June 20, 2019

God's Plan For Us

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You are heading out on a road trip with a new friend. You don't know them that well, but you will only be gone for a weekend and are hoping for the best. The two of you decided to rent a car since the cars both of you own are fairly old. Everything is going well until you hit your first snag. One of you must have managed not to lock the car doors when you both went into a gas station store. When you return to the car, both of your cell phones and a small travel bag were gone. Fortunately, the rental car has built-in navigation.

Neither of you have previously visited the area where you are heading, and that makes the next snag a bad one. Without warning, the navigation system in the rental car goes out. You could have fallen back on your phones, but that is no longer an option. You don't know where you are or how to get where you are going. And that's when your friend says it. "There's a map."

You are relieved, but only for a moment. You look around and don't see a map anywhere. When you ask where it is, your friend says, "I don't know where it is. I just know there is one." Now you are confused. It dawns on you that your friend might not know how to read a map and might be embarrassed by this. "Just hand me the map." Your friend points out that you are driving. Fair enough. You pull over. "Okay, let's see the map." At this point, your friend tells you that he does not have a map but is confident that one exists. You search the car but find nothing. Your patience is running out, and you demand to know what makes your friend think there is a map in the car. You aren't prepared for the answer.

I have no idea if there is a map in the car. I never said there was one in the car. I just know there is a map out there somewhere. I don't know where it is, but I know one is out there somewhere.
What the hell? You let fly with a string of profanities before managing to ask how the possibility of a map being "out there somewhere" is supposed to help the two of you now. "Well," your friend says, "I guess it just makes me feel better to know that there's a map out there somewhere."

Aside from realizing that you made a horrible mistake by taking a trip with this person, what have we learned here? I think we have learned something about what it is like for many atheists to hear Christians go on and on about the plan their god has for us. If their god was real, had a plan for us, and would communicate that plan to us, that would be great. But as long as their god (which probably isn't real in the first place) refuses to share its plan, what good does it do us?

When we are lost, like we were during our road trip, having a map in our hand would be a very good thing. It would be extremely useful just when we needed it. But what benefit is there to knowing that there is a map "out there somewhere" when we do not have access to it. Of course there's a map! The gas station where our phones were stolen might have sold maps, but what good does that do us now? Is the plan some Christians think their god has for us any more useful? As long as we do not have access to it, it seems equally useless as the map we don't have.

Much like our friend, many Christians will claim that their belief in this plan makes them feel better even if they do not know what it is. This strikes me as yet another example of belief in belief. Of course, there is also the possibility that at least some Christians will simply use this notion of a divine plan to lend support to whatever plan they have for themselves.