The topic of free will is very interesting. Why? Because it varies. This would vary depending on where you live, what religion you follow, or just your personal beliefs.
First, we must ask ourselves, what is free will? The Oxford dictionary defines free will as ‘the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.’ This essentially means that you are able to act as you see fit, without limits.
To an extent, I believe that everybody has free will. Any body, can do anything. I, for example, am typing this article right now. I am doing so, because I want to. If I really want to, in 5 minutes I could go downstairs to my kitchen and make a coffee. I could also do it in 3 minutes, or half an hour if I feel like it. My point is, my free will allows me to do that.
Where religion is involved, free will becomes a tricky subject. Christianity strongly believes that God gave humans free will. This is so humans could make their own decisions. God made a world that was initially good, but it was up to humans, to do good or bad deeds. Now despite Christians being given the message that they have free will, their God seemingly snatched it away from them too.
In the old testament, in the book of Exodus, Moses was presented with the Ten Commandments. These commandments are a set of rules, laid out by God, that by no means should be broken. These include, no theft, no murder, no adultery, you shall have no other Gods, etc, etc. Now as a Christian, you must be confused. You have been given free will, a pass to do anything you please, yet there is also a set of rules you must abide to… Should you follow all of the rules? Can you break the rules? What happens if you break the rules? Do you still have free will?
The simple answer to most of these questions… yes. It is morally right to not kill, and not steal and not cheat. It is possible for you to break the rules. There is physically nothing stopping you from breaking them. Now, what happens if you break the rules? If you are devout Christian and you follow every rule set out by God, then if you break the rules you risk not entering God’s Kingdom Of Heaven. The rules are a guideline to follow to make it to heaven. In terms of the law, well if you break some of these, you break it. If you kill someone, you break the law and would more than likely face prison time. Then technically if you are sent to prison, you have your free will taken away. You want to leave? You can’t. You want to go on a holiday? You can’t. So technically, to begin with you had free will, but if you break the rules, it is taken away.
But that is just a Christian perpective.
The same applies (if like me) you don’t believe in a God. To an extent you have free will, but only to your means. If you want to fly to New York, but you have no money, you can’t. You have the free will to steal the money, and that could end you up in prison. With no freedom. You could also succeed, and technically grant yourself free will, but is it worth breaking the law?
Now, location is also an issue. For example, North Korea is a very repressive state. There is no right to freedom of speech in the country, the only media provided to it’s residents also, are that of North Korean origin. The people who live there, do not have free will, in the eyes of Western Civilisation. As for many of the people who live there, they know no different. They fully believe that this way of life, is the same everywhere. This is a good example of people who believe they have free will, but that is an illusion.
To an extent, yes, free will is an illusion. There will always be things that we cannot do, but all things considered, I think humans have a huge amount of freedom, despite of religion or laws.
Words by Jack Horsley.