My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The "Everything Happens for a Reason" Argument

For years I’ve had problems with the casually offered “well, everything happens for a reason” excuse. It always left a bad taste in my mouth, but I wasn’t able to pin down exactly why this seemingly innocuous phrase rubbed me the wrong way. Being the supposed deep thinker that I pretend to be, I attempted to logic out the argument for why everything may indeed happen for a reason.

When someone says that they believe that everything has a reason, it immediately causes a sequence of reasons, and this sequence must itself either be caused or not caused. So if there is a cause to the sequence, it must be outside the realm of causes, but if it is not caused, the sequence must be necessary, or its own cause. Their argument then is that the universe is composed of dependent parts and that there must be an outside, necessary being, God, as creator of the world to have caused it to happen. Since God assumedly knows all, the thing must then have been good and it is only our perspective of the thing that is faulty.

But this is a bad theory and incorrect reasoning. Just because one thing has a cause does not mean that it was dependant on another or that the good thing couldn’t have come either independently or without the bad thing happening. Moreover, it assumes that a God would not do bad things to us for us to learn a greater good, but that is another argument.

This took me back to the original intent of the saying. When people say, “everything happens for a reason” they seem to have three ways in which they intended their statement to come across. The first is that there is a God and that that God controls all minutias in the universe. So everything from the orbit of solar systems, to a fire that rips through a nursery, to you stubbing your toe is all part of a master plan by an all powerful, supernatural being, who controls so much of the universe as to cause your free will to be worthless and thereby debunks the need for a God in the first place.

The second is one of Karmic theory in which the there is a balance to the universe and that the good and bad will eventually wash. This assumes that there is a natural equilibrium to everything. This, while beautiful in its simplicity, is shot apart when observing the vast majority of the world around us. Equilibrium in math or science is a quantifiable outcome, but fails when applied most of life. You spraining your ankle getting the mail can only be Karmicly balanced out if it involves an elaborately fanciful story. Seeing things as balanced then becomes a lesson in denial, wherein everything is balanced only because you believe it so and fail to reason.

The thirds is used as a learning experience in that there is always something good to be taken from anything that has happened. But this theory fails in practice as the two paths from an event are rarely equal or necessarily dependent. Say that someone lost their child to Hurricane Katrina. Saying that they then found a deeper relationship with their dog is neither a fair transference nor impossible without the death of their child.

What bothers me about “everything happens for a reason” is that it cheapens reason itself. It takes someone who has had something that they deem as bad and attempts to gloss over that bad thing with someone else’s failed ideology or an extremely faulty thought process.

So next time something bad happens, don’t attempt to connect the universe with the thing, just accept that the bad thing has happened, work to repair the damage in the best possible way, and try to better enjoy when life is good.

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