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On Free Will


            In my post “On the Soul,” I refuted the concept of the soul by asserting the brain’s dominance in the body’s actions. In today’s post, I will take this a step further by asserting that we have no free will.
 

            The brain control’s the body’s functions—most people will accept this fact. It is supported by insurmountable evidence. Simply pick up a Neuroscience book, and you will find all the information about what the brain is, what it does, and how it does it. Neuroscientists have shown us countless times that the brain is the control center; however, one important human belief often overlooked when discussing the brain’s power over the body: free will.
 

            Free will is thought of as the power to do as one wills—the power to have the freedom of choice, independent of any material control, such as a supreme being or, a little closer to home, the brain. It is defined as “the power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies” or “the partial freedom of the agent, in acts of conscious choice, from the determining compulsion of heredity, environment and circumstance.”

            First, I want to be clear that I do not believe a soul can exist—"I" refers to my brain, or even to stretch the idea, “I” refers to my brain-caused awareness and self-concept—these concepts are not separated from the brain, they arise from the brain. So, when I use the word “I” or “we,” I am referring to our brains, not our “souls,” the existence of which I have argued against.
 

            The definitions I listed emphasizes that free will is freedom from “external agencies.” External agencies, I would imagine, refers to those influences that are outside of the body. So, these external agencies would exclude the brain. In other words, these definitions of free will offered states that it is freedom from outside influences, but not necessarily the brain.
 

            The most common external agency people will think of is God—that our free will is a gift from Him, and that it allows us to be free from his influence should we choose to be. I find this hard to believe, for by creating us, God already placed his influence upon us. However, should one argue that God is all-powerful and can keep us free from his influence unless we desire otherwise, I am left in a difficult situation, and cannot argue against it without entering the problem of evil. Furthermore, it’s difficult for me to argue against this because it’s based upon the assumption that God exists; however I’ll grant that free will from God exists for the sake of argument—I’ll grant that we’re free from God’s influence.
 

            Other external agencies include environment (parents, relatives, friends, drugs, etc.). A person cannot separate from their environment: they see it, hear it, smell, it feel it, and taste it constantly throughout a day. We make decisions based upon the environment around us. We decide to enter a relationship based upon a person’s (environmental factor) effect upon us. We choose to turn on a light because it is dark. We choose to eat cake because it is in front of us. We move our hand away from a stove because it is hot. Millions of environmental influences affect our decision-making processes throughout our day—we are constantly influenced by our environment.
 

            When our brains are developing at a young age, our environment fuels or retards that development. It is based highly upon our parents’ responsiveness—our environmental stimulation—and thus we are not free from outside influence. We cannot choose to be free from all external agents.
 

This is not to say that we cannot act counter to what the environment would have us do. Should we really want to, we can ignore the darkness in a room and choose not to turn on a light. We can ignore the pain the stove flame causes and keep our hand rested upon it. Though in some ways it is possible to act counter to our environment, we rarely do so; however, since it is a possibility—since we can act in a way such that no external agent affects us—then that means we (may) possess free will by the given definition.
 

If I grant that we have free will by this definition, that leaves the question of whether or not we make free choices with respect to our brains. Many people believe that free will is defined as freedom to choose contrary to what our internal nature—our makeup, our brain—would have us do. For example, a murderer is guilty, for he chose to kill.  He could have (according to this definition of free will) chosen to ignore his desire to kill his victim, but he failed to do so. Likewise, a person who cheats on her spouse is considered guilty, for she chose to have sex with another person.
 

These people are condemned because of one commonly cited reason: it was their choice to act as they did. They could have acted in a different way, but they chose to act in the manner they did—it was their “choice.”
 

The idea of “choice” suggests that humans have the power to make any decision. It suggests that any one person can choose to kill or not to kill, to cheat or not to cheat, to steal or not to steal, to love or not to love.
 

Recall that our brain is the control center—our brains contain all the information we have. To make a decision, our brains consult all the sensory information, memories, experiences, etc. stored within them. From that stored information, a decision is derived. This decision is based solely on the brain’s contents—its current sensory experience, as well as its past experiences. The brain does not consult with any other object except itself. Everything within our brains lead to the decisions we make.
 

Since the decisions we make are based solely on our brain’s contents, then this means we cannot defy our brain. We cannot choose to kill someone if our brain does not have the necessary components that will lead to a decision to kill. If my brain is not wired to cause me to kill, then I will not kill—I cannot decide to, for my brain will not allow it. My brain will not decide to kill if it is not wired to do so. Likewise, someone who has killed had neural processes in his brain that led to his decision to kill. This wiring led to the brain’s decision to kill. This same wiring cannot lead to a decision not to kill, just as a computer code for the letter “b” cannot also produce the letter “p”. It will always, always, always produce a “b” because that is what it is wired to do. The brain acts in the same manner. It is wired to do one thing, and it does that thing—it cannot defy itself. We can no more be wired to kill and choose not to kill than we can see an orange and choose to see an apple. Our brains decide what our bodies do based upon the information contained within them—we cannot do otherwise.
 

Does this mean that a murderer cannot change? Absolutely not. The brain has plasticity, meaning it changes with experience. Though our entry into those experiences is contingent on our brain’s decision to enter them, it is possible that our brains will lead themselves to change. However, if a person is simply “disposed” to being a killer, then that is the way their brain is, and that is the way they will act.
 

Choice—the power to choose an option freely, and to have been just as likely to choose any other option not chosen—does not exist. We cannot make choices. Our brains cause us to act in the way they are programmed to make us act. We cannot defy that. We obey our brains.
 

If free will depends on having choice, then that does not exist either. Free will is constantly seen as having choice, and thus I do not believe we possess free will.

 

I am my brain. You are your brain. We are all walking brains. 

 

As always, feel free to (constructively) criticize, and please point out anything I have overlooked or have misunderstood. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting.

 

Have a wonderful day,

~Annabel Lee


On Heaven and Hell



In my previous post I refuted the idea of a “soul”—an essence within each of us that defines who we are—by describing the changes people undergo when their material body—particularly the brain—is changed. Heaven (or hell) is based on the idea that our souls leave our bodies and enter a different world wherein we receive an eternity of happiness (or misery).

 

If we have no soul, then there is no part of our body that can “travel” to heaven. Our material body remains on Earth, but the “body” is a fully material object containing no immaterial essence that can leave it after its demise.

 

But perhaps I’m mistaken and there is a soul, despite our ability to alter perceptions and personalities with a lobotomy.

 

Supposing we did have a soul, where exactly is heaven, and how does our soul arrive there? We cannot see a soul, and we do not know what it looks like or is made of. It’s immaterial, which means it’s (I’d imagine) invisible, and consists of our personality, qualities, habits, etc. This is the part of each of us that allegedly goes to heaven to be happy for an eternity. How does the soul reach heaven from earth? It cannot “fly” there, for heaven isn’t in space or in our universe—it’s (allegedly) beyond it, and unreachable in the material world. Instead there must be a different process, whether it is an instantaneous process in which a person dies and their soul teleports to heaven, or whether the person’s soul equivalent in heaven is activated, thus requiring no transport. It’s difficult for me to imagine the answer, so please share yours if you have any. 

 

Another issue I have with heaven is how it can exist. The universe is here because of God, and God is here because (enter reason here). If God created everything, then where did he exist when he was creating everything? It cannot be that he existed in heaven, for heaven would then preceed God’s existence, and then we would have the question of what created heaven.  God needed to exist somewhere in order to create everything. However, if God created everything then that somewhere could not have existed before him. Yet, he had to have existed somewhere to create everything else.

 

This shows that God didn’t create everything (because he didn’t create the place he originally existed in). Perhaps heaven always existed, and God came into being, and then God made everything else. This is a somewhat fair option to consider.

 

It’s important to note that the God I’m speaking of is the Christian idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. This God has heaven for those who worship him and who resist temptation, while he reserves hell for those who are evil. Let’s begin with hell.

 

Hell is supposedly an eternity of burning misery, fire, etc. God sends the fallen there—whether they are murderers, thiefs, rapists—whomever. However, God is supposedly forgiving, and he supposedly is all-good. How can an all-good God all people to suffer an eternity for fewer than 80 years of unholy acts? A truly forgiving and loving God would not create a punishment place for those who have betrayed him. A truly forgiving and loving God would not damn them to hell, for this would be an act of violence. Hell, just as reality is, is incompatible with the 3-O God. An all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God, wouldn’t need hell, and wouldn’t use it if he had it, for damning a person to hell is punishment—it is inflicting eternal harm and suffering on that person.

 

Heaven sounds a bit nicer, doesn’t it? Eternal and unconditional happiness. But let’s imagine that you are 26 and die in a car accident, leaving behind your 4-year old daughter, spouse, and still-living parents behind on Earth. When you reach heaven, no one is there to greet you except God as you look down (maybe) upon your family, who spends their time grieving for you. Personally, I could not live one hour, let alone years in eternity, knowing that my child and my husband cried themselves to sleep each night. It would be sheer torture; however, people leave many family members behind each day, and many of these people might be worthy of heaven—even one of them. How can this person be truly happy if the thing that made them happy most is behind them? How can I be happy in heaven, knowing my husband will suffer for 50 more years? It is true (maybe) that they will see me again, but not for years, and perhaps to me it would not seem long, but I know to them the years would drag. Knowing the suffering my family would endure, I would be unhappy in heaven. I could not enjoy eternal happiness while my husband and daughter struggled to survive each day.

 

Heaven cannot exist; happiness depends on more than receiving a never expiring ticket to bliss. It depends on being with people who make you happy, and doing things that make you happy. For me, I’d want a heaven with my boyfriend, books, and I Love Lucy re-runs. I love books and I Love Lucy, but if I died and went to heaven before my boyfriend, I don’t think I could be truly happy, and I know many other people who wouldn’t. I’d rather remain on earth, given the choice, than to start living through a “happy” eternity without my boyfriend.

 

Furthermore, if I did die at the same time as my boyfriend, but I went to heaven and he went to hell, I would likewise be miserable with the knowledge that he must suffer for an eternity.

 

You may say that I can’t be unhappy in heaven because heaven means I’ll be happy forever, and will have whatever makes me happy. My boyfriend makes me happy more than anything else, but were I to die before him, any happiness I experienced without him would be an illusion. If I were to be unconditionally happy, it would be an illusion, because I wouldn’t know that my boyfriend isn’t with me and I wouldn’t know my boyfriend is suffering without me. An illusion of happiness is not true happiness, and heaven cannot offer this true happiness.

 

Heaven, defined as eternal happiness, isn’t possible—too many Earthly desires are left behind, and it cannot be mended by simply tricking a resident of heaven that his wife is with him when in reality she’s grieving for him night and die. This idea works with the concept of a 3-O God (which I’ve proved doesn’t exist anyway) AND with a non 3-O God. True, eternal happiness cannot exist, whether made by a 3-O God or a different God. However,  the idea of hell can be compatible with a non 3-O God.

 

As always, thank you for reading, and thank you in advance for commenting.

 

~Annabel Lee

 

On the "Soul"



 

 

            Each person is defined solely by one component in the body: the brain. It contains all thought processes, translates all impulses, and controls everything we see, hear, feel, touch or smell. Damage to this crucial part of the central nervous system results in many different changes—altered sense perception, failure to consolidate memories, inability to speak or understand speech, and—among many other results—an altered personality. Damage to the frontal lobe causes a change in impulse and impulse control, decision-making, some premotor activities, and aspects of personality. The brain—a material part of the body—has all the information about each individual, and damage to it can completely alter that person’s personality and perceptions of reality.

 

            Many argue that each individual has a soul—the essence of their being distinct from the material body; however, this claim is fallacious, for the “essence” of a person can be altered by manipulating their brain structure, and thus the essence is not separate from the body. The soul is said to define each of us—it is the part of us that controls our personality: preferences, morals, and even attraction to others.   It is also distinct from the body, and so cannot be affected—it is a permanent being within us that underlies each of our thoughts and actions.
 

            If this is so—if it is true that each of us is defined by a separate essence within us, invulnerable to manipulation, then why does manipulation of a person’s material body affect their personality and other bodily components? The presence of a soul would not allow this change to happen, for the soul is seen as the defining characteristic of a person. Therefore, humans, each of whom have souls, could not have altered personalities with manipulation to a material portion of their body. This, however does happen, and so the soul cannot exist.
 

            If the soul does not exist, what part of us goes to heaven? What is the “essence” within us that leaves this plane and enters the next? Our bodies are material—it then is obvious that there is nothing immaterial within us. However, some part of us must reach the heavenly gates in order to reap its rewards. With a dead body buried six feet under (no, the body doesn’t disappear, it decomposes eventually, but it stays on earth), no part of us leaves our corpse. How would we enter heaven if we don’t have a “soul” to leave our body and go there?
 

          Originally I was going to include my view on why heaven can’t exist in this post, but I’m supremely tired and must go for the night.

          As always, happy commenting, and happy (constructive) criticism.  Thank you for reading!

 
~Annabel Lee

 

P.S: You may have noticed I’ve changed my name to a pen name for private purposes. Fear not: I am the same person, and will continue to be the same person unless something unforeseen happens, in which case I’ll let you know.

Discrimination


Fear not, Loyal Visitor, I have finished my history paper despite procrastination and can now write entries more freely.  Today's is on discrimination, and what I believe is a sickening occurrence in our country.

      Every group in the country has experience discrimination throughout the years.  Puritans, unaccepted in England, traveled to America, only to find "red" native resistance to their beliefs.  Natives, on the other hand, felt invaded by these "white" people, and were trodden over and disrespected by these newcomers who felt superior.  Soon Separatists arrived, and they too found troubles with both Puritans and Natives.  Over the years, Christianity grew, discriminating against all other religions.  Many people also began to discriminate against the "yellow" Asians, as can be seen with the Chinese Exclusion Acts and other such restrictions on immigration.  Perhaps most prominent was the discrimination and dehumanization of the "black" Africans, in which it was uncommon to not have an African slave in one's household.  Those with disabilities and inferior intellect also received discrimination as is evident with the Eugenics laws passed in the US in the early 1900s.  These movements inspired Hitler to create a superior Aryan race in Germany, discriminating against Jews with numerous laws and eventually the Holocaust.  In the US, women were discriminated against as well, were regarded as inferior to men, and were allowed fewer rights than men were. 

      Thankfully, much of this discrimination has decreased overtime.  Women now have the right to vote, as do African Americans and all citizens of the United States.  Slavery is illegal, as is many other types of discrimination.  Perhaps the most powerful example of a change in heart is the recent election of Barack Obama--the first Black president.  Unfortunately, other results show that discrimination isn't non-existent.  Proposition 8, which ruled that homosexuals would be denied the opportunity to marry, passed, as did Proposition 2, which prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children.  This places many restraints on both homosexuals and heterosexuals.  Discrimination does not stop there.  Women earn less money than men in identical occupations do.  People of different nationalities are sneakily refused service, housing and jobs.  Atheists cannot hold public office in some states.  In fact, atheists are the most hated group in America, followed by Muslims and Homosexuals.  Unfortunately, discrimination remains, despite efforts to move forward. 

      In order to explain why I believe certain acts are discriminatory, I must first explain what discrimination is.  According to dictionary.com, discrimination is making a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.  In other words, holding negative feelings for a person or thing because of something associated with it, and not necessarily their individual qualities.  To narrow down my entry today, I will speak specifically of homosexuals and atheists.

     Homosexuals differ from Heterosexuals in that they are attracted to the same sex, not the opposite sex.  No other difference between these two groups exist, other than that homosexuals face an immense amount of discrimination, while heterosexuals do not (for their heterosexuality, anyway).  Homosexuals are the same as us except for ONE difference.  So why should they be discriminated against?  What reason should we give when we prohibit them from receiving the same benefits as married couples do?  Separation of church and state entails that the teachings of the Bible should not interfere with legislation.  Many who argue against homosexuals state that marriage is a union between one man and one woman; however, this is a Christian ideal, which should be separate from government decisions.  Homosexuals then deserve the same rights as Heterosexuals.  They deserve the right to unite in such a way that they receive the same benefits as married individuals do.  Though "marriage" may be reserved for Christian heterosexuals, the rights of married people should not because these rights are provided by the government, which is supposed to be SEPARATE from the church.  This then puts those homosexuals who long for a religious ceremony in an unfortunate situation.  With the Bible serving as the rules for the Church, however, it is not so easy to express why homosexuals should be allowed to be united under God if they so choose. 

     Under the Bible, God is also the creator of humankind.  He is responsible for their biological make-up.  Gays are attracted to men because of genetics.  Many studies have shown that gays have biological traits responsible for their homosexual tendencies.  These studies are often ignored when debating the rights these individuals should have.  Though it might be the case that some men become homosexual for other reasons, some cannot help it because that is how they were born.  As Christians might say, God made them that way.  God would have to have a reason for creating gays, as Christians would say he has a reason for creating all people.  Under God's rules then, gay Christians, who are his creations, should not be treated inferiorly to heterosexual Christians.  Gay Christians should then be allowed to marry in a church, just as heterosexual couples are.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about lesbians, for whom no genetic cause has yet been found, other than the tendency for lesbianism to run in families.  What can be said is that lesbians have the right to make their own decisions just as every other person does.  The Constitution does not forbid lesbianism (or "gayism"), and so there should be no restraints on their sexual orientation.  The church may argue differently and may ban lesbians from being married; however, they have no right to disallow gays from being married because they are genetically disposed to homosexuality.  In my opinion, lesbians should also have the right to marry in a church if they so chose; however, providing reasons for this claim is more difficult than providing them for gays.  Lesbians, however, must be able to unite just as heterosexuals.  Lesbians have a right to be happy, and being that their homosexuality does not harm others, there is no reason why they should not be allowed to be lesbians, just as gays should not be prohibited from being gay.  All homosexuals deserve the rights that heterosexuals do, and so they should be allowed to unite and receive equal benefits that heterosexual couples do.

    Atheists, the most hated group in the country, deserve the same rights as everyone else.  Separation of church and state entails that governmental issues should not be dependent on or intertwined with church issues, such as believing or disbelieving in God.  Freedom of religion also entails we are free to choose our own religion OR not to follow a religion at all, as the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." Atheists, who differ in that they do not believe in God, are no different from other American citizens other than in what they believe.  My disbelief in God does not make me an immoral person or a bad United States citizen.  My disbelief in God also does not harm anyone else. Why then should I be discriminated against?  What have I done that I deserve fewer rights than a theist other than decide through reason and logic that I do not believe in God?  What harm comes from my being an atheist?

     It saddens me greatly that I have to ask why homosexuals and atheists are discriminated against.  We are all people.  Those of us in America are all Americans.  Homosexuals and atheists deserve equal rights and equal opportunity everywhere in the nation.  We are no less human, we are no less American, and we are no less moral.  We are the people of the United States, and we deserve our rights.



~Annabel Lee

  

Why I do not Believe in God



Once again, I shall procrastinate writing my paper to tell you a little bit about why I do not believe in God; however, to make myself seem like I'm being productive in school matters, I shall insert something about the Holocaust in here.  I'm sure it won't be difficult.

      I was born into a Catholic family, baptized into the Catholic Church, and raised as a Catholic.  I sang in the church choir, attended CCD classes until eighth grade, and have gone to church nearly all my life (and still do, but that's to be discussed in  a later entry, I think) every Sunday with few exceptions.  When I was preparing for confirmation in 6th grade, I was under the impression that God was definite.  I did not know that some people "believed" and others did not--I simply thought it was a fact that God exists.  I didn't know it was something to be questioned, just as it's not to be questioned whether I will die.  I know I will die, and now I know that God doesn't necessarily exist.  After finding this out while doing CCD homework on the computer, I began questioning God's existence.  After all, I could not call say for a fact that I knew he existed, for my previous knowledge had been based on a false assumption.  Of course, this exact thought process did not run through my head; however, I did notice that I could not know for sure God existed; otherwise, these people called "atheists" would have a reason to believe.


      I don't recall much more of that day, the one thing I remember from it is that, within a year, I knew that I didn't believe in God—he didn't make sense to me after all because so many things were wrong with the world that it would not make sense for a God to waste all his powers on it.  My reasoning was vague at that time—I didn't have a structured argument to present as to why I did not think God could exist and I didn't know my exact reasoning behind it.  I just knew that it didn't feel right to believe in him.  I just didn't have enough proof.  Lately, however, I've done a lot more reading about atheism and religion, and I've been able to hear others' voices and their reasoning behind their disbelief.  I have never written reasons before as to why I do not believe in God, but I think I can structure a sketch of what my "disbelief" is based on.


      The first problem I came across, which I had only a minute grasp on when I was 10, was the problem of evil.  For those who are unfamiliar with the argument, it states that an omniscient, omnipotent, and all-loving being would not and could not exist in this world because suffering exists.  This being could not exist because he could do something about it, being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving.  He could end suffering in a second since he is ALL-powerful, and since he is ALL-loving, he would want to end the suffering.  He could even prevent suffering, for he is ALL-knowing and could stop suffering before it even occurred.  The question is why do Catholics insist that God has these three qualities, yet they believe suffering is justified (on God's part)?  Very common objectives include free will, giving the opportunity to obtain grace, and the idea that only God knows what good and evil is.  There are many others, I'm sure, but these are the three with which I am most familiar, so if you would like me to justify the problem of evil with regard to another objection, please feel free to comment.  Unfortunately, these are very broad subjects, one of which I wrote a six page paper on, and being that I have little extra time on my hands, it is quite difficult to cover them all concurrently.


     For the sake of my argument flowing properly, I'm going to explain why the last objection is indefensible.  Some may argue that, though we see suffering as evil and happiness as good, we never know what really is good and evil.  Only God, who is all-knowing has such knowledge, and we cannot question him, for he knows better than us what good and evil is.  He would never put suffering in the world unnecessarily, and so he must see evil and good differently than we do.  This argument would suffice if it were not for the fact that an all-knowing god, despite what he sees as good/evil, would know what we would suffer from and what would make us happy.  Though we may view good differently than he does, he must, being an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful god, take into account that we will suffer greatly due to HIS view of good and evil.  A person murdering an innocent victim is evil to us because it causes suffering on many people's parts.  Though God may not, in his eyes, believe this is suffering, it is nonetheless suffering for us.  Because it is suffering for us, God still faces the problem of having "suffering" in the world.  The way we respond to something shows God (though he knows in advance how we would respond) how we view it.  A wise parent will know exactly how to reward or punish his daughter when she misbehaves; if she hates television, he will wisely not ground her from watching television for a week because to her, it is not suffering.  To him, who watches CSI, Monk, Grey's Anatomy, and Survivor every week, not being able to watch tv would be an atrocity.  He, however, understands his daughter couldn't care less about television, and will act accordingly.  An all-knowing God would do the same.  He would eliminate our suffering, no matter the cause and no matter his opinion on the matter—he would simply want us to be happy.  The argument that suffering exists because it's not suffering in God's eyes then does not hold up.

     The free will defense, in brief, states that God, out of his goodness, granted humans free will in order to allow us to choose good over evil.  This freedom is so important to many, for it allows them to develop their moral identity and to have the right to choose each and every action.  God, therefore, cannot intervene in human affairs—he cannot stop a man from raping women (or a woman from raping a man; or, to be politically correct, a human from raping another human).  He cannot stop a person from bashing an infant's brains out, and he cannot stop a serial killer from killing many innocent victims.  It simply is not in his power to do so.  First of all, free will seems to compromise God's powers in itself.  For if God is all-powerful, he can do whatever he wishes--even interrupt free will if he so chooses!  If God knew someone would cause immense suffering, such as Hitler in the Holocaust, then he would know BEFOREHAND and he would have the power to prevent it. To me, free will screams "powerful, but not all-powerful."  However, I could think of various arguments people could offer in defense.  For example, someone might say that God willingly gave away a part of his unlimited powers in order to grant us free will, and that God will not go back on his gift of free will, for it would not be a good thing.  In my opinion, God preventing the Holocaust would have been amazing for many reasons I'm sure you could imagine, including that I wouldn't have to write a twelve page history paper on it.  They may also say that God can't trump God.  God's power granted us free will, and since he made that decision with his all-powerfulness, he cannot take it back.  It is done.  Still, though, God's power would be compromised!  He would be making the decision to intervene or not to intervene.  All-powerful means God can do anything, and he doesn't have to compete with his past self to do so.  Furthermore, I could argue that free will is NOT good--that it does more harm than it does good, and that an all-good God would not allow us such a gift at such a high cost.  I would imagine that you would not give your children weapons with which they can harm each other for a few very important reasons. First, you're not stupid--you know they will get hurt.  God being all knowing would have known what free will would cause.  Second, you don't want them to get hurt because you (I assume) love them, as they are your children.  God sees us as his children according to the Bible, and he loves us all, so he would not want us to get hurt.  Third, you have the power to decide whether or not to give your children the weapons, just as God had the power to decide whether to give free will or not.  Had you decided to give your children the weapons, you STILL have the power to take those weapons away from them.  You could prevent them from hurting each other and themselves by overriding your previous decision to grant them a gift (the weapons) and taking them away.  Similarly, God should rightly have the power to override his free will decision and prevent people such as Hitler from causing atrocities such as the Holocaust.  If he DOES NOT have this power, he is not all-powerful, at least not in my definition of all powerful, which loosely defined means "having the power to do anything and everything."  God is either all-powerful, or he is not.  All-powerfulness would mean God could do anything. God cannot take away free will; therefore, God is not all-powerful.


      Now, if I were to give theists the benefit of the doubt, I'd allow them to define God as all-powerful if they can defend it.  They may likely use the argument that "Sure, God has the power to take away free will, but he doesn't want to because he wants us to build moral identity and he does not believe it is 'good' to take away that gift.  So it is not a question of whether or not he has the power, it is of whether or not he sees fit to use it."  Fair enough.  Let's then look again at what I'd briefly mentioned about giving children weapons.  You are a loving and good parent, and you would not want your children to kill each other.  What moral integrity would they learn from that?  If both children die, what good came out of it?  What love does it show that you, knowing your children would get hurt, gave your children the means to harm each other.? Perhaps it makes YOU a better person, but you're in God's shoes right now, and God would not be so selfish as to have children suffer for his own gain.  What then is the reason that God would give his children such a gift?  We have the power to blow up the earth more times than I have appendages (once is enough for me, but I don't know about you).  We also have the free will to do so.  Who would benefit from such an act?  Whose morality would increase?  If we were all DEAD, then what purpose would it serve?  What purpose would God have for granting us the power to destroy ourselves?  Perhaps God believes we aren't fit to live; however, God, being all-knowing would have forseen that before creating us, and he would not have bothered creating a world that was doomed to fail.  So why give us free will?  I still cannot answer this question.  It can't be for morality reasons, for we would all gain nothing from the death of everyone.  What does free will get us?  Perhaps then it is to allow us a chance into heaven, which would be determined by what happened before we died.  Then, what of babies? Newborn babies die without developing proper eyesight, let alone morality, so morality cannot be the deciding factor here.  If, however, it were, I could argue that a world without free will would not need morality, for it would be a good world under God's control.  People would still die, but they'd die at a proper age, such that suffering is decreased greatly.  Also, the world would offer plenty of opportunities for achieving at least some moral integrity.  You can feel sorry for a person whose grandmother dies, and you can learn greatly from death.  Perhaps we would fear our own death, and learn from that as well.  We could learn about the best thing to do.  Perhaps there are children who want to take a field trip to Disney World, and though they have comfortable amount of money to live off of, they are trying to raise money to go to Disney World.  Never going to Disney World would not be considered suffering; however, people would have the opportunity to donate or not to donate to the cause.  Situations such as these would provide opportunities to show character.


      "Who, then would get into heaven?" you might ask.  If everyone had to be good, then they would presumabley all go to heaven.  Perhaps this is so, so let us assume that all of these people would go to heaven.  Then for what reason would these people have needed the moral integrity that theists are so adamant we develop?  If God would have accepted all of them, then why would they have needed the moral integrity?  I don't know the answer to this, and I don't know how to argue against it other than that God would want us to have developed it because he is good, and he would have wanted us to appreciate heaven after being "tested" on Earth.  All right, I'll run with that, I suppose; however, it still doesn't cover babies who don't have the chance to develop moral intergrity, and it doesn't cover people who simply don't do anything bad, but they don't do anything good either.  In the case of free wil, why would we need immense suffering in order to develop moral integrity?  Why does God feel the need for us to develop moral integrity?  Surely young children have not had the opportunity to do so.  Why would it be better to have free will than to not have it?  People seem very appreciative of their power to do evil if they so choose, but why would they rather that and have so many bad things happen to them and to those around them, than being comfortable and knowing they will not suffer great tragedies.  Furthermore, why would God, an all-loving being, want to watch his children tear each other apart.


      This is where, I think I should get into "testing."  Some might say that God wants to test us to have us develop grace so that he sees who is worthy of heaven.  Once again I run into the problem of God knowing all.  If God is "all-knowing," (and by all-knowing I mean he "there isn't anything he doesn't know, for he knows everything that was, is, and will be") then why does he have to test us?  He, being all-knowing, would know before creating us which of us would fail him and which of us wouldn't.  Why would he need to make us suffer to determine this?  Perhaps he doesn't.  Perhaps he DOES know.  Then if he does know who will get into heaven, and he does know that we would suffer on Earth, then why does he put us on Earth to begin with?  Why doesn't he skip a step, and allow those of us who are good into heaven automatically, without having to go through such trials and tribulations.  Again, someone may say that we wouldn't appreciate heaven if we weren't put on Earth first.  Unfortunately, I can't say that I would be truly happy in heaven.


      This is the second issue I have with God, and probably a huge one: the heaven and hell ordeal.  I'll start with hell, because I have a lot less to say about that, at least I think so.  Hell is supposedly where everyone who fails "God's test" goes.  They are bad people, and so they deserve to be punished, right?  Isn't that what we think God says?  Well, I thought God was all-loving, which means, and again I define for you, "he loves all, without exceptions."  Then why would God have hell?  Shouldn't he forgive everyone who was failed their test on Earth and allow them into heaven?  This then would pose a problem in heaven, so God couldn't do that either.  It seems that God runs himelf between a rock and a hard place here, and that his all-loving nature comes into question.  Should these people really suffer an eternity in hell as punishment?  I could not, if I had the power, condemn a person who I dislike to an eternity of suffering.  Perhaps God can.  Perhaps God does love these people as much as he loves those who have done good, but he thinks he has to separate them.  Still, an all-good God does "good for all" and so doing this would yet again reduce God's status.


      On the matter of heaven, if I hypothetically died right now from spontaneous combustion, and arrived in heaven, I would be utterly miserable.  I would be without my boyfriend, I would have no friends to greet me, no family, and I would have to wait a reasonably long time (though not long compared to eternity) to see them again.  Heaven would, to me, be punishment, and I would rather stay here with everyone I love.  Also, what if my boyfriend lands himself in hell? (Hypothetically, sweetheart.  Hypothetically...)  What then would heaven be like for me, knowing each and every moment that my boyfriend was suffering and would not make it to heaven with me, and knowing I would never see him again?  I can't imagine living like that.  I also can't imagine being made to think I was happy when I really wasn't.  I don't want to live a delusion agnd think I'm with my boyfriend when I'm really not.  I want him physically there with me, not suffering in hell while I'm in "heaven."  Heaven just simply doesn't make sense.  I'd rather stay on Earth, and if Earth is meant as a step to heaven, it's simply not worth it.  If I'm stuck going to heaven or hell, I'd rather not have been on Earth at all.  I can't imagine I'm the only person who feels this way.  I'm sure there are many theists who believe that heaven would be unbearable without the ones they love.  For some people, a "heaven" simply doesn't exist, for their life now would be much preferred.  If not all "deserved" people would be happy in heaven, it cannot be a place of paradise for all.  I can think of few people who would want to live an illusion of happiness.


      So what would God's place be in this if there were people who would be unhappy in heaven?  If people didn't want to go to heaven, it would be pointless.  God would know these people's wishes, and he would know they would be unhappy in heaven.  Even if these people are the best people in the world, they may not want to go to heaven, and God, being all-loving, should not want them to experience suffering on earth, and then suffer even more in heaven.  Heaven isn't consistent with God, just as God's qualities aren't consistent.


      If there were then no heaven for us to go to, why would God have to test us?  Why would God put suffering in the world?  This again brings us back to moral integrity.  Perhaps heaven doesn't exist; however, this means our life now is that much more important, so we should develop the highest level of moral integrity and enjoy it as much as we could.  So then why would grievous suffering then be necessary?  I've already established that grievous suffering isn't necessary to lead a morally good life.  Furthermore, children who never have the chance to develop morals suffer tremendously.  Why should they have to suffer?  Why can't they lead a good life?  What is the point of suffering?  Why does "God" allow suffering?  What higher order could he be achieving?  Not everyone wants to go to heaven, even those who deserve to go there, so God could not be punishing people simply to punish them further.  Free will and natural sufferings (ie: diseases, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis) have no point without the reward of heaven.


     So why would God decide to put us on Earth in the first place?  Not to test us of course, because he knows where we would end up.  Also, it can't be to go to heaven, for a paradise in which everyone is truly happy cannot exist.  Perhaps he put us here to give us a chance to live.  So then for what reason does he take the lives of children?  Maybe these children would have grown to be terrible people, and so he refused their entry into Earth.  So then for what reason would he allow Hitler to live?  Why would he give other bad people a chance to live, and not the other ones?  It's inconsistent.  So God takes the lives of many, many people before their time, even though he put us on Earth to give us a chance to live.  This simply doesn't make sense.  I'm then inclined to think that maybe God isn't good.  That he is an evil god.  This would also be impossible, for there is also much good in the world along with evil.  God cannot then be all good or all evil.  Then perhaps he isn't good or evil and is somewhere in between.  This then is another far-reaching explanation for God's existence.  Let's then assume that there perhaps is a God, but he's neither all-good, nor all-evil.  This would explain a lot of what I have previously mentioned; however, it would make no sense for a God such as this to exist.  He would be a God full of contradictions, a lying and deceitful God who would have no real purpose for existing other than to create humans, and make them suffer or be happy on a subjective basis.  He would have no basis for his decisions, and would be able to do anything he pleases, no matter how good or how bad.  Other than this God being a "nonsensical" God, a question arises that must be answered.
     
     Supposing this "good and bad" God existed, how did he get here?  If the earth is so magnificent that it had to have a creator of a higher power, then why does get away without having a creator?  How did God come about?  If God has no creator and he just happened to be here, then how is that any less fantastic than the Earth always being here?  Nature seems to take the most efficient ways of propagating itself.  We can see strongly through evolution (I'm not getting deep into it now) that nature "selects" the best surviving species to reproduce and carry on its genetic code for future generations.  If an animal is better suited in a different way, nature will eventually take that route, making nearly nothing unnecessary.  Keeping this in mind, we must ask ourselves the necessity of a God.  Would it not be easier to say that the universe was always here than to say that the universe was not always here, god created it, and god was always here?  Why do we need to bring a second party into the equation?  Nature is efficient--a God such as the one above simply isn't, for it had no purpose for us.  Nature, however, requires that we be here. The conditions were perfect such that humans eventually evolved and became part of the circle of life.  Some may say that the probability of the conditions that sustain human life occurring are so unbelievably small that it's nearly impossible to believe it occurred by chance.  However, the conditions had to be perfect for something.  If not humans sitting here saying "Geez, it's crazy that the Earth is so perfect to sustain us," it would be tentacled creatures with sixty-six eyes thinking the same thing.  A lot of amazing life may come from a wide range of varied atmospheric conditions.  The fact that humans are here is simply part of those statistics.  The conditions had to be perfect for something, and it so happened that eventually we roamed the earth.

      After all of this, I decided that I don't believe God exists.  It simply isn't necessary, and it wouldn't make sense, for such a God wouldn't be all-good because of suffering, and it wouldn't be all-evil because of good.  The God would be full of contradictions and nonsensical, and thus inefficient.  It would simply be easier for the universe to have always existed than to suggest that it needed a higher power to exist for which we have no proof. 

     Thanks for reading this.  I know it was long, but I needed to cover as much as I could to cover every major objection I could think of.  If you have another feel free to comment.  As always (which is weird to say because I've only said it once) comments are greatly appreciated, whether theistic, atheistic, red, blue, black or green.  Thanks again for reading!!!

~Annabel Lee

  

I am an Atheist


(Original Post on October 16th, 2008)

In lieu of writing my history paper, I will be writing to you about why I am writing to you.  You're welcome.

      Everyone has something to say--the only difference between us is that not all of us say it.  For a long time, I said nothing and kept secrets because I was afraid of being subjugated and looked down upon.  I have always had something to say, and now I feel like I should say it, or most of it at least.  In any case, I can no longer sit back and ask "Why doesn't somebody do something about XXX?"  It's simply hypocritical.  "Why don't atheists speak up instead of letting themselves fall under the feet of theists who don't give them the time of day?" I asked myself one day.  Then I realized: I'm doing it.  I'm sitting here, doing nothing about my own situation, while condemning others who, in reality, are in the exact same position!  Someone has to start doing something.  Of course many have taken steps, expecially Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, ebonmuse and many other atheists who have come out of the proverbial closet and said "Look, I will not be stepped on because I'm a person, too."

     So now, I'm saying, "Look, I will not be stepped on because I'm a person, too."  Everyone can't sit back expecting others to do the work for them.  I have a choice between being one of those people, or being someone who does something about it herself.  It takes more than one person, and others have already begun.  Now, it's my turn to try.  Whether I'm heard or not means less to me than that I tried.  If anything, someone who stumbles upon this may be inspired to have their own say, and perhaps my words will move in a "pay it forward" fashion.  Though the goal is presumptuous, I maintain it, for I want to make some difference in writing what will hopefully become a successful blog.

   Lately I've been reading articles on Daylight Atheism--some that piss me off, and some that cause me to want to cheer out loud and wake the neighbors up.  Mostly, though, they make me feel embarassed.  I struggle every day with the thought of our nation as a theocracy, yet before today I have done nothing--I haven't gone to any atheist support groups, haven't talked to theists about my ideas, and haven't even shared my thoughts on it with anyone save one person.  I feel simply embarassed with myself for taking so long to share my ideas with others, even if they have been said by many before me.  For the longest time, I needed to hear the voice of someone else to tell me I wasn't alone.  I have that now, and continously find it in the blogs of little known atheists and well-known atheists as well.  So for the sake of my sanity, and for the sake of those who need to hear from people like me, I introduce you to "The Before Life: Living When it Matters."  

   To fellow atheists: please help me out.  We all have something to say, and you need to speak, too.  All men are created equal.  We are no different from theists in our make-up.  We shouldn't have any fewer rights.  We should not have to worry about being discriminated against.  I don't want that for myself, and I don't want it for my children should they decide they share my beliefs (or non-beliefs?).  For those of you who aren't atheists, I welcome you and I also welcome your constructive criticism.  Please, don't read my blog and say "How dare you say that atheists should speak out!!! They should be shunned!"  Please, I've seen that on other blogs, and I don't expect it from you, just as I don't expect theists not to speak out.  As I said, everyone has a say, and I appreciate you giving me yours.  I have plenty of friends who thank God every day for their lives and for getting them through the day.  I still love them and respect them, and I hope they will respect me, too.  I can't hope to convey why I am an atheist in a single entry, along with why I write, so please, bear with me, and don't leave The Before Life just yet.  Please give me the benefit of the doubt.  This entry seemed more reasonable to write first, so I held off on the why for the next entry.  I'm not trying to force you into something you're not.  I'm simply trying to discuss with you why I believe what I believe, and why I don't believe what some of you do.

   Overall, I don't want to be lazy and I don't want to be a complainer.  Anyone can complain--but only some will do something about it.  So don't complain that you're not heard at work: do something!  Don't complain that you're out of shape: do something about it!  If you can do something to forward yourself, and to stop your feelings of unsuccessfulness, then do it.  Don't sit back anymore.  Take action and do something.  You'll feel better, and you may make a difference you never knew you could.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you read again!
~Annabel Lee