God does NOT work in mysterious ways....
“The lord works in mysterious ways.” It’s the first apologetic most of us ever heard. It’s the one they needed when you were seven years old and critically examining Noah’s Ark or Adam and Eve’s brood of sibling fuckers. It was the one they trotted out when you asked what kind of dick god would kill your turtle or your grandma. God has a plan and it’s mysterious and we petty humans with our mortal intellects can never begin to comprehend it.
It was also probably the first apologetic you ever debunked. If you were anything like me, you did so as soon as it occurred to you that that sentence could be used to justify and/or excuse exactly everything. There is no logical inconsistency too great, no direct contradiction too big, no genocide too horrible to refute with it: While we live on his planet, we live by his rules. And we don’t know what they are. Because he’s mysterious.
It may also have occurred to you that it makes god’s followers sound an awful lot like a battered spouse. Yes, sometimes he does things that are mean and sometimes they hurt but I know that deep down he really does love me. And he knows what’s best for me so I’m sure I had that typhoon coming.
But there’s way more wrong with the statement than it’s circular nature. For the longest time I just wrote it off as a meaningless, useless turn of phrase; a rhetorical tinfoil hat that represented the closest a believer was allowed to get to conceding in a religious discussion. But it came up again the other day and I started giving it another look. And it turns out that it was even stupider than I thought it was.
Okay, so you normally hear this when something horrible has happened, right? A bus full of kindergartners explodes or an earthquake hits one of those flies-on-your-face countries and a bunch of people die. And the religious folks have this sudden pang of cognition and they say, “Hey wait a minute… a loving god wouldn't do this! Either there’s no god or there is and he’s an asshole!”
And then they remember that the lord works in mysterious ways and they’re too feeble to understand them. It allows them to shut off that part of the brain that does the thinking and it works so fast that their brains shut down before they realize that no amount of intelligence makes an act stop being evil.
Hannibal Lecter was a fucking genius. I don’t have to ‘understand his ways’ to know that eating census takers with fava beans is evil. I don’t have to know why Hitler killed Jews to know it’s evil. Sure, Hitler works in mysterious ways. But that doesn't excuse anything he fucking did!.
When people excuse god’s ruthless savagery by appealing to his mysteriousness, I want to ask them exactly how much smarter than them I’d have to be before it would be moral for me to give them cancer… to invent cancer and then give it to them. Think about it. They’re saying that there’s a certain line of superior intelligence where suddenly every horrible atrocity ever committed in the history of humankind becomes okay. God let it happen and who am I to question his great wisdom? So logically speaking, there has to be a cut off.
And yet still there’s more wrong with this absurd excuse. Because when it comes down to it, god doesn't work in mysterious ways. Reprehensible? Sure. Merciless? Certainly. But mysterious? If god worked in mysterious ways, I might believe he existed. If sometimes when I opened my back door it led to the Himalayas, I’d say, “well shit, there goes god again, working in his mysterious ways.” But it always leads to the backyard. Scientists and statisticians don’t have to work in a variable to account for the “mysteriousness” factor.
As it turns out, god behaves in an absolutely predictable manner. He works in the way that is precisely consistent with not existing. And there’s nothing mysterious about that at all."
H/T: Scathing Atheist Podcast #56 Diatribe and +Noah Lugeons #RIPKevinCarter