Just in time for Hallowe’en, an Ipsos poll sponsored by the Associated Press reveals that a third of us believe in ghosts.

For the sake of comparison, the poll points out that the 34 percent who believe in ghosts is comparable to the proportion of people who like baseball (36 percent), the number who think it was a good idea to invade Iraq (37 percent), and the number who think President Bush is doing a good job (31 percent).

There is nothing to suggest that these are the same people.

People are capable of believing many things, many of which make no sense at all. I’ve observed that often, people tend to recite things they’ve heard other people say, without giving the matter any serious thought.

I’d like to see a poll of the number of people who believe “Everything happens for a reason.”

I hear it frequently, and often from people who clearly haven’t thought about what they’re saying. But, they’ve heard it from other people, sometimes from preachers who base their belief in a thoroughgoing doctrine of predestination that assumes: (1) God is the ultimate cause of everything that happens, and (2) God wouldn’t do anything without a good reason.

Thus, they have little trouble approaching everything from an inconvenient flat tire to the murder of a child to a deadly hurricane with the explanation “Everything happens for a reason.”


The Bible is hardly finished declaring that God created all things (twice, actually, in Genesis 1-2) before it underscores a core reality of creation: humans are given free will to make choices for good or for bad.

Otherwise, we would be so many spiritual robots, doing and good and praising God because that’s all our programming allows.

The only “reason” for many things that happen is that people make choices, not because of a lurking divine purpose.

I firmly believe that God can work with us to bring something good from even the most troublesome of times (Romans 8:28), but that tenet does not require us to assume that God caused the tragedy just so something good could come from it.

Asserting the “everything happens for a reason” serves mainly to absolve ourselves of responsibility by laying the consequences for our actions at the feet of God, claiming there’s a divine purpose for everything.

If people would stop to think about what they’re saying, rather than just parroting the folk religion they’ve heard on the street, I suspect we’d hear fewer people claiming that “everything happens for a reason.”

You might as well believe in ghosts.

[The photo is from “ghostresearch.org.”]

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