6/28/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
Recently I discovered a Christian blog, titled WinteryKnight, that raised a very interesting question. The title of the essay is, “Why doesn’t God give us more evidence that he exists?” As the author explains, this is a common argument raised by atheists. So far, we can all agree with him.
The author writes, “To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence. What reason could God have for remaining hidden?’
Now that’s a damned good question. The author then claims to have found the answer in a paper by “a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College” Dr. Michael Murray. This is the Murray paper, “Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993. I hope WinteryKnight wasn’t basing his judgment of “brilliant” strictly on the basis of this paper. If he was, then he’s been sorely deceived.
WinteryKnight writes, “He [Murray] argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.”
Well, of course. All Murray is saying really is that if god doesn’t give us more evidence of his existence, it’s because he doesn’t want to. Duh! What else could he say? And, what other reason could god have but to preserve our free will? This is hardly the stuff of genius here.
WinteryKnight writes, “To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.” So, according to WinteryKnight, “our eternal destination,” by which he must mean heaven or hell, depends on our accepting the existence of this god despite a paucity of evidence. So, he admits that god doesn’t give us enough evidence for proof, but says we must still make a decision on existence or non-existence. In other words, we must guess! Choose door #1 or door #2. Choose the right door and you go to heaven and live in bliss for eternity; choose the wrong door and you are put in flames and kept alive for the express purpose of making you suffer. . . forever! (And here, George Carlin would say, “But he loves you!”)
The real mystery here, to me, is why WinteryKnight and Dr. Murray can’t see that if this scenario is true, then their god is a cruel, immoral scumbag. Our eternal destination is reduced to a guess? Actually, it appears to me that this is an attempt at a restatement of Pascal’s Wager, that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing in god. But, we all know that one has a lot to lose by believing, if there is no god. Consider all that time in church and prayer, and all that money in the collection plate, and all that fear, year after year, worrying about whether you’ve been good enough to avoid hell. Some people actually lose their mental health to this fear. And besides, we can’t really “choose” to believe something which makes no sense to us any more than we can choose to believe in the tooth fairy. And faking it surely wouldn’t work with an omniscient god.
There are several further complications in Dr. Murray’s argument. To begin with, how we are supposed to know the Christian god is the real god, and not some Hindu or other god? If the evidence won’t take us all the way to a god, then it obviously won’t take us all the way to the RIGHT god.
Another problem concerns what we “know” about god. Consider for a moment that all we know about this or any other god has come from other people. We have gotten absolutely no knowledge directly from a god. It’s all come from so called “holy books,” or sermons, or our parents, or priests, pastors, rabbis, etc. Life has taught us that many people are misinformed, and many lie and exaggerate – especially biased people; so, how can we know these people can be trusted to both know the truth and be telling us only the truth? And those holy books are obviously suspect, given all those outrageous stories they tell; stories nearly always dependent on miracles.
Now, Paul said we should recognize there’s a creator god because of what we see in the world. But that doesn’t mean that god must be a personal god who craves worship. Further, the existence of so much evil and other bad things in the world could be a clue that there is no god. Paul didn’t think too deeply on this issue. Again, the evidence for god’s existence is ambiguous at best.
I have to ask whether it makes more sense to believe those ancient guys who wrote the Bible (who didn’t know where the sun went at night), or the smartest people of modern times. Various modern studies have shown that god belief is inversely related to education. That is, more educated people are less likely to believe in gods. And 93% of some of the very smartest, National Academy of Scientists members, are non-believers.
But, says Dr. Murray, “The existence of god is not a scientific question…since the question of god is philosophical in nature.” But why isn’t it a scientific question? Is that just because there isn’t enough evidence to settle the question? There isn’t enough evidence to establish the nature of dark matter, either, but does that mean it isn’t a scientific question?
Dr. Murray notes that “73% of professional philosophers are atheists,” yet, “the majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).” But weren’t most of these philosophers of religion religious before they were philosophers? And, anyway, haven’t WinteryKnight and Dr. Murray already conceded that the existence of god can’t be proven from the existing evidence? So, what does it matter what the “theistic” philosophers think? They’re just stating opinions, their guesses – based on insufficient evidence - just like everyone else.
Murray writes that “many philosophers misunderstand the arguments for the existence of God and just take it “by faith” that they have been refuted.” But, if only the best theologically educated philosophers can get to the truth about god, where does that leave the rest of us? Yet, god wants us to guess anyway? Doesn’t god care if we’re ill equipped to find the truth? And, how many theologically educated philosophers believe in the Hindu or Muslim gods, or, dare I say it, are atheists or agnostics? Clearly, this question isn’t going to be settled by numbers.
In the final analysis, it almost seems like WinteryKnight and Dr. Murray are telling us that god leaves reason to doubt his existence so that he can be sure there will always be people he can torment forever in hell. Now, would you design the world this way? Would they? Would any god who was worthy of the name? Frankly, Dr. Murray’s arguments led me in the direction opposite to the one he intended. And WinteryKnight calls him “brilliant!” Go figure.