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The Problem of Non-Belief

The Problem of Nonbelief is a problem with reconciling an all-good and all-powerful God that wants everyone to believe in Him with the existence of nonbelief in the world. The atheistic argument that utilizes this problem is called The Argument from Nonbelief, and it is a form of the Argument from Evil in which the evil is considered nonbelief itself. This argument is directed specifically at the Christian God that is often said to require belief in Him as a prerequisite for obtaining eternal salvation. Typically, the consequences of nonbelief under these circumstances would be some form of eternal damnation, which is why nonbelief must be considered a form of evil. The Problem of Nonbelief can be outlined as follows:

  1. If God were to exist and was Omnipotent, then He would be able to convince everyone that He exists, He loves humanity, and that He wants everyone to be saved.
  2. If God were to exist and was Omnibenevolent, God would want everyone to be saved.
  3. If God were to exist, He wouldn’t want anything more than wanting everyone to be saved. (He wouldn’t want people damned more than he wants them saved.)
  4. From 1-3, if God were to exist, everyone would believe that He exists, He loves humanity, and that He wants everyone to be saved.
  5. Number 4 is false because not everyone believes that He exists and thus, not everyone is saved.

Conclusion: The Christian God, as described above, cannot exist.

Objections

That God does not see to it that everyone believes in Him is sometimes referred to as Divine Hiddenness. One objection to the Argument from Nonbelief is that faith is important to God, and subsequently, faith necessarily requires some degree of uncertainty. Faith is only possible if the evidence for God’s existence leaves some room for doubt, because in the face of irresistible evidence one is compelled to believe rather than free to believe or not believe.

The problem with this response is that it is not at all clear why faith should be valued at all let alone be considered more important than clear knowledge of the truth. In fact, it seems to me that it is much more desirable to know something for certain rather than to be left speculating over uncertain evidence or practically no evidence at all. In this case, it would be much better if God got rid of faith and gave us all knowledge of His existence. Any argument that advocates forming beliefs on faith rather than through knowledge must be rejected.

Theodore M. Drange writes, “It seems totally obvious that if God loves us and nonbelief would automatically get us damned, then God must want us to be believers rather than nonbelievers. I have asked Christians who accept such doctrines why God does not clearly reveal himself to nonbelievers and thereby eliminate their nonbelief, but have never gotten any intelligible answer to that question. There seems nothing clearer than that a God who loves us would provide us with a revelation of his existence if such revelation would keep us from being damned.”

This page was last modified on November 13th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

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