Tag Archives: cullison

Loving God without Knowing He Exists?

Here are a couple of examples that suggest that it’s possible to love someone without knowing whether or not they exist. The first is from Alexander Pruss, the second is from Andrew Cullison.

1. Fred is lost in the desert and dies. Without knowing this, Sally, his loving wife who is a presentist and thinks there is no afterlife spends weeks searching for Fred in the desert, in uncertainty whether Fred is still alive, despite great hardship and danger to her own life.

Observe that a presentist who disbelieves in an afterlife thinks that the dead are simply nonexistent. So Sally is not only uncertain whether Fred is alive, but she is uncertain whether Fred exists. Yet she acts out of love. Hence:

  • It is possible to love someone while being unsure whether he exists.

2. Bob is lonely and begins a chat-room relationship with Julie. Bob and Julie are both grieving the loss of a loved one. Julie offers words of encouragement that no one has been able to offer Bob. Bob does the same for Julie. Then Bob’s friend Steve provides Bob with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Chat Rooms have very sophisticated Turing Machine Like programs that can perfectly replicate close, personal conversation with other humans. Bob is nervous. It is highly likely that Julie is a fake. He stops believing that Julie exists. He even tells Julie that he doesn’t believe she exists. However, he holds out strong hope that Julie exists. He says, you may not be real, but there is some very slim possibility that you are – that’s enough for me to think this is worth continuing. Eventually, they meet. They marry. Someone asks them ‘When did your personal relationship begin?’ Bob says, ‘Back when I didn’t even believe Julie existed.’

These examples are suggestive and have obvious implications for the atheistic argument from divine hiddenness. A key assumption in that argument is that knowledge of God’s existence is a prerequisite for loving God. Insofar as these examples make us question that intuition, they weaken the force of the argument from hiddenness.

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New Responses to Hiddenness

Andres Cullison has come up with a couple novel responses to the argument from divine hiddenness. HT: exapologist.

He imagines the following scenario in support of the claim that a loving relationship does not require belief:

“Turing-Chat Rooms

Bob is lonely and begins a chat-room relationship with Julie. Bob and Julie are both grieving the loss of a loved one. Julie offers words of encouragement that no one has been able to offer Bob. Bob does the same for Julie. Then Bob’s friend Steve provides Bob with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Chat Rooms have very sophisticated Turing Machine Like programs that can perfectly replicate close, personal conversation with other humans. Bob is nervous. It is highly likely that Julie is a fake. He stops believing that Julie exists. He even tells Julie that he doesn’t believe she exists. However, he holds out strong hope that Julie exists. He says, you may not be real, but there is some very slim possibility that you are – that’s enough for me to think this is worth continuing. Eventually, they meet. They marry. Someone asks them ‘When did your personal relationship begin?’ Bob says, ‘Back when I didn’t even believe Julie existed.’ ”

This is a suggestive example. Cullison canvases various responses, including the most promising one from my perspective, namely that Bob really believes that Julie exists in a dispositionalist sense of ‘believes.’ I still think this response could be developed. I’m not sure that this scenario solves the problem of non-culpable non-belief though. Couldn’t Bob, despite the fact that he wants to believe in Julie’s existence, rationally, and thus non-culpably, disbelieve in Julie’s existence? Perhaps Cullison only wishes to say that it’s possible for Bob to engage in a loving relationship with her in the absence of belief. But I think it would be more accurate to say that a loving relationship is possible in the presence of undercutting defeaters for a belief (Julie exists) that Bob in some sense actually holds. Nevertheless, this novel strategy is something to think about.

 

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