He wants.

 

And IF He can change things if He wants, perhaps I can persuade him to want what I want.

 

And all I want is to be safe and secure to appease this existential fear that haunts me.

 

I believe it is this idea that is the root of ritual and dogma.  There is the presumption of fairness in God's worldview, and He isn't going to change his mind on anything unless there is consideration on our part.  So we do what GOD wants, and then God will do what WE want.  Along the way, we have devised incredibly complex, rich, intricate rituals and dogmas in an effort to find sufficient favor in God's eyes to ensure a happy outcome for us.  And every tradition is convinced that THEIR rituals and dogmas are the one's that work...

 

Ultimately, and ironically, I believe that the notion that "everything happens for a reason" is CLOSELY related to our desire to control the outcomes of the universe.  We know what we want...we want safety and security.  We do all the things we can to ensure that God is doing his part, and because 99% of the time, we ARE in fact safe and secure, we tend to believe that whatever rituals we practice and dogmas we preach are in fact working...our own lives are the proof.

 

On the rare occassion when something goes awry in our lives, we assume WE missed the meaning and purpose of that event.  But since we're working so hard to ensure that God is blessing us, we naturally assume that this little "bump" is a part of the plan, we just can't see how.  But we will--in the hereafter.  If we DON'T assume this, then we run the very real risk of wondering if God is paying attention at all...

 

I have really enjoyed reading this thread.  P_M's comments here have made me think and I think he is correct.  I really like having the opportunity to read things like these that challenge my beliefs.

 

Thinking of these things makes me wonder what to do with this information.  How should I comfort someone who looses someone.  What could I do to help them feel a bit better.  I don't believe in a God nor do I believe that we maintain our consciousness when we die.  But sharing this belief with a father who grieves the loss of his wife may be very hurtful.  However, by saying, "God tests us and that she was called home" could also be not only hurtful but would be dishonest for me to share as my belief.  What is the honest, thoughtful, and helpful thing to say?  I am sure this is one of those things that has many correct answers and many wrong answers all depending on the situation and person affected.

 
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Iosepa:

Thinking of these things makes me wonder what to do with this information.  How should I comfort someone who looses someone.  What could I do to help them feel a bit better.  I don't believe in a God nor do I believe that we maintain our consciousness when we die.  But sharing this belief with a father who grieves the loss of his wife may be very hurtful.  However, by saying, "God tests us and that she was called home" could also be not only hurtful but would be dishonest for me to share as my belief.  What is the honest, thoughtful, and helpful thing to say?  I am sure this is one of those things that has many correct answers and many wrong answers all depending on the situation and person affected.

 

Good question...and I wish I knew the answer.

 

I would suppose that the best way to respond to a grieving person is with empathy:

 

"This is really painful, and I can only imagine how it must feel.  Please know that I am here for you, and will be for as long as you need me."

 

Something like that might be your best strategy.  Acknowledge the pain, but don't try to fix it...you can't.  Nobody can.  Sometimes really hard things happen.  They just do.  Telling someone "there's a reason" is really just our lame attempt to "fix" a painful situation.  Our best bet is just to acknowledge the pain, and support them through it.  All that is required is our compassion.

 

Or so it seems to me.  I talk big, but I suck at this kind of stuff as much as the next guy...

 

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Iosepa:

Thinking of these things makes me wonder what to do with this information.  How should I comfort someone who looses someone.  What could I do to help them feel a bit better.  I don't believe in a God nor do I believe that we maintain our consciousness when we die.  But sharing this belief with a father who grieves the loss of his wife may be very hurtful.  However, by saying, "God tests us and that she was called home" could also be not only hurtful but would be dishonest for me to share as my belief.  What is the honest, thoughtful, and helpful thing to say?  I am sure this is one of those things that has many correct answers and many wrong answers all depending on the situation and person affected.

 My mother passed away when I was 14-yrs-old. People would try to tell me that she was in a better place, etc, but I already believed that at the time. The only thing that really helped was for people to tell me that they love me.

 

You don't have to have some profound thing to say to someone when their loved one dies. Just tell them that you love them. That isn't likely to offend anyone. When you think about it the thing that hurts and what someone misses most when their loved one dies is the love they received from them. So, the best thing you can do is to give them love. 

 

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peter_mary:

 


Good question...and I wish I knew the answer.

 

I would suppose that the best way to respond to a grieving person is with empathy:

 

"This is really painful, and I can only imagine how it must feel.  Please know that I am here for you, and will be for as long as you need me."

 

Good thoughts.  Sometimes I suppose one challenge for me in saying something like this is that it really commits myself to action.  Which brings me to the next thought you shared.

Something like that might be your best strategy.  Acknowledge the pain, but don't try to fix it...you can't.  Nobody can.  Sometimes really hard things happen.  They just do.  Telling someone "there's a reason" is really just our lame attempt to "fix" a painful situation.  Our best bet is just to acknowledge the pain, and support them through it.  All that is required is our compassion.

When we attempt to "fix" the problem are we really just doing it for ourselves.  So to the thought above when I offer my support how can I be certain that I am doing it for their benefit and not for mine.  Because if I am just saying that I will be their for them but never bother to stop by or give them a call or send an email am I just as abusive to the grieving person as the one who says that god caused it all and it will all work out for the best. 

 

Really I am starting to see that an atheist may see a greater responsibility to help his fellow human than do some theists.  (Certainly many theists and those I have heard on this board have a tremendous sense of caring and desire to help others.)  But it does mean that I now feel a greater need to actually help people if I really care about them.  I can't just say well god will take care of them so I will say a prayer for them and let what happens happen trusting that god willed it that way.  (Again I do not mean to offend theists.  I am speaking more from my own experiences than talking about any individual other than myself.)


 
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Hueffenhardt:
Iosepa:

Thinking of these things makes me wonder what to do with this information.  How should I comfort someone who looses someone.  What could I do to help them feel a bit better.  I don't believe in a God nor do I believe that we maintain our consciousness when we die.  But sharing this belief with a father who grieves the loss of his wife may be very hurtful.  However, by saying, "God tests us and that she was called home" could also be not only hurtful but would be dishonest for me to share as my belief.  What is the honest, thoughtful, and helpful thing to say?  I am sure this is one of those things that has many correct answers and many wrong answers all depending on the situation and person affected.

 My mother passed away when I was 14-yrs-old. People would try to tell me that she was in a better place, etc, but I already believed that at the time. The only thing that really helped was for people to tell me that they love me.

 

You don't have to have some profound thing to say to someone when their loved one dies. Just tell them that you love them. That isn't likely to offend anyone. When you think about it the thing that hurts and what someone misses most when their loved one dies is the love they received from them. So, the best thing you can do is to give them love. 

 

 

Very true.  Thanks for sharing that. 

 
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Iosepa:

When we attempt to "fix" the problem are we really just doing it for ourselves.  So to the thought above when I offer my support how can I be certain that I am doing it for their benefit and not for mine.  Because if I am just saying that I will be their for them but never bother to stop by or give them a call or send an email am I just as abusive to the grieving person as the one who says that god caused it all and it will all work out for the best. 

 


I think you nailed it.  When we try to "fix" the situation, it's often because WE'RE uncomfortable.  We would really rather just convince them, and ourselves, that everything's okay, even though it plainly isn't! 

 

Iosepa:

Really I am starting to see that an atheist may see a greater responsibility to help his fellow human than do some theists.  (Certainly many theists and those I have heard on this board have a tremendous sense of caring and desire to help others.)  But it does mean that I now feel a greater need to actually help people if I really care about them.  I can't just say well god will take care of them so I will say a prayer for them and let what happens happen trusting that god willed it that way.  (Again I do not mean to offend theists.  I am speaking more from my own experiences than talking about any individual other than myself.)

I really can't speak for the theists, either, but I can speak for myself.  And I agree with you.  There is an increased sense of responsibility to help, because if I don't, then who?  God isn't (at least not according to my experience), so I better.  But "help" is about love and support, not "fixing."

 

Anyway, just some random thoughts for the day!

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Rebellious Spirit:

The New Age version is "The Secret" The Law of Atraction" "Like attracts like" "You create your own reality". All of these give people a false sense of control over  events beyond our control.  It also leads to blaming the victim for their misfortune.

 

Most recently "The Secret" teacher Joe Vitale said that the victims of the San Diego fires attracted the fire to themselves, or we all did, he wasn't clear which.

 

Dr. Joe Vitale at Zero » San Diego Fires

 

 

I also think that one could be a theist and without believing that everything happens for a reason.

 Rebellious Spirit:,

 

You have picked another of my favourites!

 

 I see this one at the other end of the spectrum.

 

Anyone familiar with the transactional analysis (TA) model, based in a laymens interpretation of Freud?

 

If "Everything happens for a reason" is the Adult deferring to the Uber-Parent - God, then "You create your own reality is Adult or Ego gone mad, thinking it is now God. This is one of those infantile switches we see children go through. One moment they want to be the child that is looked after; the next the want to run teh show and boss everyone around. Does that provide any clue as to the level of maturity this form of New Age wankery targets???

 

My mother got into this New Age 'wank' some time back, and I had to challenge her to get her to put some boundaries around the notion, which is viable in the appropriate realm - that shitty expectations/beliefs can become self-fulfilling. 

 

I challenged her in this way.

 

I said, if I use a telescope to view the heavens tonight I can view many heavenly bodies as they were thousands of light years ago, including some as they explode in their death throws. Now did I create that 'reality'?

 

Clearly the notion is fanciful, so it is clear that an idea that has utility on some scales, falls over when pushed too far.

 

And it is this basic ignorance of, or downright refusal to use some basic intelligence that is the problem with many of these unscrutinized notions. 

 

Daryl 

 

 

 

 

 

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and I am responsible for the metaphors that populate my mind.’ Daryl

 
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peter_mary:
Iosepa:

When we attempt to "fix" the problem are we really just doing it for ourselves.  So to the thought above when I offer my support how can I be certain that I am doing it for their benefit and not for mine.  Because if I am just saying that I will be their for them but never bother to stop by or give them a call or send an email am I just as abusive to the grieving person as the one who says that god caused it all and it will all work out for the best. 

 


I think you nailed it.  When we try to "fix" the situation, it's often because WE'RE uncomfortable.  We would really rather just convince them, and ourselves, that everything's okay, even though it plainly isn't! 

 

[snip]

 

Anyway, just some random thoughts for the day!

 

P_M,

 

This is an excellent example of how 'head' and 'heart' need to be combined to create true wisdom.

 

I can relentlessly chase the logic (or lack thereof) in any proposition, (and I think we could all do better, there); but unless we are connected with the feeling/s in our bodies (such as our own discomfort, in your example) then we are starting our logic from the foundation of a lie or a denial.

 

When I set out to ease your discomfort, whilst in denial of my own, I am embarking on a very fraught journey.

 

Whilst it could be argued that this point is off topic, I regard it as dealing with one of those profoundly important concepts that can facilitate a real 'Ah-Ha' moment that shifts our level of functioning profoundly.

 

Once we can see how we can be more truly present for the reality, and that life actually gets more meaningful and 'alive', then we have less need for meaningless platitudes, and indeed arrive at a point where we can see that they actually served to keep us disconnected from reality.

 

That is a long-winded way of saying, I actually believe it to be highly on-topic (as always P-M) 

 

Daryl 

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and I am responsible for the metaphors that populate my mind.’ Daryl

 
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If you learn anything about whatever happens in one's life..This is always a good thing. But, I have changed in the attitude of acceptance "everthing happens for a reason"...if you really believe this, then you might as well keep "mormon preordination" or "guardian angels" and maybe even "karma"... I don't know..I still say this when I have things happen or when I simply don't know what to say to another struggling soul. But if there are any reasons for anything anymore, someone, something, somewhere, has alot to answer for. Just my 2 cents... smile
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candygal:
 But if there are anyreasons for anything anymore, someone, something, somewhere, has alot toanswer for.Just my 2 cents... :)

 

Amen, sister candygal, Amen...

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I so hear ya, Brother Born Free. This is my life right now. My parents are very old and for the most part miserable. It's a sad, sad situation. I feel for them every day until I am worn out and worry I'm too burned to feel anything for anyone.

 

My mom, a TBM, keeps fretting there is some lesson in her outliving her usefulness and well-being. She frustrates herself because she keeps trying to figure out what she is supposed to be learning, because there must be a reason. I can't bring myself to say, "It's just random, Mom. That or all those fruits and vegetables!" Every day she expresses this, saying, "There has to be a reason we're still alive." I've tried everything I can think of in response. "You're alive because we love you and don't want to lose to you." She really wants to go. She prays daily to die. She is turning very bitter because God doesn't answer her prayers, and she can't think why. Increasingly she is angry with God because she doesn't die. The childlike nature of her "faith" is increasingly revealed. She tells me, "Wishes don't come true." And I realize this is what God and belief mean to her -- your wishes come true because God loves you in a special way He doesn't love all his children.

 

For now, my life hurts.

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thewriterwithin:

I so hear ya, Brother Born Free. This is my life right now. My parents are very old and for the most part miserable. It's a sad, sad situation. I feel for them every day until I am worn out and worry I'm too burned to feel anything for anyone.

 

My mom, a TBM, keeps fretting there is some lesson in her outliving her usefulness and well-being. She frustrates herself because she keeps trying to figure out what she is supposed to be learning, because there must be a reason. I can't bring myself to say, "It's just random, Mom. That or all those fruits and vegetables!" Every day she expresses this, saying, "There has to be a reason we're still alive." I've tried everything I can think of in response. "You're alive because we love you and don't want to lose to you." She really wants to go. She prays daily to die. She is turning very bitter because God doesn't answer her prayers, and she can't think why. Increasingly she is angry with God because she doesn't die. The childlike nature of her "faith" is increasingly revealed. She tells me, "Wishes don't come true." And I realize this is what God and belief mean to her -- your wishes come true because God loves you in a special way He doesn't love all his children.

 

For now, my life hurts.

 

I'm sorry, writerwithin.

 

My personal "answer" to your Mom's question is that she is probably right now doing exactly what she is likely "supposed" to be doing: reflecting on her life in ways and at length that she may have neglected to do up to now. 

 

It's hard to be her right now (I feel for her), and it's hard to be someone close to her (I've been in this place before, too).

 

The "childlike" nature of her faith is, as a matter of objective fact, where she is right now...and her present frustrations and reflections are working together to guide her to where she needs to be in her understanding of her own life.  At this present moment it doesn't really matter "where" she is on any objective scale (such as Fowler's in STAGES OF FAITH: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, by James W. Fowler).  I think the important point is: she IS accepting where she is right now, and she IS in the active process of struggling to attain the next higher level of understanding.  In her own development, she is where she needs to be, and she is in progress towards her own, relatively more mature, understanding.

 

In the meantime, it's tough for you and probably for everyone in your family.  I am sorry.

 

 

 

      

 
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When one hears, "God was with me that day" does that mean that sometimes God is against them or other people?

 

Some born agains think that illness is caused by being away from God. You often hear the phrase, "God won't give you more than you can bear." How about, "God is testing you?"

 

Is the world a torture chamber where a god delights in hurting people?

 

No wonder people, who have been hurt, often strike out at the God who causes all things.

 
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I USED to like this saying...and believed it at one time. "God Measures People by their pain"...Ouch!
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Iosepa:
peter_mary:

 


Good question...and I wish I knew the answer.

 

I would suppose that the best way to respond to a grieving person is with empathy:

 

"This is really painful, and I can only imagine how it must feel.  Please know that I am here for you, and will be for as long as you need me."

 

Good thoughts.  Sometimes I suppose one challenge for me in saying something like this is that it really commits myself to action.  Which brings me to the next thought you shared.

Something like that might be your best strategy.  Acknowledge the pain, but don't try to fix it...you can't.  Nobody can.  Sometimes really hard things happen.  They just do.  Telling someone "there's a reason" is really just our lame attempt to "fix" a painful situation.  Our best bet is just to acknowledge the pain, and support them through it.  All that is required is our compassion.

When we attempt to "fix" the problem are we really just doing it for ourselves.  So to the thought above when I offer my support how can I be certain that I am doing it for their benefit and not for mine.  Because if I am just saying that I will be their for them but never bother to stop by or give them a call or send an email am I just as abusive to the grieving person as the one who says that god caused it all and it will all work out for the best. 

 

Really I am starting to see that an atheist may see a greater responsibility to help his fellow human than do some theists.  (Certainly many theists and those I have heard on this board have a tremendous sense of caring and desire to help others.)  But it does mean that I now feel a greater need to actually help people if I really care about them.  I can't just say well god will take care of them so I will say a prayer for them and let what happens happen trusting that god willed it that way.  (Again I do not mean to offend theists.  I am speaking more from my own experiences than talking about any individual other than myself.)


 

I knew a wonderful state worker who had a magic way with juveniles and their parents. He really knew how to establish communication between children and parents. His success rate was high. I saw an article about him in our newspaper praising his work. My boss said he knew the man. I said that he was doing tremendous work with juvenile delinquents. My boss said, "But, he doesn't attend church regularly."

 

That is what is wrong with organized religion. They sit around waiting for the rapture and let people, in this world, suffer.

 
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(I have got to learn to cut and paste text from other posters! It's making me nuts!)

 

Welcome to the board, Ninon de Lenclos. While I'm usually a sucker for sympathy, there seemed to me something amiss in your post.

 

Unlike you, I am not at all sure my mom is "doing what she is likely 'supposed' to be doing: reflecting on her life..." I think most of us drawn to postmormon.org are here because we are more interested in facing life as we see it than as we think it should be. While it would be nice to think old folks are going through some process that guides them to where they need to be, I think in truth, many old folks are not. I don't see that my mom is doing that. I also thinks that's okay. I don't have an agenda for her death, nor am I convinced she or anyone should have that agenda. Some people facing death might experience what you seem to be outlining. That's fine -- it seems like a nice enough idea. But others might simply be ornery and cranky about it. And as far as I'm concerned, that's fine too.

 

My point is that our beliefs don't always comfort us or make us stronger in adversity. Sometimes our beliefs get in the way of comfort and strength. I think the idea "everything happens for a reason" can fail to help us in our hour of need. I think my mother's idea that God is in charge, that she has a lesson to learn from her suffering, is not helpful to her, and in fact is causing her some pain. She does take comfort in her belief in an afterlife. Although I don't share this belief, of course I don't breathe a word of that to her. I'm glad she has this belief that is making this difficult time easier for her. If our beliefs do make sense of the world and don't harm others, I rather think I'm all for them. When our beliefs keep us from growing up, from caring about the rights of others, when they make us hurt or keep us stuck, I'm rather all for examining them and discarding when necessary.

 

Again, welcome. I'm sure you meant your post in a positive spirit, and I appreciate your kindness.

 

 

 

 

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thewriterwithin:

(I have got to learn to cut and paste text from other posters! It's making me nuts!)

 

If you want to include some text from another post click on the Quote & Reply spot at the bottom of the post. All of the post will be included in your reply but you can delete the parts you don't want.  I have a problem doing a copy/paste from anywhere else but it has something to do with me using Firefox instead of Explorer so I have to work on that later.

 

I'm not thinking clearly enough today to really address this topic but I'm sick of this Everything Happens for a Reason mindset. My father suffered for an awfully long time with a debilitating disease. The only decent thing that came from that is that I have a very concrete example of dignity maintained under deplorable circumstances.  For that I thank him but it certainly wasn't a necessary reason for his suffering.

 

Sometimes the only reason for something is that someone screwed up. The son of a good friend of mine killed his roommate and is spending his life in prison. His mother is a Presbyterian and believes in preordination. So she tries to justify his actions by saying that it was meant to be. How the hell does that make any sense? 

 

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thewriterwithin:

 

[snip]

 

If our beliefs do make sense of the world and don't harm others, I rather think I'm all for them. When our beliefs keep us from growing up, from caring about the rights of others, when they make us hurt or keep us stuck, I'm rather all for examining them and discarding when necessary.

 

Again, welcome. I'm sure you meant your post in a positive spirit, and I appreciate your kindness.

 

 

 thewriterwithin,

 

I'm with you on that one.

 

Many things make us feel good in the short term, but lead to different places in the long term.

 

As many have shared here before, just because someone feels a buzz, does not make it a 'spiritual experience'.

 

The ultimate test for any feel-good, is where it leads, and if it leads away from reality, off into the realms of the fairies, then it is problematic. I see it as a basic philosophical choice:

 

  • Get beliefs as aligned with reality as we can, or
  • Expect reality to get into alignment with our beliefs.

 

By my reckoning, the latter is an investment in insantiy - small or large-scale, short or long timeframe.

 

Reality is going to come along and sink its teeth into your nether regions, whether you are prepared or not.

 

Daryl 

 

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and I am responsible for the metaphors that populate my mind.’ Daryl

 
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peter_mary:

Ultimately, and ironically, I believe that the notion that "everything happens for a reason" is CLOSELY related to our desire to control the outcomes of the universe.  We know what we want...we want safety and security.  We do all the things we can to ensure that God is doing his part, and because 99% of the time, we ARE in fact safe and secure, we tend to believe that whatever rituals we practice and dogmas we preach are in fact working...our own lives are the proof.

This is a great thread.  Thank you, Daryl, for starting it, and thank you, Peter_Mary for this fabulous contribution.  I have no words of erudition to add, but I want to thank you both for articulating so clearly what I have believed for several years now: that the concept of "everything happens for a reason" came into being to assuage the anxiety of us poor humans not being in control of so many random and sometimes scary events.

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I don't think that believing that everything happens for a reason is necesssarily harmful to people. I would say it depends on what you think those reasons might be.

 

I see no harm in looking for meaning and purpose in events in the sense of asking: What can I learn?  How could I help others in similar situations?  How could I help prevent this from happening  to others? This seems to me to be a constructive outlook on painful events.

 

I see this as different from looking for the 'reason' God is punishing you like God is the big Santa in the sky who will reward you for doing good and hurt you for doing bad.

 

 

 

 

 
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The older I get and the more experience I garner, the more I choose to stay "in the moment." I find myself saying things like, "this is a hard place to be, or my heart feels light today." I don't have to attribute my emotional response to any diety or philosophy. IT JUST IS.

When my friend experienced the death of her brother I expressed a sentiment like, "There is no short cut through the loneliness is there?"

Living "first-person" is a simple, straight forward process. I have cut out the "middle-man" (God) and jumped head first into the process of my OWN journey with all it's glorious messes and guiltless joy! It nauseates me to even consider the thought of someone ELSE filtering my experience (as if I can't handle the truth)!

Isn't that like asking me to control an RC airplane with a blindfold on? Geez...
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One of the ways I see this goes like this.

 

Human beings have pattern-seeking brains.

 

The ability to see patterns accurately helps us predict future recurrence of the events in the pattern, and hence increase our capacity to avoid pain and increase well-being.

 

As I observe it, we get into problems on two fronts:

 

  • When we under-read the patterns (river floods annually, but we keep building our house on the river flat)
  • When we over-read the patterns (I was standing on my left leg, holding a rabbit-foot, and pulling funny-face 23, when my team won, so if want them to win again, I should repeat the pattern).

 

To me, both are problematic.

 

Our challenge is to accurately attribute the outcomes, and not confuse causality with association. IMO, magical thinking (including much religious thinking) does not value such an approach.

 

Daryl 

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Born Free:

One of the ways I see this goes like this.

 

Human beings have pattern-seeking brains.

 

The ability to see patterns accurately helps us predict future recurrence of the events in the pattern, and hence increase our capacity to avoid pain and increase well-being.

 

As I observe it, we get into problems on two fronts:

 

  • When we under-read the patterns (river floods annually, but we keep building our house on the river flat)
  • When we over-read the patterns (I was standing on my left leg, holding a rabbit-foot, and pulling funny-face 23, when my team won, so if want them to win again, I should repeat the pattern).

 

To me, both are problematic.

 

Our challenge is to accurately attribute the outcomes, and not confuse causality with association. IMO, magical thinking (including much religious thinking) does not value such an approach.

 

Daryl 

 

I just read a book on this very subject...wish I could recall the title. Basically, we are victims of our own overstimulated brains. Sometimes the thought of living in a cave doesn't seem all that bad!

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Rebellious Spirit:

I don't think that believing that everything happens for a reason is necesssarily harmful to people. I would say it depends on what you think those reasons might be.

 

I see no harm in looking for meaning and purpose in events in the sense of asking: What can I learn?  How could I help others in similar situations?  How could I help prevent this from happening  to others? This seems to me to be a constructive outlook on painful events.

 

I see this as different from looking for the 'reason' God is punishing you like God is the big Santa in the sky who will reward you for doing good and hurt you for doing bad.

 

I agree with you to a point.

 

If we recognize that our own behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and relationships frequently influence outcomes, then we can look at WHY something happened, and learn from it.

 

"When I come home tired, and snap at my wife, that's the underlying reason (or one of them) for why she spent the rest of the night angry at me."  Her anger happened for a reason...in this case, my treatment of her.

 

If we recognize after the fact what we did that resulted in some outcome, there is benefit to that insight.  But the locus of control is inside us.

 

What I struggle with is when we place the locus of control outside of us.

 

"I got cancer because the universe/God is trying to teach me humility."  That assumes an external driver to otherwise random events, and I just can't buy that.  That's not to imply that I can't, therefore, learn humility and empathy as a result of such a diagnosis, but that's a CHOICE, not an imposition from a grand puppeteer.

 

I'm guessing we're on the same page, Rebellious Spirit?

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The most dramatic, moving example I know about of finding meaning in suffering is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. He came out of a Nazi concentration camp with this lovely, luminous memoir recording his attempts to form his horror and pain into meaning.

 

But there is a world of difference between what Frankl felt and wrote and the church ladies patting your hand with faux sympathy and saying without meaning anything at all, "Everything happens for a reason."

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