Freewill and human moral evils

Human moral evils1 are things intentionally done by people who cause suffering. If a god capable of altering our will prioritises our freedom to commit these evils over our wellbeing, such evils—like child abuse—must be fostered so long some people will to do it2. Alternatively, human moral evils are part of a god’s toolkit for looking after our long-term wellbeing or some deeper meaning; it is not the case that freewill is prioritised over wellbeing, but that in some sort of long-game these evils are the best way to protect our wellbeing. None of these claims seem right.

A fellow blogger, Caroline, as a part of a three-part series called “Why doesn’t God do something?” tells a story of a child abused by her father. The girl prays for it to stop, and it doesn’t. The girl tries to end it by killing herself, but her suicide is unsuccessful. God must let her father to commit this human moral evil if the father’s freewill is God’s priority. This doesn’t consider the will of the daughter. She willed it to stop, but it didn’t. She willed to die, but she didn’t. What the daughter willed—thought, wanted and desired to actualise—is not fostered at all. The will of the father is apparently more important than the will of the daughter. The will of the physically stronger person is realised first, when it conflicts with the will of a weaker person. Does that sound like a situation that a god had any say in, at all? Nature favours strength, and it’s barbaric that’s the pattern we see in a world people believe a god influences. Is the doctrine of freewill that we are free to battle our will against each other and suffer so completely separated from God? Is that evidence for God?

Any god that has a stake in the state of the world may not have invested in our freedom of will, so my previous paragraph may not be the point. A god may, despite all the appearance on Earth (and in reality), actually care about our wellbeing (and the wellbeing of the girl in Caroline’s narrative). It certainly doesn’t look that way from the perspective of a concerned citizen of the Universe, but it is an often repeated claim. Psychiatrists don’t seem to agree with it. I live with an ex-psychiatrist and she certainly doesn’t understand how adult victims of child abuse can be seen as having greater wellbeing. Child abuse, in particular, is insidious and damaging long-term. There is no evidence in this life that victims of child abuse are happier people later in life. This view needs an afterlife in order for room for this ‘system’ to make sense3.

In the Christian view, the pains of this life are repaid one hundred times over in Heaven4. Someone like me, who has had a relatively easy life, gets a lesser Heaven than the victim; it is not infinite bliss. God needs us to suffer to repay us. God cannot, apparently, just reward us in Heaven. And we are not repaid for our goods. He has to allow us to suffer to actually give us Heaven.

The last option considered is that of something other than wellbeing and freedom of will being a powerful god’s priority. A god actually wants us to develop, in some direction. It follows, from this premise and the fact we suffer, that this development is dependent on pain. Something, somehow, is so infinitely more important than our wellbeing that it can be entirely sacrificed in exchange for whatever it is; God’s concept of priorities is entirely divorced wellbeing and happiness. A god set up our psychology and entire world; that god decided that it needs this unnamed development at the cost of our wellbeing. This god doesn’t love us, if it did our development wouldn’t be at the cost of our wellbeing. God could set up another method. So what is it? Why does the will of the father trump the will of the daughter? Priority by force; needing to suffer to get Heaven; God’s priority completely divorced from wellbeing.

1 – I have no urge to argue about whether “evil” is objectively real. If you’ve been here before you know exactly how I defend my definition of evil here. The real problem is of intentionally caused suffering.

2 – Why do we even have a psychology where we might will this?

3 – Of which there is no evidence.

4 – If you make it to Heaven. Having this suffering squash your faith is not forgivable. Remember?

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21 thoughts on “Freewill and human moral evils”

    1. You know when you think of a way to explain something better after you publish the post, I had that:
      It is not a case of God violating the father’s will or not. Instead it is a case of God choosing whether to actively violate the father’s will, or passively violate the girl’s will; so long as He -could- stop it, that is the decision He made. Clearly the father’s will was His priority.

      Thanks for the like, though. I appreciate it.

      I like the Elucidating Atheism blog, as well. Whose brain child was that?

      1. Culpeper’s. Are you on-board? You should be. He wanted to get some people together as a sort of hub.

        Back to god. Develop this article further. You’re onto something really, really good here. I’ve never seen the argument presented this way… and its one of those things that could make some serious waves.

        1. I will expand on this if I get some criticism that is worthy of expansion. At the moment I think it’s crystal clear so I need to see how people try to get out of it first.
          I expect, firstly, that I have interpreted freewill wrong.

        2. Watch this space!
          I don’t see that I have either. But if I do expand on it, I will probably focus on godless freewill vs. freewill with God (an odd decision, as I don’t believe in freewill, so I’m already arguing from within a different paradigm)

  1. I had somebody comment on my blog that if god could stop the father, he wouldn’t be free anymore. One wonders why they don’t hold god guilty of being an accomplice in the abuse, especially since they believe he could stop it but let it to occur?

    1. I’ve seen a quote that follows a similar discussion: ‘If I saw a child being abused, I’d stop it. That is the difference between me and your God.’ And that strikes me as a very powerful point.
      The inverse is also true though; by permitting the father to abuse he is passively permitting the violation of the girl’s freewill (and, as it happens, mine; I will for child abuse to stop). I don’t see how that is any less inappropriate than violating the father’s will instead…

      1. Your statement : If I saw a child being abused, I’d stop it.

        That was a great statement, but are you really sure that you will stop it if you see it, in front of your eye?
        Because from what I understand through history and observation of reality, I see a lot of people who just walk away when the problem come into their face. If it was true, it was very good. 🙂

        *****

        In my view to the problem of freewill and suffering, I have many idea, but in this comment, I try to limit to 3 hypothesis.

        1) If there are no God – human have freewill, all decision are based on his thought, character, education, etc. In this abuse case, human itself have a capability to abuse, create destruction, cruelty, etc. Easy word, you, me, every one have tend to do wrongdoer and it have strong will.

        2) If there are God, and there was no free will – All development of this world are guided by God and we living through His designated way. In this abuse case, God have allow cruelty and it was designed in that way. The problem here – why need to create hell and heaven, if all action are based on God’s will.

        3) If there are God, and there was no God’s will. – All development of this world are not guided by God and we living based on human’s will. In this abuse case, God have allow cruelty and He not capable to stop it.

        Is it, my hypothesis are parallel to your thought?

        1. The first option is closest to my view: no God, and will just fight out in force. (My real view is that there is no freewill.) This account for the abuse just fine.
          The second one is not something I consider in this. The Divine-Plan argument, as you correctly notice, completely gets rid of our freewill. Then God is entirely culpable for everything that happens.
          For the third one, as makagutu said, I don’t know why you’d call that God; something that will not intervene no matter how heinous what is going on is. That God is not omnipotent if He won’t use it. That God is not moral if He will not intervene with needless suffering.
          I was arguing about a God that cares and is powerful. A God that could stop our will if it wanted to, and cares about us. It cares about our freewill , of course. Humanity also cares about freewill. However, humanity can see the point in getting rid of freewill for criminals, if they are creating victims as they go. Because God does have will, all His cards are on the table (i.e. you can tell what He is thinking) when He allows one person to let another suffer.
          In the example provided, God favours the will of the father (who willed to abuse) over the will of the daugher (who willed it to end).

      2. shafiee, if you allow me, I have a problem with your hypothesis
        #1. you imply there is a direct correlation between the existence of gods and human free will. I don’t see why this has to be the case. It is possible, as is the case, that there are no gods and we have no free will.
        #2. I agree with you. In fact the question to ask would such a god be considered loving
        #3. why call him god?

      3. Makagutu,

        #1 – The simple evidence of freewill is “you, me, Allallt have capability to choose and it reality”. This is the major evidence that you can not denied it, once you denied it, you will have trouble to understand and explain, especially to person like me who prefer tactical approach argument.

        #2 – to your question – “In fact the question to ask would such a god be considered loving”. As my 2nd point, I have put a “sneaky” point – “why need to create hell and heaven, if all action are based on God’s will?”

        If we based on above example, let say the father is being put in hell. In fact, he also require forgiveness? Allallt have put an emphasize on the girl’s suffering. If it was the #2 situation, the actual victim is father because he without any knowing of afterlife punishment, etc

        #3 – Your question “why call him god?”. – That hypothesis are based on simple logic based on “If there are God, and there was no God’s will.” In argument, the explanation that I provided are easily revoke.

        If I based on Qadariyah ” Human have capability to choose his will, so Heaven or Hell are destined based on what he do. At the same time, God have design predestined the faith before time that we called God’s will. To reality, human can not change his destiny but human have capability to extend his thought and knowledge to balance and change his predestined.”

        In case reference, the girl have capability to escape but she must strive to escape from it by any mean as jumping from window, screaming, etc.

  2. Allallt,

    If “Freewill” is being define as “the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors (wiki)”. I believe your view of “there is no freewill” is false and can be argue because human itself have capabilities to choose.

    All above hypothesis that I provided are not based on my believe. My belief (School of Thought -Sunni) is “There is God, God have His Decree and Human have own will” and another important point is “We do not know which one is which one”.

    This is to re-create the extinct school of thought argument in early century of Islamic thought between #1- Atheist (Greek influence- either Epicureanism or Stoic); #2- School of Thought Jabariah (can not found English source); #3- School of Thought Qadariyah (can refer wiki- very limited sources).

    Your idea of “there is no freewill” is more similar to Stoicism.

    1. shafiee,

      #1 The simple evidence of freewill is “you, me, Allallt have capability to choose and it reality”

      I don’t agree.

      If I based on Qadariyah ” Human have capability to choose his will, so Heaven or Hell are destined based on what he do

      I don’t agree with you here too. A man can do what he wills but cannot choose what he wills.

    2. “A man can do what he wills but cannot choose what he wills.”

      Can you simplified the quote so I can understand it. Thank in advance.

      Actually, you do not need to agree with the statement above. As I also do not agree with the statement, it doesn’t mean that you can not understand how the philosophy develop.

      I just providing of others view point in this particular topic to make sure what I believe is correct…

  3. Hey, I think this is the quote you were referring to: “You either have a God who sends child rapists to rape children or you have a God who simply watches it and says, ‘When you’re done, I’m going to punish you,’” “If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God.”

    It’s by Tracey Harris, from the Atheist Experience tv show. This is a clip of it, it’s worth watching, just for the shocking response by the caller that she was talking to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrfWs52Kjk0

    1. Thank you for the reference. I haven’t watched the video yet, but is this the clip where the believer says a raped child deserves it and then Dilahunty hangs up on him?

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