The Argument From Divine Atheism
by Michael Keen
Who does God believe in? – May at first glance appear to be a frivolous and trivial question. But upon reflection it raises some interesting problems about the very idea of a God.
Some may well argue that such a question is meaningless, to say nothing of heretical and shouldn’t even be asked. Be that as it may. If we do dare to ask it, then as we shall see, it leads us to absurdities and also points to the conclusion that the notion of a God is not only meaningless but also unnecessary.
It’s usually best to try and define what we mean by God in the first place. Some would prefer to define God by stating what he isn’t. Whatever is then left from this string of negatives, must be the truth. Others prefer more positive definitions of their God idea.
Definitions vary considerably but perhaps most would agree, as a bare minimum, that God is seen as a supreme supernatural entity that transcends time and space, and is the creator of all things by an act of his supreme will.
Believers of each particular faith add far more detailed elaborations to this basic concept. In Christianity for example, God is further seen as a personal being that is particularly interested in each one of us. A God who counts the hairs on our heads and listens to the fall of every sparrow.
Quite distinct from the Old Testament war gods, (there were many under the title of Elohim), the God of the Christians is seen as not only the supreme supernatural deity but also as a God of love, compassion and as the ground of all morality.
In order to further exemplify their God, believers invent further characteristics. In addition to the aforementioned descriptions, God is also seen as ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omniscient’, two terms which are in fact, mutually exclusive, not that such a minor detail bothers the believers. Terms such as ‘immutable’ and ‘omni benevolent’ are often added to their picture of God, as is the idea of his (exclusively Christian) tri-partite nature.
The problem for believers is, the more they try to define their God, the more they define him out of existence. The more attributes they assign to their God, the more limited and feeble their God becomes. For instance, if they claim that God can be only good, then the whole arena of activity in evil is precluded, thus limiting his powers.
For the sake of this discussion however, I will assume the most basic description of God mentioned earlier in this essay, additional attributes serve only to confuse and ultimately become self-contradictory.
Now in response to our original question ‘Who does God believe in?’ We might answer in one of two ways.
Firstly, if we are to answer that God is also a believer and has a faith (as is required of mankind before he may enter heaven), then we can see from the outset, that even with our most basic definition of God, that this isn’t going to work out. God, in this case, would believe in a higher more powerful entity than himself, and we must conclude that this God is in fact not the God we imagined him to be, as there is a being higher than himself. This line of reasoning then becomes absurd, because it inevitably results in an infinite regression of Gods, each of whom have a higher authority before them.
Secondly, if we are to answer that God believes in no higher authority, only in himself; then we may say that all self-aware beings must of necessity believe in themselves. So this isn’t saying much on behalf of God. But the other consequence of this answer is far more interesting. If we accept then that God doesn’t have a belief in a being higher than himself, we must conclude that God is without belief in a supreme being and is therefore an atheist. And if he’s an atheist, (at least by the theists definition), he doesn’t belong in heaven.
We can express this argument as follows :