I am sure that most of you, weather you be Atheists of Theists have heard a whole lot about God's Will. This is thrown out like verbal diarrhea every time that someone dies or a natural disaster occurs. I have often questioned why people are so quick to say that a kid that gets caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting received a "gift" and that it was God's Will that she get shot and killed in a park. How is that a gift? What proof is there that she is in a better place? Who are you to make such claims? It may sound nice and comforting at the time, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be. As the title of this post implies, I am going to be talking about God's will and our own freedom. Does God's Will take away our freedom?
To start let us look at the Frankfurt Cases. This is a thought experiment that involves two cases that are identical, except for one part.

Case 1
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Jones decides not to shoot Jones, however the evil demon forces Smith to pull the trigger and kill Jones.

Case 2
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Smith decides to shoot Jones with his own free will, and the evil demon does nothing.

Take a good look at these cases. What do you notice? First off, they are identical except for one part, which is where the evil demon comes in. The other thing is that the outcome was the same, but the method of getting to that outcome was different. If it was Smith's choice to shoot Jones or if the evil demon commanded him to, the result was the exact same. So, my question is, if "God's Will be done" then the end result will always be the same. So are we really free to make our own decision? If we are, what is the point of making them if it is just going to achieve God's Will in the end?

Another thing that I question is how a person would know what God's Will is. I really don't have a concrete answer for how one would definitively know what God's Will is, but I can speculate as to why it would be appealing to chalk up the bad things in life it "it was God's Will".
The same sort of thing happens (in someone's mind) when there is a conspiracy about something like 9/11. Sometimes when something horrible happens it scares people, which is normal. However, being humans it is in our nature to want an explanation of why something happened. In the case of conspiracy theories Jodi Dean says,

People hate thinking about, in the flash on an eye terrorist bomber...

I think that the same thing happens in the minds of Theists when a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs. It is much more comforting to think that there is a plan in place. People don't like to think that bad things can just happen, they would rather be optimistic about some plan that would take them to a better place (heaven supposedly, but I'll save that for another post). Michael Martin said it best in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification -

If pessimism is justified by the evidence, then we must be pessimistic. If we are optimistic when pessimism is justified, we are irrational.

If you are a Theist or an Atheist, please leave your comments and opinions, I would love to know more about the topic from all perspectives. Bear in mind, however, I will research what you say if I think that you haven't done your research.

Views: 1310

Tags: Atheism, Conspiracy, Demon, Disaster, Evil, Freedom, God, Humans, Natural, Philosophy, More…Religion, Skepticism, Theism

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 11:43am

Jorita - I think you've nailed it. You may find this interesting --

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 11:57am

@SamRedmond, I confess I didn't understand the point of those cases.

From a theist's perspective, of course it's not God's Will when humans choose to do bad things.  Yes, sometimes foolish people try to say that to comfort people, but I'm not sure to what end.  Humans have free will, and if a human chooses to sin by killing another human that's not God's will, or God's plan, which is why it's just fine to capture and punish the jerk.

The Christian perspective is that what we do matters.  Our choices really affect things.  They can really help people and society and the world, or really hurt people and society and the world.  In the tale of Adam and Eve, their choices matter.  They bring death into the world, and unmake God's intent.  They cause pain, and purgatory, and their example leads to the hell of having one of their children murder another, just as our choices of casual racist language can lead others to take grievous racial actions, our venial lack of kindness to an Asperger's kid or our paranoia in stockpiling weapons can lead to the hell of having kindergartners shot to death in Newtown.

Not God's will.  Not God's plan.

That's why teaching right from wrong, good from wickedness is important.  That's why trying to discern God's will matters.  Because the harm we do and the hell we cause is real. 

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 12:09pm

@Jorita - Possibly you are familiar with the Efé people, pygmies of the Ituri forest in Congo - they have a legend that was in place long before they ever saw a white man:

    "One fine day in heaven, God told his chief helper to make the first man. The angel of the moon descended. He modeled the first man from earth, wrapped a skin around the earth, poured blood into the skin, and punched holes for the nostrils, eyes, ears and mouth. He made another hole in the first man's bottom, and put all the organs in his insides. Then he breathed his own vital force into the little earthen statue. He entered into the body. It moved... It sat up... It stood up... It walked. It was Efé, the first man and father of all who came after.
    "God said to Efé, 'Beget children to people my forest. I shall give them everything they need to be happy. They will never have to work. They will be lords of the earth. They will live forever. There is only one thing I forbid them. Now -- listen well -- give my words to your children, and tell them to transmit this commandment to every generation. The tahu tree is absolutely forbidden to man. You must never, for any reason, violate this law.'
    "Efé obeyed these instructions. He, and his children, never went near the tree. Many years passed. Then God called to Efé, 'Come up to heaven. I need your help!' So Efé went up to the sky. After he left, the ancestors lived in accordance with his laws and teachings for a long, long time. Then, one terrible day, a pregnant woman said to her husband, 'Darling, I want to eat the fruit of the tahu tree.' He said, 'You know that is wrong.' She said, 'Why?' He said, 'It is against the law.' She said, 'That is a silly old law. Which do you care about more -- me, or some silly old law?'
    "They argued. Finally, he gave in. His heart pounded with fear as he sneaked into the deep, deep forest. Closer and closer he came. There it was -- the forbidden tree of God. The sinner picked a tahu fruit. He peeled the tahu fruit. He hid the peel under a pile of leaves. Then he returned to camp and gave the fruit to his wife. She tasted it. She urged her husband to taste it. He did. All of the other Pygmies had a bite. Everyone ate the forbidden fruit, and everyone thought that God would never find out.
    "Meanwhile, the angel of the moon watched from on high. He rushed a message to his master: 'The people have eaten the fruit of the tahu tree!'
    God was infuriated. 'You have disobeyed my orders,' he said to the ancestors. 'For this you will die!'"
   To the Man's wife, he said:
"You broke your promise to me! And you pulled that poor man into sin! Now I'm going to punish you: both of you will find out what it is to work hard and be sick and die. But you, woman, since you made the trouble first, you will suffer the most. Your babies will hurt you when they come, and you will always have to work for the man you betrayed."

Comment by Strega on March 19, 2013 at 12:12pm

In the tale of Adam and Eve, their choices matter

Do you believe in the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden?  I'm just trying to work out where your beliefs do lie, not where they don't lie.

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 12:20pm

So, Bob, are you saying that your god is powerless to prevent people from doing evil things to others - that he has some sort of Star Trekian "Prime Directive" that dictates he must not interfere with free will to save some child from a rapist who will murder him when he's finished? If so, is the maintenance of the Free Will Prime Directive of such paramount importance to him that he will allow the suffering on an innocent child, rather than interfere? If so, how evil does that make him?

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 12:46pm

@Angela - I'm not sure I would say, "normal," as it is an irrational belief system, I think "natural," in the sense that it is prevalent, not only in humans, but in other creatures of nature as well, might be more appropriate.

Comment by Eric Wasson on March 19, 2013 at 12:49pm

It has always amazed me how Christians can rationalize *any* event into an example of their faith. If Smith shoots Jones (cause being irrelevant for this example), then "it was god's will," and "god moves in mysterious ways," and "one cannot know the mind of god," and other rhetorical clichés that mean nothing.  If Smith does not shoot Jones and Jones lives to tell about it, then we get into the "power of prayer" and "god hears all prayers" and "god is truly a loving, merciful god."

You cannot win, as these delusional people have crafted their faith in such a way that god is present and involved no matter the outcome of any situation.

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 12:57pm

@Strega - as I mentioned in "Genesis, Chapter 2" of my website, the Garden of Eden fable, like many other stories in Genesis, was plagiarized from an ancient Mesopotamian (Akkadian) myth that predates the Bible by nearly 2000 years, as depicted on this Akkadian cylinder seal imprint - note the Tree of Life in the center, an man and a woman on each side, and on the far right, the "subtil serpent":

Comment by archaeopteryx on March 19, 2013 at 1:04pm

@Angela - So is the ability to kill, but on a daily basis, we can choose to override it, think of it as a one-day-at-a-time program --

Comment by Strega on March 19, 2013 at 1:12pm

@Arch  You have a great site, and I completely understand your point about the amalgamation of historic beliefs.  (anyone who hasn't seen it, I recommend you take a look at it)

What I am trying to establish, is why Professor Robert is so patronising in what he thinks we believe that isn't apparently true, and yet so backward in coming forward to state what he does believe is true.  I have so little expectation that he will do this, that I am anticipating that typing my questions is predominantly serving as exercise for my typing fingers - sort of digital sit-ups, if you like :)


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