Monday, February 22, 2016

Free Will

So, I was on the Twitter again, as I am wont to do.  I've seen my fair share of bad arguments, but I've noticed the argument of free will a few times now.  I'm going to discard (mostly) some of the other things around this particular thing, and discuss only the things related specifically to this claim.

Let's put some perspective on this.

The basis of the claim is that the god of the bible created humans with innate free will.  Whether or not free will does indeed exist is a topic of debate which has been around for a long while.  However, I need to clarify, this is not the point of today's post.  Today we're only addressing whether or not the bible holds this point of view or not.

Now, to be clear, I'm not certain if the poster mentioned is a parody account or not, but I've heard this argument often enough.  Ergo, I shall proceed on the premise that it's his (or her) genuine opinion.

Let's pick apart the first premise.  This is almost too easy.

Now therefore fear the lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth: 
There's an interesting statement.  Basically, the first premise of this statement is that, even if you mortally fear the consequences of an action, you're still choosing to do something.  This doesn't fit the description of most definitions of free will, because it quickly becomes apparent it's not a choice.

One of my favorite analogies here is the idea of someone forcing you, at gunpoint, to dig your own grave.  Basically, you've got a shovel and you're restrained in some way.  Basically, the argument is that you somehow still have a choice, according to the tweet.  You can somehow choose to dig the grave or not.  In the same way, the picture is arguing that you have free will by forcing you to act only in accordance with the precepts of the religion.  It's certainly not free will in any real sense, because there is no choice.  With that in mind, let's move on.

and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the lord.
Again, the logic comes full circle. Obey or god will kill you, then send you to hell.  If this is actually the case, it's not free will in any sense of the word.  This is entirely apart from other parts of the bible where god literally turns hearts against him, has his own will which is inviolate, or decides well in advance of your death whether or not your name is in the book of heaven, or if he puts his name on your heart.  Here's a neat post summarizing some of the same arguments.  Again, I'm not debunking the entire bible on free will, only this rather specific argument from a very small portion.

and if it seem evil unto you to serve the lord, 
False dichotomy.  It doesn't have to seem evil for me not to want to do it.  It could simply be that I don't believe in your god.  This has nothing to do with his malevolence.  Although, it's mighty handy and telling how it presupposes people are going to presume that the lord is evil.  I wonder if there's any merit to that, a god who makes you fear him so you'll serve him.  Evil is a very interesting word, however, I don't believe in the supernatural, so carrying on...

choose ye this day whom ye will serve.
Again, that doesn't leave much room for choice.  Remember, I'm being coerced into it with mortal fear of hell.  Of course, if god is all-powerful, there definitely wouldn't be a choice, because an all-knowing god certainly would know how bad it is to rule with fear, and how it limits our ability to praise him freely.  I mean, if god wants to scare us into following him, that's not really any different than simply making us to follow him without the illusion of free will. It's functionally the same thing.  It's not so different from saying that the slaves somehow had a choice in their slavery.  The choice was to submit or fear punishment.  It's literally one of the justifications for slavery, once upon a time.

whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:
This is interesting also, in that it actually gives credence to their being other gods.  That's literally a thing from the cultures of that time. 'Elohim' which means chosen god, literally frames it as a choice between gods, each being equally valid.  Yahweh was Elohim of Jacob, I think, and that's where one of the divides between Islam, Christianity, and Judeaism come in.  However, let's not tarry there.  Let's remember that, according to the old testament, in this context specifically, it literally is a 'choice' in the fact that the author of this original passage probably did believe that there were other gods.  However, he clearly didn't see it as an actual choice, since he thought his god was stronger, and therefore more able to be effective at punishment in the afterlife.  Ergo, he similarly had no choice, despite the wording to follow:

but as for me and my house, we will serve the lord.
Here we can also see that this is a fact supported by various commentaries.  Similarly, it mentions Yahweh at this point. Literally, in this frame of reference, there are multiple gods which people do indeed believe exist.  Either way, it's not an argument for free will, but for conformity under threat of damnation.

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