Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Freedom and Free Will

America was founded under the assumption of Divine Providence. Whether or not some segments of our current population might like it, our Founding Fathers believed that God had given them this opportunity, and in fact, duty, to establish a new kind of nation in which the people had protected personal freedoms, the utmost among those the Freedom of Religion. They were well aware that with great freedom comes great responsibility.

Humans have always had trouble obeying rules. Part of that problem is that we have these wonderful, highly evolved minds that live in still rather animalistic bodies that can and do overwhelm our minds sometimes. And then there are just some people whose minds are faulty too. ;-)

What can people do if they want to allow everyone to have great Freedom but some people aren't really capable or even willing to exercise the responsibility that comes with that Freedom? Well, usually, we have to make some rules that protect everyone's freedoms, and when certain people refuse to honor those rules then we try to reform them or remove them from society.

God gave Mankind "free will" which means that we have the choice to do what's right or to do what's not right and many other things in between. God knew that this free will put a lot of pressure on mankind to learn how to respect each other and further evolve spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, and that's why He did it. (just as we challenge our own children to become 'better' people)

What would be the point of a Universe with no degrees of freedom? String theory suggests that even in the "beginning" there were/are at least 10^500 degrees of freedom. ;-) Well, I'm probably (or definitely) misusing that whole thing, but please forgive me since my own brain's 10^500 degrees of freedom are a bit unruly today. ;-)

Of course, I know by looking at the natural world that we do operate under a certain amount of determinism in the form of the Laws of Nature. But the Laws of Nature/God and the Laws of Man do basically serve the same purpose of containing chaos, though usually the Laws of Man achieve this by severely limiting choices and freedoms. And that's just not Natural. While the Laws of Nature tell me that I can't flap my arms and start to fly (except when dreaming), they also tell me that I have the choice as to how I think (or don't think) about God, religion, science, and just about everything else. Our minds are kind of a reflection of all those degrees of freedom.

Well, what was I trying to say anyway? I guess the point I'd like to make is that God/Nature has "given" us a great deal of freedom by virtue of Free Will and that America was founded on the precept that using this Free Will for the advancement of individual Freedoms was the purest use of that Free Will.

Unfortunately, I see too many people forgetting all about Free Will and Freedom in the way they think and act. They forget that their Freedom ends where someone else's begins. They forget that with their Freedom they have a lot of Responsibility, including not to infringe on others' freedoms. And it is hard sometimes to accept that others have the freedom to do or think things that we disagree with or don't like. The point of Freedom of Speech, for example, is not to protect abusive behavior because abuse is the result of exercising no Responsibility. The point of it all is to learn tolerance and to transcend the base impulses to oppress the Freedom of others in whatever forms that oppression might take (abuse, ridicule, insult, imprisonment, etcetera).

Freedom does not insure constant Happiness. But it does insure the Pursuit of Happiness, as our founding fathers already told us. Free Will is our gift from God/Nature. Freedom is that gift in action. And Responsibility is what keeps it pure.

Amen. Go in Peace.


dhammett said...

You're absolutely right to say that with freedoms come responsibilities and that one's freedoms end where another's begin. Having said that, even irresponsible and hateful speech is protected under our Constitution. Former NBA player Tim Hardaway's remarks last week about homosexuality were regretful at best, incredibly stupid at worst, yet entirely constitutionally protected; and he is well within his rights to feel the way he does. However, he now needs to deal with the consequences of his feelings and remarks. In a perfect world, we all exercise our freedoms responsibly. In our fallen world, we frequently put our mouths in gear before our brains are fully engaged. But other than limiting ourselves with wisdom and restraint, placing any other limits on that freedom is a slippery slope.

We all know the "sticks and stones" saw. That gets us to another side of the situation, dealing with our freedom of choice. If one insults us, we are immediately faced with a choice. We do not have to be offended. However, we can choose to be offended. It's interesting that in the English language, common phrasing is "to take offense." To do so is understandable. To choose not to take offense shows how much bigger/better a person we are than those who resort to ad hominem attacks and vitriol.

Rae Ann said...

dh, thanks, and you're right too about choosing to take offense or not. I'm not trying to dismiss that aspect of things at all, but it's important to remind ourselves sometimes that it's usually best not to start throwing sticks and stones in the first place. ;-)

That basketball guy was irresponsible in his words for sure, but true, they are protected. What many people need to remember is that while his stating he hates a particular group of people is protected, if he went to a group of them and began verbally abusing them that's not really "protected" speech anymore.

In an almost perfect world we might be able to always ignore verbal attacks and insults, but some of us aren't always that resistant and tough. ;-) And that's why we have to have laws - to protect.

And of course, I do object to the 'slippery slope' upon which the politically correct movement builds its arguments. But it seems that the fault there lies with the misapplication of the laws and not with the laws themselves. Well, I don't know. Sorry, I'm just rambling. ;-)

dhammett said...

No, Rae Ann, I don't think you're rambling. This is just some very complicated stuff. As you said, it is important to remind ourselves that it's usually best not to start throwing sticks and stones. In fact, I'd say it's always best not to be throwing sticks and stones.

But Hardaway's comments, hateful though they may be, are constitutionally protected. Those protections should not be abridged by laws outlawing "hate speech." If one were to approach a particular group of people and say I hate you all, you (insert favorite pejorative here), you should be legally (according to the Constitution) entitled to do that. Of course, when the paramedics come to cart you off to the hospital, you've got only yourself to blame. Plus, their acts have spiritual as well as earthly consequences.

On the other hand, if your speech includes conspiring against our government with Islamofacists, then the Constitution says sorry, can't do that. IMHO, that ought to be the final word.

Regarding your toughness, you shouldn't have to be and it's understandable to be hurt by unprovoked attacks. I'm not in any way intending to support hurtful or hateful speech. I'm only saying that like it or not, our forefathers said it is protected.

That doesn't excuse lack of civility or common decency. People who don't use restraint and who don't adhere to accepted behavioral conventions are to be scorned and pitied.

Michael said...

I am curious. Is Tim Hardaway any different than God regarding homosexuals?

Bill Maher hates Christians weekly on his show with vile comments, yet suffers nothing and is considered a hero.

It goes both ways.

And no, I'm not saying anyone should hate homosexuals. But it is a curious reality of what is spoken in the Bible in old and new testaments.

I have another point to make about reciprocity of freedoms, but will wait for anymore comments as the above is probably enough to discuss.

I enjoyed the post.

Rae Ann said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure if God really hates homosexuals. I'm not one to judge that, though I do know what the Bible says. You are right that there is definitely a double standard when it comes to Christians. But God told us that would happen.

Please do continue with your thoughts. Thanks.