An unlikely commonality between some strands of religious thought and some strands of materialist philosophy is the idea that our actions and our fate is in many ways determined. From a religious point of view, if God is omniscient across time and space, than our fate is already known. This has not taken out the responsibility of choice in many religious doctrines, but some have taken this idea to the extreme. One of the main tenants of Calvinism in the 16th century was that of predestination, which asserted that the summation of our actions and the fate of our souls are already determined. This idea was taught mainly to believers already in the fold in order to assure them of their eventual salvation. It drew a lot of criticism as it implied that those who didn't fit the description of salvation were obviously not meant to be saved, not the most encouraging of doctrines.
From a strict materialist’s point of view, every thought we have or decision we make can be reduced to the neurological impulses in our brain, which in turn is a result of a clear string of logical events extending back to the beginning of the universe. Many scientists assert that in principle, if we had perfect information about the physical body and physical world in which they inhabit, than we could predict all of their future behavior. Moreover, if we had perfect information about an individual, we could actually know what it is like to be them.
While determinism is a philosophically challenging idea, its implicit paradigm in society is detrimental to motivation and creativity. Many of us go through life merely responding to the expectations and norms of our surroundings; as a
society we recycle many of the oppressive institutional norms and pathologies
without questioning their legitimacy. By exploring the idea of consciousness we can push past the philosophical and social strictures of determinism. We can move into a place of self awareness and even further into a place of self empowerment and authenticity. In this experiential realm, we are determined by nothing more than our own imagination. In part 2 of this essay I will explore this using some of the writings of Martin Heidegger on the nature of being, and Paulo Freire on the humanization of being. In part 3 I will explore writings of the Baha'i faith on the spiritualization of being, and the methodology that has been developed to manifest it on a collective level.