Do people really believe that nothing in the world happens without some master plan behind it? Are all these people who say "Everything happens for a reason" talking about a god or some mystical dance of the allness of life or fate? And why do they think I want to hear about it?
Yes, everything does happen for a reason: it's cause and effect. The reason I got the parking space right in front of the restaurant is that some woman decided to pull out of that space exactly five seconds before I drove up. The reason my friend just happened to take a long trip with her dad exactly three months before he passed away is that that was when she finally scraped up the money to do it. I'll buy the cause-and-effect connection.
But I don't know what to do when I explain some challenge I'm facing and someone says to me, "Well, everything happens for a reason!" I imagine they think they're being comforting and optimistic, but they're assuming that I share their belief that there is a bigger purpose for everything and I don't. It's presumptuous and it irritates me, but I usually let it go.
What I have trouble ignoring is when someone says, "Well, I guess the Universe is sending you this," blah, blah, blah. Now they're ascribing agency and intention to some entity they're calling "the Universe" and that sounds even more to me like a spiritual belief system that has nothing to do with my beliefs. I want to say, "Uh, look. I don't believe in this universe that thinks and does things, okay?" Sometimes I do say something like that, but I wish I didn't have to.
Clearly, even though huge amounts of therapy and the correct anti-depressant have finally brought me peace, happiness and self-appreciation, I'm still an atheist. My personality isn't completely different, although I am more tolerant of dogs now.