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Argument from nonbelief

The argument from nonbelief (also, the argument from divine hiddenness) is a recently-developed argument against the existence of God that is garnering interest in the philosophical community (J.L. Schellenberg, Daniel Howard-Snyder, and Theodore Drange are some of the important participants). The argument mirrors the classic argument from evil but appeals to different troubling facts. Its motivating thought is that if God existed, surely he could have done more to help people believe in him. The fact that so many people doubt God's existence then becomes a very big problem for anyone proclaiming a God who wants humanity to know of him. Theistic evidence is mixed and scattershot and religious experience seems to miss the people who need it most. Since this is not what we'd expect of a super-competent deity, our belief in the existence of God must wane.

One popular theodicy should be mentioned. This is that, were God to reveal himself, he would take away our freedom to believe or not believe. Or, in the same vein, God wants our choice to follow him to be genuine and one not motivated by blind fear of Hell. The usual responses are

  1. that having strong evidence for a proposition doesn't deprive one of freedom, it only gives one good reason to believe;
  2. that post-revelation worship could and would often still be quite genuine (think of non-Christians just waiting for the right evidence to come along); and
  3. if worship being motivated by fear of Hell is grounds for dismissing it as cheap worship, then a great percentage of real-world theists are in serious trouble.

Another consideration is that faith, in and of itself, is something that God wants humans to develop. Faith may be some valuable power that is not just a means whereby we can obey God. (This is a tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for one.)

However, since faith is similar to knowledge, and realistically operates in degrees with it, then why would a little more obvious revelation of God be that harmful to faith. Think of the person who smokes, knowing full well that it is unhealthy. He has knowledge that it is unhealthy and he still has trouble bringing himself to stop. It can be argued that it is not the knowing of God's existence that makes religious life hard or easy, but our own laziness and carnality, even in the face of great knowledge! Faith viewed in that sense cannot really be harmed by a greater affirmation of the existence of God.

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