Argument from Undesire

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.

Objections:

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.

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#Argument from desire #Argument from desire for atheism #Argument from desire for God’s non-existence #Argument from desire against God’s existence

6 thoughts on “Argument from Undesire

  1. The biblical narrative outlines a worldview that we do not desire God at all. There is no argument from desire.
    In fact, the conclusion is, there is not one that does good. There is none that seek God. (Rom 3:11)

    It is not that we love God, but that he loves us. Therefore, the desires of the human race are immaterial to the gospel and salvation. It is understandable that some do have desire, and some don’t. Thats the biblical conclusion.

    The wonder of the gospel is God is the originator of all things including seeking out humanity first. Our desire is the response, not the origin.

  2. Everyone of us humans have a spiritual vail, a vail that keep some blind their whole life to the truth of our lives, our existence, and our purpose. Science attempts to fill in these gaps of the truth with biology and philosophy. For why has the word God and Jesus been around for thousands and thousands of years? Why has Jerusalem been the only holy city still of existence, and all the others great empires have came to pass? Why has the world governments over time and time again oppressed the Christian faith? If it were not of importance to all of humanity, government would not take the time to even bear with it. The argument of simple social control for religion, can be put into play with other religions, but no one of this world should deny the facts time and time again. We all seek humanly desires and not spiritual desires, for this is a great mystery of ones life. These are the days of his coming, and I want all to be able to experience God’s love and not his wrath. Think about it, God is calling you right now with these two comments made. The seed has been planted, for it is up to you if you want to bear fruit of the truth. May God bless you with the fullness of his Shalom!

  3. Philosophy of Religion blog:
    In answer to your question ”does GOD exist?” – the answer is the same as asking if you exist – an emphatic YES!
    I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that dear Son of The Universe.

    I am not a fanatic nor is it my opinion – it’s what I am being told.
    I am not Religious, an Academic, a Bigot or an Atheist, but I am a Sibyl.
    I would call myself a Norse Christian, Interfaith discerning Gentile that is being taken along the Philosophical & Scientific Cosmic route to Proof.
    Have a Happy New Year.

  4. One could say we all have a desire for God, but that this desire is not always conscious. One could argue that our finitude makes us desire God. This desire is always there, even though we may be in denial that we have it. So, the atheist really does desire to believe in good, but this desire is buried and subconscious.

  5. I agree in part with gene515. I think we were created to desire God but sin has altered this. Now we desire to BE God, at least by nature. Look at infants. They are born wanting what they want and spend the rest of their lives learning to share, to think of others, to think of God and to surrender to Him. In essence our lives reflect this duality–made in God’s image (so we desire Him) and marred by sin (so we want to BE Him).

    Becky

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