In terms of non-human animals, nothing has been said about them with regards to the problem of divine hiddenness. At least, nobody has formed formulated the hiddenness argument in terms to include animals. Here, I want to show that the problem of divine hiddenness includes animals.
Non-human animals in our actual world aren’t resistant to God. In fact, it’s hard to see how they could be. The main reason is because animals are moral patients and not moral agents. It’s not like they have the ability to be resistant to God. And even if they could (which they can’t) it wouldn’t be their fault because it would just be pure instinct.
But what about belief? Do animals in our actual world believe that there is a God? Well, first it needs to be said that in the most basic sense some animals can have beliefs. They are conscious creatures so that’s not surprising. Granted, animals (like dogs) having beliefs is not going to look the same as it does with human animals; however, they obviously do have some beliefs. And if they didn’t have beliefs, we would say they have no beliefs, which would also mean that they don’t believe that God exists.
But quite plausibly they do have beliefs. Would they also believe in God? It seems implausible to say that animals have belief in God’s existence. At the very least, it doesn’t seem possible to say that they have a direct awareness of God’s existence. But even if animals could be aware that God exists in a direct way, which means they don’t indirectly “see” God through nature, it certainly doesn’t seem plausible that they are always directly aware that God exists. And even if they were directly aware that God exists, they can’t relate to God through what seems to be the best relationship of all which is a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship.
This brings us to the problem. If God desires a meaningful, reciprocal, and conscious relationship with his creatures, then why didn’t God create animals to be able to have this sort of relationship? Animals in the actual world can’t have the sort of relationship that humans could have with God. But why? Why didn’t God create animals to be able to do that?
There doesn’t seem to be anything logically impossible about God creating animals in such a way where they can have the sort of relationship that creatures like humans could have with God (if God exists). If we think about all the movies and television shows that we’ve watched, I think that will get our intuitions pumping about the logical possibility of animals being able to be very similar to humans, and thus animals would able to participate in the kind of relationship with God that humans have. Think about movies where animals are talking, reasoning, debating, dancing, and doing almost everything (if not everything) that human animals are doing.
However, suppose for the sake of argument that it is indeed logically impossible for God to create animals to have this sort of meaningful relationship. The question now becomes: Given that God has a bias towards a relationship with finite creatures, why did God create (the finite creatures of) animals in our actual world, if they couldn’t have a relationship with God?
But it obviously isn’t logically impossible for God to create animals that can have a meaningful, recipriocal, and conscious relationship with God. And, once again, given that God has a bias towards relationship, (as Schellenberg puts it) it seems that God would want to create animals in such a way where they could participate in such a deep good, the deepest good for finite creatures.
Some might think that I’m turning non-human animals into humans, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not saying non-human animals are like human animals. I acknowledge that diversity in the animal kingdom.
Hence, here’s the formal version of my argument:
1. If a perfectly loving God exists, then a perfectly loving God desires a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship with all non-human animals at all times
2. If a perfectly loving God desires a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship with all non-human animals at all times, then all non-human animals would potentially be able to participate with a perfectly loving God in a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship at all times.
3. There exists some non-human animals in our actual world who are not potentially able to participate with a perfectly loving God in a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship at all times (in fact, all non-human animals in our world are unable to participate in such a relationship)
4. Therefore, a perfectly loving God does not exist
5. If a perfectly loving God does not exist, then God does not exist
6. Therefore, God does not exist
By, “potentially be able to participate”, I mean to say that non-human animals (in our world) don’t have the cognitive faculties necessary to even be able have a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship with God; and they don’t have the ability to reject such a relationship. But, if God exists, God could create non-human animals to have such faculties, and God would want to because of God’s desire for relationship. If non-human animals are potentially able to participate in the process of relationship, then they can also then choose to reject a relationship if they are resistant (if they are given freewill). But, non-human animals in our world don’t even have the potential to participate in such a relationship with God at all times.
Some might reply that animals will/could be given a meaningful relationship with God in the supposed afterlife because God could transform them into creatures like us who are able to participate in such a relationship. But as with some humans (who are nonresistant), why would God want to put off the relationship until later? Moreover, it’s not clear that God can transform these animals in such a way that they retain their identity that they had on earth.
In addition, we can run an inference to the best explanation argument against the existence of God based on the existence of animals who can’t participate in a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship with God. Let’s take two hypotheses: naturalism and theism. If naturalism is true, it’s not surprising that the animals in our world aren’t capable of having that sort of relationship with God because God doesn’t exist. But on theism, we can see the live option of God wanting such a relationship with animals. Therefore, the existence of animals who can’t have a conscious, meaningful, and reciprocal relationship with God counts as evidence against the existence of God.
We can also see an existential problem of hiddenness as applied to non-human animals when it comes to suffering. Animals in the actual world can’t know any possible reasons for why God is allowing their suffering to take place. God doesn’t tell them. God is silent. After all, how could animals in our actual world even comprehend God’s reasons for their suffering? But if God created another world where animals were more like us, they could at least think of reasons why God would allow certain instances of suffering. A similar problem comes with animals who suffer but don’t feel God’s direct loving presence. I suppose one could say that God is actually there to comfort every animal in every instance of their suffering, but that doesn’t seem plausible. And, why would God’s loving presence be directly involved in every animal at every instance but this isn’t the case for humans?