In Reply to: Brainwashing posted by Yvonne on July 28, 2005 at 04:48:46:
I've thought quite a lot about the paradox of free will. Obviously, our ability to choose freely is controlled by circumstances. Too many times in my life I've I've been in a position to choose between "not good," "worse," and "oh please, not that." Not choosing is also a choice that comes with consequences.
I think there is something to the notion of collective responsibility. We don't make our choices in a vacuum--our choices are imbedded in a complex net of social conditions, many of which we have little control over. For example, if I'm an extremely poor urban kid who needs a notebook and pen for school, but I don't have any money, it's not so easy to make the best possible choice where my interests are concerned. I can go to class unprepared and do poorly as a consequence, or I can risk getting into trouble by shoplifting. A third option--asking someone to help me out with a donation or loan--might not seem feasible for a lot of reasons. Maybe I maybe I feel too ashamed to ask my teacher for help. Maybe I believe my teacher will tell me it's not her problem. Maybe I'm right about that.
Brainwashing theory suggests that we have lost the freedom to choose our attitude toward a given set of circumstances. That may be true. The perception that we've lost our freedom to choose our own way is also an illusion. For some reason, some of us see through the illusion, while others do not. If I choose an attitude based on a cultic belief that says all my other possible choices will lead to my death, I have still made a choice. They key, I think, is when someone faces their fear of death--including the possibility of eternal damnation in a lake of fire--and says, I will chose my own way and live with the consequences.
Everyone who has been under the control of a cult and come out of it has done just that. Ultimately, the paradox of free will comes down to how we choose to live with the knowledge of death.