Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Free will also contradicts a divine plan

Earlier, I wrote a post about how the concept of praying for events to occur contradicts the concept of a divine plan. Read it here.

Many religious people love to talk about how god has a plan for each of us. If we die early, that's god's plan. If we win the lottery, god's plan again. If our baby has cerebral palsy, once again, god's plan. God works in mysterious ways, doesn't it?

Yet then to explain away the evilness of humans, these same religious people use the concept of 'free will', saying that humans were given the power to choose for themselves, and some choose evil.

So I must ask, how can both be true? How can god have a plan for us, AND give us free will? Free will by definition means that we can choose our own path. If we can choose our own path, how can we not change our future depending on the choices we make? If the believer then argues that you can choose a path, but all paths lead to the same place, which is god's plan, then he has contradicted free will. If I have a pre-determined destiny which cannot be changed, then I don't have any power in my own life, my choices ultimately are meaningless, and I never did have free will.

So I argue that both the concept of effective prayer and of free will contradict the concept of a divine plan. Free will and effective prayer do not contradict each other. So believers, you must either throw away the concept of a divine plan, or throw away belief in both the effectiveness of prayer and of free will.

If you choose to throw away the divine plan, then you have to admit that sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen, and it is not determined by god. When bad things happen to good people, such as children being gang-raped, god does not intervene, and didn't plan it either. Shit happens, and god doesn't seem to care. Also, it would shorten a lot of post-sports-match interviews, and awards acceptance speeches if we admit that god didn't have anything to do with it.

If you choose to throw away the concepts of effective prayer and free will, then you could save a lot of time and money. Praying for events no longer works, so you can shorten services in churches, and stop giving money to those fraudsters on TV. There is no such thing as free will, so you'll have to admit that god created some people to be evil, and part of its plan is for them to be evil. Why would your supremely-good god create people to be evil? This would surely have an effect on the morality teachings of most religions.

It seems that either of these options would be somewhat devastating for religions. In order to continue, they need all 3 (divine plan, free will and effective prayer) to be true. They're relying on it. And most religious sheep will never figure out that there is a problem with all 3 being true.

So you can do away with one of these choices, or you can do the most sensible thing and throw out god.

12 comments:

Josh Sheppard said...

So I wanted to respond to this note (by my own choice ;) because I feel as though your views of Christianity, in its most genuine form, may not be completely accurate.
As a disclaimer I must say that I am no religious/theological genius and by no means am trying to “out smart” you or show you what a terrible thing it is to be atheist. In fact, I believe it is more than possible for an atheist to do great things in this world and impact it in a positive way! But as I said before, I do wish to make some distinctions about the Christian faith as I see it and I how I differ in opinion on some of these issues. I have plenty of respect for your ideas. I ask you consider my thoughts as I have considered yours.

“Many religious people love to talk about how god has a plan for each of us. If we die early, that's god's plan. If we win the lottery, god's plan again. If our baby has cerebral palsy, once again, god's plan. God works in mysterious ways, doesn't it?”
I do believe that God has a plan for everyone that has walked, is walking, or will walk on this earth. I also believe that it would be rather illogical for anyone to say that they know the mind of God. While I may believe I know what God’s plan for me is, it does not make me correct. I may very well find myself in a completely different situation than I think I will be in ten years. Also, I do not believe that God has necessarily planned for someone to win the lottery or be born with cerebral palsy since these are things of chance. The idea of birth defects and other natural disabilities has definitely been a struggle for me. I believe that God is a good God and can do no evil. Since God can do no evil, He would not bring things like cerebral palsy or cancer upon people by His actions. This evil comes as a result from our fallen, sinful, and denfectant world that came into being as a result of the human choice of sin. So God although may not cause these things to occur, being an all-powerful God, He can use any evil in our lives to work positively to His ultimate good.

“Yet then to explain away the evilness of humans, these same religious wackjobs use the concept of 'freewill', saying that humans were given the power to choose for themselves, and some choose evil. So I must ask, how can both be true? How can god have a plan for us, AND give us freewill? Freewill by definition means that we can choose our own path. If we can choose our own path, how can we not change our future depending on the choices we make? If the believer then argues that you can choose a path, but all paths lead to the same place, which is god's plan, then he has contradicted freewill. If I have a pre-determined destiny which cannot be changed, then I don't have any power in my own life, my choices ultimately are meaningless, and I never did have freewill.”
I AGREE!! (except for the whole “wackjobs” thing... why can’t we just have a civilized conversation without making fun of the other?!) - We may disagree on some issues but that doesn’t make us enemies. I’m sure you and I have common interest in other areas such as sports (I am a HUGE Washington Redskins fan) or maybe the type of T.V. shows we enjoy. But anyways back to your blog...
I agree that you cannot have a “freewill” and have your path chosen for you. That obviously defeats the purpose of freewill!! The path that God has for us is for you and I to choose. I, by my own freewill choose to accept Him and His plan. This is because I have chosen to live my life for Jesus on a daily basis. While I choose this, someone else may very well, and rightfully so, choose to deny God’s plan for them.
I believe God to be self-limiting. What I mean by this God chooses on a regular basis to limit Himself and His power for us to be free to make our own choice. The option He gives us in freewill limits His power over our choices because He chooses to do so. So while He may have a great plan for us, He limits His power by giving us the option to choose or not to choose His plan for our lives. After all would you want someone to love you because they are forced to? Would you want someone to have a relationship with you if it is not genuine? God gives us this option so we can choose to love Him through our choices. I guess a good way of describing this self-limitation of God would be to use the example of when a fully grown adult plays basketball with a seven-year-old. Would it really be a good experience for the kid if you were to block every shot he takes back into his face and dunk on him every chance you get? No, of course not. God does the same in His relationship with us. He is like a bird who clips his wings to walk among and relate with the squirrels.
I am not a big fan of pre-damnation, oh I mean pre-destination (always got to stay completely positive when it comes to discussing these ideas...) I do not believe this because God does give us freewill and in that freewill WE choose to accept this grace that He has offered to us. If WE choose to accept His plan for our lives then that is our choice and in turn it is essentially our plan to choose His plan. So therefore it is more than possible for someone to use there freewill to choose not to fulfill God’s plan for their life.
Basically we can choose to fulfill his plan for us if we so desire to do so. We very well can do the opposite because it is our choice whether or not to accept his salvation. Personally, I want to be apart of God’s plan and have Him lead me through life since I know that I am a better man because of Him.
“So I argue that both the concept of effective prayer and of freewill contradict the concept of a divine plan. Freewill and effective prayer do not contradict each other. So believers, you must either throw away the concept of a divine plan, or throw away belief in both the effectiveness of prayer and of freewill. If you choose to throw away the divine plan, then you have to admit that sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen, and it is not determined by god. When bad things happen to good people, such as children being gang-raped, god does not intervene, and didn't plan it either. Shit happens, and god doesn't seem to care. Also, it would shorten a lot of post-sports-match interviews, and awards acceptance speeches if we admit that god didn't have anything to do with it.”
As I have stated before, and hopefully you might agree, that freewill and God’s plan do not contradict each other because the choice is ours. So, for me, I do not have to throw away either freewill or the divine plan. Your right when you say that shit happens. The world we live in is very chaotic at times and many bad things happen. This is not God’s doing. While He may work through these things, God cannot do evil. I do struggle with the concept of evil in the world regularly. How can God be an all-powerful, perfect God and yet there be evil in the world? It’s called “Theodicy” in other words.
The conclusion I have come to is this: That because of God’s gift of freedom in choice, sin has entered the world. This sin has corrupted humanity negatively both spiritually and physically. This sin is the cause for our suffering and all of the evil we may encounter. God allows some evil to occur because if He stopped these evil things from happening to us all of the time then once again we would have no choice in whether we serve God’s plan or not. This is because God would be stopping us from choosing evil. Also, God’s understanding is much greater than mine will ever come close to. He is able to see things and work situations into ways in which I would never imagine.

“If you choose to throw away the concepts of effective prayer and freewill, then you could save a lot of time and money. Praying for events no longer works, so you can shorten services in churches, and stop giving money to those fraudsters on TV. There is no such thing as freewill, so you'll have to admit that god created some people to be evil, and part of its plan is for them to be evil. Why would your supremely-good god create people to be evil? This would surely have an effect on the morality teachings of most religions.”
Once again, since I do not believe that free will and our chosen path of God’s plan contradict one another it is not necessary to throw away the concept of effective prayer. Secondly, if prayer were useless then I would not believe in a compassionate God and there would also be no real need for a church service or even quiet time with God.
Wow, you are so right about the fraudsters on T.V.! I really hope that you do not listen to them as the true authority of God. Many preachers on T.V. will tell people that if you choose God then you will become rich and have a perfect life. “God died so we might have a painless and perfect life on earth...” So untrue!! I’ll tell you right now that I have not had a perfect life, at times it was bad, while being a Christian. It is a daily struggle to walk with Christ. The bible does not say that being a Christian will be easy. In fact, it says quite the opposite. Preachers like Joel Olsteen are just wrong theologically in this area. I’m sure it bothers me as much as it does you do when these preachers manipulate their viewers to donate money.
So in conclusion, My purpose in writing this ridiculously long response was to point out how you may have some miss conceptions about Christianity and give you some examples. I hope you found my comments respectful and intelligent in response.
I would be more than happy to talk with you more on this subject or anything else. If you took the time to read this, then thanks so much for your attention.

Josh

Admin said...

Josh, thanks for the thoughtful and respectful response. I've removed the "wackjob" from my post, in honour of you.

You have to understand why we'd want to lash back at believers, though. We spend a good part of our lives being told by them that we belong in the absolute worst place in the universe, with the kiddie-rapists, all because we don't believe in their god. That is extremely insulting, yet they try to mask it as some kind of religious truth, and therefore should not be seen as an accusation that we're terrible people who deserve nothing better. I'll have to make a post about this sometime, but perhaps if Christians didn't knock on my door to tell me that I belong in that terrible place, I wouldn't be so interested in firing back.

As for the preachers, yes they bother me, but not all of them. My favourite is Jack Van Impe. He's funny, and he must spend hours on his hair.

Thanks for visiting, Josh.

Admin said...

Josh, this is an example of what I'm talking about. Check out the comments for this post: http://www.atheistpropaganda.com/2008/10/belief-in-any-god-is-better-than.html

See the second comment from the religious guy? He suggests that atheism truly is the "unforgivable sin". This is why it's hard to be civil with believers. They rank us below people who organise and participate in the gang-rape and murder of their young daughters. They believe that their god can forgive those people, but not anybody who doesn't believe in that god.

That's pretty uncivil to me. Just because they don't swear when they say it, doesn't mean that it isn't a vicious attack. They make these attacks against us countless times every single day.

Josh Sheppard said...

Thanks for your response to my comment! I really do appreciate that you are willing to listen to what I might say despite how other Christians have come across to you. Also sorry for the delayed response, I had a crazy weekend...
I do understand why you would want to lash back at believers and honestly in many circumstances I can’t blame you! I think it is a very wrong response for Christians to go around knocking on doors shoving a Bible in your face telling you that your a terrible person. From what I can tell your not, and I definitely would say that you have chosen to live your life in a more productive and moral way than a rapist. I think that in many circumstances Christians may get frustrated because you may not see it from their point of view, while the whole time ignoring your valid point of view. When they get frustrated they may say things that Christians should not say. I think it is also important to realize that Christians are not perfect! Christians do not deserve to go to heaven. All of us are sinful and deserving of an eternity absent from God. I do believe that I deserve to go to hell because of the fact I am not worthy to be in a perfect beings presence simply because I am not perfect. I’ll will tell you right now that this is sometimes hard for me to accept. It is a humbling thought to process for me. Believing myself to be a pretty good guy (although I definitely have many flaws) I find myself wanting to be prideful of who I am. So while I do not believe it is right for Christians to judge others on whether they are going to hell or not I do believe in what the Bible says. As you read this I really hope that you don’t take offense to what I have said because I really intend none at all.
Once again I know this is a fairly long response to your comment and I’m sorry. I just feel as though I can’t effectively communicate my thoughts in a few sentences. (Maybe I should work on that!)
Before I tell you how I feel I think you might find this interesting.
I do have faith in God, but if I were to take this faith in God out of the equation and look at things strictly logically then I would still choose to believe in God. So here we go:
There is either a God or there is not. So I am either wrong or right, there is no real in-between, 50/50 chance as I see it.
If there is a God and I choose to live my life as a Christian then I have lived a great life and get to spend eternity in paradise.
If there is no God and I am a Christian then I have lived a life serving others and benefiting society. When I die there is no real consequence in the next life since there is none.
If there is no God and I choose not to believe in God, still living my life as a great person, benefiting society, and helping others, then I have no real consequence in death.
Now if there is a God and I choose to life my life as a good person but do not except God the consequence is much greater than any of the above.
So strictly in the sense of me wanting to have the best chance in life I would choose to believe in God. Does my argument make sense? I hope so.

On a much lighter note check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glQ8YZidhv8&eurl=http://video.google.com/videosearch?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=Jack+Van+Impe&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&um=1

I don’t even know where to start with this guy! Actually I had never heard of him before, thanks for pointing him out! As I hope you can see Christians can be misrepresented all the time (this is obviously an extreme case, but never the less pretty funny). We are supposed to be an example for Christ, but then you might see some of us sleeping around, getting drunk on saturday, and then walk in to church on sunday as if we were perfect people! The next week we will come knock on your door judging you! This is not funny at all! It misrepresents what being a Christian is all about.
As Christians we are representing the image of Jesus Christ. It saddens me that we have drawn such a negative impression of religion and belief in Him. To me, living my life for Christ, makes me a better man and I try to give show others how Christ works in my daily life.
On the unforgivable sin thing. They’re wrong. In more ways than one. Not only theologically but in their presentation of what they believe. I also agree that just because they don’t cuss, it isn’t a vicious attack on you. I hope when I write this you don’t take offense to my words, because I can promise you they are not to attack you. They are written more for the purpose of hopefully encouraging your view of Christians.
Once again thanks for your time and sorry for the long response....

Josh

Admin said...

Thanks for the comments, Josh. You're a Christian that I like :-)

I think I'm going to take part of your comments and make a main post about it, so I'll save my thoughts for then.

Thanks for the JVI video. Check this for more entertainment:

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=OUTfKoYPhfE

Josh Sheppard said...

haha awesome
aliens are coming!!
I'll look forward to your post.

Josh

Anonymous said...

Hi, good post. Basically a question I've asked many times and have yet to get a good answer. Anyway in response to the fellow who was explaining how maladies and early death might be a result of our fall from grace due to our choice of sin, iguess you could blame the devil too. Waht doesn't make sense is this: if God knows all why then does he like to test people? wouldn't he know the results and for that matter how could an angel betray him and become satan? if that happened, wouldn't god have had to make that happen? in effect he betrayed himself? I love this debate because it almost always boils down to religion having no continuity or real answers, then relying on the old "you gotta have faith" They'll say it's insane to think you could comprehend the mind of god, but it's not insane to blindly whorship an magic guy in the sky?

Josh Sheppard said...

Hey anonymous, So here are your rather lengthy answers to pretty good questions...
(once again as a disclaimer I am no theological
genius, so I may very well be mistaken on some points)

"if God knows all why then does he like to test people? wouldn't he know the results?"

The reason why God would test us is not so He can find out the results (obviously since He knows the results) but to strengthen the one being tested.
These tests should cause us to grow stronger in our faith.
For instance, When a father tosses his child in the air it may be scary the first time for the child, but the father knows he will catch the child. So after a few tosses the child then trusts that his father will catch him the next time he is tossed in the air. This will help the child’s trust (faith) in his father not only when he is tossed in the air but in the other areas of that child’s relationship with his father. The tests throughout our lives are not for God’s benefit but for ours.


"and for that matter how could an angel betray him and become satan?
if that happened, wouldn't god have had to make that happen? in effect he betrayed himself?"

First of all we must come back to the idea of free will (as presented above in my first comment). While the Bible does not discuss much of Satan’s fall from heaven it is quite reasonable to determine that angels do have free will. Lucifer was made as a perfect being by God. Although Lucifer was perfect when created the potential for sin is there since God gives Lucifer along with the other angels the option to serve Him (free will). Lucifer decided on his own free will that he wanted to be greater than God. As a result he was banished from heaven. God allows this to happen since He has given the gift of free will which often does result in evil. This is God limiting His power. He gives us the option to choose Him since a forced choice wouldn’t really be a choice at all would it? And after all who would want someone to “love” them because they are forced to? It isn’t really love at all, and thats the beauty of our freedom of choice.

Also an all-knowing and all-powerful God betraying himself does not logically follow. Gods gift of freewill would not be genuine if He only gave it to those that would choose to serve Him. If He did not give the same gift to those who choose to betray Him then there would never be anyone or anything that would choose to betray Him. Then this would not be true free will for all.
Just because God knew that Lucifer would turn into satan and betray Him does not mean He wouldn’t allow it to happen. God may allow things to happen because of our choices but doesn’t make them happen since He gives us the choice. God, being an all-powerful God, can use the choices we make and whatever evil may come out of it to our good and to His plan.

"I love this debate because it almost always boils down to religion having no continuity or real answers, then relying on the old "you gotta have faith" They'll say it's insane to think you could comprehend the mind of god, but it's not insane to blindly worship an magic guy in the sky?"

I also love this debate because hopefully I’ve shown you, at least to some extent, that there are real answers to the questions you’ve asked. Again I must say that I don’t know all the answers and I don’t know if the ones I’ve tried to answer are correct (of course I think they are, since I have posted them). I hope that I answered your questions fully and I did try to address everything you wrote without dancing around the questions.
I think it is important to realize that if God exists, and I believe He does, that a human could not comprehend His thoughts. As a Christian this belief would in fact be very logical. Just for an example, I would like you to completely understand and grasp the entire size and content of the universe and explain it to me. . . . .


Any luck?

Of course not.
We can’t comprehend the magnitude, space, energy, and expansiveness of our own physical universe! How crazy would it be then for a human to try to fully understand a God who created all of this?!
So is it not then logical that many of these things are mysteries?
I don’t believe this is a bad thing, since it keeps us working toward something.
The same thing goes for our universe, there is so much we do not know about the universe we live in. There is plenty of mystery, such as black holes and dark matter, that we cannot explain. And once again I believe this to be a good thing since it keeps us working towards something.
As for the continuity of the Christian religion, Jesus, God the Father, The Holy Spirit, and the Bible are pretty consistent. . . .
I also don’t believe worshiping Christ is blind worship at all. There are many things which show me God daily. For the same reason you probably believe that the universe huge and ever expanding is from what you see when you study the universe. As C.S. Lewis puts it very well: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” So just because I don’t physically see God, I know He exists because I have a relationship with Him and He works daily in my life. Something I obviously cannot prove to you but it is more than enough for me.

I hope I answered your questions as fully as you would like! I certainly spent some time on it so I did try! If you have more questions, I can try to provide you with them. . . .

Anonymous said...

God does know everything that will happen but "knowing" has a different meaning than "planning"

unrealdummy said...

Hi Josh, that's an intelligent response. However I want to point out something you missed.

You said:

[/QUOTE]
So while He may have a great plan for us, He limits His power by giving us the option to choose or not to choose His plan for our lives. After all would you want someone to love you because they are forced to? Would you want someone to have a relationship with you if it is not genuine? God gives us this option so we can choose to love Him through our choices.
[QUOTE]

If God truly seeks genuine love from his creation, why would he impose eternal damnation for those who don't believe / failed to believe?

Free will: noun, the ability to decide what to do independently of any outside influence. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Eternal damnation / threats are some sorts of outside influence that are given to influence your decision.

Free will is a ability to decide without incurring grave consequences that would affect your decision otherwise.

Uyi Iredia said...

@ Josh >>> love your thoughtful & well articulated comments & i'm with you on this one but i want to add food 4 thought to this issue (based on what realdummy said)

i don't agree with free will >>> meaning choosing what you want without incurring grave consequences otherwise >>>> i'd rather define it as being given a free reign to choose & accept the consequences of your actions (whether they're grave or jolly sweet)

@realdummy >>> waiting for ur reply ...

Lute said...

Saying there's no consequence for your beliefs seems mighty arrogant. Your beliefs say that if you're right, you go to heaven. What if you're wrong?

Maybe you didn't believe in the correct "truth." Christians in general are very arrogant and closed minded. "This is the way it is, and everyone else is wrong." The very thought that any part of your religion may be wrong is so upsetting. Why is this? There are more than a few different religions out there. Each one claiming to be the "truth."

I mean come on, the only purpose religion seems to have as far as i'm concerned, is to serve itself, preach one thing and do something different, interpret things as you see fit, and generally keep people segregated. Now i'm sure I missed some other points. But i'm at work and this is just a short letter.

Sincerely,
-Lute

P.S. The FSM boiled for your sins.