Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Will

Christians used to believe in free will.  I've been wondering lately if they still do.  (I'm not a Christian, but I live in a country which finds it difficult to conceive of morality outside the Christian framework.)  I have the impression that God gave us free will and we're supposed to use it.  To me that implies that, not only do we get to make choices, but a wide variety of choices are probably acceptable.  If there is really only One Right Way, that's not a choice, is it?

But, for example, when I hear some Christians talk about homosexuality, free will seems to vanish.  Specifically, the conservative Christian argument goes as follows: To be homosexual is a sin, but since we're all sinful it may not be any worse than any other sin. However, to act on one's homosexual desires is definitely wrong.   What becomes of free will in that situation?

To me that sounds like any exercise of one's free will is immoral, because we are born sinful and therefore all our natural desires are sinful. There is actually no choice in moral matters: you can only obey the commandments of your religion. (Or other authority figures.)  Maybe the Christian definition of free will never meant anything other than, "you have a choice either to behave and go to Heaven, or misbehave and suffer eternal damnation."  I really don't think that's much of a choice.

In any case, it's an axiom of the homosexual movement that homosexuality is not a choice.  This may grant us a certain amount of tolerance, according to the argument described above, that "we're all sinners," but that tolerance only seems to go so far.  It's extremely dependent on people not flaunting it.  (I also think it's a stumbling block as regards the gay marriage issue, because everybody knows that marriage is a choice.)

Fundamentally, homosexuality is something you do, as well as something you are.  And that will always get back to the question of choice and free will.  I'm not entirely convinced that the "not a choice" argument is helpful.  Saying, "it's not my fault, I was born that way" confirms the belief that it is sinful.  It says, "Yes this is a bad thing but you can't blame me for it."

Choosing to act on X says, "I believe this is the right thing to do."  It poses a moral challenge.  We say that if we are to be true to ourselves we must act on this, act out this, be visible instead of invisible.  We say that true morality consists of being true to ourselves . . . and that's the complete opposite of the Christian doctrine of original sin.

(Yes, this entire argument applies to transgender as well.  I'll be writing about that in an upcoming post.)

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