Contrary to the depressing implications of Dilbert’s soul-destroying cubicle, there is a comfort in believing in only one possibility. If the universe is a clock, why should anyone wonder what might have been if it had ticked in another way, because it cannot tick in another way. It is a logical basis for Buddhist serenity to believe that what is is all that ever could have been. What would or could be, will be, or it never would or could have been.
I feel like determinism serves for me as a kind of atheist equivalent to the all-powerful-god of other religions. Rather than saying “It’s God’s will,” or “God does everything for a reason,” I say “this was always to be,” secure in knowing that I did everything I could because according to determinism I cannot do what I do not do.
Determinism can help us to forgive those who have hurt us. If we understand their actions are the result of their genetics and upbringing (nature and nurture), how can we blame them for where they ended up, even if that place brought us harm? Without free will, we free ourselves from the notion of evildoers. We can simplify our moral code to focus on the future – helping all people instead of worrying about who does and does not deserve our help due to notions of the choices they did or did not make themselves.
These choices people make are based on their understanding of the world, which necessarily comes from the world that they have lived in. Instead of sitting in judgement of people, we should work to make a world where the next generation can make better choices than we did. If you can do that while still keeping your notions of personal blame, then please, go ahead and do it. And tell me how you did.