Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Receding concrete decaying arches
Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Why Doesn’t God Just Do Something Dramatic to Prove He Exists?

The Divine Hiddenness argument for atheism, espoused by Matt Dillahunty, is that, if a perfectly loving God existed, reasonable unbelief would be impossible

A couple of years ago I had a YouTube debate with Matt Dillahunty, a prominent atheist activist, well regarded in that community for his debating acumen:

It turned out that, Dillahunty’s debating acumen notwithstanding, his knowledge of the arguments for God’s existence is a mile wide and a millimeter deep. He had no real understanding of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, which is par for the course for modern atheists. They don’t really understand theology in general and natural theology in particular, and their own arguments against God’s existence are juvenile sophistry.

Here’s the sort of thing I mean: Dillahunty’s main argument against God’s existence is the Divine Hiddenness Argument. The argument goes like this:

P1: If a perfectly loving God exists then reasonable unbelief should be impossible.

P2: Reasonable unbelief occurs.

C: Therefore a perfectly loving God does not exist.

The absurdity of the argument is clear if you consider this thought experiment:

Imagine that there is only one atheist in the world — call him Matt. Everyone else in the world has a reasonable belief in God. By the Divine Hiddenness Argument, Matt’s unbelief alone would demonstrate God’s non-existence.

Now imagine that one morning, atheist Matt sits down to breakfast and, while eating his cereal, he reads about Aquinas’ First Way, a logical proof of the existence of God. He accepts the logic and proclaims “God exists!” At that point, there are no longer any atheists in the world, so God’s existence is now a real possibility — based on Matt’s breakfast reading.

The next morning, Matt sits down to breakfast with his collector’s copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (2006). After a bit of reading and thought, he proclaims “God doesn’t exist!”. With Matt’s new breakfast reading, God’s existence ceases to be a real possibility.

The morning after that, Matt sits down to breakfast and reads about Aquinas’ Second Way and proclaims, once again, “God exists!” On account of his reading at breakfast, God’s existence has once again become a real possibility. And so on…

So, according to the Divine Hiddenness Argument, the possibility of God’s existence depends on the breakfast reading of a single atheist—Matt alone could make God exist or not exist. The argument tells us more about atheists’ narcissism than about God’s existence.

Why might God exist and yet appear hidden?

Blaise Pascal

But this leaves unanswered the very real and important question: why does God not show Himself more undeniably? Why doesn’t God force Himself, so to speak, on atheists, so as to rectify their misunderstanding and bring them to Him? Why is belief in God so dependent on faith, rather than sight?

French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) answered this question with a characteristically terse and beautiful insight:
“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”

God gives enough evidence for those who are disposed to know Him and leaves enough room for doubt for those not disposed to know Him. Our relationship with Him is first and foremost an affair of the heart, which has reasons that reason does not know. Faith in God, by God’s design, is not a mere exercise of the intellect. He wants our heart first, and reason follows.

Ironically, atheists’ Divine Hiddenness Argument helps us understand this more clearly.

Here’s the complete debate between Egnor and Dillahunty, with transcript and notes: Former atheist neurosurgeon vs. former Christian activist (now atheist). At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other over the existence of God.

Michael Egnor

Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and is an award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

Why Doesn’t God Just Do Something Dramatic to Prove He Exists?