Michael J. Holton
I'm fairly new to the organized freethinking-atheism movement, so excuse my probable re-hashing of old issues.
I was brought up in a Catholic family with a very devout mother.
As I got older and started to think critically about the religion I was
born into, my mother and I clashed about many of the same issues that you
regularly discuss in this forum. Two of the most obviously (to me) logical
lines of reasoning I employed regard the widespread Christian belief that
"God has a plan greater than us all" and that the explanation
for any event - positive or negative - is simply that it was a piece of
that plan. The other being the seemingly contradictory belief that prayer
I just wanted to bounce them off you, and see if you might elaborate on it.
According to the bible, humans were given freedom of action by God, and this explains why some people choose to do "evil". As we know, the bible also claims that God is all-powerful, and could prevent these actions if he so chose. Being able to prevent something seems to necessitate some sort of precognizance of that event. (Of course, God must know of everything before it happens, or else that lack of knowledge would seriously dent his omniscience.) And God certainly wouldn't change his mind about my future or my actions. That would be a sign of indecision, a markedly un-omnipotent characteristic.
So, God knows of everything I do before I do it. It would be impossible to surprise Him. If I become a Baptist minister, it's part of His plan. If I go postal and shoot up a McDonald's, He had His reasons for that, too. That being true, why should I try to impress, obey, or follow him? He already knows what will happen to me and what kind of person I will be. To deviate from the course that God has laid out for me would be to either overpower him or to surprise him. I simply have no chance of doing either of those things against an all-powerful being.
In other words, either I've already lived my life for God's viewing, unbeknownst to myself, or else I am making choices as I go along, and God doesn't know any better than I do what they will be until I make them. The conclusion I always told my mother I arrived at was that, since God certainly can't be persuaded to change his plan for me, I should just sit back and ride the train to its destination. She would then, of course, proceed to pray for me. This caused me to giggle at the thought that she was asking God, who is so much wiser than she, to change the plan He had so intelligently devised.
In essence, isn't that what prayer is - asking God to change His mind? If someone is sick, and you pray for their recovery, you're saying, "God, I suppose you plan to kill Uncle Milt, but could you please reconsider?"
Is it as funny to you as it is to me to hear people praying that "God's will be done"? It seems to be fate Vs. chaos. It must be one or the other, and most Christians abhor both.
I know you must be busy, but any response would be interesting to me.
Michael J. Holton
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Michael J. Holton"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 2:49 PM
These are some of the same questions I had shortly before the fragile eggshell of my faith began to crack.
Theists themselves (mostly Christian and Muslim) have warred for centuries over the predestination vs. free will issue. It was also a small debate among materialists (scientists) until Heisenberg determined that it is impossible to specify simultaneously the position and momentum of a subatomic particle with any precision. (In quantum mechanics, probability calculations therefore replace the exact calculations of classical mechanics.)
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