The religious idea of free will is impossible

When the problem of evil or sin comes up, it’s very common to hear religious apologists explain this with the idea that god granted humans free will. Humans, so the story goes, are free to choose whether to go in god’s way or to stray into sin and evil. God gave humans free will because he didn’t want obedient robots, he wanted people to choose to love him on their own.

There are many ways to debunk this claim but the most important thing to point out is that the idea of human free will is incompatible with the idea that the universe was created by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and timeless deity. You can have one or the other, but both at the same time is a paradox.

Let me explain why:

Being granted freedom by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and timeless creator is nothing more than that creator pre-programming you with the illusion of freedom. If there’s nothing the creator doesn’t already know in advance about his creation, past, present and future (since he’s timelessly omniscient), then that creation’s will is still contained within the framework that has been created for it. To be created exactly the way you are by someone who has perfect knowledge about what you’ll do is the definition of being pre-programmed. The only freedom allotted to the creations in such a setup is the freedom from the knowledge that they have been pre-programmed in such a way.

If god is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and timeless, everything that exists, exists precisely the way it is, precisely because god wanted it to exist that way. If god willed everything into existence exactly the way it is, then nothing within this willed universe can be said to be free of his will. For god to grant a will that’s free of his own would be like god creating a thing too heavy for him to lift or a thing that’s too complicated for him to comprehend.

To say that human free will is independent from the will of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and timeless creator would be like claiming that the will of a character in a novel could be independent of the will of the novelist. Sure, the novelist could write some stuff he didn’t like or that made him feel bad, but it’s still his will that made him put it in the story. Blaming a character in the novel is just another way of blaming himself.

The free will excuse probably comes up most often when apologists try to explain the problem of evil. What they fail realize is that it doesn’t actually solve this problem. If god granted humans free will, knowing full well (by means of his timeless omniscience) that this would produce evil, then it cannot be said that god didn’t knowingly create evil. He just deliberately created it through humans, knowing in advance what would happen. This escapes neither god’s plan nor his deliberate, knowledgeable doing. It’s just another version of that novelist blaming the characters he created, or rather, the characters blaming themselves. It gets you right back to where you started.

I’m not making up any of these claims about god being omnipotent, omniscient, timeless and omnipresent. This is what’s in the religious stories, not in mine. I’m just pointing out that the story itself makes no sense because it contradicts itself on its own terms.


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