January 13, 2015

Christian Fatalism

English: Fatalism. Nederlands: Fatalisme.
Fatalism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many evangelical fundamentalist Christians are fond of talking about how some sort of god works in their lives, and some may actually believe this. They attribute virtually anything that happens to their preferred god. When they receive a job offer, it is because their god wants them to have this particular job. When they are subsequently fired from this same job a few months later, it is because their god apparently changed its mind and decided that something else would be better for them. When they meet someone and fall in love, it is because their god put this person in their life. When their child is expelled from school for stabbing a classmate, this is their god working in mysterious ways they do not fully understand. But since their god never gives them more than they can handle, they persevere.

What I've described here is not uncommon for evangelical fundamentalist Christians. What I find most fascinating about it is that they often seem to count it as a form of evidence in support of their god belief. That is, they claim that an important part of why they believe is that they experience their god working in their lives. And how do they know that this god is working in their lives? Because they believe it. We may recognize this as circular reasoning, but they rarely seem to do so.

Besides this circular reasoning in support of their faith, it seems to me that the attribution of every event to the presence of god(s) is extremely fatalistic. If everything that happens to me is the product of a divine intelligence, I am powerless to shape my life. All I can really do is go along with the plan this being has for me. And not only am I powerless to shape my life, but I probably should be far more accepting of whatever happens to me - no matter how awful it may seem - than I probably am. If the worst personal tragedy we can imagine occurs, we'd have to attribute it to our god(s) and conclude that it was somehow in our best interest. Wouldn't that drain us of any motivation to change our lives for the better? And yet, Christians and other religious believers tend to characterize us as being fatalistic because we do not share their god belief!

Is it any wonder that evangelical fundamentalist Christianity is a barrier to taking action on climate change? Not only are many evangelical fundamentalist Christians convinced that we do not have a future because Jesus will return within their lifetimes, but it is all part of a divine plan. What would the point be in trying to change it?

Some evangelical fundamentalist Christians were probably as concerned about the events in Ferguson and New York as you and I. But since these events unfolded as their god intended, they may not see themselves as being in a position to take any sort of action. Even as they feel bad for at least some of the parties involved in the unfortunate series of events, they may see divine agents pulling strings.

None of this is intended to suggest that the evangelical fundamentalist Christians who truly believe that personal god(s) or other supernatural agents are working in their lives never experience doubts or crises of faith. I'm sure they do. What they describe as crises of faith are the times when their rational mind wakes up and begins to protest over the implications of this belief system. Thus, I do not see even these Christians as being doomed to fatalism. And so, I cannot give up on them. In fact, I fear that the future of humanity may depend on our ability to help them move beyond religious fatalism.

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