Why it makes sense for people to thank God for good things but not to blame God for bad things

Here is an entry from January 2007 that I had forgotten about and just came across by serendipity. I’ve now added it to the downloadable Word document, “VFR articles arranged by topic.” The comments that follow the original entry, including two by Laura Wood, are also well worth reading.

Thank God

I just figured out why, contrary to the arguments of certain atheists, it makes complete sense and is not contradictory that people thank God for good things (say, that their daughter survived a dreadful disease), but don’t blame God for bad things (that someone else’s daughter died from the same disease).

The kinds of beneficial events for which people tend to thank God are those that go against the normal course of things. Accident and disease are (or at least so they appear) part of the normal course of this material world. When good events happen that mysteriously escape the general cause and effect trend of matter, that appears to people as a manifestation of something from beyond this world—God’s providence, God’s grace. But when bad things happen that are in keeping with the normal (or least the apparently normal) laws of accident, disease, and death, that does not strike people as coming from God, it strikes people as part of the ordinary mess of life on earth. So they don’t blame God for it.

For example, when the wind remained northerly for two days following the battle of Long Island in August 1776, preventing the British ships from sailing up the East River and trapping Washington’s demoralized and hunkered-down army on Brooklyn Heights, and so enabling the Americans, hidden by a fog on the East River, to escape back to New York City, when by all rights the Americans should have been surrounded and captured and the American revolution destroyed on the spot, the event was so remarkable, so contrary to what ought to have happened, that it deeply impressed Washington, who was not a particularly religious man, with the thought that Providence had saved his army. Repeated such experiences during and after the War of Independence—beneficial, salvific events that by all normal expectations should not have happened, but did happen—made Washington a profoundly convinced believer in what he called Providence. When Washington devoted almost half of his First Inaugural Address to America’s dependence on the “Great Author of every public and private good,” he was not going through pious motions; he was giving voice to the most profound experience of his life.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 19, 2012 02:34 PM | Send

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