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The Anatomy of Freedom: Free Will, Fate and the Problem with God’s Plan

The ceiling of my apartment has been hanging low lately. After watching a film that detailed the slaughter of millions of humans by the intentional hands of other humans, a train of thought has regrettably begun to bulldoze its way through my every waking moment and raze some spiritual foundations that I have always figured to be immovable. My main query has been how can such aggressive acts of inhumanity exist in this God filled aquarium of humanity that I have always considered the world to be? How do these extreme acts of annihilation fit in the world of karma, retribution and justice that I have based my very existence on my entire life? Every night I pray. I believe in a world of spiritual rules that effect the human soul and its consequences if broken and I pray for strength, courage and wisdom to deal with the bullshit that happens in life. Partly to circumvent the bullshit, but also to give me the wherewithal to understand that the bullshit that happens is but a single chord in a much bigger song, despite how soberingly bitter that chord may sound at the time. But after watching this film, musing over the perceived amnesty of the perpetrators of some of humanity’s greatest crimes and not necessarily understanding how such evil could exist on one side of the spiritual scale of existence without any reciprocity on the on the other side, my prayers began to feel as if I were speaking into empty hands. And the cosmos, beyond the cosmos, beyond any infinity I could imagine where I felt God lived above my ceiling, undramatically disappeared like a malfunctioning cursor on the computer screen. In the blink of an eye, one second he was there, the next he was gone. And there I was in my uncomfortably empty apartment, speaking into empty, clasped hands under a low ceiling with no confidence of an existing heaven anywhere above it.

Atheism, in the broadest sense of the word, is the disbelief in the existence of deities, or the divine, or… God. In my younger days I dabbled with the label of atheism more so than the actual concept. When you grow up in a fairly religious household it’s as easy as it is par for course to rebel against doctrine. Simple acts of thievery, lying or fellatio can be seen as the utmost acts of treason against your covenant with the Lord. But I can’t say I was ever truly a nonbeliever. I rebelled against the homophobia I was taught, the sexism, the incest, the long haired white dude I was forced to imagine as my creator and savior; but not necessarily the idea that the world was in someone’s hands. If not George Burns or William Dafoe then SOMEBODY.

But there was something about the language in which this particular film spoke that left me gravely unsatisfied with the way the world works and if there is any reason at all for any of it existing. After badgering my friends with tales of my spiritual discontentment and they in turn trying to dangle the carrot of atheism in front of me, I decided to call on my sister, pretty much the only Christian who has ever made sense to me. My basic question to her was, “When you turn on the news, and you hear of these horrible things going on in the world, people stabbing pregnant women and cutting the baby out of their stomach, thugs gang rapping children, men pouring acid on their wives faces, when you hear these things, what keeps you from running out in the middle of the street naked screaming at the top of your lungs, WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?! WHY ARE YOU LETTING THESE THINGS HAPPEN?!”

Basically what she said was that she doesn’t think God micromanages humanity. That God gave man free will and told us, “it’s on you dude, whatever you decide to do, it’s on you. I’m here if you need me, kinda, but whatever you decide to do, it’s on you.” So the Holocust, the Middle Passage, all the atrocities of the world, those are of men, not of God. God had nothing to do with any of that. He gave us consciousness so that we could govern ourselves. If he were to be so tightly involved in our lives, we would just be these marionette like creatures breathing and moving at his His will and command. She doesn’t feel that’s what He wanted, a world of Barbie and Ken dolls without consciousness or soul that he would move around indiscriminately according to whatever screenplay that happened to be going through his head at the time. He wanted living, breathing creatures with thought and feelings who fuck, fuck up, create, love and hate. The bad shit is really bad, but that’s because of us and our twisted selves, not because He created it. Like, you can’t necessarily blame Jeffrey Dahmer’s PARENTS for Jeffrey Dahmer. Though I get the inclination of looking at them a little weird in the produce section of the grocery store… you can’t really condemn them for the actions of their son who acted boldly and independently of any the lessons he was taught. He did that shit, not his parents.

I mull this over as I regrettably take tiny bites from the carrot of atheism that have been dangling in front of me ever since I watched that mind fuck of a movie. Taking a nod from Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go Of God” I put on the “Godless Goggles”, I imagined a world without God. I imagined slipping on spectacles that allow me to view a world where no conscionable God exists. For her, the world pretty much stayed the same. And I can hear my friends saying that the world can still be filled with mystery, magic and awe and at the same time not have God. But I think it’s at this point where “faith” comes into play and the idea of having a soul. I remember having this rather heated debate in regards to defining what exactly is “soul”, is it different from having a consciousness and if God created both as well as the playing fields in which they both play out their free will, shouldn’t we just blame God for it all when your team loses? And if your team loses, is it because God wasn’t paying attention? And if he isn’t paying attention, should we question his omnipotence.

Being no theologian or intellect what I have come up with in my arm chair theologian intelligence is that consciousness makes you think, soul makes you feel, free will is the vehicle you use to express the two. I’m sort of at the point of thinking that God is the non-gender specific master of souls who goes through great lengths to not micromanage our actions but welcomes us back into fold when we’re done fucking around.

So yes, I do believe in God. Not necessarily the Bible or Catholicism or Christianity or any Western view of a long-haired white hippie dude God. But I do believe in the soul and how better managing it can bring more order to the universe. Now, this is the part of the conversation where my friends would “throw books” at me and start quoting some theory by some scientist or philosophy about how there is absolutely no order in the world and it is in our DNA to find order; that’s what makes humans human, but in reality there is no order in the universe at all because it has been scientifically proven to be so and who can argue with science? Me! That’s who! I just think that’s all bullshit. Fuck Stephen Hawking. Sun comes up every morning. Moon comes up at night. I drink coffee then I have to take a shit. Order, order, order.

I’m definitely one of those people whose belief systems operate on intangibles, unknowables and faith. During this journey I’ve been on I now realize that intellect means nothing to me without trust and faith. No book or document will ever make sense to me unless I feel it, no matter the author. And curiously enough, the opposite is not true; I can feel things without a need for justification or reason. But again, there was this movie and there was something so unsatisfying about not knowing what the spiritual reasoning behind so much of the world’s pain. I likened it to a parent who tells a child to not touch a hot pot or to quit jumping up and down on the couch. (For the most part) the child goes along with the instructions. Momma said get down from the couch, I trust momma, I’m just gonna go along with it. But as you get older, and your parents tell you to do something, you need a little more clarification. If she tells you not to date that boy, you just don’t automatically say, momma knows best, I’m just gonna go with it. If you really like the boy you’re gonna go “Why?” Don’t go to that party. “Why?” Don’t go over your uncle’s house. “Why?” You need a little more information. You just can’t blindly accept those directions without any additional context or information. As you get older your eyes are too wide and your nose is too open accept a simple, “Because I said so.” “Why do you say so? Why is this? What is going on? Why can’t I be a part of this process? Why? Why? Why?”

This is where I am with God whereas, I’m trying to believe there is a purpose to all of this, I’m trying to believe the Holocaust and the Middle Passage is part of a chorus of a much greater celestial orchestra, but I need just a little… just a LITTLE more information as to… why. Give me something. Anything. 60 million people were slaughtered during the holocaust. Throw me a bone here God… just, why? What was the purpose? Why did the people get away with it? How does that fit in a world of good and evil when evil is in so much abundance and good is so expensive… draining our emotional wherewithal, leaving us weak and poor… and questioning… everything.

So, I slide those goggles back on. I take a good look at the world with no God. Katrina. The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The 2010 Haiti earthquake. You have no one to blame. You eliminate any celestial cadence that could have possibly reverberated down to this earthly plane and investigate and research it down to its rationale quantifiable scientific reasonings. Pain is pain. Death is death and when you’re done, you’re just done, the whole kit and caboodle. People will remember you and that will be your legacy, and hopefully people will love you and speak well of you. But there will be no spirit to speak of, in theatrical ghost form or otherwise. Your whole existence will be in that box and the world goes one completely without you. Outside of memories, and maybe the money you might leave, you will have no residual effect. And with the elimination of a spiritual plane, there is no sin, so you live solely by the rules of man and exist solely by his authority. Nazi’s kill Jews, the KKK kill Black people because… they can, and they did, and that’s fucked up, but that’s the way it is. If you slip through the cracks of the legal or political system, there is no retribution for the victims on any other plane. I think it’s like, if you believe in the randomness of the universe and align yourself to that chaos, everything makes sense. You can have the most invigorating orgasm of your life and your Dad can get mutilated by accidentally walking into the blades of a helicopter and it will all makes sense because… it doesn’t makes sense, they will be isolated events with no connection or rhyme. You can have a spaghetti dinner and children can get raped. Miley Cyrus can get nominated for a Grammy and a terrorist can douse himself with gasoline and walk into a coffeeshop. Basically… shit happens, there would be no deeper meaning.

There is such levity in that. Such a… breath of fresh air even. I think it eliminates the possibility of ulcers for many people to just, let it go. Quit asking why. Just deal with what it is. I think death is even more palatable that way without romanticizing the fate of the soul. Honestly, seriously, it all makes perfect sense.

Now, if only I could believe it. If I only felt that way…

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