Do You Believe in Fate or Free Will?

X-Men Days of Future PastBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and a Master’s degree in Theological Studies. During the years I was in school, I listened to and participated in debates on wide-ranging hot-button topics like nature vs. nurture, the definition of deviance, and the ethical lines behind human experimentation.

But no topic created more heated reactions from everyone involved than the question of fate vs. free will.

Do we have a destiny? Or is our future undetermined until we act, bringing it into reality?

Based solely on how often this theme arises in fantasy and science fiction, I think a lot of people struggle with this question. I ran into it again when my husband and I went to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past.

X-Men: Days of Future Past takes us into a future where mutants (and anyone sympathetic to them) are on the verge of extinction thanks to an invention known as the Sentinels. The Sentinels have the ability to adapt to any mutant power (mimicking it) because they were designed using Mystique’s DNA. (In case you’re not an X-Man fan, Mystique can shape-shift, changing her appearance to match anyone.)

The chain of events leading to this future started in 1973 when Mystique assassinated the Sentinels’ inventor. His company captured her and used her to develop the ultimate weapon to target and destroy mutants.

In the present day, Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, and a group of other mutants figure out a way to send Wolverine back into the past to stop Mystique from killing the Sentinels’ inventor and getting herself captured.

The problem is that even though Wolverine succeeds in stopping the assassination, the future doesn’t change. They get Mystique’s blood anyway. The X-Men have to try to find another way to stop the creation and use of the Sentinels.

And Professor X begins to wonder if the future is set and there’s nothing they can do to change it.  

I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but at the end of the movie, Professor X leaves us with the opposite message—that the future is never really set.

I understand the pro and con arguments on both sides.

Believers in free will say that if our destiny is determined, we’re nothing more than puppets. Believers in destiny talk about lives serving a greater purpose and take comfort that whatever happens takes place for a reason.

When I was younger, I couldn’t stand the thought that my life might be on a path I couldn’t change, but the more I studied and thought and prayed, the more I came to believe that the future is pre-determined (though I also believe that doesn’t completely negate our free will either—it’s a delicate balance).

Where do you stand on the issue? What makes you believe in either complete free will, complete destiny, or a combination of the two?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen, on sale over the summer for 99 cents. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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