In control

Coming in to work today, I saw a bumper sticker on the windshield of an SUV that said, “God is in control”. Of course, it is hard to accurately summarize an entire philosophical thesis in a pithy bumper sticker, but it does beg the question. In control of what exactly? Since I’ve heard this now from multiple sources, I thought it may deserve at least a minute of exploration.

The first thought was that God is in control of the driver’s vehicle. I wonder how secure the driver would be in letting go of the steering wheel on that on-ramp and just let God be “in control”? I’m guessing that his faith is not that strong. So, perhaps God is in control of falling objects and planetary motion? This is wonderfully described by general relativity already and there is no need for any godly control here. Now if all of a sudden we saw Venus just stop dead in it’s tracks, perform figure eights outside the plane of the solar system and then resume its orbit like nothing happened, that might give one cause to think. But we don’t see anything like that.

Perhaps God is in control of weather? Actually, we are pretty familiar with the water cycle and other factors that come into play when it comes to understanding weather and there seems to be no evidence for outside control here either. In fact, a benevolent, loving, and omnipotent being were in control of the weather is inconsistent with droughts in Africa (apparently contributed to by human activities) or droughts in the American southwest.

Perhaps this entity, with it’s mysterious ways, is in control of our planet’s biosphere? Again, the picture of a benevolent, loving, and omnipotent being is inconsistent with the number of parasites affecting humans (see also the beginning of this essay), various cancers, deadly genetic deformities and all the associated suffering. If this is his (or her, or its) domain of control, this entity is doing a horrible and incompetent job. Perhaps this God is charged with fixing the diseases he put in this creation? Well, actually that seems to be the work of dedicated human researchers and doctors. It would seem an incredible slap in the face to the hard work of these individuals to attribute their hard won successes to an invisible and likely imaginary entity that had nothing to do with it.

We’re running out of places to look where God can take charge it seems. How about the economy? Well, that actually seems to be a combination of human greed, poor or lacking regulations, and the cyclical nature of economies. Is God supposed to step in and start spending to stimulate the economy? Is God going to start hiring workers? Would that mean angel layoffs? It didn’t happen during other economic down times, so it seems perfectly reasonable that we probably will not see that now.

I don’t see anywhere where this “God person” seems to be in charge of anything. I do see a lot of areas where we humans seem to have some amount of control and responsibility. Medical advancement, climate change, biodiversity (trying to slow down or halt the rate at which we decimating species), and our own social structure, welfare, and economy. Not only is this pithy little aphorism, “God is in control”, totally useless and wrong, it is an open invitation to abdicate responsibility. To let go of the steering wheel and have “faith” that your imaginary friend will steer you through the freeway safely.

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2 Responses to “In control”

  1. isnessie Says:

    Haha, funny post. I was chatting about something similar with a christian friend last night. He was trying to figure out what my stance was, and we ended up using the analogy of the two of us standing at the edge of a cliff to explain our ideas on faith and reality. As an atheist, I know that jumping off (it’s a very high cliff with rocks below etc.) will either kill me, or injure me severely. I take responsibility for not jumping off. My friend believes that if he jumps off, God has the ability to save him. My argument was that yes, he had the faith, but would he actually risk jumping off the cliff? And if he jumped, and didn’t die but only broke every bone in his body, would he not say that it was a miracle and God saved his life regardless? He would come up with an explanation for what happened because it’s impossible for him that any God except the idea of the one he has exists – or even that the chances would be the same for me or him surviving the fall. If he didn’t jump, he would say that the Bible says not to tempt the Lord your God, and if he died it would be his stupidity because God had ‘warned against it’. He had no choice but to acknowledge the sense of what I was saying. I know a guy who risked ‘walking on water’ to prove God, but all it proved was his faith, which of course is not proof (he fell into the pool like anyone else, duh) but that’s a vastly different risk from jumping off a cliff. Even believers will gauge the risk they take when it comes to their *faith*. If that’s not a sign of hope for a godless world, I don’t know what is!

  2. liquidthinker Says:

    Hi Nessie,

    Thanks. You have summed things quite nicely. I almost can’t believe that your friend thought he could actually walk on water. That’s hilarious. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum we have the snake handlers, refusal of blood transfusions, prayer instead of medicine, and so on. Religious thinking is quite often an open invitation to let go of responsibility, and all too often, people accept that invitation.

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