Volume 36, 1998
Philosophy of Religion
Theodore M. Drange
Nonbelief as Support for Atheism
The Canadian philosopher J.L. Schellenberg has recently put forward an argument for atheism based on the idea that God is supposed to be perfectly loving and so would not permit people to be deprived of awareness of his existence. If such a deity were to exist, then, he would do something to reveal his existence clearly to people, thereby causing them to become theists. Thus, the fact that there are so many non-theists in the world becomes good reason to deny the existence of God conceived of in the given way. I first raise objections to Schellenberg’s formulation of the argument and then suggest some improvements. My main improvement is to include among the divine attributes the property of strongly desiring humanity’s love. Since to love God requires at least believing that he exists, if God were to exist, he must want widespread theistic belief. The fact that so many people lack such belief becomes a good argument for atheism with respect to God conceived of in the given way. Some objections to this line of reasoning are considered, in particular the claim that God refrains from revealing himself to people in order to avoid interfering with their free will or to avoid eliciting inappropriate responses from them or some other (unknown) purpose. An attempt is made to refute each of these objections.