A Vexed Issue

At the core of this issue is the question of whether human beings have free will. A theme of eastern religions is the doctrine of karma, which suggests that it is not the gods who determine human destiny, but rather the accumulated record of what one has done in one’s life. A western tradition such as that advocated by John Calvin denies free will and claims that one’s destiny is predetermined by divine decree. In such a view, one is punished with eternal damnation, not for one’s action, but rather because one was created by the deity with that destiny. Many of my atheist colleagues are determinists, deny free will, and believe one’s fate is a product of antecedent events together with the deterministic laws of nature. Religions that embrace free will and have a divine being engaging in assignments to heaven or hell began with the Persian prophet Zoroaster.

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