In a recent post, I discussed the problem of divine hiddenness (why God remains hidden despite very good reasons God would have to reveal himself). I showed why various standard arguments apologists give– mainly ‘free will defenses’– to provide reasons for why God would remain hidden fail. I’ll give a quick summary of my previous post and then argue that even if people believed God existed, not all would worship him.
I argued, in my first post on this topic, that there are no good reasons to suggest that persons would lose free will (assuming free will exists) because persons would be skeptical/ not everyone would believe that God exists. Additionally, I noted that the theist is trying to ‘have it both ways’ because some already maintain that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for God…and yet they still maintain that they have free will. If a theist maintains that faith is the only way to believe in God and that there can not be sufficient evidence to believe, their argument about God’s appearance compelling belief is undone by their own admission. Arguments concerning natural regularities and morally significant decisions also fail. Objections of ‘we can’t know the mind of God’ and ‘it is not God’s responsibility to reveal himself’ also fall short
One point that I didn’t discuss in depth was the idea that even if God revealed himself and everyone believed God existed, persons simply all would not worship him. Many atheists, in discussion about God’s character, will argue that Christians are simply ‘getting it wrong’ when they apply the characteristic of ‘all-loving’ to God and would say that if the Christian god revealed himself, they would not worship him, but rather would rebel in some sort of way. Some persons of other religions, I would wager, even if the Christian god revealed himself and the Christian god had a very long conversation with us, would continue to worship their deities and offer some explanation of why their deities remained hidden while the Christian god revealed himself.
Some atheists — and perhaps most popularly, Christopher Hitchens — have argued that they do not want the Christian god to exist and would not ‘sign on’ to Heaven/eternal worship of God if a choice were to be had. Does the theist honestly think that persons like this would experience a cognitive shift if God revealed himself as he was known prior to revelation?
For some who may still not be convinced that all persons would not worship God if he utterly revealed himself, consider the following analogy. A large portion of the inhabitants of the planet Eth believe in an all-evil, all-powerful, and all-knowing god. Some persons who don’t believe all-evil god exists object on various grounds such as atheists of planet earth do and say that even if all-evil god revealed himself, they would not worship such a being.
Is this situation much different than that on earth? If all-evil god revealed himself, some Ethians would refuse to worship. If all-good god revealed himself, Earthlings would refuse to worship. If you believe that Ethians could refuse to worship all-evil god, why wouldn’t it be the case that Earthlings could do the same?
There is many good reasons to believe that God utterly revealing himself would not compel all persons to worship him.
A recent blog post from JD Curtis — the person who I recently engaged with in a written debate — responding to some of my arguments and a commenter on my Facebook page raises some questions and objections regarding the problem of divine hiddenness.
JD argues that arguments from “fine-tuning” and “the probability of specifically-coded DNA sequences arising by random chance” show “fingerprints of a Creator God […] all over His creation” and says “God unmistakingly and clearly showing Himself to all would then diminish the overall amount of free choice we have when deciding what we would like to do.” If JD believes that God revealing himself to all would diminish free choice and maintains that God had revealed himself to JD, it must follow that JD has diminished free choice…but JD doesn’t maintain that he has diminished free choice. He simply can’t have it both ways.
This is important because variations of ‘free will defenses’ rest on the idea that God doesn’t utterly reveal himself because if he did, persons would lose their free will or have “diminished free choice” (as JD says here) in some manner. The theist can’t possibly maintain this free will defense when he individually maintains that ‘fingerprints of God are all over creation.’ If the free will defense were to work, the individual theist who maintains there is sufficient evidence to believe in God must also maintain that their free will has been diminished.
JD maintains that “such a powerful manifestation would amount to coercion on God’s behalf and God would rather that we behave and make our choices absent of any sort of psychological pressure on people that such an appearance would entail.” JD notes that people behave differently when they perceive they are being watched. I agree. The problem, though, is, once again, that individual theists do believe they are being watched by God and they don’t maintain that this is coercion. Many theists believe that there is sufficient reason to believe in God, yet they still ‘sin’ and face threats of hellfire. Why aren’t individual theists being coerced today?
JD, responding to the change of ‘don’t threats of hellfire amount to coercion,’ notes, “I find it only fair that we are forewarned of the consequences of our actions.” This doesn’t answer the objection. He also notes, “a truly evil god would never reveal that there were consequences for certain actions until we stand in judgment.” I don’t know what reason JD has for assuming this, but it’s quite obvious that JD is largely ignoring fantasy literature. First, JD has no examples of truly evil gods that exist, so how can be make this claim. Second, would it be hard to imagine that a truly evil god would threaten people with consequences if they did not do its bidding?
Suppose, for example, a truly evil god wanted a specific trinket that a human owned. Suppose, then, that minions of this evil being approached this human and informed the human that he would be eternally imprisoned if he/she did not relinquish the trinket. Regardless, I don’t see how knowing consequences somehow justifies a punishment [from a god that was unjust] or gets gods ‘off the hook.’
JD seemingly goes on to say that there would be a major difference from God appearing and saying, “If you perform x, you’ll go to Hell” and inspiring Bible writers to warn of a threat in the future while God did not tell this to a person. While it might be the case that persons may view God telling them more pressing, this still doesn’t diminish the threat and individual theists still profess the dangers of Hell, are very afraid of it, etc. One of the ways theists [and the Bible] provide to diminish the threat or somehow deal with it is repentance; Jesus died so that sins may be forgiven.
I don’t see how this gets the theist off the hook. What, exactly, is the argument here? JD doesn’t explicitly state one. Perhaps the argument is, “God doesn’t utterly reveal himself because the threat of Hell [, said by God,] would modify behavior.” I’ve already dealt with this argument. Some theists believe that there are sufficient reasons to believe Hell really does exist and that they will possibly go there. Did these persons lose their free will?
A commenter on my page noted that JD was special pleading; he said that persons are aware that other persons exist and are not compelled to worship or love them and still maintain free will assuming free will exists. Why should God be a different case, the commenter wonders. JD’s response to this is “you are in relationships with people because you want to be.” Wonderful. Why, then, do the rules change with God? It is logically possible to both believe God exists and not worship God just like it is logically possible to believe other persons exist and not worship/love them. JD’s working against himself here.
Finally, JD asks, ” so you would argue a huge, gigantic, and beautiful sky-god […] would in no way cause “psychological pressure” to “do some act against his or her will.” I already addressed this in my first post on this topic; persons would still evaluate the given reasons to believe (or not believe) in God and come to a conclusion. If JD believes the 40-foot tall Jesus would coerce and that this is sufficient reason to believe in God, how can he also maintain what he considers to be evidence for God (fine-tuning and DNA) is not coercing him?