Schellenberg’s Defense of Nonresistant Nonbelief / Divine Hiddenness
In this post, I want to summarize J.L. Schellenberg’s defense of the claim that nonresistant nonbelief exists (or, synonymously, divine hiddenness obtains).
As I’ve explained before, Schellenberg’s most recent formulation of that argument is as follows.
(1) Necessarily, if God exists, anyone who is (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God is also (iii) in a position to participate in such relationship (able to do so just by trying).
(2) Necessarily, one is at a time in a position to participate in meaningful conscious relationship with God only if at that time one believes that God exists.
(3) Necessarily, if God exists, anyone who is (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God also (iii) believes that God exists.
(4) There are (and often have been) people who are (i) not resisting God and (ii) capable of meaningful conscious relationship with God without also (iii) believing that God exists.
(5) God does not exist.
Among the various objections to this argument, one popular route is to doubt or deny (4). What does Schellenberg have to say in defense of (4)? I’m going to quote from his book, The Wisdom to Doubt.
(a) The evidence of former believers:
Consider, for example, those who have always believed in God and who would love to go on believing in God but who have found, as adults, that serious and honest examination of all the evidence of experience and argument they can lay their hands on has unexpectedly had the result of eroding their belief away. These are individuals who were happy and morally committed believers and who remain morally committed but are not longer happy because of the emotional effects of an intellectual reorganization involving the removal of theistic belief. Perhaps they will be happy again, but the point is that for for the time being, it is the removal of theistic belief that they are inclined to resist, if anything. For they were still on friendly terms with God and benefitting in a variety of ways from what they took to be contact with God when their belief in the existence of such a being was whisked away. (p. 205)
(b) The evidence of isolated nontheists.
Consider also all those–both at the present time and throughout the past–in whom theistic belief has never been a live option. In some such individuals, quite other beliefs, supported by authority or tradition or experience, have held sway instead of theism. In others, the basic conceptual conditions of so much as entertaining the idea of a being separate from a created physical universe who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good and loving in relation to it have never been satisfied. (p. 205)
(c) The evidence of lifelong seekers:
… individuals who don’t start out in what they consider to be a relationship with God and may not even be explicitly searching for God, but who are trying to find out where they belong and, in their wanderings, are open to finding and being found by a Divine Parent–all without ever achieving their goal. These are individuals who seek but do not find. (p. 233)
(d) The evidence of converts to nontheistic religions: these are individuals who investigate other serious conceptions of the Ultimate and who turn up evidence that produces religious belief in the context of nontheistic religious communities and/or on account of nontheistic religious experiences–and the truth of atheistic claims may be seen to follow by implication. (236)
Feel free to debate in the Combox, but please be respectful.