Abrahamic Theism, Free Will, and Eternal Torment

Athens Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):9-16 (2024)
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Abstract

Atheist philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Kurt Baier, though from different philosophical traditions, shared a common concern about the traditional Judeo-Christian-Muslim doctrine that human beings are the creations of a Supreme Being. For Sartre, in “Existentialism is a Humanism” (1946), a God who designed us would thereby detract from our freedom and dignity. For Baier, in “The Meaning of Life” (1957), the idea that God designs us to serve his own purposes was deeply offensive in treating us as artifacts, domestic animals, or slaves. Indeed, Baier said explicitly what was implicit in Sartre: that the divine creation of humans as would violate Immanuel Kant’s respect for persons principle. But this Kantian objection is badly flawed in ignoring the crucial role of human free will in traditional Abrahamic theism. Still, if we focus not on the divine-creation doctrine but on the doctrine of eternal torment for non-worshippers of God, then traditional Abrahamic theism does arguably undermine human freedom and dignity. For the threat of eternal torment is extraordinarily coercive. Keywords: theism, artifacts, free will, eternal torment, coercion

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Stephen J. Sullivan
Edinboro University

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