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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
By Lawrence Louis
“If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgement on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to him?”-Albert Einstein
Out of My Later Years
his quote was made by Einstein in relation to theistic beliefs. Einstein wrote this in terms of the more commonly postulated arguments for God’s existence. Einstein used omnipotence not in the sense that God exercised direct control over our judgement and choices, but that all choices we make can draw their ultimate cause to the God. You have to read this statement in the context in which Einstein wrote it - that is from the concept of causation. You see according Christian metaphysicians, such as St. Thomas Aquinas or William Paley, all things in existence are generated from other things that have pre-existed (without a cause there can be no effect). As you move back in time through the succession of causes, that have ultimately lead to the present effect, you will see a point of convergence to the ultimate cause, which has always existed and has no cause prior to it. It’s this cause that has been called, in a somewhat arbitrary fashion, God.
Keeping this in mind you probably can see were Einstein is coming from. Seeing that all existence emanates, from what Aquinas calls the First Efficient Cause, it is impossible to promote the idea that “free will” exists. In order for your will to truly be free, and of your own making, the path to every decision you make must not be influenced or in any way encumbered by anything that is outside the decision itself. However, we very well know that the contrary is true. All decisions are based on some form of stimulus that is not of our making. If every stimulus has a cause then every cause leads up to the First Efficient Cause (God).
For example, you make a decision to kill someone. Someone says you are held accountable to God because you decided to do so of your own volition. Well one must then ask what comprises your own volition? The fact that your mind is acting in such a particular way is not a result of your own making but of what you are subject to. If your action is determined by what you are subject to, then that leads to the question what caused such determining factors? As you travel back through the succession of causes you ultimately arrive at the First Efficient Cause (God) again. You can say that you can resist these temptations to do wrong. Then one must ask again what causes you to want to resist these temptations? When you arrive at that cause, move back through the succession of causes and you still arrive at the First Efficient Cause.
This had lead many to conclude, in consideration of the tenets of popular theology, that “free will” does not exist, or at the very least, it is misnomer. It would be probably be more accurate to call “free will” something like “consequential will” or “subjected will”. Hopefully you get the point that in order to truly have “free will” you must be the cause of yourself.
This is what Einstein and many other skeptics truly mean when they criticize free will. A being that is omnipotent and omniscient knows exactly how every product of his creation will react with each other, before they even react with each other. With this knowledge how can the creator blame the creation for not meeting up to the standards of the creator? If the creation (i.e human beings) transgresses law established by the creator, it is due to the weakness that was instilled in the creation by the creator. Adam and Eve would not be weak enough to succumb to the temptation of the serpent unless they were created weak. A car will not break down in a month unless it was designed to. Who do you blame, the car or the car designer? Who do you blame, the creator or the creation? Theologians never try to address free will from the aspect of causation because they know it is a no win situation.
Personally I do not understand the common defense that Christians use: that God does not exercise direct control over us because he loves us. It would seem to me that it would be more characteristic of a loving God if he DID exercise control over us so that we do NOT hurt each other, steal from each other, or kill each other. Would it make sense for me to allow one of my sons to kill one of my other sons, under the guise of loving them, by letting them have freedom? Love, by any definition that I have heard of, does not behave in this manner. If you say that your definition of love is inadequate in defining God’s love, because your love is based on a human standard then one must ask what standard are you using? Clearly you are using your own mind to define love, as a result you are also using a human standard. Therefore, it is useless for you to say God loves or God is love. It’s quite a curious predicament that Christian apologists put themselves in when they say that human reason cannot define God because God defies all things known to reason, and then in the same breath they define in a extremely specific matter what God’s will is, what God thinks is right and wrong, and what God’s intention is towards humanity.
Many theologians say that if God did exercise control over every one of our actions that it would be the equivalent of slavery. This is a poor argument. In order for us to recognize that we are enslaved we have to recognize something relative to us that is more free. Pre-Civil war slaves knew that they were slaves because they knew there were people who had more freedom relative to them (slave owners). God being omnipotent could create a world were we are incognizant that he is more free than us. As a result we would be in a constant state of bliss (heaven on earth). It is pointless for you to say that he lets us exercise our will in order that we may learn from our mistakes. One must ask if God is omnipotent why can’t he create us to perfection without us going through these struggles. The only reason why your father or my father tells us to go to school and struggle through our mistakes is because they do not have the power to instill within us the capacity to function properly, using their own power. Does your father make you beg for food when he can give it to you? He makes you go to school so that you can provide for yourself in the future because he knows that he will not always be there for you. Yet your “Holy Father” is eternal, so such logic would not apply. There is no need for you to struggle to learn anything, unless it is God’s intent for you to exist without him. Of course this is quite contrary the Judæo-Christian perspective.
In conclusion, the concept of free will has no justification. For it is quite contrary to the view of God being the ultimate creator of all things. Furthermore any attempt at justifying the concept of “free will” only serves to illustrate one of the biggest contradictions of the Judæo-Christian faith, thereby undermining it.
“Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the Lord. Indeed like clay in the hand of the potter so are you in my hand, house of Israel”- Jeremiah 18:6