A Great Tautology

“It is true enough that everything had happened as fate had decreed.” Thus the Heike monogatori. Such locutions are common in every religious culture. But what, I would ask, does a decree of fate mean other than that something happened? Are there two things going on here, fate and things happening, or only the one thing? Can we see the decrees of fate otherwise than in whatever happened? Is it possible to say that events disobeyed the decrees of fate? If there is only the one thing, the sentence is left with no meaning – other than, perhaps, an emotional attitude that there is no point feeling bad about it. But we could perfectly well have said that there is no point feeling bad about what happened, the mention of fate adds nothing and says nothing. The French que sera, sera does the same job more economically.

The language of fate is impersonal. The next stage, therefore, is to ask ourselves whether we can take the same approach to religions that invoke a god. When they say that something happened because it was the will of God, does “God” actually have a content separate from “something happened”? Is, perhaps, “God” only another name for “the stuff that happens”? If we could speak of God wanting A to happen but in fact B happens instead, then they would be two separate things – but then we would have Dualism rather than a modern theism. Again, we can take this “god” thing as just a way of saying that there is no point feeling bad about what happened, which we knew already. If that is offensive to some people, they should reflect that I just said it, so it was a thing that happened, therefore was the will of God.

Posted on April 27, 2009 at 12:11 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion And Conceptual Muddle

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