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Is it really free will? Homework: Midterm Edition!

A branch off from something that was on the midterm Wed. Anonymous trolls need not apply to whine about something you don't understand.

So an aspect of the free will question from last week came up on the midterm - the basic concept that belief depends on faith, not on reason, because that is what defines it as belief. Another tenet of belief is that it requires free will. Free will means a decision made completely on one's own, free of outside influences.

So with all 3 of those factors in mind, can anyone truly believe? You can be influenced by fear - fear of being wrong, fear of rejection from family. You can be influenced by love or comfort - when you pray you feel warm inside and want to feel that again. You can be influenced by what you've read - the Bible or Quran or Eddas or whatever sacred writing. You can be influenced by what someone teaches you.
After any/some/all of those exposures, is it really free will?


Asked by NotPanicking at 3:08 PM on Oct. 15, 2009 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (11)
  • No, I do not think any belief system is made entirely up of free will. As you said, we are influenced by what we read, are taught, the people who we hang out with it, others opinions etc. From the moment we are born, we are being "taught' how to believe or what to believe, either through others actions AGAINST us, or others opinions and words towards us. They all form our belief system, our core being.
    While I believe that my attachment to the natural world is inborn in me....the actions of the churchs' I was forced to go too; the fact that my parents forced me to go and the actions of so called christians only furthered my adoration of the natural world.
    I think there is very little left to free will, in its entirety-unfortunately.

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 4:52 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I'll clarify here, too. I'm not suggesting everyone is really an atheist - what I'm asking is if we've set up such an impossible definition of what constitutes faith and belief that nobody can actually do what it says one must do to have that belief and faith.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 3:09 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I think it can make it hard, yes. But, even if they are "believing" a certain faith, idea, belief, because fear of whatever, they still know inside it's not it's really a facade. So does that count against there being a free will if the person doesnt believe what other think they do?

    I do believe there is free will as long as a person figures it out for themselves. They can take information from books, religious leaders, even family.....but as long as they decide for themselves, then I think it's free will.

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:20 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I think that it is difficult to form your own beliefs because of what society thinks is okay. If I decided the Easter Bunny was real and was God it would not be accepted, but if I conform with a belief that existed previously, it will be accepted. I personally am a Christian and Christian belief states that those who claim they never accepted Christ because they were taught differently or never taught anything are unexcused because evidence of the truth is everywhere. This theory basically implies that if seperated from any influence at all you will eventually find what you believe on your own because it is a part of you and evident in the world from your perspective.

    Answer by amber710 at 3:23 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • NP, are you asking if we have the free will to believe not believe or if we just end up believing because of certain variables (fear, feelings, conditioning)?

    I think that some people believe for those reasons, or don't believe for those reasons, sure. I don't think that means they don't have free will though, it is just they maybe aren't excersizing it.

    Have you ever read Romans 7 or Galatians 5 it kinda talks about this issue in a way you might be interested in (I don't know, it might add to your argument somehow). But basically it talks about a lack of free will in the sense that our natural desires war against our spiritual desires and we end up doing things we don't want, and not doing the things that we want to do. Galatians talks about a war between our flesh and our spirit and how we can become enslaved to our natural desires, and how we can have free will.

    Answer by Cinnamon-mom at 3:48 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I think defining free will in such a way (specifically 'completely on one's own, free of outside influences') presupposes the idea that we are able to exist freely and independantly. Realistically, this is not the way of the world. None of us are completely independant in our thinking- we are constantly in contact with other people, the media, the written word, and so many others. To me to include 'free of outside influences' as a necessary condition for free will is just not realistic. Without taking outside influences into account, what options would be be exercising our free will to choose between?

    Answer by Freela at 3:48 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • How does this idea apply to you personally, with your beliefs? What do you think?

    Answer by Cinnamon-mom at 3:49 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • If you define free will as being a decision made without outside influences, than no, nobody can truly have free will. People not living in isolation will always be influenced by other people. When it comes to faith & beliefs, it is now virtually impossible for people to come to it without outside influence. However, I don't think that is a good definition of free will. I think it should be without coercion rather influence.


    Answer by nysa00 at 4:01 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I agree with nysa00 free will is without coersion not with out influence because if you beleive you ahve been influenced by the teachings of Christ

    Answer by mamak57 at 4:06 PM on Oct. 15, 2009

  • I think it should be without coercion rather influence.

    But then that becomes a very gray area. If your great-grandfather kicked your great-uncle out of the family for converting to a different faith, and you know this happened, is it coercion or influence? If your grandparent tells you the story but doesn't denounce those actions, coercion or influence? Or at another extreme. Someone has a drug addiction, and when they finally go through rehab, they find that singing in a church choir gives them the same adrenaline rush that drugs did. Coercion or influence?

    Answer by NotPanicking at 4:16 PM on Oct. 15, 2009