HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!



People believe in just deserts.


Sentencing "to render sentences in all cases within a range of severity proportionate to the gravity of offenses, the harms done to crime victims, and the blameworthiness of offenders" is what just deserts is about for the criminal.


People argue you deserve good in return for doing good and the other side of the coin is then that you must deserve bad for bad.


If deserving is the main reason or the only reason for punishing bad people then it follows that things such as deterrence and rehabilitation are only extras.  That is a very unkind attitude.


It is never really possible to give somebody their just deserts properly.  All you can do is hope for reasonable success. A murderer serving a life sentence could still be happier than another murderer also serving a life sentence.  And what if the first murderer is the most evil one?  For these reasons deterrence and reform of the person are necessary values not accessories.  For these reasons a lot of punishment is just motivated by revenge.  A sign of revenge is when the punishment shows insufficient concern for how people become criminals and what drives them.


It is not certain if what means the most to people is feeling others deserve things or thinking it. But it does look like it is about feeling more than anything else. It is possible that though everybody may think deserving is correct as an idea that their feelings are the reason they back up the idea of deserving. You are not a truly good person if you want Hitler punished for his genocidal actions because you FEEL he deserves it. It is not about what you feel. You can't hurt somebody just because you feel it.
Religion and most people in the world think we have free will. Free will is the doctrine that we control ourselves - in other words we make choices and are not just programmed/determined. Free will is about control. Society says we control whether we will become good or evil or do good or do evil. Actions have consequences so if we do bad actions we deserve to suffer. If we do good we deserve to be happy and rewarded.
Belief in free will as in the power to deserve condemnation and punishment if you do wrong and to deserve praise and a reward if you do good is a necessary evil. But only if it is in fact true or if denial is too ridiculous for words.
The doctrine has its dangers most of which arise from the fact that you need to prove the doctrine is true of me and equally true of you but you cannot do that. It contradicts the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty or if you want to put it this way "don't accuse a person who shows signs of being at least partly programmable of being a complete or sufficient free agent when they did wrong."
When it comes to punishing we will never know if all the punishing that ever happened did much good or was really that fair after all.

Imagine we only think we fully deserve to be punished if we do something terrible. What if in fact we don't deserve it as much as we think for the action was not entirely free though it felt wholly free? From that it would follow that hurting people because they deserve it is in fact bad for it means hurting them more than they deserve. If a murderer deserves a life sentence and each murderer is only 20% to blame then the murderer cannot be given a life sentence just because he deserves it. The deserving would need to be only part of it. So if the murderer gets a life sentence it is for a number of reasons and the deserving is only a bit of it.

The doctrine cannot be condemned for how it is used as an excuse or reason by the ignorant for hating others and demonising and fearing them. But it is different if the doctrine is itself an excuse which it is for even if we deny free will we will still reward and punish if not out of conviction then out of instinct. And only when all the facts are looked at which means all the good and bad consequences of the doctrine which cannot happen until the end of time can you say if the doctrine or having free will was worth it. It is so serious that it is a matter for evidence not theory. And a matter of evidence that is beyond any reasonable doubt.
And even if the doctrine were a justifiable excuse it will not be all good. Nothing is. The bad side effects are put down to abuse but they are side affects not abuse. And the other thing is that you can abuse the doctrine and pretend you thought it was not abuse but just the side-effect. Nobody has the right to challenge you on that for everybody makes mistakes in their thinking. If you put a message out badly or poorly and without making sure others understand the bad consequences are down to you.
The bad results of faith in free will, in principle and practice, are grim. 

There are alleged benefits.

#We feel free

#We feel responsible

#We can give and take rewards

None of these benefits are big enough to justify the doctrine. For some the last one is the only one that matters. The dark side is that you must be willing to have a criminal put in jail for you think they deserve it. But ultimately they are put there because you want one or more of the benefits! Do you see how nasty that is? How hypocritical?

We are told to value our free will. In terms of value, what comes first? The control? The ability to deserve? The ability to deserve depends on the power to control so it is the control.
Does the power to control matter more than the power to bring consequences on yourself? Yes. The two are not the same. If you can control yourself when you steal the bar of chocolate in the shop there will be consequences and risks both wanted and unwanted. If you control the decision the decision brings consequences on you but you do not control them.
It is possible to imagine an evil being getting away with it. But was not because he chose to but because the consequences of his evil turned out lucky for him.
In terms of value, control comes first. Then the power to deserve good. The power to deserve evil is last. We then should be reluctant to punish. If we can in theory avoid it we should.
It is said that you cannot deserve good things unless you can also deserve bad and vice versa. To say somebody deserves good infers or suggests or says that if they deserve good they deserve bad if they do bad.
Atheists, like most people, are in the habit of feeling and or thinking that people deserve good or bad according to the kind of things they do. But deserving bad things to be done to you does not mean they should be done to you. You deserve to be murdered if you murder but the person that does it becomes a murderer themselves and still has done wrong. So regardless of what you deserve, religion and society would have it that good should be done to you as far as possible. In reality they don't believe in deserving at all. Deserving to be murdered means that the person who kills you is acting morally and is not a murderer in the sense that he has done wrong.
Suppose the concept of deserving is valid. Is it useful? If you are vindictive to someone and it is still wrong for that person to be vindictive towards you in return, clearly the concept of deserving is useless. If it is useless then it does not matter if people accept it or not. If you should never be treated vindictively then the concept of deserving is useless and is of no practical importance. We may as well deny the existence of free will. Free will and responsibility and deserving are all related and you cannot have one while denying the others.
If anything bad should not be done to you even if you deserve it then does this include blame? Should you ever be blamed and condemned for doing wrong? No - punishing is all about expressing blame. You show your stern disapproval by sending the bad person to jail. So you have to say that if a person does wrong, they have no free will.
So deserving is a fiction. 
If we deserve no evil we can deserve no good. But we have to get one or the other so we should be treated good.
If you should never receive the evil you deserve because you deserve it, then it follows that the Bible God is evil. He stands for justice which is doing evil for evil.


You work to achieve something. You get it. You will feel it was entirely your own effort that won you the goal. Does that imply that we think when you achieve your goals you deserve them? Many say it is luck and chance that gave you the opportunity to work for your goals. So luck and chance are bigger than you. They suggest then that you don't deserve all the credit or perhaps any of it. But luck and chance has nothing to do with you. It is how you used the luck and chance that gives you the right to feel that you are the sole achiever. Being a sole achiever does not mean you think you control it all. It means you believe you control your responses to what you get and what opportunities you have that is what it is all about. Chance may in a sense be bigger than you but how you use it is you being bigger than it.

The main dangers of real free will as in deserving are as follows. Dangers surround the doctrine that God can be really reliable and or is reliable. God can be honest but forced to use evil to do good which means he can lie but not deliberately and so could fool us to think that people have done wrong when they have not. Dangers surround how virtue and good intention matters in religion and nothing else. Believers say God gave us the power to deserve so that we might be virtuous. Dangers surround how faith that we have free will is inappropriate. It is not a question of faith but of solid good evidence. Dangers surround the notions of the value of free will and the value of believing in it. Deserving is not a good doctrine and it is best to assume it is a fiction.