12 October 2006

Is God Possible?

BAD NEWS FOR GOD
The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
10/11/06


The best arguments for God presuppose that he is perfect. Some theists (persons who believe in God) argue that God exists because he alone can explain where the universe comes from. The underlying idea is the Stevie Wonder principle that you can't get something from nothing. The theist then argues that since the universe couldn't have come from nothing, God must have created it. The theists then note that because God is perfect he has to exist and hence was not created by something else.

Consider what a perfect being is like. He must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. The absence of one of these features would be a flaw and perfect beings don't have flaws. Unfortunately for theists, no being can have all three features.

Consider whether there can be a person who is both all-powerful and all-good. Many readers enjoy malicious pleasures. These are pleasures that accompany evildoing. For example, many of Stanley Kubrick's fans enjoy watching out-of-control criminals and abusive drill instructors wreaking havoc (for example, Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket). Males who went to high school often snicker at the time-honored tradition of senior athletes giving wedgies to freshmen (pulling the top of someone's underwear until it hurts). An all-good person can't enjoy such pleasures and hence doesn't know something, namely what these pleasures are like.

A similar thing is true with regard to being all-powerful and all-knowing. An all-powerful person can't be harmed. If such a person had great knowledge, then he would know that he can't be harmed and hence can't feel fear. As a result, there would be something that an all-powerful person can't know.

A person also can't be all-good and all-powerful. For example, an all-powerful being can do evil. For example, he can kill and eat the weak just for the fun of it. An all-good being can't this because he can do something only if he can be motivated to do it and an all-good being can't be motivated to do such monstrous acts. Worse yet, given the importance that the theist assigns to free will--he needs it to account for evil--he has a problem in explaining why God has free will. A being that freely does good has the option of doing evil. However, since an all-good being can't do evil, he doesn't have that option, and lacks free will. Hence, an all-good being can't be all-powerful or have free will.

These results drive a stake into the heart of theism. The best arguments for God's existence depend on his being perfect and yet a perfect being is impossible. At this point, the theist has at three options: he can deny that God is subject to logic, he can deny that God is perfect, or he can claim that a perfect being need not have the above features.

The notion that God is not subject to logic reduces most religious doctrines to hash. For example, when persons say God is great, they mean to rule out that God tortures puppies for fun or has a temperament nearly identical to Roseanne. When they say they believe in God, they mean to rule out his not existing. However, if God is not subject to logic then neither thing follows. In fact, were this notion true, then human beings would not be able to reason correctly about God.

The theist might deny that God is perfect, perhaps by saying that perfection is no more possible than is a largest number. The problem with this move is that it undermines the best arguments for God's existence. For example, it undermines the argument that attempts to show that the existence of God explains why there is a universe.

The theist's best bet is to deny that a perfect being is all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful, and has free will. The problem with this is that the theist will then have to specify which features God has. For example, does the theist concede that God is a little bit evil or does he deny that God has free will? The problem with this escape route is that the choice of which features God has and doesn't have is arbitrary and his perfection can't rest on arbitrary things. If it did, then God's perfection would depend on chance or external causes and such dependence is a flaw.

Bad news for God, he doesn't exist. However, this doesn't prevent us from having great families, leading moral lives, and laughing at the politicians the devil has placed in Washington and Albany.

***

Defining God Out of Existence
The Theist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
10/11/06


Atheists make poor theologians. Still, we find them telling everyone about how God would have to be, if there was one (but of course, there isn't). What is going on? They're searching for a simple, knock-down argument against belief in God. Let me explain.

If some claim is inconsistent with itself, it is false. Further, once we understand it to be contradictory, we all know it is false. If I tell you that I've got a brother who is five feet tall, and who is also (at the same time) six foot three, you don't need to go asking my family whether or not I have such a brother. As soon as you understand my claim to be inconsistent, you know it's false. And if I tell you that there's exactly one god, and that there's also exactly fourteen (using the word "god" in the same sense both times), I'm propounding a contradictory religion--one which couldn't possibly be true, and must be false. Now some claims may at first appear to be self consistent, but upon inspection, they turn out to be contradictory, such as "There's a square circle" or "I drew a right triangle with an interior angle larger than ninety degrees."

The atheist is tempted to argue that "God exists" is a claim of this sort. Wouldn't that be convenient? If that were true, the atheist could ignore what feels like the voice of God calling out to him through the glories of the natural world, and the testimony of millions of apparently sane and sober people who have experienced God’s reality--his love, his presence, even his voice. The atheist could also skip a serious, thoughtful look at the reported careers and teachings of people such as Moses and Jesus. What a time-saver! How does it work? Simply define the divine attributes so as to be inconsistent with one another, making the very idea of God a contradictory one. Presto! It will follow that there couldn't be a God, so defined. So, for example, if he's all-powerful, that means he can do anything at all, but that conflicts with his being perfectly good.

The problem with this sort of argument is that only a chump of a theist would accept the proposed definitions of the divine attributes. God is traditionally thought to be a bodiless being, the Source of the cosmos, with in some sense limitless power. But pretty much no theologian has wanted to say that God can do anything we can name. For instance, God can't lie, can't commit suicide, can't make square circles, and can't steal children's Halloween Candy just because he likes to hear them cry. Similarly, God is supposed to have unlimited knowledge, as he's in control of history, is present everywhere, upholds all things in existence, and is eternal. But, one may object, if he can't do evil, he therefore can't know certain things, such as, what it's like to rob a bank. This is a lame objection--as if God would have no imagination whatsoever, no ability to vividly imagine, in perfect detail, what it is like to rob a bank.

Divine freedom is a more difficult issue. The claim that a being which is free to do good must also be free to do evil is false. If I were perfectly good, I might be able to give a certain panhandler one dollar or five dollars, even though I'd be unable to insult him and push him down. And whether I gave one or five, I would still be deserving of thanks. Still, one might think that an important kind of freedom is freedom to form one's own character for good or evil, through a series of free choices, over the course of time. All of us believe that we have this sort of freedom, but does God have it as well? The traditional answer is "no"--a being who knows everything and has no pressing needs can't even be tempted to do evil, much less go through with it. I don't see anything wrong with this answer.

In sum, this atheist attempt at a home run is just a big swing and miss. Theists should call atheists' bluff on this sort of argument, and not take refuge in the easy out of disparaging "human logic." This is a silly reply, because there's nothing specifically human about the fact that contradictions can't be true. The idea may be that, given our finite minds, when we start thinking about something as far beyond us as God, we'll run into paradoxes. Maybe so, but that's no excuse to accept contradictions only when they provide easy escapes from atheistic objections. In the rest of life, as in religion, we all eschew inconsistent claims, because we want to get true beliefs and to avoid false ones. Our human minds are the most amazing thing in God's creation, and he expects us to use them well.

30 comments:

Forgetful God said...

The idea that God is perfect and can do no Wrong is correct...however the reasoning is not what we think it would be. An all-knowing entity would know that all things exist because they must...it's understanding of good and bad would be from an entirely different perspective. We're talking about an Eternal and Infinite entity...honestly, what can hurt it? What is truly frightening to it? Nothing because it is everything...therefore nothing can be judged as Good or Bad...what are these labels based on if not our own opinions of what is fearful or not?

http://forgetfulgod.blogspot.com

The Objectivist said...

Dear FG:
I agree with some of what you're saying. Note that if good and bad were mere labels on our way of thinking or fearing, then the notion of a perfect being would be mistaken. That is because perfection is filled out in terms of moral goodness and, if you're correct, that's a mere label for how we think of things.

The Objectivist said...

Dear FG:

One other thing. If God can't be frightened, then there is something he doesn't know. Namely, what it's like to be scared (at least about one's self). Since this is a type of knowledge. God doesn't know something and hence isn't all-knowing.

The Objectivist said...

The issue sometimes arises as to whether the falsity of a theist is a reason to avoid religion. This isn't obvious.

Religion, and the accompanying false belief, might make people happy, more virtuous, or more altruistic.

For example, a Jewish woman who has some doubts whether Judaism is true might still want to practice Jewish rituals, try to maintain beliefs, find a Jewish husband, etc. because it maximizes her well-being and allows her family to fit in better with her more extended family and community. The same is true for Christians and Muslims.

In general, I would separate out issues relating to whether a belief is true and whether a person should hold it.

Aaron S. said...

Hi Objectivist,

I'm confused about some of the terminology that you are using. Specifically the way in which you use the word "know". You say, "If God can't be frightened, then there is something he doesn't know. Namely, what it's like to be scared (at least about one's self)." And, "An all-powerful person can't be harmed. If such a person had great knowledge, then he would know that he can't be harmed and hence can't feel fear. As a result, there would be something that an all-powerful person can't know." This commits the fallacy of equivocation.

"Knowing" and "feeling" are two different things. You say that God cannot "feel" fear, but then draw the conclusion that there is something he cannot "know." This conflates the terms. This is a subtle shift, but one that can be easily overlooked. Furthermore, it seems that "knowing" here is being limited only to what one can experience. Yet we know many things that we have never experienced.

Also, as I'm sitting here thinking about it, does fear only have to result from the possibility of personal harm? Could one be all-loving, and therefore, have unlimited compassion for humanity to such an extent that out of great love, he fears for us when we make poor choices? When we harm ourselves? And when we harm others? Can one have a fear that is driven out of great compassion for others? If your child runs out into the street, just getting missed by a car speeding by, would you not in that moment be stricken with fear, even though harm was not immanent for you? Have you ever sat with someone whose loved one has cancer as they cry because they fear losing that person? They have fear, but it is not driven out of their fear of personal harm, but out of fear of the impending loss. Therefore, you would indeed experience fear, and in your definition, then "know" it.

However, again, I state that we need not limit our mode of knowing fear only to experience. I can describe fear, and thus have a working knowledge of it, even if I never experience it, though I believe there are good reasons to believe that God has experienced such emotions. Anyway. I enjoyed the discussion. It was good food for thought.

The Constructivist said...

Hmm, some really dumb questions from someone who hasn't thought about this stuff since Intro to Philosophy.

Is there a better case for polytheism than monotheism?

Why shouldn't those concerned with the origins of the universe pursue physics rather than philosophy or theology?

What's wrong with the view that religions exist to institutionalize beliefs in myths/stories/fictions? That faith is like the "willing suspension of disbelief" crucial to appreciating, understanding, and learning from literature?

I'm not even going to get into poststructuralist critiques of the logic of non-contradiction....

The Objectivist said...

Aaron S:
I like your points. Here's the argument.

Among the things we can know is what things feel like. For example, a colorblind person will never know what red looks like even if they know everything else there is to know about the brain.

Similarly, a man will never know what it feels like to be a woman, although he can have somewhat similar experiences.

So God can't know what fear is like and hence he doesn't know something, namely a phenomenological fact.

The Objectivist said...

Aaron S:

God can feel fear for the well-being of others. Actually, he can't with regard to those who are going to heaven, but let us put aside this concern.

However, fear about one's own well-being has a different content than fear about others' well-being. Just like knowledge about oneself seems to have a different coloration for lack of a better word than knowledge about others.

So even if God can have fear about others, he can't have fear with regard to himself and so can't know something.

On a side note, why would a Christian or Jew believing in heaven be against killing fetuses and babies. Doesn't this guarantee they go to heaven? Isn't this the best thing that can happen to them? Perhaps they should consider such killings mandatory.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:
I think the case for polytheism is much weaker than the case for monotheism. This is because the best arguments for a divine being's existence: the cosmological argument (where did the world come from) and the ontological argument (does a perfect being have to exist) both presuppose a monotheistic account.

Even the teleological argument (the argument from design and order in the world) fits better with a monotheistic account.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:

I don't see why physics is better suited to explore the origin of the universe than philosophy. At most they could provide models (empirical ones, if they are to have an advantage over philosophy) that explain whether time has a beginning point or extends infinitely far back. However, this still doesn't answer the question of whether there has to be a necessary being to either explain the infinite chain or begin time and matter.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:
The notion that religions exist to institutionalize myths or stories is deadly to religions because it presupposes that there is no divine being in the world to whom the religions refer. Hence, no religious person worth his salt could adopt this view, unless they thought their religion was compatible with atheism. I find such compatibility claims (e.g., Jews can be atheists) patently absurd.

What do you think of my claim that we're such half-assed Jews because our parents (or at least mine, I shouldn't speak for yours) really didn't buy into believing in God and thus weren't really able to motivate in us sufficient interest or respect for religion.

Aaron S. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron S. said...

Hi Objectivist,

Thanks for responding to my comment! If I understand you correctly, you concede that God could have fear for others, but this is still a different kind of fear than having fear for one's self. But as I have reflected more on our discussion, we need the back story to really get this picture.

We seem to have an understanding of God here that is purely informed by philosophy. But as a follower of Christ, as described in the Bible, I believe that I have to allow the Bible to define who God is and isn't for me, rather than philosophy.

If we actually believe that God stepped into human history in the person of Jesus Christ, and that Christ was both fully God and man, we will also believe that during Christ's lifetime, specifically in the hours leading up to his death, that he did indeed experience fear for his personal well being. Yet he followed through with the greatest act of love that humanity has ever seen by dying for the very people who crucified him.

With that being said, we still come back to the beginning of my last post, namely, that I see that we are once again relegating our way of knowing simply to experience. As I understand your argument, you are saying that since God cannot experience fear for himself, that he cannot know something. However, why are we limiting God's way of knowing fear only to experience? Could he not know what fear for himself would be like without experiencing it? Are we really saying that God is so unimaginative that He could not predict what it would be like, even if he never actually experiences the fear? Is it possible to know something outside of experience? Yes. We do it all of the time. Epistemologically, we know things through other venues, such as reason, and authority. Thus, I am still confused how we have come to limit God's way of knowing fear for himself simply to experience. Thanks for your time Objectivist. I appreciate the interaction.

The Constructivist said...

Hey all, two semi-serious and two profoundly unserious contributions to a serious thread.

First, on the experience/knowledge topic, what if God's knowledge comes from directly experiencing our lives. As an all-powerful being, shouldn't he be able to do the Strange Days thing w/o needing the technological apparatus? This is slightly but significantly different from the "God is in us all" or "We are part of God" positions....

Second, why should God be a being? Aren't we anthropomorphizing God in this discussion?

Third, God must be in the air, as even Michael Berube is writing about the distinction between Christians and CHRISTIANs. Definitely worth a read.

Fourth, being of the video game generation, I actually find it strange that most of the major monotheistic religions posit a single life for a human being. Admittedly, from the perspective of eternity, even an infinite number of finite lives is still much much smaller than than the eternal infinite (or have I managed to completely forget all I learned in my first 18 years in math in the succeeding 18 years?), but it feels like we ought to have more than one chance to decide our eternal fate. In this sense, Buddhism's cosmology makes a bit moe sense to me than most religions'(or maybe that's just the Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Defender talking)....

O, planning a response to your responses, but work here is getting in the way. Go figure!

The Objectivist said...

Dear Aaron S:

You make a good point, couldn't God know fear about one's self in a non-experiential way. I think not and here's why. In some cases, the way in which we experience something is a type of fact (a phenomenological fact). For example, a man will never know what it is like to be a woman during her period or what it is like to be a bat. We can understand all the other relevant facts without knowing what the experience is like for the subject.

The Objectivist said...

Dear Aaron S:
Bringing in Jesus to give God knowledge creates more problems for the theist than it solves. Jesus apparently had conversations with God, knew fear, and apparently doesn't know something (I have a Christian explain to me what this is but have since forgotten it). However, God doesn't have these properties.

If we adopt the following principle (Leibniz's Law): If x and y are one and the same thing, then they share the same properties. It follows from this principle and the above description of Jesus that Jesus and God are different people.

Hence, Jesus's knowledge will not suffice for God.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:


Christians and Jews have to claim that God is a person for their beliefs to make any sense. After all God engages in intelligent decisions (he designs things) and he is morally good (which requires that he have a character). Hence, I would claim that this isn't anthropomorphizing God, rather it is the only intelligent way to understand their claims.

Buddhism seems like a worse view than Christianity or Judaism. If we are reborn again and again, what is the part of us that reappears in different animals? It's not our brain. Nor can it be an immaterial soul, since the animals stages lack our thoughts and memories and these are the distinctive features of our soul.

In short, I don't understand how this feature of Buddhism is even coherent.

Aaron S. said...

Hi Objectivist,

I think for now, I will move with the discussion we have been having to how Jesus and God are indeed the same person. One of the great mysteries that Christians ascribe to is that Jesus was indeed God, but so many Christians mistakenly believe that you just have to blindly believe this. However, could it be that there are actually good reasons to believe that Jesus was God? I would say there are. However, I apologize for simply throwing out the assertion, but currently, I cannot complete that post. I will come back later and get to that.

Thanks again for the dialogue, it is good to stretch my thinking.

Aaron

The Constructivist said...

O, since I basically see religion's main functions being to turn certain stories into sacred texts and certain characters in those stories into god(s), I agree with you that most people believing in and practicing any of the major religions would find my account (which threatens to put the crafters of the Bible and, say, L. Ron Hubbard on equal footing) to be quite troubling. Yet I find some of your response to Aaron problematic.

It seems to me you're saying that God can't know what it feels like to do something evil. My response would be that he could know what it feels like (cf. my god's ESP argument above), and even know what it feels like to enjoy it, but couldn't do it or enjoy it himself. Which leads to your conclusion, just along a different path.

What if, however, the Theist were to respond that sure, God is free to do and enjoy evil, but he always chooses not to? How would you respond to that one?

And hey, does T know he doesn't have to be an editor of this blog to comment on it?

The Constructivist said...

Heh, this Norbizness chap is worth reading now and again....

The Constructivist said...

O, what follows is probably an overreading of T's rhetoric, but you know the occupational hazard of being an English professor! T writes that the atheist "is tempted" to find "Go exists" oxymoronic. This reminds me of his earlier example of free choice--the tempting situation of which fast food restaurant to go to. Temptation and resisting temptation seem crucial to his account of free will. In most cases, it seems that he's laying out the choice to give in to the devil's temptations (to eat fast food rather than healthy food, to be an atheist rather than a theist) or not as the model for free will. Does this sound like a plausible reading of his position or not?

BTW, there have been many scientific studies showing that our love of sugary and salty food is indeed a genetic predisposition (having been selected for during times when any food was hard to come by). Still, it seems fallacious to say that "my genes made me do it," since we not only seek out healthier foods and are able to stop eating when full (most of us, at least) but also seek out hot or otherwise spicy foods that we're genetically predisposed to avoid. Of course, I'm drawing on vague memories of reading an Atlantic article this spring or summer, so I could be getting this all wrong. But I would like to see an argument that I don't have relatively free choice as to whether to eat sushi or udon tonight, or whether to get ice cream or not or skip dessert entirely. If, despite biological predispositions pushing me in one direction, I'm able to make choices about something as basic as how to get the food I need to get the energy I need to stay alive, why don't we have meaningful free choice on other issues, as well?

The Objectivist said...

Dear Aaron S:
How about providing the good reasons for thinking that Jesus and God are one in the same person. That is, are you asserting that God had a height, weight, fits of anger, and informative conversations with himself?

C - I'll return to your comments shortly.

The Objectivist said...

I was sent these comments from a reader. I'll post them under the name "T." Thanks, O

Stephen,

I'm intrigued by people who don't believe God exists. They always have very scientific, persuasive reasons why life is just one big crap roll. I like to look to nature as my most basic belief in a loving God. Consider the immensity of the universe and the laws which govern it. If everything is an accident why the laws? What keeps us from waking up one morning and finding that gravity doesn't exist anymore or that the earth has decided to head off into space somewhere? How does a butterfly find it's way from my back yard to a particular tree in Mexico ? If the earth were just a tad bit closer or farther from the Sun life could not exist. One could list millions of such phenomena necessary for our very lives.

If I found a quarter laying on the sidewalk would it be reasonable to think it was created by man or just happened to form from stellar dust on its own. Every atom that makesup earth and every soul on it was once just gas from a super nebula somewhere in the universe. To believe that this all occurred as a big accident is irrational.

When a person has no belief who does he turn to in times of great joy and say thank you Lord or in times of great sorrow and pray for strength and insight. Faith is described as firm belief in something for which there is no proof. I see the effects of the wind everyday but have never seen it just as I see the effects of God's actions in our lives but cannot see Him.

One last thing. Have you ever considered the consequences if you are wrong ? Eternity separated from God is not something I would want to face.

T

The Objectivist said...

Again from T

Stephen,

You fall into two fallacies regarding Christianity. Genuine love cannot exist unless freely given through free will and thus man was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it.The choice made the possibility of evil become very real. Would you want someone to love you only if they were forced to ? If you had children you could lord over them 24/7 as long as you lived and try to prohibit behavior you deemed bad. Would you consider this an appropriate way to relate to them?

Can God stop sin ? Yes. Why doesn't he ? Nobody will know His reasons on this side of eternity. He has given us a way to clean our sin 'record' through his Son's sacrifice. Jesus said in John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

People try to equate God with our human experience. You do as many do, you make-up a God who would never hurt anyone's feelings by giving them eternal separation. If you went before a judge convicted of a serious crime would you say " Judge, you are a good and just man and I'm sorry I committed this crime so I know you will let me go" Would he just let you stroll out of the court ?

The very thing many believe will save them (that God is a good God) is the exact thing that will condemn them, He IS just and as such MUST punish sin. He gave us one 'out' of the mess we get ourselves into, Jesus.The reason so many fall away from Christianity is they believe that as followers they will "get a pass' to an easier life and when it doesn't happen they lose faith. Jesus didn't come to make life more carefree but to save our souls.

This life is just a flash in the pan compared to what awaits after that last breath that separates us from eternity. When you reject Jesus you reject the one who sent him.

Either Jesus was the son of God or the biggest fraud who ever lived. We all have the free will to make this decision. I hope that someday you will see the light of salvation. It's free you know.

T

The Objectivist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Objectivist said...

Also, from T

Stephen,

God does not assign us to hell, we do. Refusal to believe in God and Jesus breaks the first and most important commandment, to have no other Gods before him. We also manage to break the rest of them regularly too although the Bible says that breaking one is the same as breaking all.

The Bible clearly states that the wages of sin is eternal death. Just because you don't think that's fair probably doesn't bother God. We humans have learned quite well to tolerate sin in its many forms. We usually forgive easily because we're guilty of the same things. God is perfect so he states quite clearly that wrath is accumulated with each transgression of his laws. Sooner or later we must answer for our actions.

As I mentioned before an earthly judge can be all-loving and still sentence a murderer to death. What makes you think that a holy God would not act in a similar manner ?

The one wonderful thing is that after we have accepted Jesus as our substitutional payment there is nothing that we can do that can ever separate us from God's forgiveness.

It doesn't mean that we won't experience his discipline when we err but he can never go back on his promise to accept us into his kingdom. What greater gift can mortal man receive ?

T

The Objectivist said...

Dear T:
Thank you for your comments. The issue is not whether God cares whether I think his punishments are fair, the question is whether they are fair.

I think they clearly are not. Imagine that there was mixed evidence about something and some persons formed the wrong belief on the basis of a good faith attempt to interpret the evidence. We then decide to let those persons drown when we sit on a pile of life preservers. That would make us monsters.

God in annihilating non-believers is indistinguishable from such beings. I would love to hear an argument as to where I'm going wrong.

The rational Christian or Jew is left with the following choice.

Either reject that God is all-good or reject the notion of hell.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:

The first question is whether God has to know what it's like to enjoy evil, not just do evil. He does, since the former is a way things feel like and thus a type of knowledge (in fact a type of knowing that rather than knowing how - that is, clearly knowledge). Now God can't know this. Hence, not omniscient.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:
You also bring up the notion that God could do evil, but chooses not to. The problem with this is that he can't. Here's why.

(1) God is all good.

Hence,
(2) He can't be motivated to do evil.

Since

(3) A person can do only what he can be motivated to do.

This follows.
(4) God can't do evil.

But Steve can do evil. Hence, it's a logically possible task. Hence, God can't do a logically possible task. So, not omnipotent.

The Objectivist said...

Dear C:
The reason we don't have free choice is because we are in essence computers.

A computer is has a circuit-based processing unit, made of silicon, and input, based on typed commands or mouse clicks. Persons have a circuit-based processing unit, made of carbon, and input, based on the effects from outside our skin and from inside our body (aside from our nervous sytem). Hence, we are computers and don't have free choice in the sense the religious person needs to assert we do.

We have free choice in that no one or thing stops us from doing what we want, but we are not free to want what we want or, even if we are, we are not free to want to want what we want.

I go back and forth as to whether this undermines moral responsibility.