Many people in the western world hold very dear the idea of independence, that they can think freely, choose freely, and express themselves freely. This all is connected to the idea of free will that many believe is what makes us human. Many people cannot, however, define free will. There is always the feeling that one can do whatever he/she wants. That is probably why this idea is such a pleasing concept. There is just one serious flaw in the free will concept. People cannot determine everything; there are some things, even before one is born, that determines who he will be in the future.
Since people do not choose their parents, or the nationality of their family this creates a serious flaw in the free will concept. Now if people were able to choose these sorts of things they would be gods. It is not up to people to choose their skin colour, nationality etc. When one looks at this issue the concept of soft determinism is probably the safest solution to answer this problem. Since in this concept there are things determined for people, if one knows what he is doing, and the choice is not, in any way, forced by the circumstances the action that he is performing is free.
(Roberts 2012) It means that even though one does not have full control over his life, meaning that one does not determine anything before he is born, people are still able to make conscious choices given that the circumstances allow it, fore example, like I am going to do this tonight, or I am visiting this person tomorrow, but these are simple choices, while there are others that you can’t choose freely, like external forces have control over it than your own free will. On a smaller scale, who one person might become is really decided by the governments, society, and religions.
Religions restrict the activities and freedom of those who follow it and live under its rules, just like in other countries, people are slaves to their political system. On a similar note and this is a very rare and cruel case, in countries ruled by dictators the rulers determine whether people live or not. Next comes the laws created by the governments, usually they restrict certain activities that people have to do. Also, governments make rules, regulations and legislation that determine what people will have to do.
Lastly, societies impact the freedom and choices of the person who lives and interact within that society, because his choices are limited. There are many factors that would prove that free will doesn’t exist; religion is the most undecided one of them all. In the Bible particularly, many sources suggest that everybody that believes in God already has his faith determined. Various quotations, starting in the Old Testament, state that people already have their paths determined for them. In the letter to Ephesians St.
Paul writes “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, Jerusalem Bible). It clearly says that if one believes in God and Jesus Christ has his life determined. In another letter to Thessalonians Paul writes that from the beginning “Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This clearly emphasizes the previous point that everyone who believes in God will has his life determined as one of the chosen people who will be saved by God.
This is true for every religion, however it relates to salvation only, not man’s ability to choose his own path. In the very first book of the Old Testament one can interpret the fact that we are created in God’s image, therefore we posses God’s ability to be free (Genesis 1: 26, Jerusalem Bible). Staying with the Bible, in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve, against God’s will ate the fruit of knowing good and evil. This in itself is a proof that humans can see what is right and wrong and therefore choose for themselves whether they want to be on one side or the other.
“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, Jerusalem Bible) tells people that everyone will have to, in his own heart and soul, give God the account of his own actions! On another note, the Qur’an is often wrongly interpreted as being based on determinism. This is false; if a life of a Muslim was determined for him/her at birth there would be no point in him/her trying to find out the nature of his sin, Allah would not have had to send prophets to teach his people the way, because all their actions would be already determined by them (Gorjian 2010).
This suggests that, as far a religion goes people are free to do as they feel is right. This however does not justify the fact that governments take away this freedom from their citizens. Governments taking away freedom from their subjects can be traced back in history, and one the greatest examples for this would be the war of ideologies known as World War II. Political systems are based on ideas like fascism which helped Germans in their economic crisis, communism overthrew the Tzars in Russia which gave the proletariat all the influence they needed, while liberalism promised freedom.
This all seems perfect, however, as it is all well known, there were flaws in each of those systems. Nazis under Hitler were only nice to a great portion of Germans as they were trying to create the master race. All others: Slavs, Roma, Jews were hated and discriminated against. In occupied Poland Nazis closed schools, denied access to education, confiscated automobiles, (Cosby 2010) houses, land and riches. The Only secondary education available was trade school which trained youth for a specific job denying them the opportunity to express themselves in different fields.
They took away people’s freedom putting them in concentration camps and Ghettos; death camps like Auschwitz detained not necessarily Jews but also Poles, Czechs, Gypsies and even Germans (Biega 1996). For the sake of creating the master race they were determined to kill and enslave, even their own people which meant that one could not choose his affiliation freely, he was either with or against Hitler. In Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution aristocrats were condemned to death. In democratic, liberal countries the process of taking away free will is different.
But sticking with the systems; theory of taking away human rights, one has to talk about people operating the machine of terror. Behind every tyranny there is a tyrant including Hitler and Stalin who are probably the most reviled dictators with a very bad reputation. Out of all the evildoers in the world, they were the most remembered for imposing their will on hundreds and thousands of people leaving a stain that makes saying their name in public an awkward thing. Their acts are known to all who knows the history of the 20th century.
Their actions caused a lot of distress, killing and exploiting people, imprisoning innocents and denouncing everybody simple rights, no matter if he was a friends or foes. Nobody was allowed to publically speak their minds, people could be killed for any simple reason. Both of them used concentration and death camps where people would be stripped of their freedoms and their rights did not exist and their bodies were exploited for hard labour or experiments. In these countries dictators were the law.
Now if one looks at a country like North Korea with Kim Il Sung, the previous leader of the nation, he denied people rights of information, freedom of press or freedom of speech. He ordered the whole nation to be brainwashed to believe he was god. Aside from being an attack on one’s free will it was an attack on one’s understanding of the world. When the supreme leader died, people fell into chaos as they did not know what will happen the next day, if there was a next day. Kim Il Sung took away not only their freedom, but also their whole world.
These are things that would be unthinkable in a democratic society. In democratic states laws are a fundamental part of the society. People are afraid of anarchy more than they are scared to lose their rights even though these laws are just written statements of already known moral facts. It is logical that killing someone is immoral, stealing is wrong; all sorts of sexual act are cruel for the victim. Laws are supposed to protect people and make sure that others are shielded from the evildoers who break the law.
There is a difference though between punishing someone for what he has done and changing the laws to suit someone’s personal goal. Looking at the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001. The aftermath of this horrible event sparked even more terrible actions taken by the lawmakers. The Patriot Act was something that unjustifiably took away peoples’ rights to act free not for something that they have done but rather something they might, maybe, probably be doing.
The Patriot Act targeted many innocent people who were under suspicion of being terrorists not because they took part in terrorist training, but rather because they were of a certain skin colour or race. An initiative was put together by editorial cartoonists to present the very hurtful truth of how freedom was taken away through laws. Thus, for example Lalo Alcaraz created a cartoon that presents President Bush saying that liberty is secured while on another panel the Statue of Liberty is seen in prisoner outfit handcuffed and presented like detainees from Guantanamo Bay, commentary is unnecessary for this one.
Another work by Clay Bennett demonstrates workers using materials from house labelled privacy to build a fence around this house which was labelled security. What the author was trying to present is the scandal with phone calls being listened to in order to prevent another attack while trying to listen for any terrorist activity (USA Patriot Art Show). The types of activities presented in the previous argument are shunned upon by many people because they invade their privacy and freedom.
On the other hand laws and regulations with the word ‘freedom’ in them are very highly thought of by citizens since they are an assurance of their freedom and ability to express it. Laws, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of information, and freedom of religious expression or sexual expression, are important, they work as a manifestation of country’s liberty. How is it than that many of these laws, even though they say freedom, do not really give people the right to exercise these rights freely? That is because they contradict with many other rights granted by the government.
And so one has the freedom of speech yet he cannot say racist things or anti-homosexual slurs as it violates the anti hate speech law. This is a very big and unsubordinated flaw on the part of the governments if they are able to pass two contradicting laws. If they do that hen freedom of speech is not so free anymore and takes away one’s ability to say whatever he wants, no matter how offensive or inappropriate it is. However, as much as we can see governments and religions as factors that manipulate or free will, society can be considered one of the biggest factors too.
Society, the people we interact with, live by, and see everyday, those are the ones that constraint your choices and free will. Society even though it is not shown clearly, it still forces the individual to forget about making free choices that will deviate him/her from the norm. destructive attitudes such as racial prejudice, attitudes can lead our thoughts and actions. Social influences can affect human behaviour by changing our attitudes. So, actions like what i just mentioned affect our choices, and limits the options we have to choose from in life.
Society can limit the ways you think, behave, choose, act, and develop, which makes it the perfect tool to completely strip away someone’s freedom without showing that it’s forcing this freedom to be taken away, basically, how society works is it makes us think we are free willed, but we are not free to choose what we want to do. There was enough said in this essay, maybe even too much. There were a lot of thoughts meant to be conveyed and views to be shared. There is only hope that one might understand the fact that governments don’t have to be evil fascist dictatorships or communist oppressors to control its citizens.
Even though we may feel like we have complete control over our free will, there are external forces that impact the way we make our choices and the the paths we choose. Societies, religions, and governments are the major part of these external forces that manipulate our choices and our free will, so in the end, this idea of complete free will might be an illusion since humans are controlled by and external force whether it be government, religion or the society and individual lives in.
“Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, New Revised Standard Version) “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, Jerusalem Bible) In the very first book of the Old Testament one can interpret the fact that we are created in God’s image, therefore we posses God’s ability to be free (Genesis 1: 26, Jerusalem Bible) “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, Jerusalem Bible).
Courtney from Study Moose
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