Let’s say I’m late for work; I forget my medications; I’m stuck in traffic; My boss is in a foul mood; All my assignments are late or need correcting; The website goes down; My body aches; I forgot about a meeting at which I’m presenting; My car’s falling apart; I lose a receipt I need to return something expensive; It’s so hot Dick Cheney water boarded himself; I’m sweating all over; My boyfriend pays more attention to his game than to me; I don’t have money for laundry and am on my last pair of underwear; The kids who live upstairs are screaming; Our air conditioner breaks; I can’t sleep because of anxiety …

from saintdisillusion.wordpress.com

We’ve all had “those days”—the ones when you used to think the universe was out to get you and would stop at nothing to ruin your measly little life—have changed perhaps more than any others in my experience since I left religion and faith behind. Or, more accurately, my response to these days has changed.

I used to think there was a message or a meaning behind every little coincidence or mishap. If I was delayed in traffic, that meant I probably missed a car accident and God was protecting me by making me late. If everything was falling apart at work, maybe God was telling me I needed to chose another profession. If I was feeling depressed or anxious, it was because I wasn’t in line with God’s plan and wasn’t intimately connected with him.

I was arrogantly obsessed with “interpreting the signs.” It’s just as “woo-woo” as it sounds. As a Christian I did it all the time, constantly, and about everything. Christianity involves a lot of guesswork that’s dressed up to look more reliable. Sensing or interpreting “God’s will” or the meaning of the doldrums of life is just part of having faith in a completely silent and unknowable supernatural being. Believers are left on their own to figure out what the fuck is going on and what they should do next. I’ve written more about the Christian life and God’s will if you fancy a read.

As an atheist, life’s journey is simply better and more reliable. As Carl Sagan said:

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

I don’t blame my misfortunes/bad luck/coincidences on anyone or anything. Neither the universe nor a god is out to get me or to communicate to me through my circumstances. Since there is no god, I don’t need to worry about reading its mind to find out what it wants from me. A new job? A new boyfriend? Those choices are up to me, just as they should be. There is no grand “will” or “purpose” to interpret or guess. Atheism is, I’ve found, much easier and simpler than submitting to a religion. It keeps the responsibility of life on the individual and not on an imaginary force.

Oh, I guess there’s one exception: I admit to sometimes assigning motives and personalities to inanimate objects. When my computer, Miss Mary Mac (yes, I named her it), malfunctions, I either smack her it upside the monitor and tell her it to behave, or I stroke the monitor and promise it I’ll be nice if it will just work for once. I’m an abusive owner, I know. I don’t actually believe my Mac really has a plan or a bad motive against me; I just pretend it does to work out my frustrations.

Even if I have “one of those days” when everything goes wrong and I nearly fall back into the superstitious belief that there must be some sort of evil plan to thwart my success, I can now comfort myself with the knowledge of the natural world and how shit just happens once in a while. I am not being punished; No one is trying to communicate a message to me; All I have to do is my very best, and that’s what matters.

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9 thoughts on ““One of Those Days” and Interpreting God’s Will”

Andrew Hall · July 15, 2010 at 7:12 am

Sometimes I just have f*ck luck – other times I f*ck myself.

Can’t do anything about the former so I focus on the latter.

Doubting Timmy · July 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

I can definitely relate to this post. As a person who has obsessive/compulsive tendencies, I nearly drove myself mad trying to parse the meaning of everyday occurrences and what was god’s will for me.

After shedding that belief system, I’m much calmer and happier now knowing that there isn’t some cosmic message in a piece of burnt toast.

    Godless Girl · July 15, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Thank goodness and good for you! Who wants a piece of bread to tell them what to do in life anyway 😉

Jacob Olerich · July 18, 2010 at 8:20 am

Here’s how I live my Christian life(because I have the “God what’s your micro-will for my life?”moments a lot). The key for me is to remember that God directs my steps no matter what I plan and that God gives us His word for a reason. Adam and Eve only had one instruction. “don’t eat that damned fruit.” The rest of life seems to have been for their choosing. Fast forwarding to now, I look at Luke’s account(chapter 10) for God’s will today… || And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading [of it]? “So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” || Just living life as a loving response to God’s love. That’s where the yoke becomes easy and the burden becomes light. Past that, sometimes your toast just burns, your tv just stops working, and you just get stuck in that traffic jam. I think it’s honest misinformation from other people and our own mind that leads us to believe it has to me more complicated than that. God is not talking to us through burnt toast and car accidents. I agree with you there, GGirl. and Timmy.

April · July 21, 2010 at 8:08 am

And THAT is specifically why I am a much more grounded person since finally coming to the realization that I’m an atheist (referring to Godless Girl’s post). EVERYthing is easier, simpler. The natural world is beautifully complicated, but so completely unconcerned with anything I do.

The "Eh" theist · July 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

This is bang on with the way many try to tease God’s will out of circumstances. While that is a problem, an even greater one is when other believers have an opinion about something and the “evidence” of circumstances convinces them they are right.

They don’t like the career field you’ve chosen and when you get a flat on the way to a job interivew it was “god” stopping you from making a mistake. If you then become a fry cook and later get an offer in your field that pays a living wage, the devil is tempting you with money.

OTOH, if they like a potential partner for you, any similarity, no matter how silly is proof that god has “matched” you. (you both breathe-praise god, he knows just the sort of person we need).

That is a whole new level of harmful-believers will gladly let someone suffer or endanger themselves if they think god has ok’d it while they’re own sense of self-preservation would stop them from doing the same thing.

Put a trusting beliver in the path of an opinionated believer who believes god has told them how to run that person’s life and misery *will* ensue.

There should be a surgeon general’s warning on pronouncements of god’s will.

Urban · August 7, 2010 at 4:11 am

I find a lot of comfort in the realization that life is inherently unfair. I therefore don’t deserve the random bad stuff that just happens. 🙂

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