Author Topic: The Argument From Nonbelief  (Read 703 times)

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Offline median

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The Argument From Nonbelief
« on: April 18, 2013, 12:43:56 PM »
MAIN CONTENTION:
 
 The existence of non-belief is contradictory to the very idea that the Christian God exists.
 
 There are lots of people in the world who do not have a belief in a God. Furthermore, according to each religion on earth, there are billions of others (outsiders) who do not believe in the correct God, and who will therefore be punished, in some way, due to their non-belief in their specific conception of God. But how can anyone acknowledge "the right God" if they are completely unaware that this deity exists and wants certain things from them?
 
 Now according to Christianity the following are true:
 
 -A conscious personal being called Yahweh exists and created the universe and everything in it
 -Yahweh is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent
 -Yahweh wants every person to know the truth and be saved
 -Yahweh provided a means for every person to be saved
 -But this being has not made it apparently and unequivocally known that the above are true
 
 According to Christianity, in order for one to be saved it is necessary for one to think the following are true:
 
 -Yahweh exists
 -You have committed sins against him
 -Yahweh is willing to save you from the punishments of those sins so that you can be saved
 
 [These 3 will be called "X" herein]
 
 But if Yahweh wants us to be saved, and wants us to know these "necessary" things, why don't we know them? I think the most reasonable position is that we (non-believers of X) don't know them because the Christian God does not exist.
 
 The Argument:
 
 P1 - If Yahweh exists he desires that we know X
 P2 - If Yahweh exists he has the power for us to know X
 P3 - If Yahweh exists, given 1&2, we should know X
 P4 - We do not know X
 C: Given 3&4 Yahweh does not exist
 
 
 Possible Rebuttals:
 
 1. But God doesn't want to "force himself" on us. He gave us freewill which would be violated if he just showed up and made us all know X.
 
Response: Knowledge does not negate choice. Even Christians agree that God demonstrated himself to angels, the prophets, the apostles, etc. So just b/c one has knowledge of a thing doesn't at all negate our freewill to choose to follow or obey.
 
 
 2. All non-believers in Christianity are actually "secret believers". They "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" and know X but refuse to acknowledge them.
 
Response: Many non-Christians and/or non-theists display ample demonstrable evidence that they are actively seeking the truth and badly want to know God (who/whatever "it" is) in as close a relationship as possible (as well as know X). Where is the evidence that people are secretly Christians, let alone theists? It seems there just isn't any good reason for thinking this claim is true.
 
 3. We are sinners, and b/c of sin we refuse to acknowledge Yahweh as Lord and repent.
 
Response: This response is similar to #2. There simply is no reason for thinking that all non-believers of Christianity/"Jesus is Lord" around the world are somehow incapable of connecting with an omnipotent deity merely because they are "sinful fallen beings" (short of merely assuming what needs to be proved). Isn't Satan a sinful fallen angel? What about all the angels who supposedly saw Yahweh and still rebelled? They must know he exists. How about Judas Escariot?
 
 In addition, it seems quite contradictory to say that God wants us to know X but that we still don't know X due to our "sin". Are we more powerful than Yahweh (an omnipotent being)? Obviously, according to believers, this being has no problem with demonstrating the whole of nature to us, in a way that we can actively seek knowledge without necessarily having certainty of it. So why not demonstrate himself to us in the same way - so that (at the very least come judgment day) we won't have an excuse.
 
 4. It's all part of his divine plan. For those who do not believe, Yahweh will eventually reveal himself to all of us at some point (perhaps at the of the earth) and there will be none who claim not to know X.
 
Response: This is the typical answer when one has no good answer. It is akin to saying, "I just have faith" which doesn't get anyone anywhere b/c anyone can 'just have faith' in anything. This response is insufficient because it leads to answering an apparent contradiction by a mere personal promise which is derived in the very assumption the Christian has made in his/her bible. "Oh, sometime out there we'll know later." It doesn't bring us any closer to a resolution to the problem.
 
 So then Yahweh does not want us to know, and act in accordance with, X right now? He would rather us continue "in our sins" and not do "his will", preferring rather that we do "the work of the evil one" here on earth? This seems quite contrary to the message that Yahweh allegedly wants all his "children" to be saved (and to be saved right now) and do his will. Do you think your God does not want non-believers to be saved right now?
 
 5. Yahweh wishes that all would be saved but that is not possible because he only chooses a few. We don't know why but we just believe and trust the bible.
 
Response: But why trust the bible? What sound evidence do you have that this collection of ancient writings in divine? Can you provide anything uniquely sound that cannot also be said of other claimed holy books? In a round about way this response seems to admit that the bible contradicts itself (for example that God wishes that none should perish, 2 Peter 3, but that he has prepared some for "destruction", Romans 9). Why should we put ANY trust (let alone our entire lives) in this belief system? There seems no good reason we ought to do so.
 
 So then once more, the existence of non-belief is contradictory to the idea that Yahweh exists, because if it did we should except to see far greater numbers of "saved" Christians (indeed ALL people) and far less "souls burning in hell". Therefore we ought to feel confident in thinking that this being called Yahweh is not real.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 12:47:06 PM by median »
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Graybeard

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2013, 01:04:20 PM »
The god Yahweh is, and all gods are, the antithesis of knowledge.

The classic case is that since mankind's arrival on earth until the 18th century and Lady Mary Wortley MontaguWiki and then Edward JennerWiki, news of smallpox vaccination had only reached the Islamic World (probably via their god) and so thousands suffered and died from it. Between the introduction of vaccination and the late 20th century, it was still a killer, but eventually, one of God's Blessings was totally defeated.

Now, it could have been that, at any point in history, God could have told us about this, but no... he decided to disfigure and kill people instead.

It was most strange that Yahweh, that god of the Israelites, waited until the 18th century, because that was the time when his churches first started emptying and science started to grow.

Bear in mind that God knows the cure for all cancers, but he is not going to tell us just yet.
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline flapdoodle64

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2013, 01:28:00 PM »
Bear in mind that God knows the cure for all cancers, but he is not going to tell us just yet.

It's interesting that god writes various books in which god provides direct, undeniable revelation and proof of his existence to select persons (all of whom are now conveniently dead), yet for the overwhelming mass of humanity he is invisible, silent, and gaseous to the touch. 

It's also interesting that god manages to pick as his chosen messengers many people who become publicly revealed as liars and charlatans, such as Joseph Smith, Aimee Semple McPheerson, Jim Bakker, Rev. Ted Haggard.  (Or, if they are NOT god's chosen messengers, then it is interesting that god never calls a press conference to disavow that these liars and charlatans are his agents.)

It is one thing to believe that an omnipotent being might exist in the cosmos, but if the omnipotent being is omnibenevolent, then you really have wonder about his chosen style and methods of communication.  Especially since he designed the way our biological communication and data processing systems all operate...he'd have to know that at least some of us would be skeptical, and he'd have to know that the his techniques of communication and reasoning happen to be the same as those employed by many charlatans and frauds. 

One thing god did know: that by commanding us to go to church and sunday school every week, from childhood onward, that it would be possible to build and maintain a mental corral around many people so that thier thinking might never stray into these realms of inquiry. 

Offline Hierophant

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2013, 03:36:23 PM »
I am not a fan of such arguments simply because they rely on "divine psychology," and as such are nebulous and most easy to reject out of hand for Christians. After all, SPAG and so on. Same for the Argument From Scale. I prefer ethical arguments, because they cut to the chase and don't necessitate psychological assumptions.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 03:42:35 PM by Hierophant »

Offline median

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2013, 02:46:17 AM »
I am not a fan of such arguments simply because they rely on "divine psychology," and as such are nebulous and most easy to reject out of hand for Christians. After all, SPAG and so on. Same for the Argument From Scale. I prefer ethical arguments, because they cut to the chase and don't necessitate psychological assumptions.

Actually, the argument is predicated upon the generally accepted beliefs of Christians (regarding what God wants/thinks, etc) and since I was one of those for nearly 20 years I find it convincing. In fact, quite a few non-believers have stated that this argument caused them to move away from religion. I have anticipated rebuttals here and have yet to hear one that comes anywhere near being sound. However, I do (sometimes) enjoy reading apologist attempts. The question remains, if the Christian God exists, why don't we all know it like we know water exists (or even more so)? I say it's b/c this God does not exist at all.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Hierophant

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2013, 02:49:13 AM »
Oh yes, I agree that if God existed then the existence of God would be blindingly obvious to everyone, about as much as the existence of the Sun... however I don't think nonbelief has much to do with it.

Offline median

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2013, 01:51:02 PM »
Oh yes, I agree that if God existed then the existence of God would be blindingly obvious to everyone, about as much as the existence of the Sun... however I don't think nonbelief has much to do with it.

How does nonbelief not have anything to do with it when you just admitted that if this deity DID exist it would be obvious to all.  So the fact that IT IS NOT OBVIOUS (i.e. - nonbelief exists) demonstrates that this deity does not exist. The existence of nonbelief among humans is central to the conclusion that the Christian God simply does not exist. And we can be just about as certain of this notion as we can be certain that Santa Claus does not exist.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan

Offline Hierophant

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2013, 02:01:39 PM »
Yes, that's a fair point.

Offline mango

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2013, 02:54:10 PM »
This fails along with the logical problem of evil, at least as a deductive argument. You can revive it as a probabilistic argument of course. Here's why:

It is usually acknowledged that you can get out of the logical problem of evil by saying that, so long as God wants to give creatures free will, he can't bring it about that they do X. This isn't a defect in his power, but just a logical consequence of what it means for creatures to be free.

It is universally acknowledged that belief is part of knowledge. Traditionally knowledge = justified true belief (though that's false, but close enough).
Presumably, what you believe is sometimes the result of free actions. I currently have no beliefs about the mating behavior of Yaks, but if I chose, I could look it up on Wikipedia and start forming some beliefs.

Hence, if you throw free will at it, premise 2 is false, because an omnipotent being could not bring every free being to believe x, and thereby could not get every free being to know x.

Now, this is just a defense, not a theodicee analog of the argument from divine hiddenness, but I think this discussion isn't going to bring much to the front that isn't already present in the discussion of the problem of evil.

Offline Hierophant

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2013, 03:15:27 PM »
Mango, we already went though that in the "A Christian against "Divine Command Theory"" thread. It's still patent nonsense. God is omniscient and therefore is responsible for everything that happens, free will (whatever that means) or not.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 03:18:15 PM by Hierophant »

Offline mango

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2013, 05:46:07 PM »
I was just going of the current view in the professional literature on philosophy of religion. And there, the logical argument Mackie made popular in the fifties is considered defeated.

That this has been discussed many many times over in hallways, internet forums, and elsewhere is of course unsurprising. I'm sure the logical argument from evil could be argued to try to revive it somehow. I just glanced over at the thread, and I didn't see any new arguments that haven't been gone over in the literature already.

Anyways, the main take away from my post is that this isn't really a distinct argument from the argument from evil. If this goes through, so does the argument from evil, and the latter is much more bothersome.

Offline median

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Re: The Argument From Nonbelief
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2013, 02:04:57 AM »
Christians, please address this argument (in OP) to the best of your ability ;)
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Carl Sagan