Saturday, 2 June 2012

Things Christians say: part 17. Free agents!

A weekly series of responses to the things Christians say to atheists, based on the video reproduced here on 30th January 2012.  The aim is to tackle one every weekend, to give both a moderate, polite response to each question ('Piano'), followed by a more forceful rebuttal of the same question ('Forte'). 

They want to be their own free agents - free of any consequences.


What is a free agent?  Presumably part of the definition includes the concept of free will, so aren't we all free agents in that sense? 

Free will is often used by Christians to explain why there is suffering and evil in the world.  Apparently God gave us free will so that we could choose, and if we were not able to choose to do evil then that free will would not really be free at all.

We are free to act badly and suffer the real consequences in the real world without having to invoke the unprovable concept of eternal punishment in an afterlife as a threat.



Nobody in the world is truly a free agent.  Even the likes of Putin and Berlusconi who undoubtedly have had great power over many years are not entirely free to do anything they like.  They get away with a lot, but still risk punishment.

Moreover, almost all people are required to abide by the law and risk the consequences if they transgress it.  I am talking here of the law and consequences of the country that they live in, rather than 'God's law'.  In order to abide by the law, we do not need a supernatural and well hidden being watching over us, but police.

It is well established that belief in a god does not make anyone more law-abiding, as the proportion of atheists in prison populations is lower that that in the general public.  That claim is often made in USA (where I think the last set of data is nearly 90 years old) but it is also to be found in this recent UK report, as kindly provided to me by Robert Stovold last week.  (Visit his site for some other useful resources.)  He says of that report:

A March 2011 ‘YouGov’ poll found that 61% of people in England and Wales are religious, while the remaining 39% had no religion. Prison Population Statistics published in February 2012, on the other hand, showed that 68.7% of inmates were affiliated with a religion while 31.3% were not. 

The only thing is, certain communities decide that they are going to bound by the law, and yes those communities are sometimes religious and therefore presumably 'better than atheists'!   For example, Sharia Law is seen by them as being above the law of the land, and as such they are attempting to act as free agents.

That is why I want us to have One Law for All - not God's law - not Allah's law, but THE law where nobody is really a free agent in the sense that they get away with their serious misdeeds.

Last week: If you were a Christian and now you are an atheist, you were never a true Christian to begin with.
Next week: Finally we get to claim that Hitler acted 'in the name of atheism'

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