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: 1409

Comment by Sagacious Hawk on March 19, 2013 at 2:50pm

Well, Arch, I did say somewhat similar. As for Jesus on the cross... it's Baptism that rids a person of Original Sin. The best explanation I have for Jesus's death was to make it easier for believers to get into heaven and so non-Jews could, too. He went through all that trouble to establish a new Covenant and was the stand in for the lamb traditionally sacrificed on the Passover so his dad could have more company.

That's the short version, at least.

Comment by Sagacious Hawk on March 19, 2013 at 2:54pm

Oh! I meant to further explain the somewhat similar comment. Dr Bob already pointed out how the story of Adam and Eve from a theist perspective does "reflect the folly of various behaviors."

"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."

Comment by Strega on March 19, 2013 at 3:32pm

^^ I think of it as the wriggle factor

Comment by Real Life James Bond on March 19, 2013 at 3:59pm
@Jorita I really like what you said at the end "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." If one was to look through history they would find this to be true. Excellent point!
Comment by Jorita on March 19, 2013 at 6:06pm

I think the problem is that they don't read history, That history for the religious only goes as far as the biblical history, I read some of the professors other posts and I honestly try and understand what it is that he whants to gain from this blog. And I don't mean this in a bad way. I honestly wonder if he is questioning his own faith by the things he writes. Would he not get more "understanding" on a catholic blog. He is not going to be changing my mind on the way I view faith, and he can start a million discussions it is going to make no difference to me, the only person this can make a difference to is to him. Not one of his discussions has made me think that what I know is wrong or question what I think is wrong, it actualy just makes it so much more clearer that for me to have turned my back on religion was the right desicion. 

Comment by Jorita on March 19, 2013 at 6:27pm

Segacious Hawk: " Baptism rids a person of original sin" In all cultures you have cleansing rituals, and baptism is just another one. In all of the cultures that I have looked at they use water to wash the unclenliness away. This is used for different reasons and in the bible you have this if a woman had her period, after she gave birth after you touched a corps ect. This is also very strong in African culture. The baptism is the ritual of cleansing the persons soul. But no less a man made ritual. To please a supernatural being.

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 6:32pm

@Strega: "How many Catholics believe in the Garden of Eden story as fact, and that Earth was Created less than ten thousand years ago?"

I couldn't tell you, but I hope not many.  One of the advantages of having a hierarchical organization is that hopefully there's someone around to correct misconceptions like that before they get taught too widely.  That's an advantage we have over our fundamentalist friends.

I'm not sure why you would think the concept of Original Sin would be affected in any way by a non-literal reading of Genesis. 

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 6:42pm

@Jorita, I would never come to try to change your mind.  In fact, I had bowed out of these forums because of your comment in the second pope thread about how you were frustrated by theists who came here.  I very much want to respect your desire for space, and I'm not looking for converts.  Nor do I have any reservations or doubts about my own faith.

We professorial types just enjoy engaging with ideas, is all.   Our own and everyone else's.  If that helps you strengthen yours or helps me question mine, then both of those are good things.  When I blundered here by accident I confess I was a bit taken aback by the monoculture and some of the hurtfulness directed toward those with whom people disagree; it felt a bit too prejudicial and tribal, which I don't frequently encounter in atheist colleagues.   I suppose that's why I chose to comment initially. 

In any event, I am a guest only, and one that doesn't have a huge amount of time to contribute on a long-term basis.  If at any point I am unwelcome, just let me know.

Comment by Dr. Bob on March 19, 2013 at 6:49pm

Hmm... can't edit.  I was only going to add that as a guest, I would never comment on a thread like the "Seeking" thread, where someone was very clearly asking for guidance from this community.  I only feel it appropriate to comment where people seem to be asking things a theist might provide insights on.

Comment by Jorita on March 19, 2013 at 6:56pm

Professor Robert you are free to talk on this blog, but I do think that you do understand that not everybody is going to agree with you, and that you will find that some of us and I can only speak for myself do at times get anoyed with your logic and way of thinking. It does however not mean that I don't find the discussions interesting. So bare in mind that I am the only Atheist in my home, living with 3 other adult christians, from different faiths. So you my friend might end up getting the sharp end of the stick , nothing personal.


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