Episode 126: Why Would God Hide?

divine_hiddennessJesus said “seek and you will find” but for many spiritual seekers, clear evidence for God cannot be found no matter how hard they search. If He really exists, why would God reveal himself only to some people and not to all? For this episode we examine “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness” which assumes that a perfectly moral being would want to enter into a relationship with His creation. But If that is true, theism faces some trouble in explaining how genuinely “non-resistant” seekers of God could exist. Also on this episode: Creationists attack FOX’s Cosmos series, Fred Phelps is dead, Michigan overturns its ban on gay marriage, and the link between depression, fear and belief in Hell is examined for this episodes installment of God Thinks Like You.

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Episode Links:

Michigan Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down

Better Things to Do Than Picket the Fred Phelps Funeral

Nathan Phelps Statement

First WBC Protest after Phelps death

Creationist critique of Cosmos episode 2

Belief in Hell makes people unhappy and afraid

Religion doesn’t protect against depression

Fatwa against living on Mars


  1. busterggi says

    Humanity is his greatest creation – if I were omnipotent and that was the best I could do I’d be too embarressed to show myself too.

  2. diego says

    Hey guys, I’m listening to this episode and I had to take a brief break from the response to creationist criticisms of ‘Cosmos’ for fear hearing more of their misrepresentations in one sitting would make me apoplectic. Hearing them quote mine Ernst Mayr, a personal hero, was bad enough. But my Master’s Work was in molecular systematics so I am very aware of all the difficulties in phylogeny reconstruction and their attempts to attack the tree of life made me livid. Sure there are reticulate patterns (lateral/horizontal gene transfer, introgression/hybridization) but it’s still pretty debatable just how net-like the main domains of the tree of life are. You’re very right to point out that the dominant pattern for multicellular life is that of branching. I can imagine plenty of other difficulties in phylogeny reconstruction that were not touched on that creationists could attempt to misrepresent. I’m just waiting to see them.

  3. Abraham says

    Your discussion on the idea that God must keep himself secret from his creation, lest direct knowledge of him removes our capacity to enter freely into his worship has rekindled an issue I’ve had tumbling around in my brain for a while which is this:

    Who in the bible (among the key players, at least) did NOT have direct knowledge of God? Was Moses robbed of his ability to freely worship God once he saw the divine backside on Mt. Sinai? What of Abraham, or Adam and Eve, or basically anyone in the Old Testament who knew God personally, or had direct revelation from God, or who witnessed seriously impossible shit with their own eyes. And what of the New Testament? According to Christians, Jesus was God, so all the disciples and many of the apostles knew God personally. Even Paul had a spectacular, direct contact with God. Conveniently, the whole “God can’t show himself because… free will… blah, blah, blah… faith of a child bullshit” doesn’t seem to have kicked in until sometime after he got his book published.

    More damningly, the two most famous “doubters” in the Bible; Job and Thomas, both questioned God and received a response from God directly.

    Anyways, the host’s collective theological knowledge far surpasses my own so perhaps you’ll see the flaws that I do not, but I would love to hear you gents talk on this aspect of God’s selective secretiveness on a future show.

    Love the show,

  4. Pete says

    @Abe #3 – That’s something I always wondered about :-). Is free will part of god’s plan?

  5. Shaft1358 says

    I don’t quite get your criticism of AiG for keeping the proceeds of the debate. AiG produced the debate, and collected fees to defray the cost. (I have heard that the admission fees did not fully cover the cost of the production or the simulcast. Do you know differently?) And, if they collected more than the cost, so what? The risk of loss comes with the risk of gain. AiG produced the CDs and DVDs, and it is normal for producers to sell product to defray cost and earn profit.

  6. Stretchycheese says

    Hi guys, I was hoping to hear your assessment of the Sean Carroll / William Craig debate that took place last month. Perhaps next podcast?

  7. Andrew Ryan says

    I’m disappointed to discover that Ann Druyan’s name isn’t pronounced Ann-Drew-Why-An, as I always like to imagine that it sounded like me own name.

  8. CatherineA says

    I’m with Strechycheese, I’d love to hear RD’s take on the Carroll/Craig debate.

    Also I’m curious as to what effect if any, the possible discovery of gravitational waves has on Craig’s claim that science points the universe having a beginning.

  9. Latverian Diplomat says

    The tale of Miao-shan in Hell reminds me a little of Spanish and Latin American folktale hero Pedro de Urdemalas and his adventures in the Catholic afterlife. In Hell, he nails crosses to all the doors and windows to trap the devils inside, and he also contrives to flood Limbo, which is close enough to baptism to send all the unbaptized infants to Heaven.

  10. says

    Depression and fearfulness
    Hi guys! Great show. This is the first time I’m listening to it. I’m not an Atheist, well, I don’t consider myself one anyway, and I have some kind of spiritual belief most of the time. I’m also afraid of death and feel depressed sometimes. My experience is that when I feel depressed, the feeling pushes me towards spiritual thoughts so it strengthens the need for spiritual thoughts and beliefs. Also the fear of death pushes into this direction. So this is about the causality, about whether religion causes happiness and depression. I’m not sure how it works for other people but I feel that our inherent emotional and mental makeup might contribute to the religious thoughts we tend to choose. This can be used by churches when they recruit emotionally troubled people and instead of giving them real help they use their fears, their emotional wounds, or their hate for their own end. Science, you see, can’t always give a satisfying answer, well, psychology might. Anyway… so that’s my thought on the causality of emotions and religion. Keep up the good work! Cheers!

  11. says

    Very, very humorous episode. Kept me laughing, especially so with Dave’s segment on the Buddhist nun story. Also, offbeat banter from Justin and Jeremy regarding no Muslim on Mars could be from a Monty Python skit.

    A more serious note:New book from Bart Ehrman – How Jesus Became God ( excellent read )

  12. birger johansson says

    God is not really hiding. God is actually the Eschaton* and has other priorities than pleasing worshippers. You don’t see him because he edits out timelines that does not please him. If you actually see him, your world line is about to be edited out by a change in past history.

    *The time-travelling super-AI in Charles Stross’ science fiction.

    — — — — — —
    Re. OT, check the book Who Wrote the Bible, discussing the various nameless contributors (the E source, the J source, the P source, the D source and the redactor) wose works have been cut and pasted into an apparent single narrative (regardless of resulting duplications and contradictions in the old testament).

    Re. NT see the book “Misquoting Jesus”.

  13. FactoidJunkie says

    Enjoyed the show. Range of topics, as usual, was terrific. Will enjoy reviewing the studies discussed concerning religiosity and it’s engagement with depression and optimism. There is a chicken and egg effect concerning general background mood and mental conceptions of causation. When we feel depressed or optimistic do we create a story of what causes the feelings? Or when we create a story of what is causal in the world does it make us feel depressed or optimistic? Or both? What is fascinating about the research is that the religious portion of these causal explanations has more influence on fear circuits than on our optimism bias and that the effect in either case is smaller than religious narratives profess.

    The Miao Shan episode was fun as well. Having traditional Chinese elders on my wife’s family side, the unconditional duty towards elders plays a strong influence around my house. I do think, however, there are other interpretations of the “moral of the story” that you may have wanted to mention. One view is that the king’s misery and fatal illness was retribution for his blatant disrespect for spiritual doctrine. Miao Shan’s sacrifice was to bring him back on the right path, not merely to be a dutiful daughter.

  14. FactoidJunkie says

    I had similar thoughts concerning God’s need to hide for free-will to flourish. Like Job and Thomas, anyone who prays receives an answer. This spiritual text messaging kinda brings God into a Facebook world, doesn’t it?

  15. Ryan says

    I had also heard that Fred Phelps had been excommunicated, but not for being too hateful. According to a story from the Topeka Capital-Journal (the best source I could find for this), which cites Nate Phelps as its source, there was a power struggle within the church, and Shirley Phelps-Roper was ousted as the church’s spokesperson. In response, Fred said he wanted the church members to treat each other better than that, and they kicked him out, too. So in a turn I can’t believe I’m typing, Fred Phelps was kicked out for being too nice for the church, or at least to the people within its confines. He should have been proud, though, that the vile gang of grave-haunting ghouls he raised up exceeded even his levels of hate.

    Link to the story: http://cjonline.com/news/2014-03-17/elders-excommunicate-phelps-after-power-struggle-call-kindness-within-church

  16. Daryl Carpenter says

    Love the show, but I seem to remember in a previous show that the doubtcasters thought it WOULD be a good thing to picket Phelps’ funeral. Tried to do a search but couldn’t find anything. Perhaps I imagined it… whatever, I think it’s a good idea not to picket.

  17. nedd says

    Yeah, Dave mentioned something like bringing the family. It was when the KKK were indignant that Phelps et al. were being bigots and picketing. It has obviously been a while since then.

  18. Rob C in Canada says

    The original Cosmos look shabby? Sorry guys but I disagree. I rewatched the entire series before the new one and it has aged well. What I think really lets down the new series is the decision to use cartoons to illustrate some stories. They look horrible and stupid. Should have gone with real actors for the recreations. ;^(

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  20. says

    My wife and I had the great pleasure of having Nate Phelps and his wife to our home this last June. I had asked Nate if he would be interested in presenting some of his own personal story and personal philosophies at a bi-monthly philosophy/skeptic event, that my wife and I host, entitled “Called to Question”, to which he graciously accepted the invitation. This may not sound like such an amazing story, but you have to understand that we live in a community that is predominantly Christian where it’s very essence oozes religion. Of a town of only 3,500 hundred people there are 14 churches, not including churches in the surrounding countryside. So when I told Nate that he would be entering the lions den and that a majority of attendees have a heavy religious background and some continue to hold to Christian beliefs, he was all the more excited to come. The evening was a blast. Nate is a terrific person who has wonderful personality and caring heart. Several attendants had never met a real life atheist before and were afraid to attend for fear of being possessed by some evil spirit(seriously, that is what they said), but at the evenings end they were astounded at how gentle and kind he was. It was an honour to have him in my home and too hear his story.

    Great podcast, you guys.


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