The decisions we make as humans, come from our brains. Our brains are influenced by genetics, and by various environmental factors.
In light of this, where does “free will” come in to play? Separate for a moment, if you can, the consequences of free will, or lack thereof, and focus purely on… what is it? Where does it come from?
It seems to be a matter of convenience, for religious, legal, and emotional purposes.
If someone believes in a biblical heaven and hell, it kind of forces them to believe also in free will. To believe otherwise, is to believe that God is some kind of sadistic madman, constructing humanity as some kind of deranged puppet show, where some fraction are automatically doomed to an eternity of punishment, based on circumstances beyond their control.The legal convenience of free will is easily enough understood; breaking the law must be punished, and there’s no reasonable way, in general, of doling out blame to whomever(or whatever) influenced the person into breaking the law in question. Genetics and environment influence behavior, and the laws and punishments of the land are a huge part of the environment.
Emotionally, we like to believe our good characteristics are all us, and our failures are just external influences.
But truly, in terms of our actions, there is no “I”. Unless we resort to arbitrary, irrational beliefs, our actions here on Earth are beyond our control. We have only the illusion of control. We are only running a program written by the universe.
This isn’t merely an academic concern for philosophers and men of leisure to while the time away discussing. Like many irrational beliefs, belief in free will stops us from fully taking in a problem. It halts the thinking process via an emotional interrupt.
But an even more compelling reason to abandon the notion of free will, is that we get to abandon the emotional attachment to “self” along with it.
Everything we’ve achieved, every talent we have, everything we are, everything we will ever be, does not belong to us. Thus, we cannot believe ourselves superior for our achievements, our talents, or our ambitions.
Once the false distinction of self falls away, we become one with the universe.
We may still be human, and raked over by the same emotional storms as everyone else.
But we can no longer take ourselves so bloody seriously, and what a wonderfully calming and peaceful gift that is!