There is no problem of free will. Humans can realize degrees of freedom and make informed choices; in many situations they can do what they desire to do or what they find to be in their best interest. There isn’t any conflict between this concept of free action and a concept of determinism which does not imply predictability or inevitability. This free action and free choice are all that are required for what Dennett refers to as freedom worth having.
Someone who denies dualism can consistently affirm the obvious truth that each of us has subjective experiences. These are different issues altogether. In fact, I don’t know of any non-dualist who denies that people have subjective experiences. Not even the more radical behaviorists went to that extreme.
It seems that any philosophy and any theology that humans advance will be limited by our concepts and categories of thought; and further it seems that our language and concepts developed in a context of a natural, physical world. So, even when someone dreams up gods, ghosts, and purely spiritual realms, there’s a sense in which that persons is limited to those categories of thought (many based on our physical existence and physical acts)
I don’t doubt that challenges are important and maybe even necessary in our lives, and true also that challenges involve frustration and suffering, in some cases. And I suppose you can say that meeting challenges helps to build character. (They surely are conditions for some of our greatest art!) But tell me, what character is built for the millions whose lives were cut short by the holocaust, by total war, by early deaths due to preventable disease? Is this the only way your God can “build character”?
Regardless of whether we ask about origin or justification of belief, there aren’t any justifiable grounds for the view that only the theological problem of evil stands behind the atheist’s denial of the reality of a deity.
Of course, the proposition that time is unreal can be understood as just part of another mental exercise, often found in philosophy. It surely cannot be considered a serious attempt to describe reality. But don’t underestimate the tendency of some philosopher to promote one or another form of nonsense, among them, the unreality of time.
Some people prefer to leave the past alone for different reasons. Some prefer to concentrate on problems and issues of the present and those that we shall face in the future; and such people don’t see how the past is relevant to current issues. But some prefer to ignore the past because they prefer to cover up the past insofar as events of the past do not present humans and human society in a good light. But generally those who prefer to ignore past history are those for who do not apply the lessons of history; and history surely has lessons to teach us.
Do people sometimes confuse fiction for fact? Yes. Do they sometimes confuse fantasy or myth for fact? Yes (see ‘religion’)
Do governments lie to their citizens and others? Yes, of course. Does all this lead to undesirable consequences? Yes.
Would a healthy does of skepticism and critical thought help to remedy the situations? Probably.
I know that it is madness to deny that the world which we inhabit and in which we interact is real. I’m not even sure that one can make sense — when we analyze things carefully — of a subject reflecting on reality without assuming that he himself and the world which he inhabits are real. Since their reality is what makes any reflection on those questions possible.
Occasionally someone brings up the challenge to theism brought by the well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins and proceeds to show that it is a weak challenge. Recently, an email correspondent, Spanos the man, brought up Dawkins’ denial of God as an example of a weak atheistic argument. It is an interesting exercise to show that this downgrading of Dawkins does not succeed.