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A New Argument against the “Feigned-Allegiance Reply”


1. Abstract

One of the theistic maneuvers used to explain and justify the hiddenness of God is the so-called “Feigned-allegiance Reply” (FAR). In literature, there already are some arguments against FAR. Although I think these arguments are serious enough to justify our skepticism regarding FAR, I also think that a critic can produce a valid, new attack on FAR. This new attack is important for two reasons: (i) it will make FAR even less credible and so, implicitly, it will increase the rationality of FAR’s rejection and (ii) in case the arguments which have already been made against FAR are successfully rebutted by theists, FAR will still be rejected. The proponents of FAR will have to refute this new argument, as well, before they can hope to firmly establish the grounds for FAR’s acceptance.

First, I will formulate the FAR argument and make some comments about it. Second, I will present my argument against FAR. Third, I will show that my argument is indeed different from those already existent. Finally, I will defend my argument against some objections that I think would pose the most serious threat to it.

2. FAR Formulated

To formulate FAR I put forward this definition:

Situation R = the situation in which the theist God clearly reveals his presence to humanity. In this paper, I will refer at situation R simply as R.

Using the above definition, FAR can be expressed as follows:

P1: If, in the case where God would actualize R, the vast majority of humans: (a) would not love him and would not sincerely appreciate everything God has done for them and (b) would consciously choose not to behave in a moral and altruistic way out of conviction and genuine goodness, then God is justified not to actualize R.

P2: In the case where God would actualize R, then the vast majority of humans very probably: (a) would not love him and would not sincerely appreciate everything God has done for them and (b) would consciously choose not to behave in a moral and altruistic way out of conviction and genuine goodness.

In fact, they would only simulate their appreciation for God and would follow his commands and behave morally much more likely out of selfish reasons–just to please God and, in this way, to be sure that God would reward them in heaven or, at least, that he would not punish them in hell.

C: Therefore, God is very probably justified in not actualizing R. [from P1 and P2 modus ponendo ponens]

3. Comments on FAR

The term “theist God” refers to the traditional theistic deity: a supernatural being who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, morally perfect, and the sole creator of everything that exists. Also by definition, he is essentially personal and takes care of humans who, in turn, owe him total obedience and worship. Evidently, such a being could make his presence clear to humanity if he would desire so.

By “clearly reveals,” it is meant that God would make his presence to humanity as clear as, say, the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. Anybody who gives only a little thought to this mathematical operation can see that its result is 4. In a similar fashion, God’s existence could be as obvious to anybody who would only spent a very brief amount of time thinking whether he exists or not.[1]

It is important to notice that FAR says that if R would be actualized, then most humans would behave as P2 states, as a result of a consciously chosen act. This is because in case their aforementioned behavior is not so chosen but instead is the result of causes independent of human will, we cannot speak of a feigned allegiance anymore. Clearly, to say that one simulated something unconsciously, without even realizing that he or she was actually simulating would make no sense.

Now some clarifications on the implications of P2 are in order.

First, I think it is plausible to believe that if a person (Y) is incapable of loving, (here I suppose that Y’s emotional impotence is not caused by some sort of a psychological disorder) and of feeling sincere appreciation for a person (X) who did great acts of altruism in Y’s benefit, or, at the very least, of being grateful to X without feeling anything–out of strict moral duty–then Y is guilty of immorality. In the present case, Y symbolizes humanity and X is God who, according to theists, has performed acts of great generosity for humans–he created the whole universe for them, gave them life, and prepared a beautiful heaven for them–all of these out of pure love. In addition, an important number of theists (the Christians) also believe that God sacrificed his only son for them.

Moreover, if Y is not only ungrateful to X, but in fact would hurt X or at least would be indifferent to X if Y’s selfish interest would require him to do these when he knows that he won’t get caught and punished, then Y can be considered extremely immoral. Very probably, such a person as Y would never act in an altruistic manner but rather would behave in a very immoral way. According to FAR’s P2, most of humanity would not be impressed by God’s acts of generosity but actually would behave vis-a-vis God as their selfish interest(s) would require them to behave. This clearly leaves open the possibility that most humans would (if they were capable) hurt God if that would be to their advantage, even though God was so generous towards them. The similarity between Y and most humans is, according to P2, obvious. It follows that it can be said that Y symbolizes most of humanity.

Therefore, since Y here represents most of humanity, and Y is extremely immoral, it follows that P2 suggests that most humans are extremely immoral.

The second thing which deserves to be mentioned about P2 is that it also implies that humans are so immoral due to a highly powerful force which heavily influences them to behave in this way. A very plausible example of such a powerful influence is a certain type of inborn nature or character.[2] In other words, FAR’s P2 implies that human choice is heavily coerced.

Why is that? Because otherwise, if they would not have such a strong native inclination to do bad but rather a balanced inborn nature, it becomes exceedingly hard to understand how the vast majority could become so immoral. What could cause them to become so evil? It is important to see that according to the FAR proponent, it is very improbable, perhaps even impossible, that they would ever change their ways during their lives. Note that the proponent of FAR is not referring only to present or past generations but also to all future ones. Keep in mind that P2 also implies that most humans, independent or even in spite of their intelligence, culture, received education, religion, or the political system they live in, are much more likely to act egoistically and immorally than altruistically and morally.

Are my conclusions concerning the implications of FAR’s P2 correct? There are two possible responses that seem to justify a negative answer. However, I will show that both fail.

One possible response would be to say that humans in fact have a balanced inborn nature but at the same time, it is plausible to think that only some of them (let’s say one third of the total population) would do bad things to the innocent others despite their neutral original nature. As a result, other individuals would follow their example and do bad things to some of the remaining and innocent others, which in turn would do bad to some of the remaining and innocent others, and so on until most individuals would end up behaving immorally. In this way, it appears that most humans can be as immoral as P2 states even though their original nature is not inclined towards evil.

However, this response fails for at least one reason. Even if it is indeed plausible that one third of the totality of humans could become so immoral despite their initial neutral nature, why should we think that the rest of them would follow the “evil ones” and do bad things to the innocent? Surely it is more reasonable to believe that the two thirds of the totality of humans–in case their nature is not inclined towards evil–would simply punish the first ones and disapprove of their actions instead of imitating them.

Another response would be to say that it is simply a coincidence that most humans, though under no evil influence, turn out to be extremely immoral. There is nothing logically impossible about this. But I think this reply is extremely implausible. Although the situation described is possible, it is very, very improbable. Clearly, a much more serious explication for the behavior of the most humans as described in P2 (in the case where R is actualized) remains the one I proposed–that humans have an inborn tendency towards immorality.

In conclusion, FAR’s P2 implies that: (a) humans are extremely immoral and (b) their evil behavior is heavily coerced by their inborn nature.[3]

4. The New Argument Against FAR (NAFAR)

(1): If FAR is sound, then its premise P2 is true.

(2): But FAR’s P2 fails. Instead of adopting P2, there are better reasons to adopt ~P2: it is much more likely that humans would love, sincerely appreciate God and follow his commands out of moral reasons like gratitude, conviction, the desire to be similar to him etc. in case he would actualize R.

(3): Hence FAR is unsound. [from (1) & (2) modus tollendo tollens]

NAFAR’s (1) is uncontroversial. Obviously, NAFAR’s crucial premise is (2). This premise consists of an explicit attack on FAR’s P2 (a) and P2 (b). Now, before I present my arguments in support of (2) let us see whether NAFAR is indeed a new attack on FAR.

5. Is My Attack on FAR New?

To answer this question, it is necessary to see what are the previous attacks on FAR. More precisely, we will keep in view whether any one of them attacks FAR’s P2, explicitly maintaining that, in the case where R is actualized, humans would love God, sincerely appreciate him and behave in a non-selfish manner (as in my NAFAR). If I can show that neither of the aforementioned arguments criticizes FAR in this way, then my argument is indeed new. Keep in mind that my intention here is not to evaluate the previous critiques of FAR. Rather, my aim is to show that they are distinct from my NAFAR.

As far as I know, FAR as it is formulated here has been directly attacked by only one philosopher: Steven J. Conifer.[4] However, Theodore Drange criticized a theistic response to the problem of divine hiddenness which, although is not formulated as FAR is in this paper, has some important similarities to it.[5] Therefore, I will refer to Drange’s attack too, showing that it is also different from my NAFAR.

First, I will show that three of Conifer’s arguments against FAR are in fact compatible with P2 so the difference between his criticisms and my NAFAR will be obvious. The only one which actually attacks P2 (P2’s (b), to be more precise)–his third argument–is also clearly distinct from my argument.

5.1 Conifer’s Attack

Conifer’s first criticism of FAR (let us call it CR1) is this:

First of all, theists presently comprise well over half of the world’s population and the vast majority of them subscribe to some kind of objective morality dependent upon God which, if violated, occasions significant and adverse consequences for the violator(s). Therefore, at least half of the human beings alive today are already susceptible to the temptation described above (i.e., to behave in the way they believe God desires more out of self-interest than any sort of genuine altruism).[6]

Basically, Conifers argues here that even if God desires sincere devotion from humans, he should still reveal his presence to humanity, despite the fact that in doing so he might not receive the desired response from humans but rather the opposite one. The reason for this is that God’s intention–which consists in not giving humans the opportunity to follow his commands out of selfish reasons–seems compromised anyway.

Clearly, Conifer does not even imply here that P2 is somehow problematic or false, let alone explicitly attack it. In order to attack it, he should defend at least one of the following thesis: “there are no good reasons to accept P2” or “there are good reasons to reject P2” (I defend this last, strong thesis). However, he does neither of these.

One can conclude that Conifer’s CR1 is not an attack on FAR’s P2.

His second criticism (CR2) is this: God, being omniscient, would know which individual would sincerely appreciate and love him if he would actualize R. Hence, it is irrational for God to remain hidden from humanity if his reason for the non-actualization of FAR is the fear that humans would somehow fool him–pretending to be loving and sincere when in fact they are not. It is obvious that CR2 is not an attack on P2. In fact, since Conifer does not specify how many individuals will behave in the way described in P2 and how many will behave in the opposite way, we can say that Conifer’s CR2 is compatible with the thesis maintained by P2.

We can conclude that NAFAR is different from Conifer’s CR2.

Consider his CR3:

Third, it would seem only fair for God to explicitly convey what is moral and immoral, what constitutes a transgression of his law and what is acceptable. Or, if not explicitly convey that information, at least provide some rough guidelines as to what he expects from us, for how else can we possibly know how to conduct ourselves? There are currently circulating among theists seemingly countless ideas about just what constitutes God’s “infallible law,” many of them quite confusing or incoherent and some even self-contradictory.[7]

It is true that Conifer implies here that P2’s (b) is false: humans could not behave as P2’s (b) says even if they want to, for the simple reason that it is very hard–if not impossible–to know what type of conduct would please God. But CR3 leaves open the possibility that humans would behave as suggested by P2 in case there would be available clear indications in this sense. However, my NAFAR does not leave this possibility open, for it states that humans would not do the things written in P2 under any circumstances, even if God would clearly reveal what type of conduct he expects from us. Besides, CR3 says nothing about P2’s (a). It is clear then that NAFAR is a more fundamental attack on P2 than CR3.

Conifer’s last criticism of FAR (CR4) says that if God thinks human beings would behave as described in P2 in case R is made actual, he could simply not tell us what kind of conduct does he require from humans. In this way, humans could not be susceptible to the temptations described in P2. CR4 in fact is compatible with P2. It tacitly assumes that it is true–or at least very probable–that humans would simulate their responses to God were R to be actualized, but that it is a way in which God could somehow avoid this unpleasant response. Since, unlike CR4, NAFAR does not assume the truth of P2, it is clear that NAFAR cannot be confused with CR4.

One can conclude that all of Conifer’s arguments against FAR are different from my NAFAR.

5.2 Drange’s Attack

What about Drange’s critique of what he calls “The Inappropriate-response Defense” (IRD for short)? Is his critique of IRD similar to my critique of FAR? By IRD, Drange means an argument which proceeds from the assumption that

God knows that some of [the non-Christians] would respond inappropriately in that they would either refuse to comply with the message (by refusing to repent their sins and accept Christ as Savior and Lord) or would comply with it but in an unsatisfactory way (e.g., by being or feeling coerced into doing so or by somehow lacking the proper motivation for such compliance).[8]

Is IRD the same as FAR? Clearly, the first part of its disjunction is different from FAR, because FAR does not say that, had R been actualized, humans–non-Christians or not–would refuse to accept God’s existence or to comply with the message God would give them. But it is also clear that IRD’s second part of the disjunction looks indeed like FAR’s P2. It is true that IRD, as it appears in Drange’s work, is used especially by Christians, not by theists in general, as FAR is. But I will ignore this fact, because with only minor changes, IRD can be easily made to refer to the theistic God in general. Of course, if some of Drange’s responses to it necessitate an appeal to certain Christian dogmas, I will point that out. So I will proceed considering IRD the same as FAR. Now the crucial question is this: Is Drange’s reply to FAR different from my NAFAR? In what follows, I demonstrate that a positive answer is justified.

Drange’s first response to FAR (I will note it with DR1) is that “God, who is all-powerful, could cause people to believe the gospel message in such a way as to forestall any inappropriate response to it,” even though Drange admits he doesn’t know how could God do that.[9] However, contrary to DR1, NAFAR does not necessitate any special means of God’s actualization of R, for it implies that humans will behave appropriately towards God in case his presence would be obvious no matter how God would choose to reveal himself to us. Of course, cases like God revealing himself by causing grave natural disasters, for instance, are ruled out from the beginning since, after all, God is omnibenevolent and also wants us to love him. But besides such evil and dangerous means, NAFAR permits any other way for God to show himself, without any further specification. NAFAR is based on the stronger claim that humans would behave as (2) states were R of actuality independently of how God would show us his existence. The two responses are, therefore different.

His second reply to FAR, DR2, is that the idea implied by FAR according to which although God wants to clearly reveal himself to humanity, he wants even more strongly to avoid causing such inappropriate responses, is not convincing. To show this, Drange points out that if the exclusivist view of salvation is accepted along with the idea expressed earlier, it would follow that God is not omnibenevolent. But since he is so considered, he cannot exist. Therefore, the initial idea cannot be used to defend the existence of God.[10]

Again, it seems to me that this reply is different from NAFAR. I do not say in NAFAR that FAR’s crucial premise P2 conflicts with certain attributes that the theist God is supposed to have. According to NAFAR’s (2), FAR’s P2 is implausible not because it cannot be maintained without jeopardizing God’s existence, but because it is intrinsically improbable–its negation being much more credible. Therefore, NAFAR attacks FAR by maintaining that it would be irrational for God to refrain from actualizing R in order to avoid the inappropriate responses for the simple reason that there would not be any such responses in case R would be actualized. And it should be also pointed out that if the inclusivist view of salvation is adopted, Drange does not have a good answer to FAR when FAR is used with respect to God in general. Indeed, given an inclusivist framework, Drange only shows that FAR is unacceptable because it is incompatible with the Bible. My argument however works not only against evangelical Christianity, but against theism in general as well. We can conclude that DR2 is different enough from NAFAR.

Drange’s third response (DR3) indeed resembles NAFAR. In his words:

It seems to me that … just the nature of the gospel message itself would incline one to be favorably disposed toward a belief in it. Surely it would be “good news” for people who had recently come to believe in heaven that they will eventually go there. It seems reasonable to think that such a belief would inspire in them a feeling of gratitude, which presumably is the sort of response that God desires.[11]

But even though DR3 comes close to NAFAR’s crucial premise, there is an important difference between the two. Drange does not clearly specify just how intense or lasting this “feeling of gratitude” would be. For example, from what Drange says, it doesn’t follow that humans, though inspired by this feeling, would love God as (2) states they would. They may have some sympathy for him, but it is unclear whether this sympathy would equal love. It is also unclear whether they would follow his commands. If, for example, they would only have a liking for God but not a genuine love and appreciation, they would probably not follow his commands in case they find them too demanding. Moreover, we may ask just how much this feeling of gratitude would last. If humans would love God as I say in NAFAR, then it is very probable that they will continue to have this powerful and intense feeling for the rest of their lives. (See also my response to O4 below–Section 6.2) But if they simply have a fondness for God, why should we think that this less serious response will not eventually fade away and disappear? After all, many of us had sometimes an initial fondness for a certain person but after a relatively small amount of time we easily and completely forget those feelings for them.

Thus, although DR3 is similar to NAFAR, it is not clear enough, being compatible with interpretations that are clearly different from NAFAR’s crucial (2). Therefore, NAFAR is different at least in this important sense from DR3.[12]

Finally, Drange says (DR4) that God, should, contrary to FAR, actualize R because he cannot get the desired result (which consists in an appropriate response from humans) if he chooses to remain hidden from them. In other words, God should actualize R because he has nothing to lose. Evidently, DR4 is not NAFAR because the latter does not say that God should actualize R simply because he has nothing to lose but actually because he has much to gain–the love and appreciation of at least the vast majority of humans.

One can conclude that all of Drange’s arguments against FAR are different from my NAFAR.[13]

6. The Defense of NAFAR

As I have already said, NAFAR’s crucial premise is (2). In what follows I will show that the theist who criticizes NAFAR’s (2) is forced to adopt an implausible view of human nature. Moreover, I argue that if we assume that his view is correct, this will raise serious questions about the existence of his theist deity. Either way, the theist cannot make use of FAR to justify God’s hiddenness. Therefore, FAR is unconvincing.

Is it true that most of humankind is extremely immoral as P2 states? Is it true that in the case where R is actualized, most humans will behave as described in FAR’s P2? Is it true that most of us are very ungrateful and unable to appreciate our great benefactors? To see that “No” is the most plausible response to all these questions, imagine the following situation. Let us say that X donates a house to Y in, say, Beverly Hills. The house is completely furnished and it is placed in the most beautiful area of Beverly Hills. Moreover, let us stipulate that X will pay the rent for Y as long as Y will live. I think it’s safe to say that in this situation Y will love and sincerely appreciate X for all these. Even if Y is morally imperfect–like most of humanity–it is hard to believe that he (she) could be that immoral as to completely ignore or even harm X after all X has done for Y.

In fact, a case can be made that even if Y is a very immoral individual, it is hard to accept P2. It is a well known fact that even the most dangerous criminals in history–like mobsters or terrorists–have feelings (often even strong ones) of love for their family, people, country and even for God, despite the lack of clear proof in favor of his existence. This means that it is at least as reasonable to think that they would have the same feelings of love for God if he would clearly reveal his presence. And if it can be shown that even many of the most immoral humans in history would probably love God if he were to actualize R, the proposition that the rest of humanity–who are much more moral–would love God seems very credible.

Consider the following inductive argument:

(A) Many highly immoral individuals strongly love and appreciate those who helped them and behaved altruistically to them (like members of their families, their people etc).

(B) God behaved (and will behave)[14] very altruistically towards all individuals including the highly immoral ones.

(C) At the present time, some very immoral individuals do not love God simply because they do not think there exists such a being or because they never heard of him.

(D) But if R would be actualized, many (possibly most) of the highly immoral ones would very probably love God and sincerely appreciate him.

(E) If it is probable that many (possibly most) of the highly immoral individuals would strongly love and sincerely appreciate God in case he would actualize R, it is at least as probable that most of the remaining humans who are much moral would do the same.

(F) Hence, if God would actualize R, it is probable that most humans would love and sincerely appreciate God.

If even many of the most immoral humans in history are probable to love God if he would actualize R, the fact that the rest of humans–who are much more moral–would love God were R to be actual, seems indeed very credible.

Can this inductive argument be attacked? One possible line of attack would be to deny (D) and, as a result, (E) and (F). A critic might say that in the case where God actualizes R, many of the most immoral human beings would become even more immoral than they actually are. In this way, although premises (A)-(C) are correct, the step from them to the conclusion is not warranted.

Fortunately for NAFAR’s (2), this response is terribly problematic. What possible reason could the proponent of FAR give in support of this assertion? Why should we think that if R were actualized, most humans, even if they are very immoral, would become more immoral than they were before its actualization? Why not think to the contrary: if humans know that there really exists a being who is so kind to them, they would tend to imitate it (more on this below) and be kind to their neighbor? Maybe the proponent of FAR would say that, in the case of R’s actualization, humans would be so overwhelmed and shocked by God’s impressive presence that they would lose their minds and, as a result, start to kill and hurt each other etc. However, this reply cannot be used by a FAR proponent because, as I have already said, FAR obviously states that God refrains from revealing his presence to humans because, in case he would actualize R, they would consciously feign their response to him and not because they would lose control over their minds and start committing deranged acts of violence. The two situations are in fact mutually exclusive.

Clearly, this attack on my inductive argument in support of NAFAR’s (2) totally fails. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that most humans would love and be grateful to those who make acts of great altruism towards them. Why should we think they would behave differently when it comes to God? Since it appears that (2) is correct, it follows that NAFAR is correct.

6.1 The primary objection to NAFAR (O1) and responses

Probably the most predictable objection to my argument given in support of (2) would be to say that NAFAR’s (2) is based on an excessively optimistically view on human nature. In reality, a critic might argue, the majority of human beings are just as immoral and inherently egoistical as FAR’s P2 suggests. Thus, since NAFAR’s (2) is not credible, it follows that my attack on FAR fails.

First of all, I must say that I do not assume such an excessively optimistically view on human nature. I do not say that it is plausible to believe that most humans are capable of heroic acts like sacrificing their life for the sake of others; or that many would help their neighbor if they do not have something to gain; or that many humans are capable of loving their neighbor unconditionally.

Rather, I defend a much more modest claim. I say it is reasonable to think that (i) the majority of humans are capable of having genuine feelings of love and appreciation to those who make great acts of altruism towards them and who consistently help them to achieve their selfish goals and (ii) the majority of human beings really have those feelings for such benefactors.

Note that in order to give credit to NAFAR’s (2), it is sufficient to affirm that the majority of humans are grateful to their benefactors only if the last ones produce acts of enormous generosity towards the first ones. In this way, I leave open the possibility that most humans are relatively immoral and ungrateful to those who make acts of small altruism in their benefit. This observation weakens O1 even more.

My critic would lose sight of the implications of FAR that I emphasized in Section 3: most humans are extremely immoral. Therefore, in order to defend FAR, the theist would have to maintain a very strong version of the objection: most human beings are so immoral and egoistical that they are incapable of having any sincere and moral attitude even towards their great benefactors. However, this extreme version of O1 is implausible. I have already argued that even the most immoral individuals would–very probably–love God were he to actualize R. Maybe most humans are not as moral as they should be, but they are not that immoral either.

But let us suppose that my first response is not convincing–humans really are that immoral. In this case, my second response to O1 is that serious questions concerning God’s supposed infinite love and moral perfection appear. Why did God create us with such a strong inclination towards immorality? It is clear that if humans have this kind of inclination, than the evil things they do to each other are very grave and numerous. As a result, it is rational to think that the general suffering of humans is extremely intense. But what this conclusion does is to bring forth with the problem of moral evil which can be stated as follows: If God exists and he truly is morally perfect and omnibenevolent, than why is there so much pain and suffering in the world due to the choices and acts of humans? If the thesis assumed in O1–that humans have a very strong inclination to do evil–is accepted, then the theistic responses to the problem of moral evil become even more unconvincing than they already are. In what follows, I will show in detail why.

Take the “Free Will Defense” (FWD) according to which moral evil exists due to the free choices and free actions of humans. If humans have such a strong inborn inclination towards a certain type of conduct, how can we say that they are really free? It would seem much more in accord with FWD for humans to have a balanced original nature, with no inborn inclinations whatsoever. But even if we agreed that free will is indeed compatible with a strong inclination towards a certain type of behavior, then why isn’t this inclination towards doing good and being moral? Surely, from a morally perfect and omnibenevolent being, this is what we would expect–this also being a strong objection to FWD, as Theodore Drange shows.[15]

Now take the “Testing Defense” (TD). Briefly, TD maintains that God tests humans to see whether they behave in this present life in a moral manner as he commanded them (here I shall assume that God’s commandments are indeed moral).[16] Again, if it is true that humans have such an inclination as the one described in O1, serious problems arise. To test humans in order to see how would they behave under these circumstances is analogous to the following situation. Imagine a teacher who administers drugs to one of his students until the student becomes addicted. Then the teacher intends to test his student to see whether he will continue to take drugs. Notice that the teacher knows from the beginning that it is extremely improbable, maybe even impossible, for the student to ever quit taking drugs. Not only that, but should the student not stop taking drugs, the teacher would torture him indefinitely. Surely, the teacher in question is very immoral. If God was in a similar position, he would be extremely immoral too. The assumption that humans have a very strong inclination to do bad puts God in such a position.

Moreover, O1 seems to create another problem for TD. TD claims that, although God does not need to test humans because he is omniscient, he performs this test in order to enlighten angels, saints and maybe even humans–in the afterlife–about humans’ sinful nature. If O1 is correct, then this argument for TD fails completely: Why doesn’t God actualize R in order to enlighten angels and the rest about man’s true nature? After all, if humans were so ungrateful and immoral that they would not sincerely appreciate God, this would reveal an important truth about human nature.

Finally, consider the “Unknown-Purpose Defense” (UPD). Briefly, UPD maintains that God has a good reason to permit all the evil in the world, a reason that we, being limited cognitively, cannot understand. In this case too, if humans have such a predisposition to do bad, the theistic defense is considerably weakened. First, as Drange says, God wants humans to love him.[17] However, since they do not understand why there is so much evil, it is hard for them to do it. But in the present situation it seems that God himself directly and seriously contributed to the existence and consistent perpetuation of horrendous evils by creating humans with this inclination towards evil, which is even harder to understand and to reconcile with God’s moral perfection and omnibenevolence.

Here the theist might reply that the predisposition in question is not God’s fault but rather is the result of the Fall: after the original sin committed by Adam and Eve, all humans were born with a sinful nature which causes them to have the aforementioned predisposition. Since Adam and Eve’s choice to sin by disobeying God was completely free, God cannot be made responsible for their act. Consequently, he is not responsible for humankind’s evil inclination. Unfortunately, this response is so problematic that even well known Christian philosophers such as John Hick reject it. Here is what Hick has to say about it:

For the past century evidence has been available concerning the earlier states of mankind, before the brief span of recorded history, and none of this evidence lends any support to the theory that the human race is descended from a single original pair.[18]

It is the theist who has the burden of proving that the Fall is an actual event in history and not just a myth. But as Hick himself admits, the theist cannot do this and so the “Fall-argument” is unsupported, in other words, is unconvincing. Michael Martin writes:

In addition, Hick notes that this theodicy has unacceptable moral implications. It is grossly unjust to punish the descendants of the first pair of human beings because this pair sinned against God. If God did this, then He must be unjust. But God by definition is completely just.[19]

One can conclude that the Fall-based reply to my argument is not convincing. Perhaps another theist would reply to my second response to O1 by saying that the inclination in question is not inborn. But as I have already said, if the theist is correct about this, it is very difficult to see how most humans became so immoral during their lives despite their balanced original nature and why the theist is so confident that they would never change their behavior even if R were actualized.

Yet another response would be to say that, even though humans are under a powerful evil influence, this is not God’s fault. Instead of God, the Devil should be blamed for it. But this reply is problematic. Since theists believe that God is much more powerful than Satan, he could easily stop Satan from influencing humans in this way. Since God didn’t do it, it follows that he, too, is responsible for humans’ immorality and, consequently, for their evil deeds.

It might be argued that God could not prevent Satan from casting this influence on humans because that would interfere with Satan’s free will. But since the Devil’s free will is very important, God would never do this. However, I do not think this reply can be used by a theist. Notice that here the theist says that the Devil’s free will is, for God, more important than humans’ free will, than humans’ suffering and than the testing of humans. It is, however, implausible to think that Satan’s free will could be that important to a god who loves humanity so much as the theist god is supposed to. Moreover, even if an omnibenevolent God is justified to permit Satan to exert his evil influence on humans to such a great extent, it becomes very hard to see what is the point of our existence. According to theists, God created us in order to give us the opportunity to exercise our free will or to test us to see whether we will behave as he commanded us. But if Satan would influence us so heavily, those intentions of God would be compromised. Thus, it is not plausible to believe that humans’ evil nature could be the result of Satan’s influence. God should still take the blame for it.

Therefore, we can conclude that if a theist adopts the thesis exposed in O1, not only is FAR not salvaged but O1 actually casts serious doubts on his deity’s existence.

Finally, my third response to O1 is that it would simply be irrational for God to create humans with such a nature. As FAR itself suggests, God is supposed to desire humans to love him, to sincerely appreciate him and to behave morally and unselfishly. However, if he created them in this way, then God seems to be irrational. He wants something, but his own actions seem to make it considerably difficult for him to reach his goal. In this case, a neutral inborn human nature would be much more preferable from God’s point of view.

In conclusion, the problem with FAR’s P2 is that it minimizes the capacity of most humans to be grateful. It assumes an extremely pessimistic view of human nature in order to explain the non-actualization of R. But since this view is not convincing, it follows that God is not justified in remaining hidden from humanity. But even if this view on the human nature is granted, the theist proponent of FAR cannot use this fact to defend FAR’s P2 because if humans really are so immoral, the existence of his theist deity becomes very doubtful.

What has been said until here mainly attacks P2’s (a) showing that we are justified to reject P2’s (a). If P2’s (a) fails, it follows that P2’s (b) also fails.

Firstly, since we have good reasons to reject P2’s (a), it is safe to say that humans have the tendency to show their thankfulness to their great well doers. In this case, humans would very probably follow God’s commands out of gratefulness: if God did them so much good, humans would want to reward him. If God wants humans to follow his commands, then it means that God would be pleased and satisfied if humans would do this. Since humans want to please their great benefactors and to make them feel as good as possible, it follows that it is indeed very probable that they would follow his commands for non-selfish reasons. Since doing something for somebody out of gratefulness is not considered immoral–on the contrary–we can conclude that P2’s (b) fails.

Secondly, if R were actualized, and, as I have already said, humans would love and sincerely appreciate God, it is plausible to believe that humans would perform acts of love and genuine altruism for the following reason. Humans tend to imitate those to whom they are attracted and whom they strongly appreciate. Since they would sincerely appreciate God–their appreciation being the result of the divine generosity and altruism–they would tend to behave in a similar manner.

I conclude that P2’s (b) fails. Since both P2 (a) and P2 (b) fail, it follows that FAR’s P2 fails. Hence, FAR clearly fails.

6.2 Other Objections and Responses

Objection 2 (O2): God knows that, for some reason, although the original human nature is balanced, in case R would be actualized, the majority of humans would behave just as it is suggested in FAR’s P2. Since it is logically possible that such a reason–which we cannot understand due to our limited cognitive capacities–could exist, it follows that the critic of FAR cannot deductively demonstrate that FAR fails.

First response: It seems that O2 also, as O1, creates a problem for a well-known theistic defense against the Problem of Evil: TD. If humans would behave as P2 states in case R is actualized, this would reveal an important fact about human nature. According to most TD users, God would want to show this important truth about human nature to angels and the rest so he should actualize R. Therefore, a proponent of this famous theistic response to the Problem of Evil cannot use O2.

Second response: In O2, the FAR proponent basically says that God has a good reason to remain hidden from humanity but we cannot understand this reason due to our cognitive limitation. This is very similar to the UPD used against Drange’s Argument from Nonbelief. In this case, everything Drange says against UPD[20] can also be said against O2 as well.

Moreover, as Richard Schoenig says:

It is not sufficient for the theist to respond by simply pointing out that it is logically possible that the critic’s conclusion could be false. The latter is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for the reasonableness of believing that the critic’s conclusion is false. If it were sufficient, then, by parity of reasoning, it would also be reasonable to reject, for example, the conclusions of the arguments supporting the major principles of modern science such as those involving evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics, and genetic biochemistry since it is logically possible that they, too, could be false.[21]

Objection 3 (O3): Even if the FAR as presented here is not convincing, a weaker version can be imagined, which says that only an important part of humans (half of the present population, for example)–class S–and not their vast majority as FAR claims would ally with God out of self-interest. It is true that the rest of them–class L–which is also numerous would love and honestly appreciate him. But since God wants the vast majority of humans to love and appreciate him as well as to act morally in case he would reveal himself to them, it follows that he is entitled to remain hidden from humanity. This weaker version of FAR (let us note it with WFAR) would avoid FAR’s implication that people are immoral due to an evil and coercive force.

First response: O3–as well as O1 and O2–seems to conflict with TD.

Second response: It would be difficult to understand why this classification of L and S should exist. If humans are born with a balanced nature and if half of the entire population would love God and follow his commands for moral reasons were he to actualize R, then how could we explain the behavior of the remaining half? Of course, it might be said that those from the S class would be strongly influenced by their families and (or) the environment they live in and which could be composed–partially or totally–of sinful and vicious people.

But all this response does is to postpone the following problem: What determined the people from the aforementioned families and environments to become so vicious if they initially had a balanced nature and they knew that a god like the theistic one existed and had done so much for them? In addition, this answer seems to involve an injustice: some humans, L, had the opportunity to be born in families and environments which did not influence them in the way S’ families and environments did. This seems unfair to the ones from class S who encountered an extra obstacle besides L. In order to remove this injustice, God should have increased the resistance to the exterior influences to the ones from class S. Why didn’t he do it? And if the answer is that he actually did it, I again wonder: How did they become part of S?

Another response would be to say that those from S would not love God due to evil in this world. Perhaps they would suffer so much in this world that they could not possibly behave as (2) states even if R were actualized. But this response has problems of its own. Since all people–including, of course, those from S–would clearly know that an omnibenevolent, morally perfect and omnipotent being exists, they would easily understand that their suffering is not and cannot be gratuitous. They would have excellent reasons to think that their suffering is necessary, unavoidable and that it serves a good purpose–since an omnipotent and morally perfect being allows it. More importantly, in case R is made actual, they would also have excellent reasons to think that they will be more than compensated for their present suffering (in the afterlife, most probably). And it is clear that a god who would offer us the immensity and infiniteness of the joy in heaven, even if those are preceded by a (very) limited amount of time in which it is possible that we suffer, would still be a very generous and loving being which rightfully deserves our love and gratitude. Therefore, it is implausible to think that, in the case where R is actualized, such a large number of humans would be so irrational as to consider that the evils in question could justifiably stop them from loving and sincerely appreciating God for his goodness.

Finally, a WFAR proponent could appeal to a similar defense as the one stated in O2. In this case, my responses would be the same as the ones given to O2.

Objection 4 (O4): Even if humans would love God initially if he would actualize R, after a period of time their love would lose its intensity until, very probably, it would disappear. They would become used to the fact that God exists which in turn would become a trivial truth. God knows this is how things would happen and that is why he is justified to remain hidden.

First response: Again, TD seems to be contradicted.

Second response: It is improbable that, in time, humans’ love for God would fade away and eventually disappear as O4 claims. The majority of humans love and take care of their family members–parents or children, for example–until their family members are deceased (which in many cases could mean for long periods of time) even though their parents’ and children’s existence is obvious to them. According to theists, God is like a parent to us. Moreover, since the good done to them by their family members cannot even begin to equal the good done to them by God, it is very plausible to think that the vast majority of humans not only would not stop loving God, but in fact would do it more intensely if R were actualized.

Objection 5 (O5): Even if the vast majority of humans would love God and sincerely appreciate him if R were to be actualized, the problem is that not all of them would do it. A (small) group of individuals who would behave as FAR’s P2 states would still exist. But since God wants all humans to love and sincerely appreciate him, it follows that NAFAR fails.

O5 is somewhat related to O3 but there is an important difference between the two. According to O3, the problem is that the number of humans who would behave as suggested by FAR’s P2 is too large. However, according to O5, the problem is that such a number would exist, no matter how large or small it might be.

Response: The main problem with O5 is that it implies that if God does not actualize R, then it is very probable that all humans would love and sincerely appreciate him. However, it is a fact that now, when R is not actualized, it is not the case that all humans love and sincerely appreciate God. Moreover, if R were realized, there could not be individuals who would behave inappropriately towards God although due to no fault of their own. Again, it is a fact that at the present time a large number of humans do not love and do not sincerely appreciate the theistic God simply because they never heard of him (due to the cultural circumstances in which they were born, for example). In case R would be actualized, those who would not behave as God desires would have consciously rejected God and so could be justly punished.

7. Conclusion

The “Feigned-Allegiance Reply” states that if God would clearly reveal his presence, then most humans would not love him, would not sincerely appreciate him and would not behave in a moral manner. However, according to NAFAR, we have very good reasons to believe that if God exists and he were to clearly reveal his presence, most humans would love him, would sincerely appreciate him and would behave in a moral manner. The theist cannot make use of FAR any longer in order to explain and justify God’s hiddenness unless he also successfully attacks NAFAR. Until then, FAR remains useless even if we presume that all the arguments that were already given against it fail.[22]


[1] There are many ways in which God could make his presence clear to humanity. See Theodore M. Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998) pp. 61-3.

[2] Perhaps there may be imagined other forces–internal or external–instead of the one I mention here–an inborn evil nature. But for simplicity I will refer only to this one in this paper. If the reader thinks that another force is more plausible than the one I proposed, she can simply replace the one proposed by me with hers. My argument should proceed in exactly the same manner.

[3] One might wonder whether it can be said here that humans are immoral. After all, since they are under such a highly powerful influence, it seems hard to believe that they really have free will. And in case a being lacks free will, we don’t normally consider it morally responsible, in other words, moral or immoral.

Now whether this observation is correct depends on the compatibilist-incompatibilist debate, which is a topic that we need not pursue here. (For excellent discussions on this controversy see Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998) pp. 301-24 and Galen Strawson, “Free Will,” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Version 1.0, London: Routledge.)

But assuming it is correct, serious problems arise again for the FAR defender. If humans do not have free will, it follows that, among others, famous responses to the Problem of Moral Evil such as the Free Will Defense or the Testing Defense fail miserably, a fact which, in turn, greatly endangers the plausibility of God’s existence.

If, on the other hand, the observation is not correct, then I can rightfully say that human beings, under the specified circumstances are indeed immoral. Either way, my case as it is presented in this paper is not weakened at all.

Since I do not intend to analyze at length here how convincing the idea that humans do not have free will and since a FAR defender will most probably reject the truth of this idea, I will assume for the remainder of the paper that even under these circumstances humans can be considered morally responsible–in which case I can rightfully say that they are very immoral. Keep in mind, however, the fact that FAR seems to pose a serious threat to the credibility of the existence of human moral responsibility and freedom, which is in itself a problem for the theists who adopt FAR.

[4] Steven J. Conifer, Section 5.5, “The Argument from Reason for the Nonexistence of God” (2001).

[5] Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998), pp. 140-2.

[6] Conifer, Section 5.5, “The Argument from Reason for the Nonexistence of God” (2001).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998), p. 140.

[9] Ibid., p. 141.

[10] Ibid., p. 141.

[11] Ibid., p. 142.

[12] Note also that, assuming DR3 is identical with my attack on FAR, Drange does not give the same reasons I give in this paper. Therefore, even if we would agree for the sake of the argument that my argument against FAR is not new, a very large part of this paper would still remain original.

[13] Some readers might take John A. Bloom’s argument as being FAR–see p. 3 of his “Why isn’t the Evidence Clearer?” If so, it would mean that FAR has been criticized again by Theodore M. Drange in his “The Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief,” Section 6.

However, my opinion is that Bloom’s argument is not FAR. Briefly, Bloom says that God is not actualizing R in order to demonstrate humans’ inclination towards an immoral behavior–in case he does not clearly reveal his presence–and to catch them in the act. Since Bloom does not say anything in particular about human behavior in case R would be actualized (for example if humans would ally with God in a sincere way or in a feigned way) I take him as emphasizing this conduct in case R is not actualized. But FAR builds its idea on human conduct in the contrary situation: when R is actualized. But even if Bloom’s argument is FAR, Drange’s criticism is different from my NAFAR. In his criticism Drange says that: 1) It would be irrational for God not to actualize R just to catch the infidels in the act and prove their tendency towards evil for the simple reason that the infidels are in no way more immoral than the theists; 2) It would be incompatible with the divine omnibenevolence to say that God would be more concerned to catch them red-handed than to straighten them out.

It is obvious that Drange does not specify that, in the case of R’s actualization, most of humankind would love God and obey his commands out of moral reasons. Some may affirm that, although Drange does not say this explicitly, he says it implicitly in his 1). In 1), Drange appears to say that most humans are moral which is very similar to my defense of NAFAR’s (2).

However, I do not agree. In the first place, he says that the infidels are not more immoral than the theists. But since many theists were and are highly immoral (think about the inquisitors or about those who practice sexual and ethnic discrimination, to name but a few), it does not follow from Drange’s argument that most humans (atheists or theists) are moral. In the second place, even if we agree that in 1) Drange says that most humans are moral, he gives no arguments (neither a priori nor a posteriori) in support of this assertion. I, on the other hand, provide a priori reasons in support of the claim that most humans are at least as moral as NAFAR presupposes–see Section 6.1. At this point, the differences between Drange’s (supposed) critique of FAR and mine should be obvious.

[14] Many Christians, for example, believe that most humans will be saved if they believe in the divinity of Jesus or if they will sincerely repent for their sins no matter how immoral they behaved.

[15] Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998), pp. 101-6.

[16] To see that it is not at all clear whether God’s commandments are moral (at least when we are talking about the Christian God), see Bill Schultz, Is God a Criminal?

[17] Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998), pp 202-3.

[18] John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (New York, Harper & Row, 1966) pp 377.

[19] Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990) p. 443.

[20] Drange, Nonbelief & Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998), pp.220-7 and 281-3.

[21] Richard Schoenig, “The Free Will Theodicy,” in Religious Studies, 34, (1998) p. 470.

[22] I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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