Stop Blaming God for Your Successes

I wrote a post, reacting to Brussels, and a reader and frequent commenter, Lorn, wrote a great comment:

My beef with religion, pretty much all religion, less some (Zen Buddhism) but more others (Islam), is that religion provides a ready-made system for people to feel justified in doing all those evil things they wanted to do while avoiding doing those things they didn’t want to do while framing everything in terms of an imaginary afterlife so that we can avoid looking at the humanity and suffering of others.

I’ve friends who go to a Christian church that has a catch phase of ‘All glory to God’. If they do something good it is ‘All glory to God’. Every time I hear it it grinds my gears. It is system of helplessness and unawareness. The lady does a good thing. She should feel good. She should recognize her worthy application of will and intelligence to solving a problem because owning her power she could feel good about it and it would be more likely she would do more good. Owning the deed also mean owning the process. I means being conscious of how she did it and knowing that she could tweak the process to get better results more quickly and efficiently. She could grow and improve as a human being and become ever more effective at working toward making it a better world.

Instead it is ‘All glory to God’. This breaks the feedback loop. It means that she cannot own the deed or process. God getting credit means she gets none. Not owning the process means she is unlikely to critique her own performance and systematically improve, as either a human being, or as an agent for good.

The flip side is even darker. Telling herself ‘All glory to God’ is one side ‘It is God’s will’ is the other. A bud load of orphans going off a cliff is a tragedy, unless it is ineffable will of an angry God. Putting responsibility on God is a fine way of draining away the responsibility from any individual, or society. If it was the failure of an individual or society we might be motivated to do something about it. Get the drivers better training, or stop hiring drunks. Or put up better guardrails around sharp turn near cliffs. But if it is ‘The will of God’ … well … there is nothing that can be done. In fact, doing something to prevent another accident might be construed as thwarting the will of God.

Religion systematically obstructs human growth, acceptance of responsibility, and our ability to see our fellow humans as living, learning, suffering beings; as opposed to souls used as pawns on a cosmic chess board. Religion promotes backwardness and hinders progress toward a better, more humane, world.

Yes. Everything.

I have a friend who went through a hell of a life, then married and moved to Austria. There, she continued the hell, only with different actors. She would constantly tell me about her growth and notwithstanding success in life, then say,

If it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be here!

After I knock myself out, rolling my eyes, I pretty much say exactly what Lorn said.

Stop blaming God for your successes in life.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Ah, the catch-22 of religion.
    Free will is given to us so that we do good!
    See? God helped me do good.
    The devil made me do it.
    It was God’s will (God needs to have his drivers license revoked, yesterday).
    God willing (Inshallah, culturally meaning he’s never fucking willing).
    Personal responsibility! For everyone but the speaker, who God is puppeting, save when the devil is piloting or something.

    Here’s where reality meets the road, the sheer refusal to accept responsibility for one’s own action, be it for good or bad. But insisting that others do what they refuse to do.
    Aka, being a bunch of hypocrites.

  2. dannorth says

    Putting responsibility on God is a fine way of draining away the responsibility from any individual, or society.

    Which is exactly what George Zimmerman did in an interview after shooting Trayvon Martin.

  3. Numenaster says

    Well said.

    The Boyfriend is a believer, and used to have a habit of saying “Thank you Jesus!” when faced with a particularly tasty home-cooked meal. One evening I snapped “How about a ‘Thank you Jenny’? I didn’t see Jesus anywhere in the kitchen.”

    He has altered his habit.

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