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The argument from non-belief: God only exists if we believe it does

The argument from non-belief is a philosophical argument that asserts an inconsistency between the existence of God and a world in which people fail to recognize him

The Argument

Philosopher J.L. Schellenberg describes this argument in his book "Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason"(1993). He first proposes that there are people who are capable of relating and believing in God but still fail to believe. Assuming that God is unrivaled with respect to its greatness, and thus is perfectly loving, then there can be no such people who fail to believe in God’s existence. However, as those people exist, then there is no such God. Schellenberg defends this position with the argument that if God is perfectly loving and thus is always open to personal relationships with every person, then no human being could ever be unaware of God’s existence and fail to believe in God. Another version of the argument from non-belief comes from philosopher Theodore Drange. This argument follows Schellenberg’s original 1993 argument. Drange proposes a series of statements that must be true if God exists. These are that if God wants all humans to believe in God’s existence before they die, God can make humans believe in its existence, God does not want anything to conflict with human belief in its existence, and that God always acts in accordance with these statements. Drange supposes these notions, and from this, proposes that if God exists, then all humans would believe in its existence before they die. However, not all humans believe in the existence of God before they die. Therefore, God does not exist. In summary, the argument from non-belief asserts that because there are people who do not believe in the existence of God, God does not exist. The argument relies primarily on the assumptions that God is incomparably good and loving and that God desires for people to believe in its existence and acts accordingly. These assumptions are the most common points of critique regarding the argument from non-belief.

Counter arguments

For the Christian philosopher Jean-Luc Marion, the silence of God is the proof of His love : if God does not reveal Himself by The Word, who, like every word, can bind possessively, it is in order to manifest, in discretion and restraint, his eternal fidelity. This is restraint that, far from weakening a relationship, strengthens it. As can the restraint of a non-possessive parent strengthen their relationship with their child. For the Jewish philosopher, André Neher, the silence of God is the condition of the free will of humankind, including not believing in Him. Others believe that the argument from non-belief places unreasonable demands on God to prove its existence. In imposing their own expectations on God, nonbelievers fail to see God as God truly is and thus are unable to believe in its existence. Philosopher Paul Moser is a proponent of this counter-argument.



The argument from nonbelief asserts that God does not exist because of the existence of people who do not believe in God’s existence. The basis of the argument stems from divine hiddenness, the idea that God is hidden and absent from his people. With respect to this argument, divine hiddenness is used as context for the existence of non-believers (people who cannot see or otherwise experience God, and therefore do not believe in his existence). Nietzsche asked: "a god who is all-knowing and all-powerful and who does not even make sure his creatures understand his intentions — could that be a god of goodness?"[1]


Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 15 Jun 2020 at 19:29 UTC

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