Some religious theists (though by no means all) try to explain the apparent lack of strong evidence for the existence of God by dismissing it as merely a human problem. Strong evidence, they say, is abundantly available, so the inability to see it must issue from some kind of personal defect or irresponsibility.These theists claim that unbelievers blind themselves to the reality of God by erecting barriers that are designed to keep belief at bay. Why? Because they find the existence of God to be a threatening or inconvenient reality.
In my view, the above explanation has some merit, but it is also very incomplete. It fails to do justice to the nuances and complexities involved in sifting through the evidence, and it does not engage what atheists have been saying about the issue. So what have they been saying?
The argument that a loving God would make his existence more apparent in this world is not a new one. Atheists like David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche viewed the apparent lack of sufficient evidence as grounds for unbelief, but only until recently has this argument been given a rigorous formulation, specifically in J.L. Schellenberg’s book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (1993). He contends that a perfectly loving Being would provide evidence of His existence to any creature capable of entering into a personal relationship with Him. But since there are persons who lack adequate evidence for belief (through no fault of their own), and because there are likely no justifying reasons why God would allow such people to lack belief, Schellenberg concludes that God probably doesn’t exist. This, in a nutshell, is the problem of divine hiddenness.
My hunch is that Schellenberg’s argument will resonate with most of people who’ve spent a considerable amount of time and energy examining the evidence for and against God, and find the conclusion of theism to be less than obvious, or at least easily resistible. Whether or not you are convinced by Schellenberg will depend on how you answer these two core questions: first, do some people lack belief in God through not fault of their own? And second, is there likely no justifying reason God that would have for allowing such persons to exist? How might you respond to these questions?