A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend on Facebook posted an article about a realtor who had been murdered by the “client” to whom she was showing a house. Horrifying.
A friend of this friend of a friend wrote “Everything happens for a reason. Prayers for you and her family.”
Even more horrifying.
All I could think was, does this person realize that they’re saying that this poor woman’s life was worth less than whatever positive element (!) might come of her brutal murder?
But people say this all the time.
Konika Banerjee and Paul Bloom covered this very topic in Sunday’s NYTimes article: Does Everything Happen for a Reason? They say it even better than I do — both why people choose to believe it, and why it’s dangerous. The last few paragraphs are the best, so, just in case the article is TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read):
WHATEVER the origin of our belief in life’s meaning, it might seem to be a blessing. Some people find it reassuring to think that there really are no accidents, that what happens to us — including the most terrible of events — reflects an unfolding plan. But the belief also has some ugly consequences. It tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.
Not everyone would go as far as the atheist Richard Dawkins, who has written that the universe exhibits “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” But even those who are devout should agree that, at least here on Earth, things just don’t naturally work out so that people get what they deserve. If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen.
We should resist our natural urge to think otherwise.