David Heinemeier Hansson

September 5, 2022

God's will

I'm no scholar on Nietzsche, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the philosopher who declared God Is Dead was the very same trying to preserve the essence of God's will in the principle of Amor Fati (love your fate). The ability to accept reality as it unfolds is a gift Christians is offered in their communal theology, but one that atheists have to struggle and strive to revive mostly in solitude. As a member of the latter, I envy the former.

This envy has stuck with me even through discovering both the Stoics, who asks us to control our internal response to external events and circumstances, and the Existentialists, who asks us to accept the absurdity of being thrown into this uncaring, random world. There's plenty of philosophical support, and I (recursively!) love Amor Fati, but all of it is intellectual.

What I miss about the faith-based embrace of God's will, and the supporting canon of The Mysterious Ways, is exactly that intellectual surrender. The prerequisite that being a good believer means rendering onto God all that which is out of your control or comprehension. Kierkegaard's leap of faith.

It's just such an easier sell than the one about being thrown into an absurd, uncaring, and random world. It doesn't ask you to develop the kind of calm Stoic strength required to push the boulder of Amor Fati up that daily hill. It simply says: This is just how it is. There's an omnipotent being with a plan, you're not going to be privy to most of it, and you can actually find a deep sense of meaning by reconciling with that arrangement.

It's an example of a feature in the religious social software humankind has been debugging for a couple of millennium. God's will as a concept is a scalable form of Amor Fati. That's just a fascinating frame of focus for looking at culture and meaning.

No matter if that very same social software also includes many core functions and routines that have lost all trace to their original context and purpose. And is clearly misfiring in other significant ways.

But even those misfires have to be compared to the ones sputtering out of the modern religious recreations. Be that Wokeness or MAGA. It's hard to create a somewhat coherent religion with overall better outcomes for more people than the systems that have been refined for thousands of years. I know hope springs eternal, and hybris with it, but still.

Thus Nietzsche's original proclamation about the death of God as a statement of significant sorrow and despair. You may see the world As It Really Is, whatever that means, but you might soon enough wish you'd taken the blue pill, and stayed together with the tribe inside the ropes of the magic kingdom.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.