When Bad Things Happen: God and the Existential Crisis


I’ve noticed a common trope among writers that I want to point out.  It’s a cliché that I think most don’t recognize.  The following scenario has happened in just about everything I have read lately (in one book, it’s happened twice).  Somebody is religious.  X happens to them, something that is really bad.  The character decides that they don’t believe in God anymore, because what kind of loving God would let X happen.

Now maybe it’s just me, but I’ve known a lot of religious people in my life.  And I’ve known a lot of religious people that have had bad things happen to them.  And I’m sure that in the darkest hours of the night, they might have questioned God, or asked why.  But I have never known a single person who stopped believing in God or stopped being religious because something bad happened to them.  Not one single person.  In fact, most of the time, it’s made them more religious.

I get it.  Everybody who ever took a philosophy class has heard about the Argument from Evil.  If God is good and all powerful, why doesn’t he stop bad things from happening?  After all, we aren’t all powerful, and we try and stop bad things from happening.  It’s the ultimate preaching to the choir argument.  The only people who are convinced are already atheists anyway.  You see, religious people have this whole complicated belief system about the nature of evil and the way the world works.  The Book of Job is entirely devoted to the question.  So atheists walk into philosophy class and think they’ve heard the most profound explication of why God can’t exist ever formulated.  Meanwhile, the believers are yawning in the back.  They’ve been studying this stuff in Sunday school since they could walk and know that it’s nothing new or all that special.

So I think there are two types of writers who fall into this trap.  The first are the atheists who think that the first time something bad happens, the believers are going to wake up from their ignorance and curse God.  Then there are the guys who are trying to impress upon the reader the horribleness of the occurrence by showing that it would make someone give up their faith because of it.

Either way, I think I’ve seen enough of it.  If you are going to give your characters religious convictions, at least have enough faith in them to think that they would keep their own when bad things happen.

1 Comment

Filed under Literary Musings

One response to “When Bad Things Happen: God and the Existential Crisis

  1. This is an AWESOME post, Brett!

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