In my last post I explored the idea that it made sense humans would be free to act negatively towards each other, if God cares about our freewill. The main idea was that if you act on me and I will you not to then we live in a moment where you violate my will and yours is not violated. The deciding factor about whose will is actualised in these conflicts depends on the force the people have. This was illuminated in a narrative told by another blogger, called Caroline, who told a short story about child abuse.
If God exists and cares about the sanctity of our freewill, why was the girl’s will violated and the father’s will permitted? Can God not stop it? Does God only care about our freewill insofar that physical force resolves conflict? These questions aren’t important if there is no God, because in a physical world we know why the stronger physical force wins. But in a world where micromanagement is always a possibility, it has to be that God is permitting abuse. I then explored some of the reasons people might say God permits that. I want to look at that again.
But first I want to look at freewill again. I don’t believe in it1. But that’s not the paradigm I’m arguing from. For freewill, I am using the following definition: the freedom to act to realise (as in make real) one’s will. We see this with child abuse, where the father willed to abuse his daughter and not a thing stopped him. If God cares so much about our freewill my will to be Spiderman should be conspicuous by its lack of fulfilment. We are only free within certain physical confines. And that limit matters, because whether we like it or not other people are physical limits. My will to get into a nightclub is confined by the will of the large man in a suit who does not want me to get it.
The narrative offered by theists is that our wellbeing is already on the back-burner, in second place on God’s priority list behind our freewill. But then your freewill is behind the will of a person who is stronger than you. And their will is second again to the laws of nature; not even the most wilful and powerful person can become Spiderman. The meek shall not inherit the Earth.
Given how very limited our “freewill” is, can we really pretend it is so far up the Divine Priority list as to justify freewill leading to such unfathomable suffering? Or do we have to just accept that there is no intervening God who wants to protect our wellbeing or permit our will.
Given that so many limits exist on our “freewill”, why is there not one more; why do we simply not will to harm each other? Some people are already so adverse to violence that they are psychologically incapable of harming other people. Some people are so steeped in empathy and compassion that abusing a child is a repugnant and repulsive idea so strong that they’d rather isolate themselves from reality or die than ever commit it. Why is that not a bog-standard psychology? We could act on everything we will, and always will to not hurt people. Some people already do, and so it is not asking too much to ask more people have it. Some people are bestowed with this moral compass so it is conceivable that God could give everyone (all people created equal) the same gift.
With this as a background, I come back to the question in the previous post: if God exists, child abuse is evidence that God prioritises an abuser’s will over that of the victim’s; why?
1 – I don’t see that you can choose what you will, and you do not choose the thing you act on. I also don’t see that you choose whether to act on your will; you simply act on your will (until you meet resistance greater than your force).