An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Free will and the nature of God
I just finished reading “The Closing of the Muslim Mind, How Intellectual Suicide Created The Modern Islamist Crisis” by Robert R. Reilly. 1 This book was the book selection on this web site for 2012-APR.
The problem that has led to our modern day crisis, developed over the issue of the nature of God. On the winning side within Islam are those who claimed that God is pure and absolute WILL and POWER. On the losing side were those who claimed that God’s nature was of justice and rationality.
IF God is Will and Power then he can change his mind at any time, he isn’t bound to honor his promises, he can change what we foolish humans claim are the laws of nature, anything that he does is right because it is what He wants to do. And God is definitely a He and not a she.
In addition, humans are viewed as having no Free Will; every thought in our heads is put there by God; every movement that we make, action that we take is directed by God and willed by God. We are, one might say, little robots programmed by God to do what he wants us to do, to think what he wants us to think, puppets on a string, and God is the master puppeteer.
The arguments are made much clearer, and the winners took the argument to great extremes, as explained in the book but I think this is the gist of the winning sides position. I hope others will read the book for themselves. 1
I sent the following analysis to Mr. Reilly, I just had to talk to somebody!
It seems to me that Islamists have created a Catch22 for themselves. (just as Christians created a Catch22 for themselves with their claim that God is Perfect in every way, as I argued earlier in a 3 part piece on Theodicy on this website)
If anyone wants to counteract the Islamists arguments you can't do so simply by saying they are wrong and argue for a different philosophy. You have no choice but to use their argument and take it to its full irrational conclusion. You have to turn the Islamists own argument against them.
The Dilemma is that IF God is pure WILL, that there is no other reality, how can anything that a human does not be the work of God? This is the Catch22 for Islamists.
IF God is pure WILL and Omnipotent then humans have no freedom, no Will of their own. Nothing a human does can then be in defiance of God.
On page 83, Reilly states:
"Man's freedom is an offense to God's omnipotence." The Islamist claims,"We hold that everything is through Allah's will and that no one can do a thing before he actually does it, or do it without Allah's assistance, or escape Allah's knowledge."
IF God is pure WILL and Omnipotent then he can't be defied. If he is defied than God is NOT pure Will and he is NOT omnipotent. That is the catch!
IF humans have no thoughts of their own, then everything they THINK is put into their heads by God. That means everything they produce is produced by God, their inventions, their books, everything. Even changes made to the Old and New Testaments were made by God. The discoveries of Science aren't discoveries they are revelations put in the Scientists heads by God and that means God wants humans to know that information. If God doesn't approve of a book he wouldn't have put the thoughts into the persons head to write the book.
IF I wear shorts and t-shirts and leave my hair uncovered than it is what God has approved, I couldn't have thought of doing this on my own if I have no independent Will of my own.
IF I defy the teachings of the Koran, or of Sharia, or of a religious leader, if I follow some other teaching, then it means one of two things:
- I am just as powerful as God (God isn't omnipotent), because I have a Will of my own and can choose to think or to act or speak or write on my own in defiance of God OR
- It means that God wants it to be that way, He not only approves of what I do, and say, he authorized, initiated the words and actions in me, if He didn't he would stop me or have me say or do something else.
If some person decides they have to stop me, they have to make me obey the Sharia then they are admitting that God is impotent, powerless to act on his own, and has to have a person act on his behalf. They are admitting that I have a Will and that makes me as powerful as God. AND they are admitting that they have a Will and choose to act in defiance of God because IF God is Omnipotent He himself would have had me do something else. IF God is unable to make me do something else or feels he needs to have another human work on his behalf then he is impotent.
If my conscience tells me it is natural and right, than that is God speaking to me because obviously if God is pure Will I have no independent conscience, everything I think is what he causes me to think. How could I possibly defy God in anything that I think or do if HE is what they say He is?
The ONLY thing any human can do is mind his own business. Because ONLY He knows what God is telling him to do and to think, what words to say or write.
IF a human assumes that they have the authority to tell another person what to do and to think, what words to say or write, then they are the one that is admitting that God is NOT pure Will, that God is impotent NOT omnipotent.
If a human harms another human than he is defying God by claiming that he knows better than God what is best for that other person. He is claiming Gods power to harm for himself. IF God wanted a human harmed he would do so himself. Telling another person to harm another would be proof that God is incapable of carrying out his own Will.
The Catch22 is simple, IF God is pure WILL then humans have no Will of their own, and everything they say and do is what God is telling them to say and do.
IF a human is able to defy God than that proves that God is NOT pure WILL and that he is impotent, unable to stop the human from acting on his own Will.
As I mentioned, I sent this analysis to Mr. Reilly and he responded back:
“I think you have captured the conundrum perfectly! best regards, Bob Reilly”
I may have captured the conundrum perfectly but what do we do with it?
IF I have the illusion that I operate under Free Will, and God is what they say He is (Omnipotent and pure and total WILL), then it is obvious that God wants me to have that illusion.
Why one might wonder would He want me to have that illusion? Perhaps he is just being ornery and is waiting for the right moment to say gotcha, you weren’t acting on your own after all. If so I will face that problem when it arises.
OR he might want to see what I and we (humans) would do with Free Will IF I and we actually had it!
Why might he put so much conflicting information out there? Why so many different religious doctrines and dogmas? Why so many books?
The last question is easily answered. There is a LOT of information out there, a LOT to learn, it can’t ALL fit into one book.
Obviously he wants to see what we will do with all that information. Reject it, accept it, expand upon it, develop it further, put it to work for the good of all, put it to work for personal gain, or put it to work for the detriment of all.
Why would God not tell me directly what I am supposed to know? Why make me go to a book or a teacher/guru/religious leader to learn what I need to learn?
Obviously God knows all about human psychology. After all, he is responsible for creating us the way that we are. We all know that children and adults learn lessons the best -- they come to fully understand the concept and incorporate it into their thinking -- when they have to work to figure it out for themselves. If they have to manipulate something with their hands, use their brain to think about the concept, use their ears to listen to an explanation of a concept then they will pick up the concept more quickly and have a better chance of retaining the information. God obviously knows this.
God also knows that we silly humans need to feel that we are in charge, even if we aren’t. We need to feel that we have accomplished something, even if we haven’t actually accomplished it on our own. He knows it makes us feel good to believe that we have. He’d know that if we think we have done something, accomplished something, we will have the desire to do more. ALSO, he obviously wants to see what we will do with what we learn, the skills that we gain, otherwise he wouldn’t have us learn and gain those skills.
Wouldn’t it bother God to have us think that we know as much as He/She does? If God is what they say He/She is God wouldn’t mind at all, he/she would simply laugh at our foolishness. Then sit back and see what we will do next, with the information He/She has given us, with the skills He/She has taught us, with the illusion of Free Will that He/She has given us.
The reality is that we are a very diverse people. There is no denying the fact that I have thoughts that others don’t have, that I say, and write, and act differently from other folks. There are some people that are Buddhists, and some that are Hindus, some are Jewish, some Christian, some Muslims and even some of us are Atheists. If God is all He is cracked up to be then it is obvious that this is the way God wants us to be.
The argument is NOT over whether we have or do NOT have Free Will. I can accept for the benefit of humanity that I am acting under the illusion that I have Free Will. It is no skin off of my nose, to let the Islamist or anyone argue that God is all that is, that I have no Free Will, that everything I say or do, or think I discover or figure out was actually placed in my head by God or action directed by God. They are as entitled to their illusion as I am to mine!
The argument is about what I and we WILL do with the illusion that I and we have!
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
"The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis" by Robert R. Reilly. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
This book deals with Islamism which, according to Wikipedia:
"... is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary. Leading Islamist thinkers emphasized the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic law); of pan-Islamic political unity; and of the elimination of non-Muslim, particularly Western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences in the Muslim world, which they believe to be incompatible with [their version of] Islam."
Originally posted 2013-FEB-18
Latest update: 2013-FEB-18
Author: Susan Humphreys