Saturday, January 5, 2013
Suppose that members of a religious movement, such as Christianity, maintain that the existence of some powerful god and its goals or laws can be known through their scriptures, their prophets, or some special revelation. Suppose further that the evidence that is available to support the reliability of those scriptures, prophets, or special revelations is weaker than that God is hypothetically capable of producing. That is, suppose that Christians maintain that Jesus was resurrected on the basis of the Gospels, or that God’s existence can be known through the Bible, or Muslims insist on the historical authenticity of the Koran. Could God, the almighty creator of the universe, have brought it about so that the evidence in favor of the resurrection, the Bible, or the Koran was better than we currently find it? I take it that the answer is obviously yes. Even if you think there is evidence that is sufficient to prove the resurrection, a reasonable person must also acknowledge that it could have been better. And there’s the problem.
If the capacity of that god is greater than the effectiveness or quality of those scriptures, prophets, or special revelations, then the story they are telling contradicts itself. “We know our god is real on the basis of evidence that is inadequate for our god.” Or, “The grounds that lead us to believe in our god are inconsistent with the god we accept; nevertheless, we believe in this god that would have given us greater evidence if it had wished for us to believe in it.”
Given the disparity between the gods that these religious movements portend and the grounds offered to justify them, the atheist is warranted in dismissing such claims. If the sort of divine being that they promote were real and if he had sought our believe on the basis of the evidence, the evidential situation would not resemble the one we are in. The story doesn’t make internal sense. A far better explanation is that their enthusiasm for believing in a god has led them to overstate what the evidence shows. And that same enthusiasm has made it difficult for them to see that an all powerful God would have the power to make his existence utterly obvious and undeniable. Since it’s not, the non-believer can’t possibly be faulted for failing to believe.
Posted by Matt McCormick at 3:49 PM