There is a nagging little problem that I have with all the proofs of god that theologians keep insisting should be convincing. The fact that we are not all believers in the various gods means that these arguments are not that persuasive and, if gods exist, immediately raises the question: Do these gods want us to know they exist or not?
Here’s what I mean. Suppose we assume the existence of a god. We immediately run into a problem in that there are so many gods out there with different qualities that we need to pick on one, or at least one set of properties. Let us assume a god with some of the usual abilities assigned to gods, such as some human cognitive properties, like the ability to ‘know’ what is going on in the universe, plus the ability to act if necessary to contradict the laws of nature to change the course of events for whatever reason. Let’s give this god a name so that we do not confuse him with any of the thousands of other gods that people have thought existed over time. Let’s call this god Melvin, because it is a good name and I have used it before.
Melvin has a pretty impressive resume. He created the universe and everything in it but then is immediately faced with a problem. Should he let the human beings he created know that he exists? Or should he hide the fact of his own existence? As I see it, those are the two options at Melvin’s disposal and since he is all-powerful, he could do either one easily.
If the option chosen is to hide his own existence, Melvin can avoid doing anything at all to suggest that he exists or intervene in ways such that no one is able to detect that he has intervened, like the Men in Black do by wiping out people’s memories of the presence of extra-terrestrial beings. The catch with this option is that the undetectable and the non-existent look very much alike and people may come to the conclusion that Melvin does not exist at all since there is no evidence of his existence.
If, on the other hand, Melvin does want people to know he exists, he could make his presence known to everyone in such a spectacular way that there would be no doubt at all that he exists. For example, he could announce to the whole world that at one particular specified time, he is going to stop the rotation of the Earth for (say) 24 hours (or something like that) and carry out that promise. Melvin could ramp up the spectacular nature of the evidence beyond anything that the most gifted CGI artists could come up with so that one would think that it should not be hard to convince any doubters. And since Melvin is god, if all else fails and some atheists remain unconvinced, he could presumably intervene directly in their brains, again Men in Black style, to get even the most obstinate person to believe.
So if Melvin did not want us to know he exists, then he could have achieved that quite easily. If Melvin had wanted us to know he existed, he could have done it just as easily. That would have ended once and for all time all religious conflicts about who worships the right god since people would know that there was only one god, and that it is Melvin, or that there are no gods to fight over.
But according to theologians, Melvin seems to have chosen to do something else entirely. He seems to want people to believe in his existence (and will punish those who do not) but has decided to leave extremely subtle clues to his existence so that only a few theologians have the ability to detect and interpret those clues. He is like the most cruel teacher you can think of who sets an exam that almost no one can pass. Only a few people like Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and more recently and moving down the alphabet, Edward Feser have been able to piece together those clues to prove his existence. (That was a fun thread!. It generated a record (for this blog) 295 comments. Who knew Feser had such passionate supporters?)
According to these theologians, Melvin seems to want to let people know that he exists but is too bashful to come right out and clearly demonstrate that fact. Melvin seems to be like a shy suitor unable to confess his love openly, leaving others to press his suit on his behalf. The problem is that the efforts of his chosen advocates are less than impressive in that they have failed to be convincing and are becoming even less so with time, as the rise in nonbelievers indicates. Either they are incompetent at their task or what they think are clues are not really such and Melvin does not exist.
Maybe Melvin does exist but for some inscrutable reason, his goal in creating the universe was to create jobs for theologians.