Why does God allow people like Hitler, Stalin or lesser criminals to do bad things that he could easily stop if he is all powerful? Why allow so much evil? The reason usually given is that human beings are not robots and have been given free will. Does this explanation make sense and how much free will do people really have?
Can we have free will without evil?
Basically, exercising free will is simply making a choice. Every day, people make countless choices ranging from what they eat to how they treat others. Many of these choices, such as what color clothes one wears, do not involve moral considerations since neither choice will involve evil. Therefore, it is possible to have free will that does not involve evil. With this in mind, it seems possible that an all-powerful being could have given humanity free will while still avoiding all the pain and misery that it can involve. Why did God simply not allow evil in the world (and evil would be his creation if he created all) so his creations would just be left with good choices?
People already have limits on their powers and thus have limits on their free will. For example, people cannot destroy others with their thoughts. There is no evidence that evil spells or anything of the sort actually work. Therefore, there are limits on the evils that people can do and their free will. At the very least, it would seem rational to put limits on at least some of the evils people do and not allow things like mass murder.
Does God have free will?
If God is all good, he does not and cannot do evil. Therefore, how then can God have free will as people do? It would seem that people have something he does not if they were created in his image. Why give people the kind of free will that will cause so many problems when God himself does not need to deal with it? If God has free will, it has to be free will that only allows good. His creations could use the same!
According to many religious texts, in the past at least, God did intervene in human affairs. People were struck down, and battles were turned by God. If God could intervene in such events (and thus interfere with free will), why sit and do nothing when a child is raped and murdered? Furthermore, people pray for divine intervention, and the Bible and other books promise help to those who pray. Are these books wrong and prayers totally ineffective (for events in this world anyway) or is God intervening in the world? Either God does intervene at times, which does interfere with free will, or prayer has no power to change events.
Is God testing us?
There are also questions about the principle of God giving humanity free will as a kind of a test as is examined in is life a test. Why would an omniscient being need to test us? Ha not an all-knowing being already seen what will happen in the future? God would certainly have to see the future if he is revealing what will happen in revelations. Why bother to test people then? Why create mass murders, criminals, etc. knowing what they will do? Why create people knowing they will do evil, or believe the wrong religion, knowing then they will be sent to sadistic eternal torture?
Exercising free will
Then there is the question if some people really have any free will. How can the mentally ill exercise free will? What about the child who dies young? Then, there are the brainwashed. The human mind and body can be very fragile. It seems odd that such a fragile vessel would take a test, and sometimes skip it, that determines something as important as its eternal fate (see brains and heaven and hell) and if someone will be tortured for all eternity.
Another tricky question is when one person exercising their free will interferes with another. For example, a murderer who kills a young child is destroying any chance that child will ever be able to exercise free will. Isn’t the free will of a child more important than that of a killer? Why doesn’t God strike down that killer and allow the child to have his chance?
Do we even have free will?
There is also the question of whether or not people truly have free will, or to what extent they do. If everything is going to god’s plan, how can people really be exercising free will?
Regardless, free will is at best limited. Our instincts and emotions clearly interfere with our will. For example, a person on a diet does not want to eat more or even crave food. However, all too often, their will is broken by hunger and instinctive desires. They same can be said in many other areas, to include human sexual desires. A typical man probably does not want to cheat on his wife and would very much like to stay faithful. Yet, human nature drives people sexually and in other ways most would rather not go in many cases.
There is also the question of how people can really have free will if God knows what will happen. If God created everything, knows everything and tells us at least some of what the future holds, hasn’t everything already been decided? Surely, if there is a plan that God has made, then nothing that people do can change that plan, and the choices people make are in accordance with it rather than any free will.
In short, neither people nor God even appears to have real free will, and free will could take another form if it is really needed as a test. Free will cannot be used to explain why there is evil in the world.