This I Believe

Shannon - Athens, Ohio
Entered on April 27, 2007

I was recently a part of a small office security presentation at a prominent Midwestern university where I work as an academic advisor. The presentation was prompted by the recent Virginia Tech incident. The police officer leading the presentation ended by referring to his belief that experiences he has had on the job and the horrible experience at Virginia Tech are part of god’s plan. I believe that events are not a part of god’s plan and that naturalism is healthy and good for humanity and also that it is rarely embraced because it requires courage and a sense of responsibility for our fellow man.

I left this presentation shaking. A seemingly innocuous presentation about security turned me into a philosophical ball of confusion and anxiety. I genuinely struggle with this issue and am confronted with it almost on a weekly basis either by hearing something on the radio (NPR of course) or by an email tag with something akin to ‘relax – god has a plan for you.’ Whenever I am confronted with this I always think of Will Ferrell in the movie Zoolander where he says “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

The logical conclusion of this thinking is that the Virginia Tech massacre is not really horrible because it is a part of god’s plan and that because god is benevolent, it must actually be a good thing. We fallible humans just don’t have the god’s eye view and can’t see how it plays a role in god’s perfect plan. Moreover, it can’t just be a good thing, but because god is perfect, it has to be the best thing. Now I understand that not everyone has a philosophy degree and has tackled Leibnitz and the problem of evil but I do believe that rational persons are familiar with the idea of consistency and logic. You see if this line of thinking is taken to its conclusion, the Virginia Tech massacre is to be celebrated.

I know this is hard for people to hear. It is hard for me to say but logic dictates it. I know people don’t recognize this as deterministic and that it takes ethical responsibility out of human hands but logic dictates it. I could not go through life thinking this way and I think I am a better person by being a naturalist. I think I make the world better by thinking that there is no god’s plan and that I am responsible for what I do. I could not sleep if I rationalized that the Virginia Tech incident must ultimately be a good thing because it, like every other event, is a part of god’s plan.

I know I am basically, statistically alone in this view and that others see it as depressing. I see it as liberating and healthy. I also understand that it takes courage to hold this view when the rest of the world holds essentially the opposite view but I always remind myself of something I like to call the fallacy ad populum: just because a lot of people believe in god’s plan doesn’t make it a good thing.