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It is a very strong challenge to theistic belief.

J.L. (John) Schellenberg

Sometimes it seems to me stronger than the hiddenness problem, and indeed it may be. Even if hiddenness were in no way bad, it might make for a stronger challenge to theistic belief if one could more easily get an argument out of it that had clearly true premises from which the truth of atheism followed. Are you currently working on another philosophy text?

What is your current philosophical research on? So…philosophy remains exciting and motivating. I hope it will prove rewarding for you too, and I wish all of you the very best in your studies. You can ask Andrew Moon and J. Schellenberg questions about their work in the comments section below. Comments must conform to our community guidelines and comment policy.


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Our goal is to cover research from a broad array of philosophical areas and perspectives, reflecting the variety of work being done by APA members. If you have a suggestion for the series, please contact us here. ATHEISM: The faith based belief that the very poorly developed reasoning ability of a single semi-suicidal half insane species only recently living in caves on one little planet in one of billions of galaxies is capable of conducting a meaningful analysis of the most fundamental nature of all reality scope of god claims , a realm that species can not define in even the most basic manner size, shape etc.

To add to the irony, theists typically understand that they are using faith as their method, while atheists typically do not, making theists arguably the more rational and realistic group, generally speaking. Squirrels have the sense to not deliberately put themselves in mortal danger. The widely agreed upon real world evidence reveals that we do not. Not enough ignorance! Point being, all parties to the God debate agree that establishing a knowing should be the goal of the inquiry. If that un-examined assumption is incorrect, all arguments by all parties within the God debate are doomed to failure from the start.

Discussions of atheism should begin with an investigation in to whether something as small as human reason limited to a single species on a single planet in one of billions of galaxies would be qualified to examine anything the scale of gods, typically defined as being the essence of everything everywhere, the creator of everything everywhere, the manager of everything everywhere etc.

Everything everywhere, the very largest of scales! In both cases, theist and atheist, if one is not willing to inspect and challenge the qualifications of whatever authority one is referencing, one is a person of faith. If we apply reason to the God question it should soon become apparent that no one on any side of that debate is in a position to prove the qualifications of their chosen authority. And thus, all the arguments and assertions based on those authorities can be dismissed from the outset. This efficiency arises from focusing the inquiry on the source of the arguments a holy book or reason instead of on the arguments themselves.

If the holy book can not be proven qualified for addressing the largest questions, we can forget about Bible verses. If human reason can not be proven qualified for addressing the largest questions, we can forget about logic calculations. What we are left with then is just the fact of our mutual shared ignorance. What a person of reason should do next is look for ways to put this abundant asset to constructive use. All that the above entails is applying the very same process of challenge which atheists reasonably aim at theism to atheism as well. That is, all that is required here is intellectual honesty, and a conscious decision to choose reason over ideology.

It is typically assumed by both theists and atheists that the possible answers to the God question are either that a God exists, or not, one or the other. The overwhelming vast majority of reality from the smallest to largest scales is space. Space is a really big deal, dwarfing all else. Does space exist, or not? And yet, in spite of this, the God debate continues endlessly on and on, recycling the same arguments over and over again, with all parties including experts agreeing to the largely unexamined assumption that a God either exists, or not, one or the other.

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We can observe further how escaping that trap really requires little more than common sense, a sincere interest in the subject, and a willingness to follow reason where ever it leads. The point here is that whether we are theists or atheists, a man in the street or highly ranked academic, the God debate can teach us a lot about our relationship with authority. Seeing this and accepting it does require the courage to face that none of us really has a clue what is going on.

That realization does take much of the fun out of silly games like the God debate, but it also opens new horizons well worth exploring. It has some affinities to a counterexample Cullision uses though not the one which Schellenberg discusses above. A line from Chesterton seems apropos concerning the hiddennes argument and even the argument from evil:. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe?

For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. Perhaps the God debate provides a good example of how philosophy and reason are not automatically the same thing. I hope readers might try this. Observe what is happening here.

Instead of arguing against the specific assertion itself, the atheist is moving up a level and challenging the assumption the assertion is based upon that the Bible is the word of God and thus credible etc. This is the most efficient way to proceed, because if the theist can not prove the qualifications of their chosen authority then there is no need to debate each an every doctrine which arises from that authority.

All such assertions can be discarded in a single sweep of the hand. That is, just as we challenged the chosen authority of the theist, we now challenge the chosen authority of the atheist. Exactly the same process in both cases. If we apply our challenge fairly in an even handed manner to all parties to the debate intellectual honesty no party will be able to meet the challenge, because no party can prove the qualifications of their chosen authority.

Thus, all assertions derived from those authorities can be discarded.

The "Evil God Challenge" by Stephen Law

This is bad news for those who have a cherished collection of memorized clever arguments that they wish to display. And so we start again with nothing. All we have is our mutual ignorance, and our mutual interest. The investigation need not end, but it is now based upon reality instead of fantasy knowings. Challenge the God debate itself. A merry-go-round creates the compelling illusion of movement with entertaining blinking lights and carnival music, but upon closer inspection we see that the merry-go-round is actually traveling eternally round and round in a very small circle.

Where can that person go from there? If they are no longer a theist, atheist, or agnostic, if choose to no longer be part of the God debate system, who are they then? What such a person can chose to do is set aside all of the above faith based ideologies, and become a person of reason.

Divine hiddenness: Part 2 (recent enlargements of the discussion)

Yes, I know, the atheist typically thinks they are a person of reason, but really they just have faith in a different unproven authority than the theist. What a person of reason might do is ask the question, why did this God business arise in the first place? What human need gave rise to a belief in Gods, and the desire to debunk such beliefs as well? A person of reason might climb down off the God debate merry-go-round to nowhere, stand back and ask, why did we build this merry-go-round? And that is what a person of reason would do. And now I need a bit of help from you dear reader.

Should this story continue? Ed Available Formats: eBook Hardcover Softcover. Brown, N. Ed , Simmons, J. Available Formats: eBook Softcover. Steinhart, E. Dougherty, T. Smith, A. Ed , Nagasawa, Y. Available Formats: Hardcover Softcover eBook. Publishing With Us. Book Authors Journal Authors. Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion.

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J. L. Schellenberg: The hiddenness argument: philosophy’s new challenge to belief in God

Each book in the series aims to progress a debate in the philosophy of religion by i offering a novel argument to establish a strikingly original thesis, or ii approaching an ongoing dispute from a radically new point of view. Each title in the series contributes to this aim by utilising recent developments in empirical sciences or cutting-edge research in foundational areas of philosophy such as metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Share this. Titles in this series. Refine Search. Content Type. Release Date. Showing 17 results.