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: 1411

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 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 :)

Comment by Unseen on March 19, 2013 at 1:15pm

I think everyone who's been here for long and participates much knows my position: Free will is impossible. Flat out contradicts the idea that in a physical world everything that happens has a physical cause. Simply because my brain is organic and not a metal machine makes it no less devoid of freedom. The only way to introduce something other than the brain controlling my behavior is to start talking in terms of a spirit. But even then, that would need some sort of physics. We can't believe that the brain would have us do one thing but that somehow a nonphysical entity can come in and make something else happen,

If you believe in free will, you might as well believe in souls, but then you've become religious.

Free will just makes no sense to start with. It's a pair of words that suffer from an inability to be rigorously defined.

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 1:30pm

This software is odd.  For some reason I can't reply to individuals here.

@Strega: "Do you believe in the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden?"  Yes, I believe it's a story.  In the original Hebrew, it's more of a sort of poem.  How many poems do you take literally?

Comment by Strega on March 19, 2013 at 1:39pm

@Professor Robert.

I believe the Jabberwocky is a poem too, but when I walk in the woods, I don't take my Vorpal sword.

How many Catholics believe in the Garden of Eden story as fact, and that Earth was Created less than ten thousand years ago?  Doesn't the concept of Original Sin and subsequent Redemption flail a bit without it?

(When you post on a blog, the posts are linearly sequential.  When you post on a forum thread, the posts are laterally sub-branched to sub-topic of postings)

Comment by Real Life James Bond on March 19, 2013 at 2:04pm
@Melvinotis These are cases based on the Cartesian idea of the Evil Demon that could be deceiving us. You could substitute the evil demon for anything you believe in, Garth Brooks, if you really wanted.
Comment by onyango makagutu on March 19, 2013 at 2:16pm

Angela, when you say you imagine god would be free, is there a situation god if one were to exist that he/she/it or they would act contra their nature? How free would they be and if they were to act against their nature would they still be god?

Comment by Real Life James Bond on March 19, 2013 at 2:28pm
@Strega I couldn't have said it better myself!
Comment by Sagacious Hawk on March 19, 2013 at 2:28pm

Strega, I did some research previously to figure that out. Approximately 25-30% of the Catholic laity in the US thinks it's literally true. Most Catholics don't think it is anything other than a story. Original Sin does not fall apart for them, because they see it as something akin a metaphorical explanation. It's somewhat similar to how Aesop's Fables have a moral that they try to depict through a narrative.

Comment by Jorita on March 19, 2013 at 2:30pm

Loved the Dawkins link thank you archaeopteryx. To me it is as if the christians don't read furhter than the bible. If I was going to join a political party I will want to know where they come from , how they origenated, what is there objective, what do they stand for, how do they want to achieve this, and what am I to gain from joining them. once I have looked at all of this then I will decide. I look at religion in the same way, and to be objective you have to go back to how did it origenate. If I look at the different cultures and how there religion developed understanding that all of this started in a time when there was no explanation for , plagues or floods ect. If I look at all the 'god' figures from all cultures, what the criteria was to be a god, how they were worshiped, what you gained from worshiping them what they would do if you did not worship them. There rules and regulations. It is all the same, the only difference is today that by brute force the people who believed in the biblical god was told by there god to wipe out all those who did not support there belief. No different to Muslims emposing there belief or the christian emposing there belief. No different to political parties in Africa wiping out opposing parties with violence or modernday genocide. All religions are based on mythological figures and the ones that they inheret from their culture. God does not have a will, the will we speak of is created by man, the power he has is created by man and all of these beliefs are maintained by man.  


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