Following a discussion about my last post “Ed”, a British atheist asked a terrific question which gave rise to an interesting and enriching conversation.
Ed: Marc, thanks. I am interested in the hiddenness aspect. You say in the piece: “The problem of God allowing many people to remain in the dark about his true nature (divine hiddenness) could be partially solved by considering His leaving freedom to man AND salvation not being dependent on holding the right beliefs while dying.”
Would this include the atheists like me who consider the evidence points strongly away from theism?
Me: Hi Ed! Thanks for your wonderful question.
I can only answer you what Pope Francis stated:
“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not
believe in God is to obey their conscience.
Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Let me give you an analogy. I believe that hardcore libertarianism (the idea that the State should NEVER intervene even if poor children are starving) is a wicked system.
I do believe that numerous rich people wanting to preserve or enhance their privileges aren’t sincere when they pretend to be intellectually convinced this is the best system for us all.
YET I also recognize that many libertarians are SINCERELY convinced this is the case and that private donations can take care of the poor.
The same thing could be said about atheism. I find no atheistic arguments convincing.
But I acknowledge the fact that sincere and kind people might disagree with that assessment IN GOOD FAITH.
I also believe there’s nothing wrong at all with respectful atheistic philosophers trying to rationally defend their worldview.
So I do believe that beyond the grave, God will give all these people the opportunity to accept Him and thereby inherit immortality.
Ed: Great Marc. I take it that when you said “The problem of God allowing many people to remain in the dark about his true nature (divine hiddenness) …” your view is similar to mainstream here: if atheists could overcome their prejudice then they would see the evidence for God as clear, as Rom 1 suggests. Have I read you correctly?
Me: There are two issues which need to be untangled here.
1) Is the rejection of theism wicked?
I’m no inerrantist. I see the apostle Paul as a great man of God and read him like I read C.S. Lewis.
Consequently, I’m not bound to believing that everything he wrote in the book of “Romans” is free of errors.
I certainly don’t think that ALL atheists “capture the Truth” IMMORALLY even if I think this may very well hold for SOME of them.
It is, however, not really clear this is what the apostle meant in the first place.
He might have had a cultural rather than individual responsibility in mind.
2) Do atheists think as they do due to prejudices?
It is vital to realize one can hold false beliefs owing to prejudices WITHOUT being morally culpable.
In that sense, I do believe that COUNTLESS people are atheists owing to prejudices or ungrounded presuppositions (such as the universal applicability of Ockham’s razor or the general principle “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence“.)
Ed: Marc, that’s helpful. Now on the evidence side of the equation…. Does the evidence lead to God when viewed 100% objectively? Or is it unclear? Or is God hidden on this objective level as well?
Me: I’m no Bayesian and doubt in the first place that propositions such as “God exists” are characterized by a SINGLE-VALUED probability.