5. How Free Will Belief Causes Arrogance

The problem of arrogance is also fueled by a belief in free will. If we believe that we have chosen to be who we are or that we are self-made, we gain an unhealthy type of pride. When something good happens in our life, we believe that we deserve it. When something bad happens, we blame somebody else. Just think of all the times rape victims are blamed for what they “asked for”. This type of pride leads to hatred and violence. This deadly disease of “I am better than you” causes us to hurt or kill anyone who gets in our way. It is dangerous and must be avoided. How can this be done? By breaking the free will illusion.

If we understand that we are not responsible for our genetics, conditioning, or even our own existence, we will be unable to say that we are better than someone else. What standard can we judge by? Even our opinions and beliefs are not truly up to us. How can I hate someone with a different skin color, gender, or sexual orientation if I know that they did not choose it just as I did not choose my genetics?

How can I hate someone who has different beliefs than I do? Can I blame someone for being part of a religion that they did not choose to be part of? Maybe they grew up with that belief system. Maybe they found it later in their life because it made sense to them or because they feared “the wrath of god” if they did not believe and do the right things. Knowing this simple fact changed my life in a very relevant way. I no longer hate religious people in the same way I used to.

I am an atheist now, but I have a greater understanding of why other people believe in a god or gods. I have come to understand the comfort it brings them. This does not mean that I will never challenge their beliefs or make them question what they have been taught, but it does mean that I should do it without being a jerk. I believe that as more atheists understand the causes of why people believe what they do, they will stop being so arrogant. By breaking the free will illusion, we can understand that those who try to convert us to their religion are sometimes doing it with good intentions. Other times it is only because they want our money. Knowing the difference will help us know who we can trust and who we cannot.

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