Before I start this piece I would just like to say: I don’t care what you believe. Believe as you wish, just don’t tell me because I don’t want to know. Belief is between you and whatever you want to believe in.
During my interesting and varied life I have come up against this answer quite often: It’s free will.
Bet you can guess where this is going 😉
Throughout human history there have been people that believe in deities and those that don’t… Over the past two thousand years or so the deities have conglomerated and condensed (generally speaking – I’m going to forego commenting on Hinduism and Sikhism because I don’t know enough about them in this context to comment… I’m also leaving out Buddhism because it does not have a central deity in the same way that the three main monotheistic religious systems do) into one almighty being. Each of the three predominant religions give this “entity” different names but seeing as they all come from the same root religion they are all essentially the same deity. Yes, yes I know I’m telling you something you already know but sometimes you have to start with the “known” facts to make a coherent argument.
OK, so… This central deity… Throughout the history of it’s adherents this deity has been used to argue for and against various attitudes, actions, beliefs and lifestyles… Whether it is the “God hates fags” of the extreme christians, the “Allah is mildly displeased with males lusting after females” or “jahweh doesn’t particularly like ‘dirty’ meat” it all boils down to the same thing… I.e. this “god” has a problem with certain actions, beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes and societal systems.
My question to this has always been… Well why doesn’t He/She/It do something about it? After all this is an entity that you claim is responsible for “creating” absolutely everything. Everything we see, touch, smell, hear, taste, dream of… EVERYTHING! If this deity is so disgusted with a person’s lifestyle, sexual activities, beliefs etc, why don’t they do something about it? And of course I add the caveat question, while they are at it, why don’t they stop war, cancer, paedophilia, heartburn, poverty, starvation, belly-button fluff, small yapping dogs and all the other annoying things in the world today… After all, you have at some point in this discussion said that god/allah,/jahweh/jehovah/the giant spaghetti monster/the invisible beard in the sky/whatever, has “A Plan” (You know yourself, if you have had this conversation this has come up) so why does your deity allow these things to happen if they are not part of The Plan? Why allow these beliefs, activities, actions, attitudes et al to be part of the system in the first place? If I am baking a cake and I didn’t like walnuts I wouldn’t put them in, so why does your deity?
Of course, the standard answer I get is… As I said at the beginning: it’s free will man, innit?!
So free-will? The invisible being that you believe in has A Plan for the whole of human kind and, by that logic, the entire universe that is ineffable and infinitely complex has just decided that it is going to leave most of the stuff that concerns us up to us? It has given us (at least) three sets of rules by which we should live our lives and has then just wandered off and let us get on with it? All the while being there to ensure the sun rises each day, the earthquakes happen on time, the swallows migrate to the right place each year but over-all generally ignoring humanity completely? That’s what you are saying by “free will”?
Well the conclusion I have come to is this… The free will argument is actually somebody saying: “Deep, deep down inside me I KNOW that there is no such thing as (insert deity here) but if I was to actually admit that I would have to come to terms with the fact that I am a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, intolerant, ignorant bigot… and I am too much of a coward to do that so I will blame all my negativity and ignorance on a deity in the sure and certain knowledge that there is no way to argue with that deity.”
So basically, what I’m saying is this “Free will” argument is a cop-out of the highest order… If I don’t like or agree with something… may it be… Oh I don’t know, bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, racism, homophobia… anything that I feel has a detrimental affect upon the society we all live in I will say something. I may be afraid, I may be putting myself in physical danger but I believe I will stand up say something. I know it’s not easy to go against your culture/religion, especially a culture that has had hundreds of years to dominate peoples thinking. But using that cultural/religious “norm” as a basis for bigotry is just lazy and stupid. If you actually do believe a lifestyle/action/attitude “wrong” then by all means stand up and say so. I may not agree with it but I will fight for your right to say it. Don’t hide behind your deity or religious book. Don’t try and say that your deity has A Plan and is against certain lifestyles/attitudes/actions but has washed their hands of humanity to such an extent that it is allowing us to do as we please. This is just passing the buck. You cannot have it both ways! We are either ALL part of The Plan and therefore should be left to live our lives in peace as best we can because we do not and cannot know what that plan is, or we all are free to behave and believe as we wish, in which case there is no deity with A Plan. Either way, You determine how you will treat others, not some book, not some group of old men hundreds of years ago, not some angry, frothing-mouthed bigot claiming to speak on behalf of that deity, YOU.
But that’s just my opinion. I stand by it. If you don’t like it, say so. I won’t hold it against you.