The Free Will Fumble: Why Christians Treat it Just Like They do With Unanswered Prayer

Christians have developed so many ways to escape the force of the evidence that it’s frustrating to those of us who are trying to reason with them. I’ve written about several of them before. There is the big one I call The Omniscience Escape Clause. Another one I haven’t quite developed yet I call The Faith Trump Card, which is leaping beyond the actual probabilities of the evidence itself. No reasonable person can leap beyond what the evidence calls for. If Christians conclude it’s 51% probable Jesus arose from the dead then they simply cannot conclude they know he did. That’s an unjustified leap. If I thought it’s 51% probable the Colts will play in the Super Bowl and win it this year (fat chance) I would be ignorant to say I know this will happen, especially enough to bet all my meager life savings on it (which is zilch).

Then there’s something I focused on in my book, Why I Became an Atheist, which I’ll call Punting to the Possible. Time after time when confronted with an intractable problem for their faith Christians will respond by saying that it’s still possible their god exists, or that Jesus arose from the dead, or that a donkey talked. When it comes to the problem of evil they’ll say it’s not impossible that god is good despite the weight of evidence. That is, unless we can prove their god doesn’t exist then they can go on their merry way believing. But this is unreasonable, utterly unreasonable. Who in their right mind would require that a skeptic must prove a god doesn’t exist? The Mormons use the same tactic by saying that despite the evidence to the contrary it’s still possible their god exists. Of course it is. It’s just very very improbable.

Now we have what I’ll call The Free Will Fumble. Someone fumbles the ball so to speak on an important play and Christians will attribute it to free will. After all, they’ll opine, their god doesn’t want to coerce people to obey or to believe. So there’s murder and mayhem in the streets? No problem. “People have free will,” is the answer (a libertarian will say this). A Christian loses  his or her faith? Again, no problem. God doesn’t coerce faith.

But when someone does something good then god gets the credit. God inspired Handel to create "The Messiah." Praise god for this! Someone found my wallet and returned it. Thanks ya Jesus. God granted us safety for our trip from any potential muggers out there. God is good. My boss gave me a raise. Hallelujah.

Just look what’s going on here. Christians are treating these actions exactly as they do with unanswered prayer. They are  counting the hits and discounting the misses. If Christians want to opine that their god doesn’t coerce us, then be consistent. Does he or doesn’t he? In the Bible there are several characters who were convinced by god to believe, like Moses, Gideon, Mary & Joseph, and Saul of Tarsus, apparently without abrogating their free will. So which is it? Can god do this or not, and if he can do this with them why not me, or anyone else?

Scientific studies on prayer have consistently shown that petitionary prayer doesn’t work. The evidence is against prayer. And the evidence is against god’s actions in this world through people too. I mean, really, can god answer any prayers that involve the actions of other people? If he can, then why isn’t there evidence that he does (beyond anecdotal evidence, which is no evidence at all)? And if he can’t, then how in the world can he answer any of these prayers, or to be praised when someone does something we prayed for?

Free will becomes an excuse for a God that does nothing. The Free Will Fumble is yet just another excuse for an incompetent god. I mean really, what can God do if we have free will?

Take a moment to read this lengthy post of mine that can be found in WIBA: Nature and value of free will.