22 Nov 2009

Can God Own Your Soul?

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In recent weeks I have annoyed my atheist readers by declaring that God owns the universe, and I have annoyed some of my libertarian readers by declaring that ideas can’t be owned. So I thought I would try to be doubly annoying today: Can God own your soul?

This question is interesting for those of us who are (a) libertarians, (b) Christians, and (c) Kinsellians on IP. I think the 3 of us will agree that thinking of God and your soul leads to some problems no matter which way you go.

In the present post I’m not going to come down on one side or the other; I just want to make some observations that a coherent theory must address.

* I loved C. S. Lewis’ line: “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” So when it comes to us being “really” free etc., I think it ultimately has to do with our wills or souls, not our physical bodies. This is part of my problem with some libertarian arguments over self-ownership; they often seem to conflate one’s physical body with one’s ego.

* As a Christian who believes God created the physical universe out of nothing (physical), I think He has every right to kill you with a tornado, to sit back and allow the Nazis to gas you, etc. Now we of course don’t fully understand His plans and some of His decisions seem outrageous, but ultimately He has the right to do whatever He wants. He is not a monster for causing kids to get born with birth defects, anymore than a human novelist is a monster for creating characters who commit crimes.

* The anti-IP person might be tempted to say, “Ah! Ideas can’t be owned. God owns your physical body, but ultimately He doesn’t own you. So by opposing the notion of IP, we ensure the metaphysical freedom of the human will, which is just what God wants. Thus not only do statists enforce IP in violation of physical property rights, but they lay the principle of the supreme enslavement of our souls.”

* However, if God doesn’t own your soul, then what do we make of Jesus’ warning? “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

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