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In a hypothetical scenario in which God exists, would God be able to make the belief in His existence justified for humans? If so, how? What would God need to do to accomplish that goal? If not, does that mean that belief in God is never justified, even if God exists and wants humans to believe in His existence?

More generally, what could possibly justify belief in God?


Similar questions I found on this site:

If there was a sudden voice in the clouds saying “I am God”, would that be evidence?
Why aren’t mundane events seen as evidence of a God?
Can a coincidence be evidence of a god?
Is a miracle a sufficient evidence of the truth of a religion?
Is watching an amputated limb regrow proof of the supernatural?

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    On many current theories of justification, yes, but not beyond all doubt. Under reliabilism, God would have to use a process causally linked to him and reliable, i.e. producing beliefs with a high truth/falsehood ratio. Unhindered perception and sound reasoning are typically considered reliable. For example, he could display a diverse set of supernatural events of a kind and on a scale that makes even very advanced technological trickery implausible. But he may not want faith compelled by such displays.
    – Conifold
    Nov 11, 2023 at 4:38
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    @Conifold, those sorts of processes can't be used to justify belief in other minds, belief in an external world, belief in an objective moral code, or (following Hume's argument) even belief in causality. Are you suggesting that those beliefs are not justified? Nov 11, 2023 at 10:05
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    @DavidGudeman Hume concludes his argument saying that nature "has implanted in us an instinct, which carries forward the thought in a correspondent course to that which she has established among external objects", and declares causality justified. Most epistemologists do not pretend anymore that humans can deduce infallible truths or rule out skeptical scenarios. Once the standard of justification is brought down to human level, where it belongs, it turns out that much of the above is justified after all.
    – Conifold
    Nov 11, 2023 at 11:08
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    @Conifold, exactly. So why can't belief in God be justified in a similar manner---as many religious people assert---by some sort of intuition? Why does God require scientific evidence? In general, the demand that knowledge of God be justified by the sort of investigation that has been successful elsewhere is unreasonable because God, like other minds or causality is a unique sort of thing which one would not expect to be provable by the same sort of evidence as any other sort of thing. Such a demand is stacking the deck against justified knowledge of God. Nov 11, 2023 at 18:13
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    @DavidGudeman Because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and omnipotence and omniscience are pretty extraordinary. Causality, on the other hand, is not. Belief in God should be justified in a similar manner, it is just that the evidence should match what is being justified.
    – Conifold
    Nov 12, 2023 at 6:22

6 Answers 6

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Reliabilist and skeptical claims notwithstanding...(as pointed out by Conifold) this is the crux of the atheistic Argument from Divine Hiddenness:

(1) Necessarily, if God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be.
(2) Necessarily, if God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be, then, for any capable finite person S and time t, God is at t open to being in a positively meaningful and reciprocal conscious relationship with S at t.
(3) Necessarily, if for any capable finite person S and time t, God is at t open to being in a positively meaningful and reciprocal conscious relationship with S at t, then, for any capable finite person S and time t, it is not the case that S is at t nonresistantly in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that God exists.
(4) There is at least one capable finite person S and time t such that S is or was at t nonresistantly in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that God exists.


(5) So, it is not the case that God exists. (from 1 through 4)

(Source: Howard-Snyder, Daniel and Adam Green, "Hiddenness of God", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta & Uri Nodelman (eds.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2022/entries/divine-hiddenness/.)

Having just gotten out of Catholic Mass, I know at least some Christians believe that God has a deep, unconditional, superhuman love for them, despite their failings. Also, I am a person who despite my non-belief would be thrilled to know that there is a grander arc to my existence than merely dying and being put in the ground. I would be more than open to some kind of evidence that (with high probability) is not (a) a hallucination/mental condition, (b) not naturally derivable (c) corroborated by others.

Taken together, I would be very hard-pressed to continue in my atheism at that point. Given I don't have any natural dislike of theism or the idea of the afterlife/god/higher power (actually the opposite), I would switch my views given the overwhelmingly large odds against this just being some mass hallucination or alien species playing a trick on us, which is something I would rate as less plausible than a God as an explanation of (a) - (c).

More in the vein of Schellenberg's argument above, I hope that I am sufficiently nonresistant to allow for more personal, direct conversion by God. I have said the "skeptic's prayer" sincerely at many points in my life but have yet to cross over to true belief (vs just motivated hope).

Example of Sufficient Criteria for Belief for this non-resistant non-believer:

(A bit tongue in cheek for fun)

Simultaneously, across all continents, a bright blue orb appears in the sky and all televisions start showing a dark screen with a blue circle in it, completely silent. Then a voice speaks, with each recipient hearing it in their native language, either directly from the orb or from the television.

I am what you refer to as God. I created this universe and constitute it. I have been watching you all develop over the eons, searching for, fighting about, arguing for, answers about me. Your technology and scientific sophistication have grown to the point that I am ready to set the record straight, with the hope that enough of this event will be reliably documented to ensure future generations are not confused.

I see you value science, and it has been mostly good to you, but not without much pain and violence as well. Therefore, I will offer you something that I hope speaks to my benevolence and my desire to rid you of your persistent worries of mortality and meaning. It will only be comprehensible to a small fraction of you, and even then you will need to work hard as it contains much that has yet to be discovered.

I offer you this: As you have discovered, your views of the very large and very small are not compatible. You have devised many ingenious attempts at this solution but lack the means to test your theories. I will give you the answer and the means to experimentally verify it. [God then goes on to describe a variant of a theory in quantum gravity, displaying the symbols on its surface as it speaks. It then says that before it departs, it will keep a symbol in the sky for all time, which when scanned and decompressed by XYZ algorithm, will contain all the details to construct necessary technology to verify this theory against others]

OK, so it's a bit silly, but it has a very Biblical feel to it in its grandiosity ;) I'd probably settle for a persistent, personal appearance and several trips to the psychiatrist to prove I'm not crazy :-P

I think the main point is that for a supremely powerful being, this is nothing for it. Also, apart from myself, I know very many similar non-resistant/spiritually hopeful non-theists out there who would latch onto solid demonstrations like this (as opposed to trying to torture the data to conform to some more mundane materialist explanation).

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    "it has a very Biblical feel to it in its grandiosity": That reminds me to "Fyodor Dostojewski: The Grand Inquisitor" Reading that short story from the 19th century I am in doubt, how much the author is blending here criticism with admiration. The long version of the question is his novel "The Brothers Karamazov".
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 11, 2023 at 23:38
  • I hope you don't mind my asking this question referencing this answer.
    – Mark
    Nov 13, 2023 at 9:46
  • @Mark not at all :) When I bring this up with Christians I usually get some flavor of the “no true Scotsman” argument.
    – Annika
    Nov 13, 2023 at 10:41
  • @Annika Great :). I ended up writing an answer to my own question.
    – Mark
    Nov 13, 2023 at 15:01
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    @Mark --cool question you asked. I joined ChristianitySE just to follow that one ;)
    – Annika
    Nov 13, 2023 at 18:09
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Nothing is preventing God from revealing to you in person if you are eligible. Just like this site doesn’t tolerate every kind of question and every kind of person for a good reason , similarly God does not manifest to everybody in every situation ,for right reasons.

In my opinion God can reveal to everybody the Truth ,if the time and situation or the circumstances are right.( Since you asked about God I thought it right to share my opinion based on experience.)

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  • personal experiences have more value than hypotheses. Nov 12, 2023 at 0:22
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    Someone having a personal revelation does not justify them coercing others to agree, so hermits are fine with me, holy wars and religiously based laws, not.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 14 at 23:49
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I do not know whether He/She can. Actually He does not want.

A mighty personal being, having created the world but not showing any interest to communicate in an understandable way with his creatures, is not credible.

The situation prompts a lot of ad-hoc hypotheses of his believers to support their belief.

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    +1 yes, there is a lot of ink spilled to get around the argument from divine absence/silence. Why is it that we all agree that the sun exists and creates heat, that birds and humans exist, but NOT the most powerful, INTELLIGENT being (if that is even appropriate) that can ever exist.
    – Annika
    Nov 11, 2023 at 20:34
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    @Annika Because the sun, birds, and humans have not been absent or silent.
    – D. Halsey
    Nov 11, 2023 at 23:15
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    @D.Halsey Exactly :) +1
    – Annika
    Nov 11, 2023 at 23:17
  • isn't the cosmological constant an ad-hoc hypotheses? aren't axioms in math ad-hoc hypotheses? everything is based in hypotheses... Nov 12, 2023 at 0:19
  • ad 1: Yes, concerning the cosmological constant as it was originally introduced by Einstein.- ad 2: No, concerning the role of axioms in an axiomatized mathematical theory. - ad 3: No, not every hypothesis is an ad-hoc hypothesis.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 12, 2023 at 2:02
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According to Immanuel Kant, it's not logically possible for God to reveal Its existence to us in intuition, since the mismatch-of-type between empirical and divine natures is too extreme for us to read any episode of empirical intuition as adequate to the supremacy of the deity. That is, no finite, or even indefinite, experience is "similar enough" to the absolute infinity of God, for God to be revealed in such an experience (or even the arbitrarily expansive collection of all experiences over all human life thus far); the closest we can get is the ratio of infinite reason to indefinite experience, such as gives rise to the feeling of the sublime (see the Critique of Judgment for more on that).

On the other hand, one might read omnipotence as allowing God to do anything logically possible in some other sense; rather than saying that there could be a finite, relative state of mind in which God's presence is disclosed to us, we might imagine that God can permanently represent Itself to us "in the background," by some sort of constant intuitio beatifico (if you will), yet which intuition cannot be publicly communicated in the normal way: which is not such as justifies the perceiver in trying to convince others of said perception, then. Kant says something like this, too, interestingly enough.

So our disjunction would be: either (A) God can't intuitively show us Itself at all, or (B) God can intuitively show Itself to us only so far as justifies private, not public, belief in It. The corollary (C) is that pure reason will happen to construct the absolute ideal of God regardless of what our intuition can ever hope to access, and will hold fast the ideal in the light of moral representations, whose own foundation is synthetic a priori, but not by intuition (a point that Fichte would take up, and though Kant perhaps unfairly responded to Fichte, here (another story for another time!)).

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If God exists, then she probably can justify our belief in her simply by showing up. However, many wise men and women (and the philosophical and religious texts they wrote) suggested that God, at least for the time being, prefers to stay in (and work form) the shadows. Here is Katha-Upanishad, for example: "God does not proclaim Himself, He is everybody's secret, but the intellect of the sage has found Him."

Why would God choose so? We can only speculate, but there could be rational reasons why. Perhaps telling us what to do is the last thing on God's mind? Perhaps what God wants is her children to grow up and start thinking for themselves? After all, this -- to think for ourselves -- is also what Socrates suggested we should do.

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  • Maybe if God prefers to stay hidden, we shouldn't be chasing after like a bunch of paparazzi? Leave God in peace!
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 14 at 23:41
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If you consider God as an independent being of some sort, then you are probably thinking of an extraordinary act of some kind – like a show – that will leave no doubt about His greatness.

On the other hand you can consider God as a structure which is embedded in the way of how things work. In this way the manifestations of God are perplexed with your interactions with your environment and are a matter of a personal perception of reality: Independently of the logical explanations of the events that take place, it’s the overall meaning of an experience that constitutes a (possible) realization of a meaning that justifies your belief in God.

In this way God is revealed in the way reality is unfolded; for a non-believer though, all these are coincidences and randomness.

So, it's not what God needs to do to accomplish this goal, but what YOU need to do, in order to identify its existence.

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    If you denote by God (capital initial) the name of the god Jahwe from the Abrahamic religions, then we are not free to consider him "as a structure which is embedded in the way of how things work". How God communicated with and revealed himself to human beings is detailed in the holy books of each of the three religions.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 11, 2023 at 16:21
  • I do NOT fall for a specific kind of God, in the context of a religion. Nov 12, 2023 at 12:04
  • Perhaps people who have inward proof of God should then keep quiet about it, and everyone else is barred from taking actions based on religious belief.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 14 at 23:50

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