- Religion and Philosophy
God Given Free Will?
One of the most precious gifts that modern apologists tell us comes from the God of the Bible is our ability to freely act as conscious agents. God gave us the capability of choosing our own path but with that capability comes the potential for sinful or disobedient behavior. You see not only do human beings have a will but so does God and any action which does not line up with God's will is, by it's very nature, transgressive and sinful.
In this hub I want to discuss the idea that the Biblical God has given us free will and, perhaps more importantly, discuss the conflict between God's will and plans and ours. In doing so I hope to demonstrate that the content, and Christian interpretation, of the Bible both bear the obvious hallmarks of fictional mythology.
Free Will is an Imperfection
The first thing to point out is something I've brought up in hubs before, that there is an obvious and immediate conflict between the will of God and the free will God has afforded humans. Free Will is necessarily an imperfection because it opens up the possibility of sin where none would have existed had God simply denied it to us. In a world full of free humans sin is essentially inevitable.
One has to question exactly what God's goal is in giving human beings this gift. It seems to me the only logical outcome of creating beings capable of making their own decisions independent of his will is that they will choose their own paths and be obedient to their own wills. Rather than heed solely the will of God human beings are free to pursue their own interests, goals and even abandon religious belief altogether.
God would presumably want human beings to be very different from him. Christians often say that God gave us Free Will to avoid making us robotic obedient droids but really what he would be avoiding is creating clones of himself. If the point of having free will isn't to choose something other than what God wants than I fail to see the point of it at all.
This is what God wants, right? Surely God would want his chosen species to act out their lives without feeling imposed upon? Well not according to much of modern Christian thinking.
The God that created this...
...Cares what you do with these
Micromanaging Your Life
Modern apologetics is crammed full of ways in which the creator of the Cosmos wants to micromanage every aspect of your life. From your finances to your career to your sex life to whether you can find your car keys in the morning before work God is apparently in the business of overseeing everything you do. In fact he's so strange that he's even counted the hairs on your head according to the Bible, perhaps that's how he passes the time when you and your partner are having sex.
Speaking of sex God has some very serious demands as to how you should and should not use your God given genitals. Apparently while God granted human beings a powerful libido and enough orifice's to experiment to our hearts content, even with multiple partners of any gender, God did not intend us to actually make our own sexual choices. Well, unless those choices involve going through a social ritual known as marriage that permanently bonds a man and a woman (or a man and several women if you're in the Old Testament). In fact some sects of Christianity go further than simply needing to be married and claim that God is also anti-birth control as well.
Prosperity and Passive Aggression
Many newly popularized forms of evangelism also set up God as being intimately interested in your financial future setting forth what is called the “Prosperity Gospel”. This naked attempt at making money on the part of popular TV evangelists is supposedly all about God's will to see you succeed financially but only after you donate to the ministry of course. And if God hasn't blessed you yet despite your donations perhaps you're just not donating enough.
If that's not enough people often believe that God has a calling for them, yes God's will is even interfering with any aspirations you have to pursue a given career. It is convenient for many that God's will in these matters often lines up with their own because if it didn't things would get awkward fast. And what if you make the decision to go against God's will and pursue your own choices? Where does that get you? Is any deviation from God's exact will considered sinful? Even if it's not sinful I have heard Christians tell me that when they neglected their “calling” God revoked blessings from their life or withheld them.
So God is standing over your shoulder demanding that you be a teacher when you want to pursue your dreams and become a musician? And passive aggressively he begins to mess with the rest of your life to push you in the direction of doing what he wants you to do. Sorry but it doesn't sound like God is respecting the free will he gave human beings and begs the question of why he gave it to them in the first place. If God is going to be a manipulative dick poking his nose into everything we humans do why bother with free will at all?
It Get's Worse, the Bible
From very early on in the Bible Yahweh's actions suggest that he doesn't really respect human free will at all. After all one of his first decisions is to curse all of Creation because Adam and Eve failed his forbidden fruit test. Their very first free decision is met not with passive aggressive manipulation or the withholding of blessings but with a creation wide curse that infects everything “good” that God had created with the virus of sin.
If you think God trying to change your career plans is a concern try being a Biblical figure like Abraham or Moses. For Abraham making a covenant with God involved being one of the first human beings to ever carve off his own foreskin – and he had to do this as an adult, without modern anesthesia!!
This bizarre ritualistic request is one of the hallmarks of mythology I mentioned. It is utter madness to think that a being who made swirling galaxies and dazzling nebulae asked a random man in the desert to make a deal with him that involved violently mutilating his own genitals.
Abraham and Moses
Later things get worse for Abraham when he is asked not to self-mutilate but to murder his own son and mutilate the body in a horrendous act of human sacrifice presumably meant to test his obedience. So much for God caring about the free will of we mortals. God also spills to Abraham the plans for mass murdering everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Moses doesn't have things any better starting with how he was chosen. His life was interrupted suddenly by God in the form of a burning bush giving him a mission. Throughout his time as a Patriarch God is constantly wreaking havoc on the world around him.
Moses has to act as the mouth piece to a murdering psychopath who sends deadly plagues on the drop of a dime and repeatedly threatens to leave his own chosen people rotting in the desert. This is, of course, another hallmark of fiction. Man versus God conflicts are one of the common conflicts of fictional stories. Compare Odysseus stubborn pride before Poseidon to scenes of Moses standing between God and the Hebrew people talking God down out of a murderous rage (see: Numbers 14 for example of Moses doing this). These stories are both clearly myths.
God Might Tell You Who to Kill
The Bible is filled with God commanding people to do things, these aren't seen as optional. In the Old Testament God didn't simply withhold “blessings” from people, in the Old Testament God would send a plague, a famine, or one of the other four horsemen of the apocalypse, to fuck up entire civilizations. God even had plans for some that involved cannibalism!
But even more horrific than being on the receiving end of the “will of God” in the Bible is what God might tell you to do if you are an obedient and loyal servant of his. God very well might tell you who you are supposed to kill. Of course Christians these days reject such an idea usually trumping up the “New Covenant” as an excuse but the fact of the matter remains that the Bible has numerous examples of God commanding war, human sacrifice and of course infanticide and child murder.
I don't see how any Christian can possibly trust the voice in their own head if they associate that inner voice with the God of the Bible. Thankfully though most Christians don't actually hear voices and that “inner voice” we all here is one they conflate with a more loving version of their God that they have created. However we do still hear stories of people killing others because they claim God told them too whether that command came from the scripture (as with Islamic terrorists) or whether they believe God actually spoke to them (as with crazy people).
And this, of course, is another hallmark of why the God of the Bible is fiction, in this particular case fiction used by humans as an excuse for their cruelty or insanity.
How much does God really give a shit about your free will if he might, at any moment, barge in and tell you which country to invade and remind you to make sure you kill all the children and animals too (see 1 Samuel 15)? What good is the gift of free will if God or his religious representatives on Earth are going to impose their own wills and rules upon you? Would you accept the same micromanagement from your parents after you have moved out on your own? That they would follow you around and tell you who to sleep with? What food is okay to eat? And what part of your genitals to carve off?
In the end these stories and ideas show all the signs of being human inventions meant to micromanage and control one another. In some cases religion is used as a shield to hide our wickedness and cruelty as with the genocides in the Bible, the crusades and inquisitions of Christian history and the sexual abuse scandal of today.
In some cases it is used to reassure ourselves that we are on the right path, or a higher path or calling but with the wrong motives or moral compass that kind of superstition can easily become dangerous. In the end, I believe, it is best to reject these obvious fictions even if they sometimes prove comforting.
Thanks for reading!
Random TMM video that inspired this hub!
Other Hubs in this Series
- Giving Credit to God
Objections are offered against the superstitious trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do.
- God Given Gifts?
A hub about the absurd belief that God should get the credit for everything good about you and no blame for anything bad about you.
- God Given Rights?
Further analysis of the bizarre trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do. This hub deals specifically with the idea of rights from God.
- God Given Victory?
In this installment I deal with the absurd idea that God is helping people win at everything from war to the lottery
- God Given Morality?
A hub analyzing and debunking the bizarre claim that morality comes from God.
- God Given Meaning?
Hub discussing the idea that the meaning of life comes from God and that without God there is no objective meaning.
- God Given Morality Revisited
A further deconstruction of the idea that morality comes from God.
- God Given Punishment?
This hub deals with how diseases and natural disasters are supposedly the just and righteous punishment of God.
- God Given Knowledge?
In this hub the claim that God can grant direct revelations is discussed.