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.