On freewill and god

man is his own work before all knowledge and knowledge is merely added to it to enlighten it. Therefore he cannot resolve to be this or that, nor can he become other than he is; but he is once for all, and he knows in the course of experience what he is.

Arthur Schopenhauer

In my last post on freewill, I did point out that the biggest problem lies in misunderstanding especially by the freewillers on what they mean. I can confidently say most of those who argue for freewill don’t know what they are talking about. They regurgitate what others have said and go on from one absurdity to the next and that I contend is what James does in god’s sovereignty and freewill.

He starts by creating a false dilemma. He writes

If we surrender free will, life becomes bleak and hopeless. If God possesses exclusive control over our destinies, why should we do anything? What difference does anything make if life is all mapped out? If we surrender divine sovereignty, life loses transcendent meaning and purpose. We exist and then we die.

which I contend is not the case. That our actions are determined wouldn’t stop us from acting. Why shouldn’t we not act? In fact, the trouble arises if the theist proposes a god with plans for us. Why should we do anything while god has a plan? What if we go against his perfect and holy plan?

It is in describing the nature of will that James goes of the rails completely. He writes

The will expresses our heart’s desire. Whatever we want most, we do. The will surveys the motives in the heart and always, always acts upon them.

and a causal reading of the statement implies that we are separate from the will. I must wonder whether the will takes long walks and only returns when we want to act to do a survey and present its results?

He makes an erroneous conclusion from an analogy he presents about being forced to empty your wallet to a mugger. He writes

[..]The thief tells you that if you don’t empty your entire account and give it to him, he will take your life. You really want your money—and you still want that TV—but you decide to give it all to him so you can live.

and then concludes thus

In that instance, were you prevented from exercising free will? Not at all. You simply did what you desired most. Being an ever-so-smart person, you desired to live more than you wanted a full bank account or a new TV. Whatever you desire most, your will acts on.

which isn’t evidence for freewill but for determinism in the sense that all our actions are caused. In this case, the cause is easily identifiable as a thief. In other instances the causes are not so obvious.

In the next instance, he is equivocating. We would say a country is free if it is not under siege or a person is free if they aren’t slaves and this is appropriate in sociology. But when it comes to human action, to want to apply the same meaning for freedom is misleading and erroneous.

And how he doesn’t see it as a contradiction when he on the one hand writes

Apart from gracious divine intervention, we simply don’t make God the north star of our life.

and shortly after blame us for not being divine. It is either we can do it on our own or we depend on god’s graces but not both.

And as a final note to my good friend Barry; as we pointed out with Jeff, the Christian apologist doesn’t argue for any other god but his own. James writes

Jesus is the only person who did this perfectly. His heart was pure. He chose to follow the Father’s will, even when it meant suffering and death. He did it for us—for stubborn, short-sighted people who insist on their own way.

a position that a Muslim wouldn’t accept, a Buddhist may not accept, a Jansenist will find ridiculous and I am guessing you are likely to reject.

And I agree with Messlier, quoted below, that if a god were to exist, even it would not have freewill.

The world is a necessary agent; all the beings which compose it are united to each other, and can not do otherwise than they do, so long as they are moved by the same causes and possessed of the same qualities. If they lose these qualities, they will act necessarily in a different way. God Himself (admitting His existence a moment) can not be regarded as a free agent; if there existed a God, His manner of acting would necessarily be determined by the qualities inherent in His nature; nothing would be able to alter or to oppose His wishes. This considered, neither our actions nor our prayers nor our sacrifices could suspend or change His invariable progress and His immutable designs, from which we are compelled to conclude that all religion would be entirely useless.

Jean Messlier



About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

40 thoughts on “On freewill and god

  1. Barry says:

    Me thinks for an atheist you spend too much time dwelling on the nature of God 🙂

    My faith comes from a Christian tradition, so it’s natural that Jesus is there. As for James’ statement regarding Jesus, I’m not convinced that God would would require that someone should be sacrificed to pay for the sins of others, just as I’m not convinced that God would punish people for the sins of their forefathers.

    I have no objection with any apologist arguing for their cause, but I do get troubled when an apologist argues against another belief. And I think I have become embroiled in too many of this type of discussion recently.

    I have spent too much time over the last week or so taking part in unproductive discussions about the beliefs of the “other side” (both Christian and atheist). As usual, I was drawn into the discussions by unsubstantiated claims such as “all Christians are liars” and “all atheists really believe in God”. I believe in moderation in all things, and I’ve found a week of being immersed in a pools of strongly held convictions with little tolerance of different views too toxic for my good health.

    I have come to the conclusion that our politicians are a kinder, more tolerant and inclusive lot than than are a great many of the people I’ve encountered on various Christian and atheist blogs over the last week or so.

    I’m retreating to a more gentle world where I haven’t got a clue what my friends think about God, and where even if I was rude enough to ask, I’d probably get an ambiguous or evasive answer. I’m retreating to a world where whatever I believe is just another thread in the tapestry of life.


    • makagutu says:

      Barry, that is a good world you live in. It isn’t like that everywhere. And I apologise if I have been in any way intolerant towards you or the views you hold.
      And in my defense, this post was on freewill 😛
      Once I read some place that if ever a concise definition of gods were to be reached at, the atheists will have to be thanked more than any other group for helping towards that end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        Up until now this blog has been tolerant of my eccentricities, thanks, makagutu.

        As to the world I live in, I may not interpret it the same way as everyone else, but I can say my conclusions are reached using the information I have at hand.


    • Thanks, Barry, for your perfection. I’m glad you had time to stop by other people’s blogs this week and judge them from your perfect world filled with your perfect “faith” and your all-loving open-armed religion. Nice. I’ve now met a perfect human living in perfection who judges others because they aren’t as perfect as he is. And, you went WAY out of your way to do it. Thanks. Must be grand to be perfect and living a beautiful perfect world. Gives you time to visit other folks online and condemn them for not being as perfect as you, then slink away. Nice. I, and millions of others, however, do not live in such a beautiful perfect world, Barry. I live in a country that says we are free, but then denies human beings their fundamental rights AS human beings if they are not “christian.” I have “christaintiy” inserted up my ass and out of my mouth every day of my life. Women have to fear losing the right to their own bodies here because of “Jesus” and “christianity.” Gay couples are persecuted, denied the right to marry, and have laws passed that allow them to be legally denied service in stores just because they’re gay. As you may know, Barry, Jesus hates fags in America. So, Mr. Perfect, I’m sorry that I fight back against this. See, I don’t like it. I don’t like smarmy, religious douche-bags who go out of their way to point out how much better they are than I am because I’m not as perfect as they are. You have a perfect religion. Lovely. How grand. However, to me, Barry, this last, judgmental statement you left proves one thing: You, Sir, are no bloody different than any other religious bloke who claims he’s perfect for believing as he does. And that, my friend, makes you one of the biggest hypocrites I’ve yet to meet. Enjoy the perfect hole you’ve slithered into. You deserve to be there, as you’ve most certainly gone out of your way to tell us that’s where you’re going. I really thought you were different and hoped to learn from you. But, you aren’t. Same song, different key. Bye now.


      • makagutu says:

        Jeff, we shouldn’t be writing about religion and its negative effects in society. We are godless and should soon shut it about gods whether they are real or not.
        I am saddened we are intolerant even when we are really quite nice. We heathens need salvation and NZ is the place to go. We will soon learn to be tolerant as a pliant dog waiting to be told to sit, sleep or walk by the master.


      • Barry says:

        What can I say inspiredbythedivine1? I don’t live in a perfect world. Far from it. Our governments wants to increase the powers of its agencies, including the gathering of communications without search warrants, the seizure of electronic equipment without cause, the removal of many of the social supports including universal healthcare that have been the backbone of this country for a hundred years, the replacement of many elected authorities with appointed ones, and much more.

        I had my laptop, tablet, phone, and camera “detained” when I returned to NZ in January. No reason was given and none has been forthcoming. I am still waiting to have them returned. In this country we already have the legal rights you mention and they are not at risk. I hope that you achieve goals, but we have other battles on our hands, which are just as important to me as yours are to you.

        Exactly who have I condemned? Who have I judged? Not once have I deviated from my belief that atheism is a perfectly valid belief. It is not wrong or mistaken. Just because I don’t embrace it fully as a belief system for myself does not make me your enemy. I found the tone of some of the discussions distasteful, and I’m talking about both atheism and Christian sites. That’s not a reflection on anyone else. It’s a reflection on me. But to call me a hypocrite because I don’t feel at ease in a particular setting is going a little to far in my opinion.

        As for my own religion: No it’s not perfect. It’s in a constant state of flux. I use “God language” frequently but don’t believe in God. I frequently refer to the teachings of Jesus, even though I have doubts about him having existed at all. At times I am envious of both the fervent atheist and devout Christian, as both don’t have any doubts about what they believe. I on the other hand don’t have that luxury.

        Perhaps the subtleties of American English are beyond my grasp, as gathering from some of the responses have seen here and elsewhere I seem to have conveyed a message totally different to what I had intended. There was no intention to criticise anyone. I believed I was being polite by saying why I was bowing out of the discussions, not that the discussions were wrong or a waste of time. I felt uncomfortable taking part in some of them, because at times, I found myself agreeing with statements I only partially supported. I was taking part in arguments about theology that aren’t relevant in the 21st century. And some of the comments were, to me, needlessly offensive.

        On some sites, the humour was either too rich for me or went way over my head. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or due to my autism, but I have put my foot in it on several occasions when I mistook humour as being serious, and visa versa. And as to your comments, my friend, they simply reinforce my decision to bow out at this time.

        Finally for all your problems as an atheist, I suspect they fall far short of what I as an autistic migraineur have to face on a day to day basis. Have you been locked in a jail cell for being an atheist? How many times have you been stopped and searched because you didn’t believe in a god? Are you denied the right to purchase meat from a supermarket because of your belief? I have been locked up because I was unable to cooperate with the police in the way they demanded. I am stopped and searched because I act “suspiciously” (my movements are not always typical). I can’t turn my eyes towards the meat shelves, as the red tone of the lighting triggers a cognitive shut-down.

        You might be told that you really do believe in God even though you are an atheist. I’m told that migraines are just a headache: take a painkiller and tough it out. Some atheists might loose friends when they de-convert. I loose friends because too often I have to cancel meetings at the last moment. You may face problems due to living in a Christian society, I face problems due to living in an ableist society.


        • That’s a helluva a long comment for a guy who insulted the host of this blog and said he was crawling back into his perfect hole. Why’d you crawl back out? Hole get stinky?


          • Barry says:

            I think the host of this blog is a decent and good fellow, and if I have insulted him, please point out where, so I can know what to apologise for.

            As to the reply being long, I responded to the points being raised in what I believed was a considerate and courteous way. I have no desire to insult or criticise anyone, If they were supposed to be rhetorical questions, I apologise for recognising that.


  2. I really like the last quote. I wonder, too, in regards to “free” will, when does one’s “will” become free? Are we born with a free will? Does it become inserted through our anus at some point, say age 2? Do we get it at age 7? 8? 12? When precisely does our will become “free” of all the determining factors that teach us and make us, “us”? I wish, that at birth, my will had been free and I was allowed to leave the idiots I was born to. I would have have chosen a loving, wealthy set of people to be my parents instead. Doesn’t work that way. We are who we learn to be and what our genetic make-up allows us to be. “We” are not “free” of “us.” Also, for the christian apologist, do non-Jesus lovers have free will, or are they condemned to burn for freely choosing the wrong god to worship or not choosing to worship one at all?


    • makagutu says:

      We once had a discussion with John on the same question. At what point do we have freewill and what are its limits? Can we will to be female or male, can we will not to be born, can we will to be tall.
      I should add, I like Jean Messlier. It would interest you to know he was a priest in France who as his last will and testament wrote a polemic against religion and Christianity in specific


  3. exrelayman says:

    Hey, the only good atheist is a quiet atheist. ‘We Christians’ get churches around every corner (you help support them since they pay no taxes), proselytizers knocking on your door, radio and TV ministries, PAC’s helping persecute women and gays. But you atheist do go on ever so much about God. Why can’t you just stfu? 🙂


  4. A Guy Without Boxers says:

    Thanks for this insight, my Nairobi brother! I trust all is well with you! I’m very light-hearted here today, summer is finally upon us! Much love and naked hugs! 😉


  5. themodernidiot says:

    Counter question (just for kicks): if i have free will, why cant i choose to believe in God?


  6. Ain't No Shrinking Violet says:

    I for one found your discussion on free will quite interesting, Mak. This part for sure: “It is either we can do it on our own or we depend on god’s graces but not both.” As someone new to atheism I’m still sorting all this stuff out. As a christian I believed in both free will and god’s grace, but could never make sense of how the two could work together. Looking back I see that I had a horrid case of doublethink going on.

    I appreciate atheists who talk a lot about god. I have decades of indoctrination to wiggle out of and am still discovering major problems with my former beliefs…things I’d never before even considered. Everytime I put one more contradiction behind me, the more I feel at peace. Finally.

    To every atheist who has debated the same thing for a thousandth time, please know I’ve just caught onto many of these issues for the first time. I’d like to thank you for helping me through with your words, even if you were never aware I existed.<3


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