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Free Will, Guilt, and Innocence

By Carl S ~

Some research seems to indicate there might not be such a thing as free will; that our choices might result from forces beyond our control. Some claim other non-human creatures act from "instinct," so they might argue that that goldfinch I'm watching now is not exhibiting confusion of mind as whether to stay at the feeder or not. I'll argue that bird, and definitely crows, make free choices, based on observing their behavior. We're all in nature, making decisions.

Religions depend on our having free wills, for without them, they couldn't judge and damn us on their terms. (Although the Christian doctrine of predestination might as well eliminate free will, since individuals will be condemned or rewarded, in spite of what choices they make.) All religions teach children should be shamed and/or punished, for being "willful."

Some things are obviously in favor of free will. For example, when my wife or somebody else tells me, “Why thank you! You didn't have to do that." That's free will. (Recently, I answered this with: "That’s why. Because I didn't have to.") And then there's something psychologists call "passive-aggressive behavior." What's the point of that, since it apparently has nothing to do with evolution? Isn't such behavior, this asserting personal disagreement with the terms of another, a covert freely willed choice to avoid confrontation?

Religions teach Free Will is the biggest deal we own. It's preached as something even a Deity Thing won’t mess with. Every religion wants to control that freedom, if not take it away altogether; it's that valuable. It strikes me as human perversity; those who claim to value their free will easily give it up to dictators, cult leaders, clerical figures, and others who are far beneath them in moral behavior. And to think this is especially true in "the land of the free!"

Perpetrators argue against free will by their actions, and by excusing themselves from responsibility: "God told me to" or, "It says so in the bible," or the classic, "I was only following orders." They really believe they had no choice but to do what they did? One benefit to being a Christian is, when it comes to being irresponsible, there are "outs" for forgiving bad decisions. There’s a price for forgiveness. It is to relinquish one's option to reject religious authority.

It strikes me as human perversity; those who claim to value their free will easily give it up to dictators, cult leaders, clerical figures, and others who are far beneath them in moral behavior.Honestly, you have no free will when it comes to your taste in music, art, sexual orientation, or even the body type or looks of a person you accept for a friend or lover. You don't choose who you're sexually attracted to nor do they, if they're attracted to you. All of these non-choices can be frowned upon, ridiculed, or outright condemned, by religions. What are you guilty of? So what if your choices are due to the influence of your peers, or pleasant experiences associated with them, more than their value to others? Usually, what you consider important now will change as your life changes. All of these things are harmless, a.k.a., "innocent," meaning you are an "innocent" person.

Innocence is your nature. So is curiosity, questioning, and investigating - all attributes the religious tell you not to freely use whenever it involves their faith. Our question is: Then why are religions trying to make you a criminal for being guilty of human innocence?

Gestalt therapy, a branch of psychotherapy, is based on a theory: “Lose your mind and come to your senses." The goal was to get you in tune with your senses, to forgo thinking while tuning up. And there's a lot to be said for that. Now, we all have experiences of cheering for the home team, laughing with our audience, mourning together, etc. We know what it means to lose ourselves to sexual longing and rapture. Sexual and addiction experiences will alter our brains, with or without our consent. Do we really demonstrate free wills, "under the influence"? Do we care? Should we ever feel guilty about those feelings? Religions co-opt "going with the urge, going with the flow" feelings, exploiting them for their purposes. "Lose your mind" allows their dogmas to take over your free will, "under their influence."

Religions say, Make what we tell you are the wrong choices, and you'll be sent to eternal torture. My oldest brother would say in jest, "I will have your free consent, even if I have to beat you into submission." Not funny: this is how my parents and their siblings were taught in parochial school. Christianity demands one oxymoronic "choice": Accept Jesus as God and savior, as per John, 3, v. 16. If you don't believe this, you are guilty and condemned. This defines a "Christian." But get this: as a Christian, you can be sent to hell anyhow, as it says in Matt. 25, vs.35-46, for your inactions, so you’re still guilty. A whole lot of believers have suffered and died on "both sides of the aisle," using
these quotes. But, you're not guilty of harming anyone or anything just because you can't believe some things; you’re innocent. And it would be immoral to punish you for not clothing, feeding, etc., someone who represents a "person" no one can prove exists! Ridiculous guilt.

Consider: If you were baptized as an infant, that religion began to dictate your life as a child. If baptized as an adult, you were "under the influence" of authority figures in a closed environment, subjected to peer pressure, and "shielded" from different interpretations of reality. If you were then gullible by nature to believe b.s., well, that's something over which you have no control. Anyone raised in a religious environment is open to being brainwashed into believing b.s. where gullibility is taught as virtue.

If you're like me, you've developed an immunity to gullibility, and an intolerance for religious hypocrisy, in "coming to your senses." I'm adult, mature. My nature just can't stomach b.s. any more. I won’t apologize for vomiting it up in public; it's a natural reflex.

I go to pick up my wife after her church service, but I'm most uncomfortable among the members. Lately, a "chicken or the egg" problem nags at me: Since I'm aware of so many believers who are psychologically, logically, and mentally messed-up, I wonder: Are they personalities who are attracted to the system w/o their free will, or are they made that way by the system?

I remember a famous quotation: "You can fool SOME of the people ALL of the time." Maybe I was never a "real" some-of-the-people believer. I'm too practical. I'm happy to be just one of the outcast “willful" ones!