This is something I was never able to get a straight answer to. When tragedy strikes you often hear the religious say things like "it's in god's hands", "god has his reasons", or "god has a plan". O RLY? Then what's the point of praying and asking for peace/strength/hope/a cure, etc. if god has already decided if he's going to screw you over? When you probe further you inevitably end up with some totally contradictory explanation of "Free Will". I'm sorry but NO. You can't have it both ways; it simply does not make sense. Sounds to me like the sick game of some omnipotent prick who gets off on hearing his victims plead.

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Wow, what a surprise.
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What got my attention early on was when believers had family who were sick or something and said that it's in god's hands, and they weren't worried about it. BUt then, they prayed. That was a pretty obvious contradiction to me, and was one of the things that started me on my journey. Also, if someone claims that their prayers were answered, they are claiming to be more worthy than all the other others who prayed with no results. That's a slap in the face to other xtians, but that never comes up.
I agree, and have often asked the same question. They have no answer based on reason, which is what you are looking for and what they cannot give, being tied up in their lives with unreason.
History has shown us that man has always worshipped some kind of deity, and in many cases, scores of gods. It seems to have started with worship of the sun and progressed from there. For those of us who have decided to question the value of worshipping anything it just doesn't make sense anymore. But you already said that. Every god or group of gods were created by humans, period. Every time I hear someone mention god's plan, I want to puke. Plain stupid!!! Attempting to change a believer's mind, however, is just an exercise in futility, but it's good to be able to vent once in awhile in a place like this.
At least the sun exists.

So true.

The reason you've never gotten a straight answer is that the problem of theodicy (and other problems like it such as the one you're posting about) doesn't have a straight answer. There literally is no answer to the problem. That's the thing. Most christians if you straight up ask them will give you some BS they heard in a sermon one day because they never have actually thought about it before. And to there credit, it's a scary thing to think about. Most christians just want to live out their lives in faith and not ask themselve's "have I been lied to my whole life?".
It's always nice to see the Epicurean riddle posted since it has still never been satisfactorily answered by any theologian of any religion, despite having been posited several hundred years before the gospel writers got to work.

However the OP was regarding the paradox of free-will rather than the paradox of evil. This has also never been satisfactorily answered. Special pleading is required. It runs along the lines of "Since omniscience requires predetermination, only god's omnipotence can enable free-will". This special pleading, of course, runs into all the objections you make in the later part of your post.

Personally I hate the philosophy of determination, but Newtonian physics does seem to suggest it, and very few people study beyond the Newtonian level. Hence there being so many people of the "I'm not of the christian/muslim/etc. persuasion but there is fate/destiny/something in the stars" ilk. The worrying thing for me personally, is that although Quantum Mechanics shows the universe itself to be non-deterministic, there seem to be many neuroscientists who don't think this is enough to explain free-will in humans.

I think I'll stick to Epicurus. He was not only non-determinist, he was also a hedonist is the best possible sense of the word.

Anyway, my reasoning for starting this reply was not to criticise but to tip my hat to a (potentially) fellow Epicurian and point out the irresolvability of the Paradox of Free-Will. I apologise for my unnecessary waffle and the possibility I have given the unfair impression that I am much better versed in philosophy than I actually am.

Thank you for that intelligent and thought provoking reply.

Most people don't really give it much thought. It's like a light switch that never gets turned on. They don't consider determinism vs existentialism when it comes to praying to their god. You see... thinking about how rational prayer is takes the fun right out of prayer and they can't handle that. Boring prayer is never good. It ruins the creative juices. LOL!
I have watched people facing illness send their brain cell phone calls to their invisible leader for years. Family and friends will gather to emit telepathic signals to Dear Leader hoping he will change his mind about his plan. They are in a no lose situation. The act of prayer lets people fool themselves into believing they are doing something. If the patient improves then obviously it was due to the power of prayer (please ignore the doctors, nurses, and medicine behind the curtain). If the patient dies then it was planned and meant to be a lesson to the survivors.
An omnibenevolent god could care less about free will, he just wants all that warm-fuzzy love flowing through the universe and if free will negates all that cotton candy sweetness then why throw a monkey wrench into "The Big Plan"? There is no rule book requirement for free choice just people trying to reason it into the current situation. I posit that if there were an omnibenevolent god then there would be no free choice because some of us would obviously choose to be malevolent which is contrary to the nature of this "nice hot soup on a cold day" god that wants to love us until we burst into the flaming sugarcubes of blissful stupidity. There's nothing wrong with the happy, love-drunk zombie prototype that in fact makes for a better working universe. After all what do you think would happen if all the components of your computer all of a sudden became sentient and had free will. Some of those little bastards would goof off and others would become evil little circuits. You might have a Pentium process who becomes a bit too arrogant or a hard drive who says he's had enough so, "store it yourself, fucker!" You see how selfishness, pettiness, and lack of empathy can lead us astray? LOL!




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