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(Post 26 of 33 in my 16-hour shift for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.)

8:30 pm EDT

Q: I would like to know a Humanist version of the formerly comforting idea of “god doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. I have seem to hit a streak of challenging circumstances and am having trouble finding comfort in the thought that “everything is random and we have little to no control over what happens in our lives”. Any good Humanist ideas for getting someone though a tough spot and back into a positive mentality?

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your challenging circumstances. I can’t offer a humanist alternative to “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” and good riddance to it. It’s a shameful lie, and you don’t need that. Those who died at Auschwitz were given more than they could handle, and people every day, all around the world, suffer the same fate.

Fortunately “everything is random and we have little to no control over what happens in our lives” is also untrue. The history of humanity, especially in the 400 years since the Scientific Revolution, has been a gradual recognition that the world is neither divinely controlled nor is it random, and that mastering the patterns and gathering our resources around us can provide a greater sense of comfort, control, and satisfaction than passively hoping for God’s protection ever did.

The humanist response is to turn to other humans. All the support, protection, and encouragement we’ve ever had, including all that was credited to God all these years, has come from ourselves, especially the people around you who love and care for you. Don’t be afraid to ask.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.