Free Will

The Illusion of Choice

Making the Right Choice is Unfairly Easy for Some

Not All Free Wills are Created Equal

Freely Choosing to be Moral for the Wrong Reason

 

The Illusion of Choice

Suppose I'm God and I create a normal, mentally and physically healthy human who likes pizza. When this human eventually gets hungry, I place two plates in front of him. One plate has a serving of hot delicious fresh pizza and the other plate has a pile of laundry detergent.  Obviously the human chooses the pizza, but did he really choose? I would say no, because the wiring in his brain is such that he finds one repulsive and other pleasing. He cannot control what he finds repulsive and pleasing and his actions are merely a physical manifestation of his wishes. How can we say he used free will in choosing when we can predict his choice with 100% certainty? Can free will be predicted with certainty? If yes, that means it's determined. And if it's determined, is it really "free" ?

If you're still a nay-sayer, then replace the human with a cat and offer it a bowl of cat food and a bowl of laundry detergent.  Does it freely choose the cat food? How about a bee or ant that has the choice between sugar water and gasoline. Do the insects freely choose the sugar water? Do insects have free will?

But back to the human. Here is where God gets malignant: We tell the human that eating pizza is a sin and sins are punishable. In other words, we set him up to fail: We give him a brain with certain food preferences, we give him a so-called "choice" between pizza and something revolting, and then we punish him for acting on his built-in preferences. That is precisely what God has done. He gave humans curiosity and then punishes them for acting on it. He gave humans a sex drive and then calls them sinful for acting on it. He gave humans the capacity to reason, think, judge, and be independent, and then prescribes death for not slavishly obeying Him. And this is a wise, caring, loving God?

If we think someone is horribly ugly, can we choose to find them very beautiful and attractive, using only our free will? Can we switch back and forth between being heterosexual and homosexual on a whim? Can we choose to honestly believe that a rotting rat carcass crawling with maggots is delicious and pleasantly aromatic? Chances are you answered "no" to those questions. This means certain parts of our minds are immune to our free will.  Certain preferences are hard-wired into our brains and no amount of wanting or wishing will change them.

Why would God give us hard-wired wants, wishes, and desires and then punish us for acting on them? Why not simply not give them to us in the first place? Then we wouldn't have to fight temptation. It's immoral of God to make us want something and then punish us for enjoying it.

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Making the Right Choice is Unfairly Easy for Some

John and Steve are twins but Steve is a homosexual. They see two attractive women in a coffee shop and decide to strike up a conversation. John flirts with one of the women and sleeps with her that night. Steve goes to bed alone. John has sinned and Steve has not. Is it to Steve's credit that he has not sinned? Of course not because he simply didn't have the opportunity to sin. Would it be correct to say that Steve chose to be celibate and sin-free? Again, no, because the circumstances didn't give him much of a choice. Had there been an attractive gay man at the coffee shop, Steve would have sinned as well.

Should a faithful wife get any credit for being faithful if she didn't cheat on her husband only because she didn't have the opportunity? Is she more moral than a cheating wife? I think not.


Not All Free Wills are Created Equal

This so-called "free will" is actually a very complicated, tangled mess that involves hard-wired unchangeable preferences, years of personal experiences, morality, and opportunity.

Is a heroin addict free to refuse heroin? The addict has to use all his self-control and will-power to resist using it while a normal person refuses it easily without a thought. Clearly, the addict's free will is compromised. He doesn't face the same freedom of choice as a normal person because he has to fight and win a fierce internal battle to make the right choice whereas a normal person does not.  It might not even be his fault that he's addicted to heroin in the first place. 

Mike is in prison for theft and he's being lectured by a Christian: "God gave you free will and you chose to steal, so now you're paying the price for your crime. I know a man your age...Victor. He has never stolen anything nor committed any crime in his life. He's a good, hard-working, model citizen. But you... you have a lengthy arrest record and criminal history. You chose this path in life! You chose to be immoral whereas Victor chose to be moral."

Turns out this model citizen Victor was raised in an upper-class neighborhood by two loving parents. He went to a good school and has a well-paying job. Criminal Mike, on the other hand, grew up in a crime-infested ghetto. His father was killed while robbing a liquor store and his mother is in prison for prostitution and smoking crack. Mike was raised by the local gangs, where thievery, violence, callousness, and hostility are encouraged and rewarded.

So did Victor really choose to be good and did Mike choose to be bad? Or were those paths in life already carved out for them by their childhood circumstances? The point is, not all free wills are created equal. People's moral decisions are greatly influenced by their childhood and adolescent experiences, which means the choices their free will makes can be heavily biased and skewed through no fault of their own.


Freely Choosing to be Moral for the Wrong Reason

"God doesn't want slaves or robots" the Christian says, "God wants us to choose to serve Him."

Does God differentiate between a man who obeys Him out of love and respect and a man who obeys Him just to get into Heaven? The second man goes through the motions of praying and going to Church and doing good deeds but he doesn't really care about anyone, including God. Both people spend their entire lives doing good, moral things, helping others, and refraining from sin. One is doing it because he loves God, the other doesn't care about God or morality at all. He just wants the reward of Heaven and he'll do whatever it takes to get there. His motives are purely selfish. Both have freely chosen to obey God. Their physical actions are indistinguishable, only their thoughts differ. Will God let the selfish one in to Heaven?

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