Eight Reasons Free Will Is Total Bullshit



If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: God is not responsible for the evil and suffering in the world; that is caused by humans’ misuse of their god-given free will!  Sentiments such as “Don’t blame god, blame your own bad choices!” and “God isn’t responsible for the bad things others do to you!” abound in Christian literature and online enclaves, and they seems to make so much sense to the people who claim it – but what makes sense to the theist mind is often nonsensical in any other context, and this is no exception.  Under even mild scrutiny, free will is shown to be nothing more than an apologetic sleight of hand, glorifying an ostensibly loving and powerful god while simultaneously placing dramatic limits on his benevolence and ability.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is total bullshit.

1. Free will is not a universally held belief among Christians. As is the case with virtually every other claim made by Christians (and, to be fair, followers of every other religion), free will is not only not accepted across all denominations and adherents of Christianity, it is rejected outright by many as false teaching. Some Christians believe that humans are slaves to sin and are not free to choose not to sin, and that since god is the author of evil, it must simply be accepted. As explained by the kind folks at christianfallacies.com, “evil is a part of God’s eternal plan as so many scriptures illustrate . . . Free will is not needed as an answer to deliver God from the charge of evil because evil is not a problem for God, but for man, and man is in no position to question God about its existence.”  The non-believer is then left to ask, as with all other contradictory statements about the intentions and nature of god, what makes one of these claims true and the other one false – a question that I have yet to see any theist answer.

2. Free will and predestination are mutually exclusive. The internet is laden with dime-store theology that declares loudly and unambiguously that whatever is happening at any given moment is exactly what god intends. Try as one might, it’s nigh impossible to find pithy memes and articles that say, “God had a plan for you to be happy, but Monsignor totally blindsided god by using his free will to sodomize you when you were a child, and that threw a wrench into the whole thing. Sucks being you!”  On the contrary, we are told that god would not have allowed Monsignor to rape you unless he had a purpose for it.  Furthermore, given that “god is directing each one of your steps,” and since that claim does not come with an asterisk clarifying that ‘your’ refers to ‘non-pedophiles only,’ then he had to be directing Monsignor’s steps too.  There’s no room in any of this for anyone’s free will.

3. Semantic hoops of fire to make a divine plan compatible with free will are disingenuous. To hear some tell it, god’s plan is really just an idea, a hope, like the plans people have for the weekend, which can be fouled by the free will of other humans who are either ignorant of or averse to our own desires. In this version of “god’s plan,” god has no way to either communicate the plan to humans or to make it happen – it’s all just sitting there in his head while he crosses his holy fingers that our guesswork will cause us to stumble more or less blindly into doing what he wants us to do. This, of course, is entirely intellectually dishonest, because we all know that when theists speak of God’s Plan™ they are ascribing a much greater degree of control and intentionality than this weak excuse allows.  One must also wonder what kind of mean-spirited fool this god would have to be to make a plan that he knows in advance isn’t going to pan out, or to not at least tell humanity what the plan is so that we have a better chance of using our free will in a way that comports with that plan.  This is not the behavior one would expect of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god – indeed, it is not even the behavior one would expect of a marginally competent middle manager.

4. Free will is never used as an explanation for positive outcomes. We only ever hear about the importance of free will in discussions of why god allows evil or suffering. You can read elaborate explanations here or here or here or here or in many other places that god just had to give us free will because golly, he didn’t want to make an army of robots!  He wanted humans to choose to love (read: enslaves themselves to) him!  Let’s set aside for the moment that an omnipotent god wouldn’t have to do anything (and an omniscient one surely could have come up with a way to make non-automatons who were nice to each other).  If humans are free to choose, doesn’t that mean that sometimes they choose to do good things?  Why do we exonerate god in this child’s suffering by blaming her parents’ use of their free will to abuse her, but credit god for blessing that child who is thriving, rather than ascribe his success to his parents’ use of their free will to lavish him with love and opportunity?  To hold any water at all, free will has to account for both the good and the bad choices that people make.

5. The concept of free will leads to acceptance of suffering as inevitable. “Humans are sinful, flawed, fallible. Of course some of them will use their free will in sinful, flawed, fallible ways. I know, it’s truly awful when children get raped, beaten, neglected, tortured, or murdered.  But oh well, what are you going to do?  That’s just the cost of god making us free beings.”  Which leads us to . . .

6. A god that allows misuse of free will to cause human suffering has the wrong priorities. Most crimes have not just a perpetrator, but a victim – perhaps many victims. Do the victims not have free will?  Surely they did not choose the circumstances that led to their suffering.  Surely they did not choose to suffer.  When the parish priest is sodomizing the altar boy, why does the priest’s free will choice to rape matter to god, but the child’s desire not to be raped does not?  A god who always favors the evil over the innocent can be nothing but evil.

7. Free will does not cause natural disasters. Even if free will was an acceptable explanation for human-caused suffering (which it isn’t), it doesn’t work for the suffering caused by wildfires, tsunamis, floods, landslides, earthquakes, drought, famine, or disease outbreaks. In fact, a great many evangelicals will confidently declare that god does, in fact, send natural disasters as punishment for human sinfulness, such as some claimed with regard to Hurricane Katrina.  Ironically, they do not seem to recognize that killing, maiming, and impoverishing tens of thousands of innocent people (not to mention the devastating cost to non-human animals and the overall ecosystem) as a means of punishing a handful of guilty people is as far away from just and loving as their god could get.  More to the point, it admits outright that a significant percentage of suffering has nothing whatsoever to do with free will, but is caused directly and on purpose by god.

8. Science indicates that the notion of free will in the biblical sense – individual agency to make choices entirely free of unconscious influences – does not exist. Advances in neuroscience have severely eroded the notion that humans can freely choose their behaviors. Our genes, brain chemistry, parents, geography, and life experiences shape everything from our sense of right and wrong to our intelligence to our emotions and everything in between.  This is not to say that we are automatons who cannot behave morally and ethically, but it does allow us to see human behavior in a different, perhaps more dispassionate light and over time may lead us to more effective strategies for dealing with things like mental illness, violent crime, and other complex and nuanced problems.  Once again, the space of ignorance so long occupied by god has been replaced by scientific knowledge, achieved through observation, empiricism, and evidence.

It’s remarkable to consider the armies of people throughout history who have devoted years, perhaps their entire lives, to figuring out how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with the notion of a loving, perfect, and just god.  The intellectual capacity wasted on such a fruitless and absurd endeavor is as mind-boggling as it is tragic – one can only hope that humanity will one day realize that those things are in fact irreconcilable, and rather than devote their lives to understanding why god allows suffering, put that energy into alleviating it.

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Godless Mama

Godless Mama writes about religion, politics, feminism, and the importance of evidence-based thinking with the goal of improving the world her daughter will inherit.

12 thoughts on “Eight Reasons Free Will Is Total Bullshit”

  1. I would also add special relativity to this list, which basically takes away any chance of us having free will by stating that the passage of time is an illusion and the future already exists.
    It’s strange that the bible has no mention of relativity, it could have come between the parts where it says the earth is flat and the moon is self-illuminating.


  2. Absolutely right, Mama. I couldn’t agree more. Free will is just one of those (non-biblical) ideas Christians use to excuse their god at one of the points where ‘he’ conflicts with reality and is clearly seen as entirely fallacious (as all gods are). A great post.


    1. This has already be proven by science and quantum physics:
      all can be explained by natural laws, so all (including god) are basically robots.
      they are fuzzy robots –> and this is exactly the tricky part:
      fuzzy means if a robot is in sate A, it is totally impossible to be predicted 100% which state X will be next for the said robot:
      so basically,
      X = next state of the said robot = a function of (original state A + a set of deterministic natural laws + a cast of random dice)
      i.e. there is inherent random-ness in everything:
      there is no way to determine where an electron exactly is around the nucleus of an atom – we only know the probability distribution of the position of the electron, meaning the electron can automagically pop up unexpectedly at any space coordinates around the nucleus, so there is uncertainty in all things, starting at the subatomic level:
      so we can claim that EVEN the electron HAS FREE WILL, or logically equivalent, nothing has free will.
      equivalently, all is deterministic and nondeterministic at the same time.
      the above is not fiction but are proven facts by the amazing scientific advancements of the last 50 years.
      but of course, 99.9999…% of the people are unaware of 99.99999…% of the facts.
      let the one who has ears, hear – as jesus said (… a rebel jew against the roman/religious establishment, not the useless jesus conceptual avatar that the so called christians have constructed).
      © Nick Maryut


  3. I wonder why you seem to care about people’s suffering. If our so called morals are formed only by our circumstances, than all morality is relative. If all morality is relative, what is evil? Why, in such a reality should I care about people suffering? I’m no more than a collection of neural impulses with no free will of my own, so any thing I think is just garbage in, garbage out. Children being abused? So what? Whats it matter to my lizard brain? The best I can hope for in your reality is a bit of pleasure before Oblivion. Because if God does not exist, any thing goes and nothing is right or wrong.


    1. So you are saying you do not actually care about abused children or other human suffering? What a nice person you must be. For my part, I will continue to care about and work to alleviate human suffering because I have evolved something called empathy, which you seem to have missed out on somehow. Lucky for the world not everyone is like you.


      1. Of course I care about human suffering. Because I am made in the image of God. But you talk about Good and Evil, while claiming to have simply evolved. If it is as you say and there is no free will, then talking about caring about anything is simply nonsense. Everything you do it’s only what the universe tells you to do. In such a reality how is the murderer anymore to blame for his actions then the saint?


  4. Look, I know that to people like you, priests who molest children and pastors who beat their wives or rape their congregants are by default my moral superiors because they believe in god and I don’t. Never mind the fact that I don’t molest children or perpetrate violence against those who place their trust in me (or against anyone else, for that matter) – they believe in god and I don’t, so even though they cause untold suffering you view them as better people. Never mind that statistically speaking, people who believe in god are an order of magnitude more likely to commit crimes than people who don’t. Never mind that the evidence of the evolutionary advantages of things like empathy, cooperation, and compassion are well established and put the lie to any need for supernatural origins of such things. None of that matters to you because all you see is “GODLESS = EVIL” and “BELIEF = PERFECTION.” At any rate I don’t think I need to justify where my morality comes from to someone who thinks that in terms of assessing whether someone is a good person, a belief in god matters more than actions that cause irreparable harm.


  5. Isaiah 45:7 

     I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.


  6. I didn’t get a choice as to my existence. Free will is therefore nullified. My mom’s egg didn’t get to pick which of my dad’s sperm gets to fertilize said egg, no instead the fastest and most efficient sperm who gets there first wins. Even after my conception, I didn’t get a choice to abort myself. Free will is BULLSHIT.


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