Nonbelief as Support for Atheism

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Nonbelief as Support for Atheism The Canadian philosopher J.L. Schellenberg has recently put forward an argument for atheism based on the idea that God is supposed to be perfectly loving and so would not permit people to be deprived of awareness of his existence. If such a deity were to exist, then, he would do something to reveal his existence clearly to people, thereby causing them to become theists. Thus, the fact that there are so many non-theists in the world becomes good reason to deny the existence of God conceived of in the given way. I first raise objections to Schellenberg’s formulation of the argument and then suggest some improvements. My main improvement is to include among the divine attributes the property of strongly desiring humanity’s love. Since to love God requires at least believing that he exists, if God were to exist, he must want widespread theistic belief. The fact that so many people lack such belief becomes a good argument for atheism with respect to God conceived of in the given way. Some objections to this line of reasoning are considered, in particular the claim that God refrains from revealing himself to people in order to avoid interfering with their free will or to avoid eliciting inappropriate responses from them or some other (unknown) purpose. An attempt is made to refute each of these objections. Atheism of a certain sort can be supported by appeal to the existence of widespread nonbelief in God. This is shown by a Canadian philosopher, J. L. Schellenberg, in his book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. His argument is as follows: (1) If there is a God, he is perfectly loving. (2) If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur. (3) [But] reasonable nonbelief... ... middle of paper ... ...tween weak and strong arguments, I would give it a score of seventy-five. (Of course, that figure would be reduced for theists who answer only one of the questions affirmatively, and it would be zero for theists in general, apart from the survey questions.) ANB may not prove conclusively that God does not exist, but it does render that result likely. It presents good support for a certain form of atheism and a serious challenge for theists which they have yet to overcome. Notes (1) J. L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), p. 83. (2) Ibid., pp. 47-57. (3) Daniel Howard-Snyder, "The Argument from Divine Hiddenness," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26 (1996), pp. 433-453, followed by J. L. Schellenberg, "Response to Howard-Snyder," pp. 455-462. (4) Ibid., p. 460. (5) Divine Hiddenness, p. 211.

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