The Argument from (Reasonable) Nonbelief
1993 was a watershed year in the philosophy of religion generally and for atheological arguments specifically. In that year, Cornell University Press published J.L. Schellenberg's now classic book, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Schellenberg's book contained the first book-length analysis and defense of the idea that the weakness of evidence for theism is itself evidence against it. At the heart of Schellenberg's argument is the idea that inculpable or reasonable nonbelief actually occurs; he labels his argument "the argument from reasonable nonbelief" for this very reason. In other words, there are people who do not believe in God whose nonbelief is not the result of culpable actions or omissions on the part of the subject. According to Schellenberg, a perfectly loving God would desire a personal relationship between himself and every human being, or at least every human being capable of it. Belief in God's existence is a logically necessary condition for such a relationship. Hence reasonable nonbelief is evidence for atheism.
The occurrence of reasonable nonbelief is linked to the idea of the hiddenness of God, and so Schellenberg's argument is sometimes also referred to as "the argument from divine hiddenness." This has been the source of some confusion and controversy. The label "divine hiddenness" is unsatisfactory, according to some atheists, because a "hidden God" implies that God exists. Schellenberg points out, however, that he is using the phrase "divine hiddenness" in a purely epistemic way: he is using the phrase solely in terms of the absence of strong evidence for God's existence.
Philosopher Theodore Drange introduced a related but distinct argument for atheism in his 1998 book, Nonbelief and Evil. Drange calls his argument simply the "argument from nonbelief" and bases it upon all nonbelief, not just reasonable nonbelief. (In "Nonbelief as Support for Atheism," Drange states he considers the distinction between culpable and inculpable nonbelief to be both unclear and irrelevant.)
"When God is conceived of as an all-powerful and all-loving deity, many arguments for his nonexistence can be raised. Two of the main ones are the Argument from Evil (hereafter abbreviated AE) and the Argument from Nonbelief (hereafter abbreviated ANB). In what follows, I shall provide precise formulations of those two arguments, make some comments about them, and then try to refute the main defenses (of God's existence) that might be put forward against ANB, which I consider the stronger of the two. I take ANB to be a sound argument establishing the proposition that God (conceived of in a certain way) does not exist."
Conifer first formulates his (evidential) atheological argument as applied to the most common concept of deity and then assesses both various defenses of God's existence against the argument and several objections to those defenses. His thesis is that each of the defenses succumbs to at least one of the objections. He thus concludes that his is a forceful and cogent case for atheism with respect to the given concept of God.
Kuchar defends an Argument from Nonbelief against God's existence (ANB) similar to that argued by J. L. Schellenberg, which differs in some respects from that argued by Theodore Drange. In short, the mere existence of nonbelievers or the presence of sufficient evidence for nonbelief in God's existence is incompatible with God given a certain description of him.
One of the theistic maneuvers used to explain and justify the hiddenness of God is the so-called "Feigned-allegiance Reply" (FAR). Although some arguments against FAR have been published in the literature, Plugaru here presents what he believes is a new and valid attack on FAR (NAFAR).
Drange presents some objections to Schellenberg's Argument from Reasonable Nonbelief and then suggests an improved version of the argument, which he calls the Argument from Nonbelief.
Here are two atheological arguments, called the "Lack-of-evidence Argument" (LEA) and "the Argument from Nonbelief " (ANB). LEA: Probably, if God were to exist then there would be good objective evidence for that. But there is no good objective evidence for God's existence. Therefore, probably God does not exist. ANB: Probably, if God were to exist then there would not be many nonbelievers in the world. But there are many nonbelievers in the world. Therefore, probably God does not exist. Reasons are given for saying that although LEA is not totally implausible, ANB is a stronger atheological argument than it is.
In this review of Ted Drange's Nonbelief and Evil, Charles Echelbarger outlines the contribution that the book makes to the philosophy of religion literature, comparing it to the work of other nontheistic philosophers of religion and noting Drange's emphasis on the different conceptions of God that comprehensive nontheistic arguments must address. He then turns to a discussion of Drange's two main arguments, the argument from evil and the argument from nonbelief, noting that Drange finds the latter superior to the more traditional argument from evil. He also notes that, on Drange's view, the argument from nonbelief has no force against the existence of the sort of remote Creator envisioned by radical deism.
What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof (Great Debate) (2008) by John Schellenberg
John Schellenberg argues that if there were a God, then nonresistant nonbelief would not exist. But, he continues, the existence of nonresistant nonbelief is undeniable: there are individuals who do not believe in God for reasons having nothing to do with emotional or behavioral opposition towards God, towards relationship with God, or towards any of the apparent implications of such a relationship. For example, some former believers who would have loved to go on believing in God could not do so because a serious and honest examination of all the evidence available to them unexpectedly eroded away their belief. Additionally, throughout human history theistic belief has never been a live option for scores of human beings either entrenched in alternative religious traditions or lacking the basic conceptual conditions to even be able entertain the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good creator God separate from the physical universe. From this it follows that God does not exist. A perfectly loving God would ensure that meaningful contact with herself was always possible for those she loved, but just by looking around we can see that this state of affairs does not obtain. Weak theistic evidence, then, provides strong atheistic proof.
In this explanation of why he is not a Christian, Richard Carrier outlines the top four reasons why he rejects Christianity: God's silence, God's inactivity, lack of evidence, and the overt conflict between discovered reality and Christian theory. Though a lay exposition geared at a general audience, the essay appeals to a variety of atheistic arguments, including the argument from religious confusion, an evidential argument from evil, divine hiddenness, the argument from biological evolution, and the argument from physical minds. In an interesting twist on the argument from design, Carrier turns the fine-tuning argument on its head, noting that several features of our universe--features predicted by naturalism--are highly improbable if Christian theism is true.
Jeffery Jay Lowder maintains this page.
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