Free Will: A Discourse of Sorts
Let me throw a scenario your way. A woman is walking home from a night class at college. Someone steps out of a doorway in front of her and brandishes a knife. He grabs her wrist and tells her unless she does whatever he tells her, he is going to kill her. He then forces her to go to her apartment and rob her roommates of all their money and jewelry. Then he forces her to go to her place of employment and take the money from the register and give it to him. Then he lets her go and runs away. She calls the police and reports what happened and despite all efforts to find this man, it never happens. How many people think the woman should or would be charged with theft or burglary? If not, why not? She has free will and can make the choice not to do what she is told any time she wants. She essentially chose to comply with her attacker of her own free will. Does that not make her his accomplice?
I seriously doubt there are very many out there who would consider the woman a thief. People would say, "Yeah, she had free will, but her life is worth more than a couple hundred dollars and some jewelry." And they'd be right, IMHO. In this instance, the woman really did NOT have free will if she wanted to stay alive because she had only one option to choose from: doing what she was told. In order for there to be true free will, there must be more than one option that achieves the same goal. And therein lies the crux of many a disagreement between those who follow a faith that believes in "hell" and those who do not. The argument that the "hell believers" give is that we have the free will choice to obey God and go to heaven or to disobey God and go to hell. But that is not a true free will choice because the outcomes of that choice are different. From my perspective, the choice of doing it God's way or going to hell is no different than robbing my friends because I'm in fear for my life from a knife-wielding assailant. I have no choice in the matter if I want to live (in this case, have my soul survive in the afterlife.)
Perhaps an illustration will help you to see what I mean.
I have to get from home to work. I have several options in the very literal sense of going from home to work. Each of these options has its pros and cons.
Each of these choices offers me the same outcome: getting to work. Once I decide which way I'm going to take to get there, I have to abide by the "rules of road" for my method of travel and accept the consequences of my choice. However, I have true free will to decide what path to take to get there.
Now let's go to the metaphorical sense. Home here represents my life on earth. When I get to "work", I'm in heaven. I believe in the same choices as in the literal sense: ie, all faiths will eventually get us "to work", therefore I have free will in my faith. I see no free will in any faith that has a concept of "hell" where the only way to avoid "hell" is to follow that faith because there is no choice in the path to "get to work". I am having my path dictated to me. My "choice" is either get to work the way I'm told or be fired (go to hell). That's not free will.
I can already hear someone say, "Well, go get another job somewhere else." But according to these faiths, there is no other place to get a job. God is the only "employer". Free will MUST involve a choice between at least two options to the SAME OUTCOME, otherwise there is no free will. There is coersion or extortion: do it my way or go to hell.
I have no fear of hell. I have no fear of dying. I have no fear of God. I have no fear that I'm not "saved" because there is nothing to be saved from in my faith. I know you may disagree and that's fine. You have chosen your path and you must follow the rules of your path. I have chosen mine and must follow the rules of my path. I'll see you at work. ;-)
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