It had to come down to this. The argument from nonbelief. This is my favorite argument of them all, because this is what utlimately led me to reject the God hypothesis. I did an earlier entry on the Hiddenness of God when I started this blog. I realize by now, that that was a bit of a mistake. I didn’t give this argument the defense it deserves. It felt unfinished. It wasn’t “fleshed out” . That’s what I do now. I hope it won’t be too long but I warn you beforehand that it might be a little bit longer.
I’m not a big fan of the syllogistic form concerning this particular argument, because I think it’s more powerful if you present it as the “problem of nonbelief” but I hope this particular form will give me some structure when I argue my case. You’ll be able to find many versions of it but here is the one I settled on:
P1. If God exists, God:
a. wants all humans to believe he exists before they die;
b. can bring about a situation in which all humans believe he exists before they die;
c. does not want anything which would conflict with and be at least as important as his desire for all humans to believe he exists before they die; and
d. always acts in accordance with what he most wants.
P2. If God exists, all humans would believe so before they die (from 1).
P3. But not all humans believe God exists before they die.
C Therefore, God does not exist (from 2 and 3).
So let’s look at the premises. I take 1a to be valid. After all God is all loving and he wants to have a relationship with us, he wants us to go to Heaven and doesn’t want us to go to hell. This is the conception of the Abrahamic God and pretty much all versions of theism I’m aware of.
I think 1b is valid too. After all he could simply show up to all of us or if that isn’t possible send a few angels to declare his glory or perform some public miracles that unequivocally point to that conclusion (make a giant bleeding cross pop out of thin air etc.). It is possible to make us aware of his existence.
1c is of course pretty hard to defend which is why I typically use it as an inductive argument i.e. an inference to the best explanation. Many people will bring up free will at this point. God wants to endow us with free will and knowing his existence would limit us. This excuse doesn’t work. After all Satan has perfect knowledge of his existence but still doesn’t bow to him. If I knew he existed I also wouldn’t bow, I’d have to be convinced that he’s morally good before I enter that relationship. Mentally assessing God doesn’t limit us. Knowledge doesn’t prevent free will.
Another way out is that God doesn’t want us to worship him out of self preservation. He wants a genuine relationship with us. I don’t think this holds up either. We’ve all had relationships with friends, family etc. . One thing I know first hand is that a relationship based on rewards, based on gifts, based on material possesions is not genuine and can’t be genuine. We act out of self interest. If somebody gives us stuff to hang out with him, we’ll keep hanging out with him. We don’t do this because we value his character, we do it because we like stuff!
God offers the biggest reward of them all: Heaven. Likewise he offers the worst punishment for refusing this relationship, namely eternal torture. It might be the case that many Theists don’t seek this relationship for salvation but no one can tell me, that it doesn’t at least play a role or that there isn’t at least one Theist out there who does worship for self preservation alone.
The last and final excuse I typically hear is that God already knows that the people who are seemingly unaware wouldn’t convert and worship him, so he doesn’t bother.
At this point I’d like to draw attention to all the devout Muslims and Hindus who do worship their current deities. There are millions of devout believers who got it wrong. I find the proposition that they wouldn’t sincerely worship Yahweh or any other deity to be ridiculous. If you insist however then you’re a Calvinist because you believe that Jesus only died for a select few, while the others are born with their ultimate destiny being hell.
As I said beforehand this argument should be used as an inference to the best explanation. The truth is that Theists might offer a good reason why he stays hidden. Then my argument is falsified and I offer any Theist reading this the opportunity to come up with a reason. As it is, we should tenatively accept this premise.
1d is basically the nature of every animal and human and should apply to God as well, since he is similar to us. Nobody acts in conflict with his desires or at least he doesn’t without a bigger gain involved.
P2 is the natural consequence of P1. If you accept P1 you must accept P2.
P3 is very much in doubt among many Christians at least. This is because of Romans 1: 19-20 . All I can say about this premise is that I know that I don’t believe and I am not lying about it. It’s not a rebellion it’s genuine nonbelief.
The conclusion which we therefore should accept as an inference to the best explanation naturally follows.
That was the argument from nonbelief. My favorite. Tomorrow I’ll offer a little bit of a caveat to the arguments I presented this week.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation
4 thoughts on “Genuine nonbelief”
Interesting read Rene. When I’m finished with my classes today I’ll write more. In the meantime, know God loves you.
Hi Rene –
You’ve made a number of interesting assertions and assumptions in this blog. I hope you’ll consider my thoughts on them.
Your first assumption is that God does not make Himself known to us. God has made very clear in many passages of the Bible (which I realize you’d rather not consider as evidence) that He makes Himself clear to those who open their hearts to Him (e.g., 2 Chronicles 16:9). If you don’t open your heart, He will not make Himself clear. It’s that simple.
God gave us free will and allows us to make the decision to ignore and resist Him. Romans 1 also indicates that He lets us live out our desires. Oftentimes, when we’ve reached rock bottom, He is there ready to pick us up and let us shine and be reborn into a new and better life.
You’ve also indicated that Satan did not bow down to God and that you would not bow down to God without a confirmation that God is good. God is good. He is the alternative to pure evil, which I have experienced and would never wish on anyone. Has Satan been so deceptive that you think he is something better than pure evil?
Let’s put this another way. Consider yin and yang or dualism, which is embraced by Eastern faiths. Good and evil are always at odds. Eastern faiths give them an equal footing, while Christianity states one is greater than the other (i.e., good is greater than evil). We know from our own experiences that darkness cannot overcome the light. Just as this is the case, evil can never overcome evil. Only love can overcome evil. This is the case for Christianity – and the Christian Lord, who is LOVE.
Take care Rene,
I wish you the very best.
“He makes Himself clear to those who open their hearts to Him”
The Muslims say something similar. There may be other religions that say something to push their own religion as the right one. How is this resolved?
Light vs Dark and Good vs Evil is not an appropriate analogy. Darkness is not a thing…it is simply the absence of light. However, evil, or immoral acts, are an actual thing that can be performed on living beings.