One common argument for the existence of the God of classical theism is the argument from desire. If the argument is construed in an inductive manner, the claim is that it’s not surprising that many people would have a desire for God on the hypothesis that theism is true.
However, this is not the whole story. If classical theism were true, it does indeed seem that many people would desire God. However, one can easily see why we would expect everyone to desire God. The problem is that this is not what we observe. Not only do we see people who lack a desire for God in the world, but we also see people that desire for there to not be a God.
If God exists, God could have easily made it that case that everyone desires God.
Also, what I mean by “desire” is simple. All I mean is that one wishes for, wants, yearns for, or craves something and/or someone. And, a “desire for God” includes wanting and craving for there to be a God.
Here’s what my Argument from Undesire looks like in a deductive form:
1. Necessarily, if God exists, then every person (always) desires for there to be a God
2. Not every person (always) desires for there to be a God
3. Therefore, God does not exist
Premise 2 is obviously true since some people at various times actively want God not to exist or are indifferent to the concept of God. So, the question is whether premise 1 is true. So, let me give a sub-argument for premise 1.
1a. Necessarily, if God exists, then God is maximally great
1b. Necessarily, if God is maximally great, then God is maximally desirable
1c. Necessarily, if God is maximally desirable, then the greatest desire for persons is God
1d. Necessarily, if the greatest desire for persons is God, then God makes it the case that every person always desires God
1e. Necessarily, if God makes it the case that every person always desires God, then every person always desires God
Conclusion: Necessarily, if God exists, then every person always desires God
The fundamental intuition behind the argument is that if God exists, then God wants us to desire him, which means desiring that he exists. How can we possibly make sense of the notion that God wants it to be the case that we all desire him, but yet there are some who don’t desire God? That’s the whole point of my argument.
Of course, one desiring God (and desiring that God exists) doesn’t mean one is thinking about the proposition “God exists” all day long. Nor does it mean that one is consciously thinking about the word/concept of “God” all day long.
The crucial premise is premise 1d. Desiring God would be an intrinsic good; it would be good for its own sake. We could also see some of the benefits that come with desiring God. Clearly it’s logically possible that everyone desires God, and clearly we would expect God to want people to desire him. God wants the best for her creatures, and if God wants the best for his creatures, then if the desire for God is the greatest desire or an infinite desire, then all persons would desire that God exists.
One immediate objection to my argument might be an appeal to free will; God gives us a choice to desire him. However, I don’t think this move will work. For one, it doesn’t seem like we can just choose what our desires are. I don’t choose to desire many things, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. I didn’t choose to desire to be happy last week, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good thing to be happy. Just because you don’t choose to desire women or boardgames, doesn’t mean they are somehow less desirable, real, or valuable.
Someone might reply by saying you can control your desires in an indirect way. For example, you can control not being tired tomorrow by going to bed early.
However, desiring God is good for its own sake. And, once again, it’s not clear what freewill would add, especially since desiring God is our greatest desire. How can our greatest desire become greater? How does free will change the situation? Moreover, it’s not clear that one can always indirectly choose one’s desires. You could choose to end up going to bed early, but that does not guarantee that you won’t be tired tomorrow. You might have a bad night’s sleep for reasons that are out of your control. The result is that you end of being tired the next day, and that wasn’t a choice. Similarly, there are some people who aren’t actively trying to not have a desire for God. In fact, they are taking steps to try and produce a desire for God.
Secondly, one might object to my argument by saying that God is building and testing us. The problem with this objection is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that God can build/test us with and without a desire for God. In fact, character building would seem to be even better when one has that specific desire for God!
Thirdly, someone might object that the reason God doesn’t make it the case that we always desire him is because she is judging us for our “sins”. The problem with this suggestion is that it misunderstands the argument. The argument I am presenting is claiming that God would have set things up differently from the start.
Fourthly, one might object by saying,” If God exists, then every person has a natural desire for God built in them.” The whole point of my argument is not to assume that such a “natural” desire doesn’t exist. Rather, what I am saying is that regardless if everyone has a built-in capacity to desire God, nevertheless, there are some various times when people don’t desire God at all. Some people don’t have an actual desire for God at various times in their respective lives, even if they have had the desire before in their lives; this is still the case even if they somehow have some innate capacity to desire God.
A final objection to my argument will be an appeal to some other greater good, perhaps unknown; the consequence is that God would only allow someone to not desire her in order to realize such an unknown good.
But what if desiring God is an infinite good? It already seems to be such a deep good (and deepest good) as it is. Why would God sacrifice an infinite good for some unknown finite good? Not to mention, it’s not clear that God couldn’t realize this unknown good while at the same time making it the case that persons always desire him. Furthermore, I can imagine that God has some greater good in mind, but that doesn’t mean that it’s possible that God does have a greater good, nor does it mean that it is possible God would bring about that (possible) good. Given that God is the Good, such that all goods are in God, it’s difficult to conceive how a greater goods objection can work.
#Argument from desire #Argument from desire for atheism #Argument from desire for God’s non-existence #Argument from desire against God’s existence