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.

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Comment by Jorita on March 19, 2013 at 7:16pm

@Angela why would we need a religion or a spiritual belief, including the superstitions that go with them? I see no logic in believing in supernatural beings or time spent on rituals that has no value. Non of those will lend any quality to my life. There is no need for a spiritual or supernatural being to give me compasion, morals, or joy. I don't have to do charity work to please a god or feal that I have scored points I do this because I care about humanity. I find joy in everyday things from the simple to the complex. I can take a walk on the beach if I need some clarity of mind or need to be at one with myself or go for a long run. No need for rituals, or superstitions

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 7:19pm

@Jorita: "So you my friend might end up getting the sharp end of the stick , nothing personal."

I would never take it personally.   I can appreciate how annoying living with a houseful of Christians can be.  Feel free to take it out on me anytime.

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 7:48pm


RE: "If anything I would say that humans have an innate aversion to killing people." - how were your grades in World History?

You don't need to be a historian to know that soldiers come back from war with PTSD, often because of knowing that they killed someone (or killed many). Most of us could only kill in extreme kill or be killed situations. Of course, there are exceptions, but they prove the rule.

Comment by Ryan B on March 19, 2013 at 8:08pm

PTSD and the psychological effects of killing another human doesn't cover why there has always been some sort of conflict where senseless killing has taken place.  At some point it has to be considered human nature to be so territorial and defensive against anyone outside one's own group.

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 8:15pm

...it has to be considered human nature to be so territorial and defensive against anyone outside one's own group.

No, that's largely part of animal nature.

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 8:16pm

Also...most wars happen not out of murderous hostility but due to irresolvable conflicts or due to perceived or imagined wrongs committed by one side against the other.

Comment by Ryan B on March 19, 2013 at 8:31pm

Human nature and animal nature really aren't that far removed.  Compared to other apex animals we have considerably larger populations and forced interaction with each other.  Combine that with massive amounts of technology dedicated to killing each other and to me it just seems like conflict waiting to happen.

Comment by Jimmy on March 19, 2013 at 9:04pm

Jorita's belief that religion is culturally inherited and springs forth from ancient times when we had no explanation for natural events, etc. Well, this is a common conclusion that most atheists come to believe as the "root of religion." I have read extensively of something that I was introduced as a teenager by William Burroughs' "Yage Letters", although, Dr. Rick Strassman's book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule" is without a doubt more informative on this topic, and that is...

Well, the claim being made that the "real root" of religion lies in a colossal altered state of consciousness in which you can have the impression of a kind of intuitive omniscience, having all experience at once, a very peculiar phenomenon in consciousness that until recently has only been spoken about in a religious context. It was recently discovered that the acacia bush, the so-called "burning bush" in the story of Moses has a high concentration of DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine). More recently this phenomenon has been titled such things as "cosmic consciousness," "mystical experience," and the one that I think that is probably most provocative... "ego death," because you do lose a complete sense of self, consciousness as your familiar with it disappears and transforms into something else altogether, something very transcendental, God-like, completely terrifying, utterly alien, and totally incomprehensible.

In Aldous Huxley's book "perennial philosophy," he made a similar case with his experiences with peyote that what religion may be is a kind of by-product of this phenomenon in consciousnses, that men like Christ, Muhammad, Guatama, Joseph Smith, etc. were all mortal men who sometime in their lifetime had this colossal experience of "cosmic consciousness" occur and then went on to become the founders of the religion they each espoused.

So, the argument being made there that God isn't an entity, but a kind of metaphor to describe an ultimate state of consciousness. That the only reason it got portrayed as an entity is because  those who have not had this experience attempted to interpret these men's words, "spiritual texts," etc. and ended up with a kind of anthropomorphic projection, hence a God as entity, not realizing that it's more to do with a phenomenon in consciousness, the "Beatific vision," if you will, "Brahman," "shekhina," "samadhi," "satori," .... "ego death."

Well, I believe in order to truly judge all this is you, without a doubt, must undergo the experience for yourself. I'd recommend searching YouTube for a talk by Terence McKenna entitled "How to take Psychedelics," because he'll go over all the precautions and stuff like that if anyone reading this actually considers this endeavor.

Well, the way it relates to all this, I suppose, in one way... There's a website entitled "EgoDeath.com" where a Michael Hoffman there has a theory where at the height of this experience, there is an insight where something like hard determinism or predestination is realized. That all that happens has been predetermined throughout eternity. No one started it, and no one influences it. You can call it "God's will"  or a "cosmic law" or "fatalism" but these are different ways of saying the same thing. I don't necessarily adhere to that. I love more than eastern view which is a kind of compatibilism in which free will and predestination are "one and the same thing."

So, it's not that primitive people needed an explanation for what they couldn't understand, and so hence they have "God," but rather that there exist a phenomenon in consciousness that most people, especially atheists, not to mention theists, don't know about. A phenomenon in consciousness where, low and behold, all those squirrelly notions you find in religion suddenly manifest all around you, and having had this experience, I would say that "God" wouldn't fall too short of a metaphor to describe it… However, whatever it is, it's truly nameless, titanic, and lies beneath the religious impulse in our species, it's a living mystery that we all have the potential for if we so wish to avail ourselves of it.

Graham Hancock discusses DMT.

Comment by Jimmy on March 19, 2013 at 9:32pm

@Angela Evangelia

I wasn't expecting any feedback on this, because I doubt anyone here has actually undergone "ego death." However, I will say that this shamanic route is a kind of on-demand experience of "ego death," a kind of "nirvana" on-tap, if you will. But it's definitely not done for fun or recreational purposes. The people who get into this stuff are people who are intensely curious and wish to travel to the very depths of consciousness.

It's not a pleasant experience, it is an absolutely terrifying experience, but it's not done for fun, as I mentioned. Shamans did it for "spiritual insight," but if you don't like the word spiritual, then "psychological insight." Terence McKenna once said that "Psychedelics are to psychology as the telescope was to astronomy during Galileo's time." Definitely true, but even that quote undermines it, I think. It's much, much more profound than that and beyond.

But no amount of talk or words would ever convince anyone that this is so, that's why I believe this experience is something you stumble upon by virtue of encountering it somehow. I mean, maybe you'll take up one of Terence's suggestion as he describes in that talk I mentioned because of what you read here, who knows? But it's definitely something people stumble upon. I mean, Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered LSD just as I'm sure shamans that lived millennia ago accidentally discovered ayahuasca. Gordon Wasson probably didn't expect María Sabina's "mushroom veleda" to influence the rest of his life, just as Graham Hancock in that last link I post had a series of accidents that led him to try ayahuasca, etc., etc.

I'd recommend Dr. Rick Strassman's book, he has a lot of interesting speculation. It's already been proven that the near-death-experience is the DMT experience as we produce DMT naturally. It's stored in cerebral spinal fluid throughout your life and that is where your brain reaches for its last gasp of oxygen, DMT floods the dying brain.

But to do this in a shamanic fashion is kind of having the near-death-experience now, only you live to tell the tale.

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 10:33pm

@Ryan B  Wars are generally not fought because people are "forced" to live in proximity to other people. They are fought over land, over resources, over religious differences, to avenge past defeats. Stuff like that. 


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