Socrates said, “Philosophy begins with wonder” and nearly all human beings at all times have looked at the world around them and, given its beauties, powers, and complexities, asked if what they saw was designed by a mind for a purpose.
I think it is vitally important to think hard about God. Whether or not you are a committed atheist, a believer in God, or something quite different—knowing why you come down where you do is a mark of a good character, of a thoughtful soul, of a person who cares about what reality is like.
Today I conclude my Top 10 reasons not to believe in God. The best reason to believe are coming, but for now I’d like to hear your thoughts: Are there good responses for non-belief that I don’t include? Which of these arguments do you find the most compelling? Which arguments give you pause, or have actually swayed your thinking? Do I pitch the arguments well, or could you state these arguments in a more compelling way?
And of course the real question—Did I get the list right?
Here’s the recap:
#10 – The Logical Problem of Pain
#9 – The Argument from Believers
#8 – No Good Gods
#7 – The Evidential Problem of Pain
#6 – The Impossibility of a Being that is both All-Good and All-Powerful
#5 – Design Flaws
And now – #4: Human happiness
- If God exists, God wants his creatures to have good souls.
- If God exists, he has the power to ensure that all human beings know what is required for a good soul.
- Human beings are deeply confused about what is required for a good soul.
Therefore, there is no God.
This is my argument and I find it compelling. In some ways it is a further building upon the #2 argument we’ll look at below, as well as arguments about the unfairness of salvation being tied to specific religions that existed for centuries in limited parts of the world.
I suppose one could argue that the conscience is enough, or that every person—at some point in their lives—is actually addressed by God and invited onto a clear path. One might bite the bullet and say Premise 1, though important to God, is not vital, and that God cares about other matters. One might argue that the transformation of a human soul takes a long, long time and one might be on the road toward a good soul without knowledge of that road. To avoid the conclusion there needs to be a story presented that’s not known to be false if the argument is to be overcome. As it stands, I don’t have a good story—someone help me out.
#3: Religious Diversity
- God values truth and would not allow errors about his nature or his intensions to thrive, for such errors can do great damage to human souls and societies.
- There are mutually exclusive beliefs about God that thrive.
Therefore, God doesn’t exist.
I find this a compelling argument that ought to be paired with the #2 argument below, which I find even more compelling. I will respond to them together.
#2: Divine Hiddenness
- If God exists, God is father-like.
- A good father always ensures that his “children” know he exists and cares for them.
- There are some people who do not know either that God exists or that he cares for them.
These two argumenta are far better philosophically than the Problem of Pain. Interestingly enough, divine hiddenness is a problem frequently raised in the Bible itself by those who seem to love God best. To defeat both arguments #2 and #3, one must tell a story of why God’s restricting of his own self-disclosure and allowing errors and uncertainty to persist can be a great good, or leads to a greater set of collective goods.
In my mind, a good father cares more about the good of his children’s souls than the children’s “knowledge” of the father’s existence. It could be that overwhelming knowledge of a God could actually damage a soul if, for example, that soul wasn’t prepared for such knowledge. As such, we might be able to paint, as Pascal does (here), scenarios in which God restricts his own self-disclosure, for God knows that self-disclosure might have negative effects. It seems the best counter to the problem of divine hiddenness is to tell a story in which God’s hiddenness benefits the souls of those God cares for.
For example, I think it could be the case that God restricts significant knowledge of himself to healthy communities. That is, God may know that certain kinds of communities are the best possible spheres for a human soul to thrive. As such God may choose not to showcase himself outside of such communities, for mere knowledge of God is not as valuable as the transformed human soul. As such, God may exclusively make knowledge of himself an incentive to enter communities where human souls thrive, and as such God seems hidden outside of such health promoting communities and yet makes his existence and love known within such communities.
If this is not known to be false, and if such communities do in fact make a soul better than it would have been otherwise, then it seems God—as a good Father—has a good reason for restricting knowledge of himself to such spheres. God would then allow errors to persist both because God values human freedom and because those who have not entered a soul-transforming community must believe something, why not one of the many other faulty religious tales? In fact, the other tales may by necessity be so bad that they serve as tool for encouraging seekers to find better answers in a soul-transforming community. That is an all too brief sketch of but one potential answer. In the 21st century, if atheism continues to have popular appeal, I expect this to become a more utilized argument for advancing materialism.
And the #1 reason to reject God-belief…
#1: Ockham’s Razor
- We can explain everything that needs to be explained without a God.
- God is an unnecessary postulation.
- We shouldn’t believe in unnecessary postulations.
We should not believe in God.
The philosopher Paul Draper rightly asks, “If God exists, why can science completely ignore him and still explain so much?” If Premise 1 holds, it give us the best reason to reject God belief. But that’s a big if, and in my next post: the Top 10 reasons for God-Belief, Premise 1 will be the central target.
JEFF COOK teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing in (Subversive 2012). He pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. www.everythingnew.org