Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Do Atheists Have Free Will?

Some Christians argue that only with God and religion can people have free will. Aside from the fact that there were plenty of determinist, like John Calvin who argued our fate was determined before we were even born by virtue of whether our names had been written in the holy pages of salvation, Free Will is concept that is not nearly as simple as Christians and Muslims like to suggest. 

After all, even if we have "free will" in the sense that our decisions are not wholly predetermined by our biology, environment and/or experience, or the interaction of all three, and even if our final fate in the after life is not predetermined as Calvin argued, we are still left with the problem of whether anyone could be said to be "free" if they are forced to engage in behavior for fear that if they do not, they will suffer unimaginable and unending torture, forever and ever, amen. 

In the last sense, a person is "free" to choose to accept such suffering, but legal systems recognize that any contract entered into under duress, let alone extreme duress, is null and void; and specifically because such contracts are seen to be entered into without one's "free will," and very often agaisnt it. We see this in criminal and civil law as well. 

Who then, can ever be said to ever "freely" chose to believe in God, if they feel that not doing so results in such an utter loss of meaning and self affirmation, along with the loss of an eternal paradise?

Jean Paul Sartre, for example, argued that we can ONLY have free will if there is no God, otherwise we are forced to forever "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Phillippians 2:12), as our soul hang precariously over the pit of hell like the sword of Damocles. Hell, in other words, is worse than ISIS forcing people to "freely choose" Islam or be beheaded. 

The Christian philosopher Immanuel Kant likewise argued that it is impossible to know the true reasons that motivate even the seemingly most selfless actions (like helping the sick or even converting to Christianity), since the hope of Heaven and fear of Hell are always part of what underwrite our motives. 

The real question is how someone who "needs" to believe that their religion is "true" and their God is "real" can ever be "free" to decide NOT to subscribe to such ideas, if by failing to do so they feel life will lack all meaning and moral stability, all of their friends and family will "shun" them forever after, and the only thing they will gain for it all is an eternal vacation in an Auschwitz pizza oven called hell.

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