Free Will and Punishment

No, not a sequel to Dostoyevsky’s classic, just a simple conclusion:

God-given Free Will and Inherited Sin are mutually exclusive concepts.

(Inherited Sin naturally refers to Original Sin in the Bible, but applies to any type of company punishment.)

The conclusion can be drawn from the postulate that any concept of free will entails voluntary choices made by a person, and consequently from all religious texts granting free will to man.

Certainly, so much is true for followers of the Bible, and Genesis chapter 2 and Deuteronomy chapter 30 are used by believers to strengthen the concept.

Here, Dawkins expounds on the vengeful nature of Yahwe, and questions why God’s son had to be the ransom paid for the inherited sin of everyone born from the tainted bloodline of Adam. (Everyone who has ever lived, according to the Bible.)

The purpose of this article is to make obsolete the need for character descriptions of Yahwe and the topic of substitutionary atonement, so that the discussion can move on. It is simply this:

“If God gave individuals free will and expected them to behave, individuals could act in a way God liked, and he could choose to reward those, or in a way he didn’t, and he could choose to punish those. If he didn’t, individuals are not responsible for their actions and God could choose to reward or punish at whim. If he did, he couldn’t punish descendants of Adam for the sins of Adam.

In other words: if we’re to be punished for the actions of others, he didn’t give us free will, and if he did, we’re not to be punished for the actions of others. Therefore, God-given Free Will and Inherited Sin are incompatible concepts.

Remains the permutation that God could reward or punish the righteous and sinful at whim, in other words the ‘God works in mysterious ways’ or ‘it is not for us to know’ card. Playing this card only stresses the incompatibility. Even He could then no longer claim to have given free will to me and you, and he could not be credited for it.”

The incompatibility lies in the concept itself, so that there is no escape; if the choice isn’t made by you, you don’t have free will.

Note that this article only addresses the Bible’s own internally incompatible definitions. The religious definition is based on an opposition of the will of the individual to the will of the deity or deities, instead of incompatibility with determinism or other concepts in Philosophy.

Therefore, do not take this article to endorse specific religious concepts of free will for philosophical discourse.

The God-fearing Determinist*, Part 3

Jokes are good fun, but even satire can reveal that the question is not a simple one, even one that could lead to paradoxes. More fun:

Take the First Cause Quiz!


(Click the image for the PDF version of the quiz below – to find out what you believe in. This quiz emulates theistic epistemology and may therefore contain nuts, and traces of false dichotomies. Put tongue in cheek before ingesting.)

1. If something popped into existence without a cause / always existed, was it created? -No. (If Yes, we need to find a new word for this peculiar phenomenon; it is the definition of the word; but even if a new word is defined, it will not carry the meaning of “Creation performed by a Creator”;it would necessarily follow that God didn’t create the Universe. He “something-else’d” the Universe.)

2. Do some things pop into existence / always exist? -Yes. (If No, God didn’t create the Universe; it unfolded by cause and effect.)

3. Did the Universe pop into existence without a cause / always exist, or did something cause it to begin to exist? -Yes. (If No, God didn’t create the Universe.)

4. So you affirm some events require a previous cause but some don’t, and that the Universe is one of the things that require a previous cause. Is that previous cause an act of God? -Yes. (If No, God didn’t create the Universe.)

5. Did the Creator pop into existence spontaneously / always exist, or did something cause the Creator? -No. (If Yes, God plays the intermediary Creator, a role not portrayed in mainstream religions.)

6. So you’re unsatisfied with an uncreated Universe as First Cause. Is an uncreated Creator a better answer? -Yes. (If No, you’ve understood something important – why someone doesn’t have to be Atheist or even a skeptic to question your religion’s origins claims.)

7. Despite all the other causes previously ascribed to acts of God having been replaced with actual knowledge of how reality works, leaving you only the cause for the Big Bang, can you substantiate that this cause is an act of God? -Yes. (If No, you don’t know that God created the Universe, and the argument ends.)

8. Are these substantiations abstract arguments that suspiciously fit exactly what is left to be explained before the Big Bang? -No. (If Yes, several competing, and not necessarily divine origin, theories could fill the gap, and you don’t know that the one involving your God is the correct one.)

9. Accepting all your substantiations as true, you have still only shown that this is an act of a God. Can you identify the Creator of the Universe with the deity of your own religion? -Yes. (If No, you don’t know that your God created the Universe, and the argument ends.)


OK, phew. The quiz is over! If you didn’t make it past the last question, you should display intellectual honesty by admitting that you don’t know if your God created the Universe.

If you did, you should submit your arguments and any evidence and references for peer review. If some of them are refuted soundly, you should display intellectual honesty by abandoning deeply held convictions that rest on them in order to show that you are interested in seeing truths – just as Scientists do for (perhaps) much more rigorously researched theories than yours. Or, of course, defend your argument.

“If something is true, you should believe it, and if it isn’t, you shouldn’t. And if you can’t find out whether it’s true or it isn’t, you should suspend judgment.”

Bertrand Russell


This article series continues with part 4, which will deal with false dichotomies, show how an open question on the subject might be phrased, and the relation of any educated guess, answer, explanation, or theory to reality.

The God-Fearing Determinist*, part 2

What’s it all about? Credit: Patrick Hardin.
Some thoughts stayed with me during the past week and a half. I will present them in part III, because I have just a little more work to do on it.

In the meanwhile, I thought I’d clarify some of what part I hopes to say by having fun with it! Here are some quotes that show the amusing aspects of First Cause arguments:

The sensible.

Craig’s God is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. In other words, Craig’s God === Nothing. So something did come from nothing, and you should believe in nothing!


The desperate.

Just one uncaused non-being being to cause all else and explain everything! That’s all we ask, oh Muse of Cop-out Philosophers.


The befuddled.

Uncaused Universe? Nonsense. There has to be one uncaused thing before it that caused it.


The sarcastic.

An almost infinite number of causes back to the Big Bang. And then, only one more. In our profession, we term it The Prime Catchall.

Feel free to use your favorite one in “serious philosophical debate”. Mine is #3, I think. : )


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