Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Free Will: A Whale of a Thought

Driving through the parking lot on campus, I realize that not one spot remains available. Still, I dredge up and down each isle, hoping that an overlooked area wide enough for my truck will suddenly appear. Many small cars that seek the same follow me. It comes to me, and I laugh aloud, though no one is around to share in my joke. We are Opportunists, endlessly searching for something that we will never reach. Trying to find the first available spot without regard for the few who were searching the longest. However, I am neither nearly soulless nor blameless; I am aware that I could have a better choice of parking if I left earlier. I also realize that I am nowhere near hell, though sometimes life may seem like it.

According to today’s discussion, Dante believes that people choose to go to hell. I can agree. God gave humans the ability of free will, and they use this ability to make decisions that affect their life as well as their afterlife. If people do things wrong by choice, not just a bad mistake, but a real choice in which they know will be bad, they push themselves further from good and more to the evil or bad. To choose to go to hell is simply choosing the bad road on purpose, knowing there will be consequences.

Flannery O’Connor says, “If there were no hell, we would be like the animals. No hell, no dignity.” People know that when they do wrong, there will be a punishment of sorts. Some believe that if they continue down the bad road, when they die, those choices will lead them to hell and they will forever suffer for it. This keeps most of them on the right path. When they stray, they usually realize that they are in need of getting closer to God by changing paths to make things right. Without a hell, what would keep people from choosing the wrong path? If they know there is no severe punishment for being a bad person, then they will less likely care about having a noble character. Without judgment, they can be as bad as they want, whenever they want, and never worry about how it affects others or what others think of them.

“No hell, no dignity” can also be explained through the eyes of the judicial system. If every wrong action had a specific punishment that was outlined equally for everyone, more people would weigh their options for doing wrong. For instance, Toby is suffering financially and needs a few thousand dollars to make ends meet so that he can get his life back on track. He knows that if he took the extreme path of robbing a bank, he would only get 2 years in prison if caught. He then weighs his options and believes that the sacrifice of two years and a bad record would be worth it. Though he doesn’t even think about having to return all that money and being in a worse financial state than he began, by choosing the bad path, he literally has sold part of his soul, only he knows the price.

For those who don’t believe in hell, what guides them to live a decent life? I know a few nonbelievers and they seem to be respectable individuals who do no intentional harm to anyone. And, there are always the select few who do believe in hell and still choose to make the bad decisions anyway. Why? It’s all summed up in those two little words: free will.

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