When people say "Everything happens for a reason" it sounds like that "reason" is in the future. Is my interpretation wrong?

If not, how do I clearly state that "Everything happens due to cause and effect" in a more simple way? Hence it would stick to people's minds easily.

Clarification on the opening question: People are using it to convey the meaning of "Everything happens for some purpose"

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    Yes, that is repugnant, and the reason many (secular) people avoid the term. That's what I mean by "teleological or fatalistic" tones. It's not that the cause is "in the future", it's that "God planned out every instant, every event, every victory, every tragedy" at the beginning of time, even before time,. And since he's God, he must have done it for some unspecified "good reason". It's the hand-waviest form of theodicy known to man, and while it's usually offered in good faith, it comes across as flat and completely unsympathetic. Tone-deaf. I detest it.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 21, 2016 at 17:45
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    I completely agree with you. Say X happened. It sucks, and someone might say: “everything happens for a reason”. That is, it may look like it sucks now, but only when more things happen and you can see the big picture will you realise X actually enabled other good things to happen. In that case, "everything happens for a reason" alludes to something in the future (the good things that happened after X), not to the cause of X. (+)
    – Yay
    Mar 21, 2016 at 19:49
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    (+) From a strictly rational point of view, this interpretation is fallacious because it means events have a will, can somehow know what the consequences will be and “decide” to happen. This isn't restricted to a divine intervention. I know many atheists who say EHFAR, maybe just because they want to say something comforting when something bad happens. Anyway, I think more than one interpretation is possible, and that if that's what you mean, you would make your point clearer with an example.
    – Yay
    Mar 21, 2016 at 19:49
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    If I heard "Bob got cancer for a reason," I would interpret it to mean that Bob was being punished (by God, fate, or the universe in general) for some choice he made (in the past), such as smoking (for which there is a scientific basis) or cheating on an exam (religious argument: "the wages of sin is death"). Mar 21, 2016 at 20:49
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    @DanBron "everything is explicable, even if we can't explain it yet" this one is really close. Subtly implies that we can figure out the cause, prevent or fix the problem. Comforting and yet encouraging to deal with the problem rationally. I like this approach. Mar 22, 2016 at 1:40

2 Answers 2


"Everything happens for a reason" is a saying that implies predetermination, and fatalism. However, the preposition for doesn't necessarily imply a future. It's the connotation behind the saying that implies that an end will have happened because it was fated to.

If you're not a fatalist, and this isn't what you intend to convey, you could say that everything is connected, and every effect must, then, have (or have had) a preceding cause.


In the adage

Everything happens for a reason

the verb is in the present tense. This is sometimes called the enduring present, and it indicates the truth of a general proposition. Things have happened for a reason in the past, they happen for a reason now, and they will continue to do so in the future. Mathematics provides the simplest examples:

Eight plus four equals 12.

The implied meaning of the saying goes beyond the law of cause and effect (i.e., every effect has a definite cause). It means that every situation is part of some comprehensible plan, even if we are unable to discern what that plan is.

Because of licenses an explanation as its object, so taken literally, "because of a reason" is redundant. It's saying "because of a thing that's the cause." You might be better off with a phrasing of the law mentioned above.

  • What about "It happened for a reason" Mar 21, 2016 at 19:46

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