Via The Legal Theory Blog. I cannot find the paper via the SSRN link, so here is the abstract provided by Lawrence Solum :
This article presents a positive economic theory of the behavior of supernatural beings or deities. The essay addresses a well known problem in the conventional theological account of a supreme being that is omnipotent and omniscient. Given omnipotence, the state of the world should be identical with the state most favored by the preference structure of the deity. But rational choice theory is the positive theory that a rational actor will act so as to maximize the satisfaction of its preferences. Given omnipotence and omniscience, it follows that all states of affairs already accord with the preferences of an omnipotent and omniscient deity, leading to the paradoxical conclusion that rational action by such an entity is impossible.
The model proposed in this article resolves this paradox by invoking the familiar notion of “free will." By creating beings with free will, a rational deity creates conditions in which it is possible for the deity to act rationally by interacting with creatures that it creates which have free will (who thus can act in ways that do not accord with the the deity’s preferences). On this model, a deity acts rationally when it acts in ways that induce creatures with free will to satisfy the deity’s preferences. For example, a deity might demand some act of sacrifice, reverence, or obedience and then threaten to punish creatures that do not satisfy these demands. Such threats might be made credible by actions that demonstrate the power of the deity to create plagues, floods, and other natural disasters visited upon those who are disobedient or irreverent.
This model provides a theoretical alternative to the common view of divine beings as Prometheans or saints, and it suggests new ways of looking at such practical issues as the design of religious institutions that can produce human behavior that will avoid the deleterious consequences that attend punitive actions by omnipotent deities. The author expresses no opinion on the question whether such entities actually exist.
I have to say Richard Posner is my least favored author and is someone who is prone to err by a factor of 16. And upon reading this abstract, I have to retract my opinion: I think he is completely nuts. Let’s leave the question of the existence of a deity aside, why and how would “free will" solve the paradox between state of the world and a deity that is being omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent? If the deity is a rational actor, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, she would be able to create a “free will" that pleases her and willing to do good simultaneously, otherwise that “free will" would be a defective product to her. Whence cometh evil? (and how old is this “new" answer of “free will".)
The only reasonable explanation for the existence of evil with a omipotent god is that god loves evil. Not only he loves it but he will be an active actor in the creation of it. That why he allows defective “free will" to exist (not to mention the definition of “free will" is still missing).
This model…suggests new ways of looking at such practical issues as the design of religious institutions that can produce human behavior that will avoid the deleterious consequences that attend punitive actions by omnipotent deities
Say what?! So somehow all the regions are wrong and only Posner has the right answer? And what is the solution? Keep God Happy at All Costs! And Make that into the Law! And how does he know what would make God happy? Is he the Pope now? Assuming God is a rational economic actor (a deus economicus) and he would punish whoever that is not making him happy, so for all we know, molesting altar boys could be an act that keeps the good ol’God happy, as we don’t see God punishing the Catholic institution, and the Pope can testify that.
So there you go, you perverted priests. You can just claim that molesting boys would make God happy, and then you can molest away without attending punitive actions by the law and God! And that would be a good institutional arrangement . You just got the go-ahead from the Honorable Judge Posner, and for that matter, I think the Roman Catholic Church has already made that into the canon.
I will go bang my head against my desk for a while.