Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Teeny Weeny Rant

You know something that bugs me? When non-religious people say, 'It was meant to be.' Because that statement almost always seems to be evidence of lazy, sloppy thinking.

I'm not trying to pick a quarrel with people's beliefs. Some people believe in a Grand Designer Of The Universe (other titles may be used) who has a Plan for Everything. I don't believe that myself, but I'm very happy for other people to hold such beliefs. They may be right; I don't know, and I don't mind not knowing.

However, I often hear the 'it was meant to be' refrain uttered by atheists. And I think, hang on a minute, what are you saying here? 'Meant' by whom, exactly?

For example, I recently came across a woman, at an exploratory business meeting, who I'd known socially some years before and who I knew to be an atheist. As soon as she saw me, she clapped a hand to her heart and declared that the business would definitely go ahead because 'it was meant to be' (presumably, in some kind of not-very-atheist mystical way, because of our previous relationship). In fact, the business didn't go ahead, because she decided to work with one of my competitors instead. So what was 'meant to be'? I submit, your Honour: nuffink.

I think what people may be saying, when they use this phrase, is something like: ooh, look, a coincidence, maybe even a pattern. We are naturally good at recognising patterns, and have been describing them in terms of fate, destiny etc for centuries, so perhaps the phrase isn't so surprising. But it still grates. 'Meant to be.' Not for me.

14 comments:

hilaryusfun said...

I do sort of believe in a GDOTU and still hate the phrase. We have free will people. FREE WILL.

Debs said...

That woman sounds like a complete pain.

I believe in free will, although sometimes things happen that we don't have any control over, but I don't think things were 'meant to be'.

HelenMHunt said...

Ooh that's very interesting. I think you're right about sloppy thinking. And there's far more randomness out there than we might think ...

Queenie said...

Hilary, exactly, free will.

Debs, you know what, she was!

Helen, yes, lots of random, part of what makes life interesting I think!

LilyS said...

It has become a bit of a cliche me thinks. I'm agnostic myself so generally dont know what to think - which is typical of me!!

Talli Roland said...

I'm with you!

I think people just throw out the phrase without really thinking. Annoying, yes!

SpiralSkies said...

But if people think it's fate, is that not something different to divine Godly intervention? I don't believe in the big bearded guy above or any of that malarkey but I do think things sometimes have a sense of 'falling into place' about them. Perhaps that's what the dimwits mean by 'meant to be'? It's a lazy phrase for lazy thinking. Oh dear. I could rabbit on about this all day. I won't though, you'll be relieved to hear...

Pat said...

Ooh er missus. I'm fairly sure we have been guilty of saying our reunion was MTB on occasion.
But I do believe in a 'Higher Being'.
And I do believe in free will and we are free to live our lives as we choose. It bugs me when people say how can there be a God when horrible things happen. We cause them to happen - we are not automatons although when I make my 30th or so trip up and down stairs - and not even lunch time yet - I wish I were;)
BTW what is a GDOTU please?

cassandrajade said...

Meant definitley implies intention which for an atheist is kind of a ridiculous implication to make because their whole way of thinking is based around the lack of intentionality in the universe. I think it has become one of those platitudes people say because people say them, and nobody even seriously considers the why anymore.

Shane said...

Pat - General Designer of the Universe, or as others would have it, an 'Oh My God'.

HRH - I suspect there are lots of equivalent phrases, which as you say, pass for a mindless kind of 'We've been here before, haven't we'. I suggest next time, you simply ask, 'Why was it meant to be?'. Your respondent will immediately register brow-furrowing confusion, make an excuse to fuck off, and will thus save you any further bother.

Captain Black said...

Once upon a time there was a Higgs boson, which exploded, thereby creating the universe. It was meant to be.

Leigh said...

I am no fan of the phrase either, and agree with your remark about lazy thinking (or lack of thinking); but I reckon it goes further: it smacks of general laziness and unwillingness to strive for improvement of any sort. More of "I can't be bothered to change the situation" or (in the case of your tiresome woman) easy conflict-avoidance, than any belief in destiny.

Mere platitudes, as others have said; I vote for Shane's solution.

Queenie said...

LilyS, good point, a cliche.

Talli, quite.

Spiral, good point, fate and godly intervention aren't the same - although the same event can sometimes be assigned to either (or both).

Pat, I think it's a bit different for you because, as you say, you are a believer. And a sensible one, with your emphasis on free will!

cassandrajade, that's exactly what I think.

Shane, great idea!

CB, you make me larf.

Leigh, you may well be right.

Pat said...

Shane: thanks honey.