Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with my brother. I don't recall the specifics, but the topic was church related. I was complaining about some aspect of LDS theology, and he asked why I don't just drop it all and walk away from it. I explained that it wasn't that simple. He responded that it was; all I had to do was leave it all behind and walk away. I stated that for me, just walking away wasn't an option. I have to work things out in my mind, analyze and dissect it all. With decades in the church, all that would take time.
I have been considering this for quite some time since the conversation. Why was something so difficult for me, when it was so easy for my brother? Why can't I leave the church alone? I have free agency, don't I? Do I have free agency? What if free will is an illusion?
Holy shit. What if free will IS an illusion?
its not a concept that was entirely foreign to me. I'd heard people claim that they didn't believe in free will, but I dismissed the idea as absurd and really didn't give it much thought. Of course free will exists.
The idea festered in my subconscious until this conversation with my brother. After leaving the church, I was determined to lead a more skeptical life. Shouldn't the concept of free will also be approached with the same skepticism? I concluded that it should.
I had always been taught that Heavenly Father was all-knowing. He knew everything about me--past, present and future. There were plenty of scriptures to back this up. I realized that this was one of the classic "put it on a shelf" doctrines for me, one that I'd all but forgotten about. So, how does God's omniscience play a part in free will?
Consider this: if God knows all, including what the future holds for us, he intimately knows the path we will follow before we take it. Thus, God predicted our life in advance, and our lives are merely a fulfillment of that prediction. We are only following the path God predicted for us from the beginning.
With this in mind, is it possible for us to make a decision and take an action that God cannot and has not predicted? No, because to do so would prove God wrong. God can't be wrong.
So, if God knows in advance how the entirety of human existence plays out, what's the point of it all? If He knows who will be saved and who won't, why bother with life in the first place? Why go to the trouble of creating the universe when you already know the outcome? Doesn't that really render Jesus and the atonement irrelevant? I would argue that it does. It seems logical to me that if you believe in the Christian version of God, you'd have to reject free will by default. To do otherwise feels irrational.
For the first time since I really started questioning the church, I found myself standing on the edge of another deep rabbit hole. The last time I decided to go down the hole, I found that it led me away from the church I was raised in, the church I believed was true. The consequences to my life were deep and far-reaching. The path of my life would be forever altered. Could the impact be similar this time around?
I decided to take the journey to see how far down this rabbit hole goes. To be clear, I still believe I have free will, at least to a degree. I reject the concept of God as being omniscient, which means I reject the Christian God. Absent further evidence, it's the only conclusion that I can logically accept. However, I also believe there is enough reasonable doubt about free will in my mind as to warrant further study.
This is a concept that philosophers have been trying to understand for millennia, and still have not come to a consensus. But that doesn't mean I can't try to figure it all out for myself, although I admit I will never likely find a finality on the topic.
However, as I have followed the rabbit hole, other questions have arisen: What is reality? How was all this created? Is there life outside of earth? How was the universe created? What, ultimately, is the meaning of life? These, and many other questions, have been in the forefront Of my mind. It makes sense that these topics would all be connected. It used to be that the church had all these answers, or at the very least claimed that they did. But now, as I try to be a skeptic, I must reapproach these ideas from a new perspective, and accept the fact that my worldview may have been wrong all along.
i have no idea how deep this rabbit hole will go, or where it will end up. One thing that has become clear to me during this journey is how much more amazing the universe-and my place in it-truly is. Religion gave me a very narrow view of the world, and I see people within religions of all types with a similar narrow perspective to life. In every way possible, the church held me back and stunted my growth. I am now just beginning to see the infinite possibilities, the sheer wonder of the universe, in a way that I was never able to as a Mormon. A curiosity has been awakened in me that I haven't felt since childhood.
I certainly don't have all the answers, but a closer look into free will is worth exploring. Inevitable, perhaps. Maybe I don't have a choice.