If the Christian God exists, where the hell is he? The entire debate between Christians and atheists boils down to this one problem. If God exists, why is there no proof that he exists? I’m not talking about “logical proofs” that merely define God into existence, “scientific proofs” that make ad hoc assumptions, or “emotional proofs” that can easily be explained by psychology. I’m talking about empirical evidence that all laymen can understand and all scientists can agree on (like the proof that gravity exists). But apparently God won’t allow that. He is everywhere, yet he chooses to remain invisible, intangible, and inaudible. A little suspicious, don’t you think?
I want to know why God can’t appear next to me as I write this–standing there with his long white beard, dressed in robes that shine like the sun–and say in a thunderous voice, “Here I am.” I just looked around the room. Nope, nothing.
Imagine how much better the world would be if God revealed himself to everyone in such a manner. All the fighting over which religion is true would end, criminals would be afraid to commit crimes, and when disasters occurred God could actually help people. So why doesn’t God reveal his existence?
The most common response is, “Because of free will.” The idea is that God can’t appear to everyone because then people would have no choice but to worship him. Christians hold this defense up like a shield, completely unaware that it’s as flimsy as a handkerchief. This apologetic fails for 4 reasons:
1. The Bible is filled with examples of God revealing himself without violating anyone’s free will.
According to Revelation 12, there was a great war in Heaven where Michael and two thirds of the angels fought against Lucifer and one third of the angels. The angels that rebelled had more than enough proof that God exists, yet they had free will to rebel.
Then there’s Genesis 3. According to this chapter, God spoke directly to Adam and Eve. Despite this first hand evidence of God’s existence, Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey him and eat from the forbidden tree.
Throughout the Bible, God speaks to many people including Cain, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Job, Jonah, Elijah (who was taken directly to Heaven), and several others. And I haven’t even mentioned the countless people who witnessed miracles such as the ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, fire raining down from Heaven, and hundreds of other miracles. It seems in Bible times God had no problem providing amazing evidence of his existence without violating people’s free will. What changed?
2. God would be able to tell the true followers from the ones who only want to avoid Hell.
The free will apologetic claims that if people knew God exists, they would have to love him because the only alternative would be eternal Hell. Since God wants followers who love him for him and not because they want to avoid Hell, he has to hide himself.
Let’s go back to my hypothetical world where everyone knows God exists. In this world, God appears to everyone almost everyday. When people need advice, God speaks to them just as he spoke to people in Bible times. If God were kind and loving, most people would love him in return. However, there would also be people who didn’t love him (perhaps because he disapproves of things they want to do). They would pretend to love him for fear of going to Hell, but they would secretly resent him. If God were omniscient, he would know which people loved him and which were only pretending. So why not choose who goes to Heaven on that basis?
As I said before, this world would be enormously better than the one we live in. There would be only one religion, and there would be far less crime, war, and suffering. Plus, people could still choose to receive the free gift of redemption through Jesus Christ. God would simply sort those who were grateful from those who weren’t. Instead, God is apparently hiding in the shadows while people kill each other over which god is real.
3. A relationship with a being that provides no evidence of its existence is impossible.
Even if I accepted the idea that God must remain hidden, how am I supposed to have a relationship with a being I can’t be certain exists? (By certain, I mean having undeniable proof that others could verify.)
Let’s say one day my mom tells me I have a long lost brother who wants a relationship with me.
“Wow!” I say. “When can I meet him?”
“Well, he’s not ready to meet yet. But you’ll meet him someday.”
“Do you have any pictures of him?”
“No, there aren’t any pictures or videos of him. But he’s out there.”
“Can I have his phone number?”
“No, he doesn’t have a phone.”
“Oh. What about a Facebook profile?”
“No, he’s not on any social media networks.”
“Then how do I get in touch with him?”
“I’ll give you his email address, but he’s not going to write back.”
“What’s with all these questions? Your long lost brother loves you and wants a relationship with you. Can’t you just take my word for it? Don’t you love him?”
At this point I would suspect she is lying, and rightly so.
Many Christians like to say, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” But all they have to do is open the dictionary to find out the opposite is true. In a real relationship there is give and take.
When I was a Christian and had a “relationship” with God, I found that no matter how much I prayed, he never did anything more than confer warm feelings and put thoughts into my head that were difficult to distinguish from my own. It wasn’t much of a relationship. Probably because he wasn’t even there.
4. A just God would not reward people for believing without evidence and punish people for being unconvinced.
If the free will apologetic is true, it means God has set up a system where people who embrace dogma are rewarded and people who ask questions are punished. Put another way, people who are arrogant enough to claim they know the ultimate truth of the universe go to Heaven, and people who are humble enough to admit they don’t know go to Hell.
If that’s how it works then I guess I’m going to Hell because I refuse to play an impossible game where I’m expected to “know” which religion is true without any solid evidence. God giving us free will to choose the right religion (out of thousands) when there’s no way to prove which religion is right makes no sense.
The whole “because of free will” defense seems pretty strong at first. But like every other apologetic, when you take a closer look it falls apart. So why is God the hide and seek world champion? Perhaps because he isn’t there to be found.