Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prayer in the face of “Freewill”: The bugaboo Christians don’t want to hear.

I was reading about a Christian pastor who is imprisoned in Iran for promoting Christianity.  Naturally, the Christian community has been praying their knees to the bone for the past year or so for his release, with zero luck.  In fact, he was just transferred to the most hideous prison in Iran for their troubles. 

On the same day I read a tragic story about a Youth Pastor in California who lead a prayer meeting calling on god to end gun violence.  That evening he was shot dead in the street.

Both stories had reader comments explaining how it wasn’t the failing of prayer that has caused these unfortunate predicaments.  No, it is the fact that god gave man “free will,” and its man’s evil use of freewill that is the problem.

The religious always seem to have an explanation for why things don’t work out the way they wish / pray / or are promised they would. It’s easy to do because - unlike reality - the supernatural is as fluid as a puddle of mercury.  When in doubt, just make it up, who’s going to prove you wrong?    But this time they stepped into a pile of steaming prairie pizza that is inescapable. Here’s why:

If as Xtians say god gave man free will, then by praying for the incarcerated pastor to be set free they  are imploring the god thing to intervene and take back / over rule the free will of his Iranian captors.  Similarly, by praying for gun violence to stop, they are imploring their god to intervene in the evil actions of freewill-possessing-gun-toting-criminals.

Now here’s the paradox: If god thing can revoke freewill, impose his preference on man, based on prayers of the faithful then it's not free will at all; it’s simply an illusion of free will ... thus freewill is a lie.

On the other hand, if free will trumps prayers, and thus god doesn't / won’t intervene to change man's mind/behavior, then why pray for world peace, or pray for an end to abortion, or pray for non-believers to come to jebus, or pray for any condition that is controlled by human thought and action?

Now, reason tells us you can’t have it both ways. Prayer is either effective in getting god thing to cloud mens' minds and turn their unkind acts or alter their preferences; or prayer is ineffective in the face of freewill.  

When posing this problem to a believer one encounters only the usual mindless platitudes (i.e. “God is good ALLLLL the time!!!!!”); or the inevitable cry of “CONTEXT!!!”; or the endless quoting of some totally unrelated biblical verse in an effort to divert the issue.   I have yet to find a Christian capable of reasoning through this dilemma and rendering an intelligible response.   See if you can find one. Good luck.

But it’s not their fault. They are condemned by their mind virus to endlessly try and defend a befuddled, defunct, contradictory and utterly absurd doctrine.

Silly Christians.


Wolfy said...

Don't forget some additional points on the subject of free-will - namely that the simple act of saying prayers at all interferes with god-thing's plan for the universe and along those same lines, how can 'free will' exist when the creator of everything has his own plan and knows every single thing that has and ever will happen because he planned it that way and causes it all to happen?
We're all just puppets, 'doing god-thing's will'..we have no free will. It should be a totally sound legal excuse for every crime ever committed - 'god made me do it' - because he's planned out your entire life before you were even born.

longhorn believer said...

I love the free will argument. Xians think it is their out for why their God is not responsible for the suffering of mankind (and animals if they manage to think about them). The "logic" goes like this. Sin is the cause of suffering, and free will is the cause of sin. There are so many flaws in the argument, and I hope to get to point them out to one of them some day. You've demonstrated one, Hump. Here's some more.

1. Why isn't your god powerful enough to create a world with free will and without sin?
2. According to your own mythology, he actually did create such a place. Heaven is supposedly a place without suffering, and since the angel Lucifer decided not worship God anymore, apparently there is free will there. So why didn't God or doesn't God create heaven on Earth? No suffering AND free will. Voila! (This may only apply to certain xian sects. I'm not sure.)
3. Even your own holy book says the responsibility for man's suffering is God's. See Isaiah 45:7 and Genesis 6:6. Why do you disagree?

But this is the question I like the best. If all it will take to end the suffering and dying of all mankind is the elimination of free will, then why aren't you praying for that right now? Hell, I, an atheist, who is utterly opposed to the idea of worshipping a despicable bully (or so he would be if he actually existed) like your god, will pray with you. If it means that the 30,000 people who will starve today will not starve, and all the children who will be raped and murdered today will not have to endure that, then I am willing to give up my free will and worship your god, right now. Will you pray with me? Let's do this! You already want to worship him, so why haven't you been on your knees begging for this already?

Mike Meyers said...

You all have it wrong. The reason all of these problems occur is because god has money on the Jets, the Bulls, the Yankees, the Red Wings, West Ham United, etc. He has to pay attention to all of his favorite sports teams. Silly Xtians!

Murr Brewster said...

All the best ones say, "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." Which is cool. Although it does sort of make the whole petition business pointless. And turns the whole philosophy into something closer to mine: "well, whatever!"

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanksd for your thoughtful in put, all excellent points.

I just witnessed a Xtian defender of the faith who wrote an 8-10 paragraph rebuttal of this article on a friend's fb page. But, in accordance with my expectation, he never onced addressed the prayer vs freewill dilemma. Instead, it was a defense of the faith, and criticism on atheists attempts to dismiss god thing.

When this was pointed out to him he basically asked: "Ok..what was the question again?"

The mind virus of religion is scary and pathetic.

Olivier said...

I tried to have this discussion a few times with religious people and eventually gave up. To be honest, I think most of them don't even understand what the problem is (it requires a basic understanding of logic, which might be too hard for the most indoctrinated of them).

Similarly I tried to raise the issue that there is a contradiction between god's presumed omniscience and free will. If god knows all and in particular if he knows what's going to happen, then you can't have free will (how can you freely chose a path if somebody already know which you will choose?). I'll let you guess how lost this was on my religious audience...

Dromedary Hump said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dromedary Hump said...

You are correct when you say the logic necessary to understand this simple paradox eludes many Xtians. I just had a non-conversation with a young lady who insisted that the Pharaoh of the Exodus story had free will, even though I pointed out that god had "hardened his heart" against the Hebrews sixteen times. She didn't see that as a revocation of freewill.

it's truly not worth the annoyance by trying reason with those who have never had it, or denounced it.

David Evans said...

There are many problems around the concept of freewill, for Christians and for others. But I don't think the one you pose here is too difficult.

God is often shown in the OT as influencing people by sending dreams and visions. Why could he not, in response to prayer, send the same dream to the relevant Iranian decision-makers, night after night? That would not take away their freewill - they are perfectly at liberty to decide that the dreams come from Satan.

Dromedary Hump said...


Perhaps,and god could also employ imposing a trance state then employ post hypnotic suggestion.
So now we have :"how many ways can a god try and influence your freewill in response to X number of prayers, but not be caught red handed doing so, thus giving it plausible denyability?" :)

But none of this changes the fact that god would be attempting to influence the so called freewill with which he gifted man. It would simply be an indirect influence of freewill.

But here's the rub: since god is omnipotent, and god's preferred outcome is preplanned ("god's plan") god's will (via dreams, visions, or hypnotic suggestion) would have to be followed, or he would cease to be omnipotent.