Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Free Will Question

There is a very provocative article post on AlterNet, Why Does God Reveal Himself to Some People and Not to Others?, by Greta Christina. An avowed atheist, she has posted several articles that I think are spot on! While I suggest you utilize the link above to read the whole enchilada, here are some snippets that should provide great food for thought.
Imagine you're on a jury. You're asked to decide whether something is or is not real, whether it did or did not happen; whether the accused stole the diamonds, or set fire to their warehouse for the insurance, or shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. The prosecution doesn't offer much evidence at the trial -- it's all circumstantial at best, third-hand hearsay at worst, with excessive appeals to emotion and fear, and arguments based on faulty logic. So you decide to acquit.

And then, after you've reached your verdict, you're told there's a videotape, clearly showing the accused committing the crime.

You're baffled. You're outraged. You confront the prosecutor in the hallway, and ask, "Why didn't you show us this evidence at the trial? Why show it to us now -- when it's too late to do anything about it?"

And the prosecutor replies, "Because you had to be free to decide for yourself. If we gave you that videotape, it would have made your choice too obvious. Free will is a precious gift, a crucial component of the justice system -- and in order for the jury to have free will, we can't make the right verdict too obvious. That would have forced your hand."

Would you nod your head sagely in agreement? Would you think that was a sound and reasonable explanation?

Or would you think he was out of his gourd?

And if you think this was a ridiculous and outrageous explanation from the prosecutor -- then why on earth would you think it's a good argument when it comes to God?

...When people are trying to make a decision, not just about what's real but about how to act on it, denying us relevant information does not make us more free. It makes us less free. In every area of life other than religion, this is clearly understood. It's the foundation of the principle of informed consent: when relevant information is denied us, our consent is impaired at best, and negated at worst. Having the best possible information about reality is essential to making good decisions about how to act in that reality.

Why is God an exception to that rule? Why is it that with everything else in our lives, having more information makes us better able to make a free choice… but with God -- and only God -- clearly revealing the simple fact that he exists and has power to enforce his rules would somehow turn us into his mindless robotic slaves?

How does that make any kind of sense?

...If it would eradicate my free will for God to make his existence obvious to me… why doesn't it eradicate yours? Or your neighbor's? Why doesn't it eradicate your priest's free will, your minister's, your rabbi's, your imam's, your guru's? Why didn't it eradicate Paul's, or Moses', or Muhammad's, or Adam's and Eve's, or that of any of the prophets and figures in religious texts who God supposedly spoke to?

If clear visions of God's existence would eradicate our freedom to believe in him or not… why does anyone have them?

...I'm talking here strictly about the problem of free will. And I'm talking about the glaring contradiction in so many religious beliefs: the idea that, on the one hand, God reveals himself directly to some people and has done so many times in the past… and that, on the other hand, God can't reveal his existence to everyone, because doing so would somehow make us not free. I'm asking the question: Why are some people special snowflakes, able to communicate with God without it impairing their freedom to believe and obey him… while the rest of us aren't?

You can't have it both ways. Either God revealing his existence would undercut our free will -- or it wouldn't. If it would undercut our free will, then God must not be revealing himself to anybody… which means you can't count personal religious experience -- yours, or anyone else's, including the prophets who wrote your holy book --- as evidence of his existence. And if it wouldn't undercut our free will, then we're back to the question: Why isn't God making his existence clear?
In my mind, she makes a great case.

1 comment:

  1. A.
    1) have free will
    2) god decides if you chose well or not
    3) you must have faith in god

    or

    B.
    1) no free will
    2) all is
    3) faith not required

    There is more faith required in B even though you don't need to have it.

    There is more contradiction in A. than you could shake your staff at.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want. We may respond...or we may not. It depends on the mood and preferences of the specific author of the post. Ta-Wan generally responds in a timely manner. Trey responds some of the time and Scott rarely replies (due to limited internet access). You can be assured that all comments are read by this blog's two administrators: Ta-Wan & Trey.