Monday, August 16, 2010

Existence of God and Free Willy

I read a blog post here that reminded me of some thoughts I have had surrounding what evidence it would take regarding the existence of God that would be necessary for me to accept the existence of God.

For me this question is inseparable from the question of free will. The first question I would want an answer to is; Do we truly have free will and is the principle of free will one that is maintained absolutely for everyone?

To endeavor to answer this question, let's look first at the opposite of free will. The alternative to the concept of free will would be that our life outcome is the result of some form of predestination setup by an omnipotent (i.e all powerful) and omniscient (i.e. all knowing) being who really has no spontaneity because everything is already known and planned out exactly how it will happen (which sounds kind of boring). If God is, in fact, omniscient, does it mean He/She/It knows past, present and future? I would think so. If that is the case, then free will is an illusion and does not exist. If free will does, however, exist absolutely, then this same heavenly being is only omniscient to a point (could we really say God is omniscient then?) working really hard to react to every single stimulus and response to make sure that free will is maintained at all costs and is not really omniscient, but is omnipotent. A third possibility is that God is omniscient and omnipotent but is not all loving because He/She/It allows bad things to happen to good people (at least according to our traditional understanding of love - which could use further clarification as to what it means, I suppose).

Regarding predestination; I think most religious people reject the idea of predestination because the idea of us having absolute free will is the most encouraging possibility for us to be able to determine our life outcome and potential redemption/salvation in the hereafter. Otherwise, our eternal existence is already planned out, so this life becomes pretty irrelevant. In the religious context, what often follows the question of whether or not God is omniscient is an explanation that 1) He either knows what will happen in the future and does nothing about it (i.e. maintaining our illusion of free will that ultimately does not exist) or 2) He is only omniscient when it comes to expected outcomes, so He/She/It pretty much knows what will happen to you, based on a universal law of consequences, but again, chooses to do nothing about your/our consequences. In either case, the idea of an omnipotent AND loving God is just thrown out the window. Unless, the epitome of love is letting people learn through sad experience and pointless death, destruction and loss which, in many cases, does not appear to readily manifest its lesson or meaning/purpose.

Of course, an idea known as fore-ordination is one that creeps in every once in a while. I guess this would be the idea that we are given the potential to achieve a life outcome but the actual accomplishment of it is entirely up to us. This does not violate the concept of free will since we still can choose whether or not to live up to our potential in that scenario. So, based on the above, it would appear the idea of free will (i.e. our ability to choose our life outcome) exists absolutely as taught by the religious. I don't think I could find many that would dispute this conclusion.

If that is the case, then, there will never be anything that will happen to us that will violate our freedom of election to choose what we do (in response to stimuli) in any given situation. Based on my limited observations, this appears to be the case (Except where some people try to limit my choices by imposing rules that follow their whims instead of my desires).

So, if the question is asked, "What evidence would it take for you to accept that God exists?" I would have to respond by wondering, what evidence is a God who will not violate the principle of free will going to be willing to provide?

It seems to me that, if God appeared to me right now and said, now you see me, so you must believe. Then slapped me across the face for good measure to make sure I got the message and the sting would help me know that God was real. Would this not be a violation of my free will? In other words, wouldn't my freedom of choice not always be upheld? Would I retain the ability to choose whether or not to believe in God if He/She/It did that? I don't think so. Which leads me to the conclusion that God will never do something which takes away my freedom to choose. Since the act of appearing before me would take away my freedom to choose whether or not God exists, or not, it seems that God would not do that.

Why do believers insist on asking then, what evidence for God's existence would it take for you to believe? When no evidence can (or will ever) possibly be found if the principle of free will is maintained absolutely. Unless, of course, you believe in a deity that maintains free will except when it comes to subtly steering you towards a belief in He/She/It.

In any event, the concept of free will has been pronounced by religion to exist absolutely (at least as far as I am aware) in the context of powers granted to us and upheld by the divine creator that religion claims to receive direction and guidance from. So, if the religion is shown to be a man-made creation, the concept of free will (and any answers surrounding whether or not we have it absolutely) are pretty much null and void.

The only logical response to these questions is to utilize the scientific method to deduce what our present state of affairs is here on this planet and whether or not the concept of free will is even an important one. I would point out that if religion is man-made, the emphasis on free will comes out sounding more like an excuse to try and explain the state we find ourselves in (a.k.a. why bad things happen to good people) and not so much like a divine revelation from a being who either has everything already planned out that will happen (i.e. follows predestination) or is tip-toeing around making sure that there is not any overwhelming evidence on one side or the other (i.e. free will is maintained absolutely). The belief about how active a role God plays in our lives is one that usually serves to answer these questions.

See here for more discussion of this topic.

Sorry that Free Willy didn't make it into this post. I'm sure there are a whole bunch of Free Willy fans that are extremely disappointed now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LDS Church Takes Additional Cost Cutting Measures

New LDS cost cutting measure says temple goers need to put in some labor in construction at the temple during regularly scheduled construction dates before or after regular sessions or weddings. The new policy will go into effect immediately. LDS general authorities say that all the training that is needed for the volunteer workers will be posted on clearly marked posters around the jobsite. Elder John Widstoe of the Presidency of the Seventy said this was a marvelous blessing to be able to actually contribute meaningful service at temple sites around the world. The amount of money the church will be saving in labor expenses was not disclosed, however.

Friday, August 6, 2010

An Open Letter to Washington County Justice of the Peace James Shartel

You Sir, ought to be ashamed of yourself and should be impeached!

My name is Chris **** and I recently came to learn first hand the kind of shady shenanigans that go on in the name of the law at the Beaverton Justice Court of Washington County.

I was accused of speeding by a Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy and I was guilty before I even stepped into your courtroom.

When I first appeared before you, Mr. Shartel, I asked you what the nature and cause of the accusation against me consisted of. You said you did not understand my question. Mr. Shartel, you should try reading the United States Constitution Amendment 6. So, to make it simpler, I asked you if the action being brought against me was criminal or civil in nature. I wanted to know so that I could begin to adequately prepare a legal defense. You told me the action was civil in nature. Therefore, I took to reading the code of civil procedure for civil cases.

Rule 62 of those procedures says that when a defendant requests a special finding of fact to be made by the court, the court is required to make its findings known. When I specifically requested this, you flatly refused. I asked you if I could record the proceedings so that I might have a record of what was said at trial, you again simply refused to honor my request. My motions were denied quickly and without any reason whatsoever. What are you afraid of Mr. Shartel? It seems to me that you hide behind the Revised Statutes of Oregon, but you blithely pick and choose which one’s you actually choose to follow.

The icing on the cake in my situation was the fact that the only witness for the prosecution directly contradicted himself (which should have indicated to you that he was either lying or completely incompetent), but he was allowed to have his testimony stand anyway.

I challenge you to officially make your court of no public record open so we can all learn first hand the number of declarations of guilty you pass on citizens of the community compared to the number of cases brought into your court. My guess is that ratio is overwhelmingly in favor of the plaintiffs. Please show us all otherwise.

You didn't even hide the disgrace of your biased representation as you mockingly disclosed to me that you represent the same party that was bringing the action against me. This is strictly prohibited in your code of judicial conduct, yet you again simply choose to ignore this breach of the public trust as you go on pronouncing guilty verdict after guilty verdict.

How do you sleep at night? Knowing that you openly refuse to follow the path of truth and justice in favor enlarging the coffers of Washington County.

Please do our community a great big favor and openly admit the miscarriage of justice you have overseen during your tenure and gracefully step down. I call for a suitable replacement to be found that is more interested in granting a fair and objective hearing to the accused in our community instead of helping the county grow its bottom line. Just because we may all have been suffering financially lately, doesn't mean you can take from me what little I have left without following the law and call it justice.

I hope you do excuse yourself soon, because I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I have grown weary of your shady charade.


Chris ****