Freedom to Worship
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What is Free-Will?
Free will is the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces. The concept of free-will can sometimes be confusing to those who also believe in predestination, and an All-Powerful and All-knowing God who knows the future. There are arguments for and against the existence of free-will- and sometimes we may find ourselves asking the following questions…
Do humans have free-will?
According to Scripture, yes, humans do have a level of freedom to choose. There are some decisions that are made for us, such as where we are born, who are parents are, what we are named, and other factors in our lives which we feel we do not have control over or a choice about. However belief in an afterlife where each individual will be made accountable for their deeds in this life must be compatible with the belief in an All-Just God, as well as the idea that we are to a certain extent responsible for our decisions and behaviour in this world. We may question- to what extent or level do humans have freedom to choose? What factors do we have a choice about? Do we all have the same amount of free-will or does it change from person to person?
To what extent are our choices made for us?
None of us have a choice over where we are born, when we are born, the colour of our skin, our genetic makeup, who our parents are, certain health problems or conditions that we may have been born with etc- and it is clear that these choices have been made for us by a Higher Power, or predestination. Some of us may be lucky enough to be born into money, and materialistic wealth, whereas others born into poverty and physical suffering. Sometimes natural disasters occur which we feel we have no control over. Death- a concept that we are all compelled to face one day. Some of us may feel they have very little power or control in their lives, whether it be at home, or at work, because of their life circumstances. Some areas of the world face oppression and here the people may feel they have very little freedom at all about what happens to them or their loved ones, and their ability to live their lives according to their own freedom to choose. Human rights and freedom is something that we all want a right to- no matter what our religion, skin colour, race, or background. But sometimes our human rights are stripped from us from others- and we are left with very little to call our own.
To what extent are we responsible for the choices we make?
The very minimum that all of us have that no other person has the ability to take from us or control however- is the freedom to ‘Believe’. As we can see in the world, even religious practices are forced upon others, but do these forces have any power over one’s emotions, their mind, their thoughts and beliefs? Do they have control over their choice for speech and actions? Does anyone in this world have the ability to compel us to react in a certain way to a situation that is forced upon us? Does anyone have the ability to compel us to believe one thing over another or to practice one religion over another from our hearts? No- No-one in this world has the ability to choose our opinions, or our emotions, or our freedom to believe. Even though one might be threatened with horrific situations because of the way they choose to express their beliefs- no one has the power to force us to live in this life believing in their point of view over our own. That is a given right to all individuals from our Creator- and this is what is ultimately tested in this world- how we use our freedom to Believe given the choices that have been already made for us- according to our individual levels of free-will- and this concept is therefore compatible with the All-Just God, who will judge us all according to our intentions and our hearts and our deeds. He Alone knows how much free-will each one of us has- and of course it may be different to others depending on the environments and upbringings and life events that we have faced.
If true religion and spirituality comes from the inward beliefs of a person and not just their actions and outward practices- and if we have no control over anyone’s beliefs, then whether we like it or not- there is no compulsion in religion.
We cannot compel another individual to believe in God, or not to believe in God. We cannot compel anyone to believe anything. Each individual has this power to choose what to believe and make their own decision regarding their beliefs. One may be more
What is 'Freedom to Worship?'
We all have the freedom to choose what or who we worship. We all 'worship' something even though we may not be conscious of it. It is important to understand what we mean by the term 'worship.' If we define worship to mean that we lead our lives according to the pleasure of the object of our worship- we can come to realise that how we live our lives defines what it is we worship. For example, if the way we choose to live our lives depends on the wants and needs of societal expectation, even if it goes against us being true to what we ourselves desire or want- we are in a way worshiping those people by obeying them even if it goes against ourselves. If on the other hand we choose to live our lives according to our lustful desires and want for materialistic gain and therefore do not see harm in lying and deceiving and being selfish and taking from others to benefit ourselves, we are in a way worshiping our own desires for physical pleasures. If we choose to live our lives in accordance to the Law of what we believe to be guidance from God- then we worship God. If we choose to follow the rules of our fathers and fore-fathers and tradition and culture despite it going against our logic and reason and despite wanting to follow another way- we choose to worship our parents and tradition.
We all worship something. Whether it be ourselves, or others or 'Divine revelation' and however we understand it- but what really matters for us to be truly happy within ourselves is to remember to be true to ourselves.
When we worship something or someone- it often comes with acts of sacrifice. If we seek Truth in all that we do, and seek the desire for loving kindness and justice- the efforts we spend and sacrifices we make in the cause of the better good will not be wasted- because they will benefit others- other humans and humanity- and God promises us that even if we seek no return for our efforts- that they will not be wasted. God invites us to Worship Him- so that the sacrifices we make are not wasted. One may ask- well why does God ask us to worship Him if He doesn't need our worship? From what we understand about His Beautiful Attributes- God is self-sufficient, and is Free of need- He does not need us, but We need Him- like a child born into this world needs a loving parent as a guide, as a protector, as a source of wisdom, as a provider- we like children need Him in our lives in order to be truly successful and for spiritual happiness and Peace. As a way of guiding us He invites us to establish prayer, acts of charity, Pilgrimage fasting, and acts of self- sacrifice in His Remembrance- because the more we remember Him in all that we do, and the more we seek His Pleasure in the way we speak and behave- the more we worship Him and get closer to Him. So a great way to worship God is in fact to better our character- to improve our behaviour- and look at bettering our human relationships with others- through serving humanity- we worship God, for He made us all in His Image.
But we all have freedom to worship whatever we choose- as long as we are granted life in this world and the level of intellect to be able to do so. There is no compulsion in religion. There is no compulsion in Believing in Him. True Belief is reflected in our speech and behaviour, and we are defined by how we think, our intentions and how we behave and react to given circumstances. When we use our free will that has been granted us to willingly worship Him- we become better than angels who worship Him out of compulsion- and the angels will be at our service- according to Scripture.
(Above Writings are based on the reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)
Scripture quotes on 'Freedom to Worship'
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