On his blog Daniel writes in part of free will and materialism:
The atheist starts out with the presupposition or worldview that there is no spiritual reality, just matter and energy – what you see is what you get. Accordingly, thinking and choosing must also exclusively be a matter of chemical-electrical activity.
This understanding leaves little or no room for freewill...A denial of freewill goes against everything we intuitively know about ourselves and our lives. When I make any decision, like flipping through the TV channels, it seems that I am freely choosing one station over another. Of course, like anyone else, I am subject to powerful biological-genetic forces. Admittedly, I am biologically predisposed to not like loud and glitzy programming. Therefore, some will say, “Well, this proves you’re pre-programmed to make certain choices.”
If our brain chemistry compels all of our choices, then we cannot truly be culpable and responsible moral agents....These ideas mean the destruction of civilization, and the atheists recognize this. Consequently, they are scrambling to resurrect the concept of moral responsibility, which they have undermined.
I wrote back:
Well, a person who becomes an atheist, usually doesn't start out "with the presupposition or worldview that there is no spiritual reality, just matter and energy". Rather, he/she comes to the conclusion that there is no spiritual reality because there is no evidence to support it, and then after that becomes an atheist. That was how it was for me anyway and many atheists that I know who were once religious.
I don't think you mentioned compatiblism here. It is the most popular position for people who identify as naturalists and determinists. Compatiblism says that although all matter in the universe may be determined (hence our lack of free will), since we can never know the future, we can operate under the assumption that the choices we make are not determined, even if it is an illusion.
It's kind of like an actor in a play whose every action and word is known in a script. But the actor doesn't have access to the script, and so when they do or say something, they think they are doing it out of free will, but really they are following along the script.
I personally am not a determinist, so I do believe we make actions that are not determined by prior events. But, it must be acknowledged that we are all born with predetermined genetics and situations that can push us towards many negative life choices. So, we are hardly complete agents of total free will.
He responds through another post.
Daniel has this way of selectively responding to me perhaps out of reasonable time limitations. What is interesting to see here is that the determinism that we are debating has such a profound attack on Christian thinking because it cracks the very foundation of the idea that we are all moral agents acting upon our free will. Without free will, Christian theology has little to stand on. Now whether determinism is true or not is not a matter of theology or philosophy, it must ultimately be answered by science. If it is true, our only hope for any illusion of free will is compatibalism. In which case the illusion of our free will acts as a veil, and criminals are imprisoned not for punishment, but merely to prevent them from committing further criminal acts.