I was an evangelical Christian for over 20 years. Whenever something good happened to me during that time, I would thank God for bestowing such favor on me. When something bad happened, I would also thank God—for being with me and getting me through it. I think differently now. I have matured, and for that development I suppose I can thank random events, or fate, or rationality.
I look at my former way of interpreting life as a rather childish way of understanding reality, but that’s the way I was taught to see it. We were shown the Bible verse: “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and my spiritual brothers and sisters and I were instructed to be grateful for both good things and bad, thanking a being we had never seen or heard. If we had read a little further, to verse 21, we would have been instructed to “test everything.”
What is True is Real
Thankfully, I did read further and followed that advice, testing my beliefs against reality. I no longer have to contend with that empty faith, that belief in things for which there is no evidence. These days, when something unexpectedly enjoyable or satisfying happens to me, I still feel thankful. Now I know that if I thank Random, or some other made-up “god,” that which I thank is not a conscious being who literally listens to my whining requests and then responds to me. It’s a concept, part of how I organize my thoughts.
I used to think that I had received life as a gift, that I couldn’t have done anything to deserve such a gift. That’s true, of course. I didn’t exist before I was alive, so I can’t claim to have earned either the joy or the pain that is part of life. But if my life were a gift from some god, how could that god demand anything in return? Hypothetically, if my life were given to me by a god, I would be grateful for it, but I wouldn’t owe the god anything. If I owe a debt for something I received, then it wasn’t a gift, it was a business transaction.
This idea of owing God comes from not knowing how the world works. There is nothing to be afraid of. Life is indeed a gift, but not one given deliberately by anyone or anything. Life is mine either by chance, or by the inexorable flow of stuff from order to disorder, making fascinating patterns in the process. We are beautiful little whirlpools of matter/energy in the river of space/time. Thank nothing for that, or thank Random if you prefer.