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Lucky Lindy, Unfortunate Jews

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  • Joav Nothman
    Lucky Lindy, Unfortunate Jews In Philip Roth s alternative history, Charles Lindbergh beats FDR By Ron Charles Once again, Philip Roth has published a novel
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 27, 2004
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      Lucky Lindy, Unfortunate Jews

      In Philip Roth's alternative history, Charles Lindbergh beats FDR

      By Ron Charles

      Once again, Philip Roth has published a novel that you must read - now. It's
      not that an appreciation of his book depends on the political climate; our
      appreciation of the political climate depends on his book. During a bitterly
      contested election in a time of war against an amorphous enemy, "The Plot
      Against America" inspires exactly the kind of discussion we need.

      With a seamless blend of autobiography, history, and speculation, Roth
      imagines that Charles Lindbergh ran against Franklin Roosevelt in the
      presidential election of 1940. Drawing on Lindbergh's writings and speeches
      at the time, Roth creates a campaign for the aviation hero centered on his
      determination to keep America out of Europe's war. While Roosevelt
      enunciates complex policies in his famous upper-class cadence, Lindbergh
      buzzes around the country in The Spirit of St. Louis declaring, "Your choice
      is simple. It's between Lindbergh and war." To preserve the nation, we must
      resist the propaganda of "the Jewish race," Lindbergh warns, "and their
      large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio,
      and our government."

      After winning by a landslide, he immediately negotiates "understandings"
      with the Axis, consigning Europe to Germany in exchange for a promise to
      leave America alone. Political opponents rail against the president for
      "yielding to his Nazi friends," but everybody knows those nay-sayers are
      just warmongering Jews.

      Lindbergh's first domestic initiative is the creation of the Office of
      American Absorption to "encourage America's religious and national
      minorities to become further incorporated into the larger society." In
      practice, this involves sending urban Jewish children to spend the summer on
      farms in the South - "a Jewish farm hand in the Gentile heartland."
      Eventually, the program expands to remove whole Jewish families from their
      city "ghettos" and send them to exciting, new lives in the Midwest. If their
      culture is dissolved in the process, well, that's OK too.

      Yes, Lindbergh comes off very bad in these pages. He spouts anti-Semitic
      canards that sound far more shocking now than in 1938, when he accepted the
      Nazis' Service Cross of the German Eagle "by order of the Fuhrer." But
      clearly Roth's real target isn't an anti-Semitic aviation hero who died 30
      years ago. It's an electorate he sees as dazzled by attractive faces, moved
      by simple slogans, and cowed by ominous warnings about threats to our

      The result is a cautionary story in the tradition of "The Handmaid's Tale,"
      a stunning work of political extrapolation about a triumvirate of hate,
      ignorance, and paranoia that shreds decency and overruns liberty. Roth
      provides brilliant analysis of political rhetoric: the way demagogues
      manipulate public opinion and the way responsible journalists inadvertently
      prop up tyrants in their devotion to objectivity and balance.

      But what really gives the novel life is its narrator: a little boy named
      Phil Roth. He lives in Newark with his older brother, who's completely
      enamored with Charles Lindbergh; his righteous father, who's convinced the
      new president is an American Hitler; and his long- suffering mother, who
      struggles to hold her family together as the nation is ripped apart.

      In a voice that blends the tones of the author's nostalgia with the boy's
      innocence, Phil describes the national crisis through its effect on his own
      family. It's a narrative structure fraught with risks, particularly the
      danger of making this 7-year-old boy look cloying or inappropriately
      sophisticated, but Roth keeps his bifocal vision in perfect focus. The
      result is a profound examination of the way children negotiate their
      parents' ideals and their culture's prejudices along the way to developing
      not just a political consciousness but a sense of safety in the world.

      Soon after Lindbergh wins the election, for instance, the Roth family takes
      a trip to Washington, D.C., to reassure themselves of the stability of
      American democracy. Phil's father is full of enthusiasm, repeating the
      guide's patter and pointing to the sights. He also can't resist broadcasting
      his criticism of the new president. "That's just expressing my opinion," he
      protests when his wife begs him to be more discreet, but they're jeered at
      and thrown out of their hotel. Phil feels embarrassed and terrified, but
      he's also proud to have a father "ruthlessly obedient to the idea of fair

      That conflicted response continues as young Phil struggles to keep his
      alliances straight in a world of baffling complexity. His brother can't say
      enough about Lindbergh's wonders. Their father's suspicion seems downright
      paranoid. When his aunt starts dating the token Jew in Lindbergh's
      administration, Phil can see firsthand the rich rewards of assimilation and
      collusion. What, after all, did his cousin gain by joining the Canadians in
      their fight against the Nazis, except a prosthetic leg?

      By the novel's climax, the conflict tearing the world apart is violently
      loose in his own living room. "I was disillusioned," he writes, "by a sense
      that my family was slipping away from me right along with my country."

      Victims of anti-Semitism will react in a special way (as will the
      descendants of Japanese-Americans interned by Roosevelt), but "The Plot
      Against America" is really a story about the loss of innocence, about that
      moment when it's no longer possible for "mother and father to set things
      right and explain away enough of the unknown to make existence appear to be

      This isn't the wrathful Roth of "The Human Stain" or "I Married a
      Communist." This narrator is too deeply unsettled to be angry, and frankly
      that makes him far more unsettling to us. In a surprising final chapter,
      after he's neatly woven his fictional history back into the historical
      record we all know, Roth concludes with a small, tragic story of a neighbor
      whose family is crushed, almost accidentally, by the fury of racial hatred.
      It's a stunning, deeply disturbing episode for young Phil, and one that
      leaves us shaken with the narrator's "perpetual fear."

    • Sergio Gonzalez
      Record shows Bush shifting on Iraq war President s rationale for the invasion continues to evolve - Marc Sandalow Washington -- President Bush portrays his
      Message 2 of 12 , Sep 29, 2004
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        Record shows Bush shifting on Iraq war

        President's rationale for the invasion continues to evolve

        - Marc Sandalow

        Washington -- President Bush portrays his position on Iraq as steady and
        unwavering as he represents Sen. John Kerry's stance as ambiguous and

        "Mixed signals are the wrong signals,'' Bush said last week during a
        campaign stop in Bangor, Maine. "I will continue to lead with clarity, and
        when I say something, I'll mean what I say.''

        Yet, heading into the first presidential debate Thursday, which will focus
        on foreign affairs, there is much in the public record to suggest that
        Bush's words on Iraq have evolved -- or, in the parlance his campaign often
        uses to describe Kerry, flip-flopped.

        An examination of more than 150 of Bush's speeches, radio addresses and
        responses to reporters' questions reveal a steady progression of language,
        mostly to reflect changing circumstances such as the failure to discover
        weapons of mass destruction, the lack of ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda
        terrorist network and the growing violence of Iraqi insurgents.

        A war that was waged principally to overthrow a dictator who possessed "some
        of the most lethal weapons ever devised'' has evolved into a mission to rid
        Iraq of its "weapons-making capabilities'' and to offer democracy and
        freedom to its 25 million residents.

        The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam
        Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture
        rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct
        threat to the United States.

        In the fall of 2002, as Bush sought congressional support for the use of
        force, he described the vote as a sign of solidarity that would strengthen
        his ability to keep the peace. Today, his aides describe it unambiguously as
        a vote to go to war.

        Whether such shifts constitute a reasonable evolution of language to reflect
        the progression of war, or an about-face to justify unmet expectations, is a
        subjective judgment tinged by partisan prejudice.

        Yet a close look at the record makes it difficult to support Bush campaign
        chairman Ken Mehlman's description of the upcoming debate as a "square-off
        between resolve and optimism versus vacillation and defeatism.''

        A careful reading of Bush's statements on Iraq reveals many instances of
        consistency, just as The Chronicle's examination of Kerry's words found
        consistency in the Democratic challenger's statements. Over and over, Bush
        stated that the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the way Americans --
        including the commander in chief -- viewed the threat of terrorism and
        lowered the threshold of risk Americans were willing to accept.

        "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest
        otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good
        faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a
        reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take,'' Bush said in a
        well-received speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Sept 12, 2002.

        Bush echoed those words earlier this month as he accepted his party's
        nomination for president a few miles away, at Madison Square Garden in New

        "Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th and take the word of a
        madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I
        will defend America every time.''

        Yet the more specific explanation of a mission that has cost more than 1,
        000 American lives, thousands of Iraqi lives and well over $100 billion has
        undergone a transformation.

        Prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush focused on weapons of mass
        destruction and stated the U.S. goal in straightforward terms.

        "Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. And in
        order to disarm, it would mean regime change,'' Bush said at a news
        conference two weeks before he took the nation to war.

        "And our mission won't change,'' Bush continued. "Our mission is precisely
        what I just stated.''

        Six weeks later, speaking to workers at an Army tank plant in Ohio, the goal
        seemed to expand.

        "Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides
        ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid
        of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring humanitarian
        aid and restore basic services and put this country, Iraq, on the road to
        self- government.''

        Last month, speaking to supporters at a campaign event in Wisconsin, Bush
        put it more plainly: "The goal in Iraq and Afghanistan is for there to be
        democratic and free countries who are allies in the war on terror. That's
        the goal.''

        In the course of the campaign, such shifts have been characterized by Bush's
        opponents as lies.

        "He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war,'' Kerry
        said during a speech at New York University last week in which he said Bush
        has offered 23 different rationales for going to war. "If his purpose was to
        confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.''

        The count comes from a study conducted by an honors thesis written by a
        University of Illinois student, which actually attributed 19 rationales --
        none mutually exclusive -- to Bush and four others to members of his

        Most of the rationales were on the table from the beginning. What changed
        was the emphasis.

        Bush voiced no doubt from the beginning that Hussein possessed chemical,
        biological and potentially nuclear weapons.

        "Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent
        enormous sums, taken great risks, to build and keep weapons of mass
        destruction,'' Bush said in his State of the Union address in January 2003.

        By the following year, after no such weapons had been discovered and
        evidence suggested that much of the intelligence was wrong, Bush had toned
        down such talk and begun to speak of the "threat'' of Hussein developing
        such weapons.

        In his State of the Union address last January, Bush spoke of Hussein's
        "mass destruction-related program activities."

        "Look, there is no doubt that Saddam Husein was a dangerous person,'' the
        president told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an interview several weeks before that
        speech. "And there's no doubt we had a body of evidence providing that. And
        there is no doubt that the president must act, after 9/11, to make America a
        more secure country.''

        Sawyer asked the president about the distinction between the "hard fact that
        there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he
        could move to acquire those weapons.''

        "So what's the difference?'' Bush responded. "The possibility that he could
        acquire weapons, if he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.''

        "What would it take to convince you he didn't have weapons of mass
        destruction,'' Sawyer persisted.

        "Saddam Hussein was a threat,'' Bush responded. "And the fact that he is
        gone means America is a safer country.''

        In the months since, Bush has changed his standard speech to reflect that
        failure to discover the weapons.

        "Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we
        were right to go into Iraq,'' Bush said in July in Tennessee. "We removed a
        declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of
        mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on
        acquiring them. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we
        could not afford to take.''

        There are a few instances where the president's words contradict
        developments or his previous statements.

        On March 6, 2003, for example, Bush insisted during a prime-time news
        conference that he would offer a resolution before the United Nations
        calling for the use of force against Iraq even if other nations threatened
        to veto it.

        "No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote,'' Bush said.

        A few days later, after it became apparent that the measure would not only
        be vetoed but might fail to win a majority of the Security Council, the Bush
        administration dropped its demand for a vote.

        The president also said last month on NBC's "Today Show'' that "I don't
        think you can win'' the war on terrorism, explaining instead that the nation
        could greatly minimize the likelihood of terrorist attacks. The comment came
        after months of asserting the United States was winning, and would
        ultimately triumph, in its war on terror. The statement appeared to be
        little more than an inelegant way of adding nuance to his explanation, and
        the president quickly retreated from the words the following day.

        Some statements now look off-base after developments in Iraq, such as Bush's
        response in the first days of the war after learning that Iraqis may have
        captured some Americans.

        "I do know that we expect them to be treated humanely, just like we'll treat
        any prisoners of theirs that we capture humanely,'' Bush said, many months
        before American soldiers committed the atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison.

        President Bush on Iraq

        Sept. 12, 2002

        Speech before the U.N. General Assembly

        "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest
        otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good
        faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a
        reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.''

        Sept. 19, 2002

        Response to a reporter's question

        "If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use
        force. ... This is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance
        for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the
        peace. That's what this is all about.''

        Oct. 7, 2002

        Speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cincinnati

        "Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the
        instruments of mass death and destruction. ... Knowing these realities,
        American must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear
        evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun --
        that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.''

        March 6, 2003

        News conference

        "Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. And in
        order to disarm, it would mean regime change.''

        March 17, 2003

        Address to nation (two days before invasion)

        "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that
        the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal
        weapons ever devised. The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or,
        one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists
        could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of
        thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.''

        May 1, 2003

        Aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln

        "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the
        United States and our allies have prevailed. ... The battle of Iraq is one
        victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still
        goes on."

        Nov. 11, 2003

        Veterans Day address

        "Our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is clear to our service members -- and
        clear to our enemies. Our men and women are fighting to secure the freedom
        of more than 50 million people who recently lived under two of the cruelest
        dictatorships on earth. Our men and women are fighting to help democracy and
        peace and justice rise in a troubled and violent region. Our men and women
        are fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and
        center of their power, so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of

        Aug. 16, 2004

        Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cincinnati

        "Even though we did not find the stockpiles that we thought we would find,
        Saddam Hussein had the capability to make weapons of mass destruction, and
        he could have passed that capability on to our enemy, to the terrorists. It
        is not a risk after September the 11th that we could afford to take. Knowing
        what I know today, I would have taken the same action."

      • Xavier Kailhofer
        Nonbelief as Support for Atheism Theodore M. Drange West Virginia University ABSTRACT: The Canadian philosopher J.L. Schellenberg has recently put forward an
        Message 3 of 12 , Sep 29, 2004
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          Nonbelief as Support for Atheism

          Theodore M. Drange
          West Virginia University

          ABSTRACT: The Canadian philosopher J.L. Schellenberg has recently put
          forward an argument for atheism based on the idea that God is supposed to be
          perfectly loving and so would not permit people to be deprived of awareness
          of his existence. If such a deity were to exist, then, he would do something
          to reveal his existence clearly to people, thereby causing them to become
          theists. Thus, the fact that there are so many non-theists in the world
          becomes good reason to deny the existence of God conceived of in the given
          way. I first raise objections to Schellenberg�s formulation of the argument
          and then suggest some improvements. My main improvement is to include among
          the divine attributes the property of strongly desiring humanity�s love.
          Since to love God requires at least believing that he exists, if God were to
          exist, he must want widespread theistic belief. The fact that so many people
          lack such belief becomes a good argument for atheism with respect to God
          conceived of in the given way. Some objections to this line of reasoning are
          considered, in particular the claim that God refrains from revealing himself
          to people in order to avoid interfering with their free will or to avoid
          eliciting inappropriate responses from them or some other (unknown) purpose.
          An attempt is made to refute each of these objections.

          bluered.gif (1041 bytes)

          Atheism of a certain sort can be supported by appeal to the existence of
          widespread nonbelief in God. This is shown by a Canadian philosopher, J. L.
          Schellenberg, in his book Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. His argument
          is as follows:

          (1) If there is a God, he is perfectly loving.
          (2) If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not
          (3) [But] reasonable nonbelief occurs.
          (4) [Thus, from (2) & (3)] no perfectly loving God exists.
          (5) [Hence, from (1) & (4)] there is no God. (1)

          In this paper I shall first raise some objections to the argument and then
          try to show how it might be improved.


          (A) Irrelevance of the term "reasonable"

          Schellenberg regards "reasonable" nonbelief to be that which is inculpable
          (i.e., for which the nonbeliever is not to blame). The distinction between
          culpable and inculpable nonbelief is somewhat unclear, but even if it could
          be sufficiently understood I am inclined to say that all nonbelief in God is
          inculpable. For that reason, I would accept premise (3) of the argument.
          Schellenberg devotes a chapter of his book to a defense of it. Although I
          agree with what he says there, it seems to me that even if people's
          nonbelief in God were always somehow their own fault, that would be
          irrelevant. A perfectly loving deity would set vindictiveness aside and
          still want to help nonbelievers (by supplying them with evidence of his
          existence), despite their culpability. All it would take, for most, would be
          some spectacular miracle, or perhaps, as Schellenberg prefers, a religious
          experience. So, even if some clear sense could be attached to the
          distinction between culpable and inculpable nonbelief, the real force of
          Schellenberg's argument would lie in the fact of nonbelief itself. The issue
          of whether or not the nonbelief is culpable would be irrelevant. It would
          therefore improve the argument if the word "reasonable" were simply omitted
          from it.

          (B) Premise (1)

          Premise (1) should be rejected because there are theists who do not view God
          as perfectly loving. Even some Christians think of him as an angry deity
          bent on punishing people for their sins. Consider for example the biblical
          god who ordered the total annihilation of the Amalekites (including all
          their children and animals), or one who would predestine some of his
          creatures to eternal torment in hell (as commonly believed). Such a deity is
          not perfectly loving. The property of being perfectly loving is too
          specific, which is why lexicographers usually omit it in their definitions
          of "God." To get around this, Schellenberg should put his argument forward
          only in relation to theists who already think of God as perfectly loving and
          so would accept his first premise.

          (C) Premise (2)

          My main objection is to premise (2). Even assuming that God is perfectly
          loving, why must he want people to believe in him? There are circumstances
          in which a man could love his children and yet not want them to be aware of
          his existence. Perhaps he is a moody person with periods of violent
          behavior. Or maybe he is hiding from bomb-throwing assassins, so anyone
          close to him is at risk. There is nothing in the concept of love itself that
          would warrant the inference drawn in premise (2). There is no contradiction
          in the statement "X loves Y, but X does not want Y to be aware of X's
          existence." The idea of "loving from afar" is a familiar theme in

          Schellenberg might object that these considerations are irrelevant because
          God has additional properties which forestall them. Since God is by
          definition all-good, it has to be in people's best interests to be aware of
          such a being if indeed he exists. But what does "all-good" mean? And why
          must it be in people's best interests to be aware of such a being? There are
          many non-theists who lack such an awareness and yet seem to be happy anyway.
          What is the great benefit that such people are missing? This needs
          clarification. Another consideration is that God may be so far beyond us
          that we are incapable of comprehending him. Maybe theists have such a poor
          understanding of God that there is no significant difference between them
          and non-theists, so far as God is concerned. In other words, people's
          nonbelief does not bother God because the only sort of belief of which
          humans are capable is of no value to him. Yet, he might be perfectly loving,

          My conclusion regarding Schellenberg's argument is that, as worded, it is a
          failure. It should have dispensed with the unclear and irrelevant appeal to
          the culpability of nonbelief. To make a case for premise (1), it should have
          been exclusively applied to some specific deity (e.g., the God of
          evangelical Christianity) rather than God in general. And in place of its
          premise (2), it should have gone beyond the concept of divine love, perhaps
          making an appeal to scripture or to some additional properties of God..
          Overall, I would say that the basic idea of an argument from nonbelief is
          sound, and it does indeed provide support for a certain form of atheism, but
          it needs to be formulated in a different way.


          We first need to recognize that there are different concepts of God and for
          some of them people's nonbelief is not a serious problem. One could simply
          assert that God does not care whether anyone believes in him and that would
          end the matter right there. However, there are many theists for whom
          people's nonbelief would be a serious problem. We could use survey questions
          in an effort to locate them. I suggest questions such as the following:

          Q1: Does God have great love for humanity?

          Q2: Does God strongly desire that humanity love him?I think that more than
          half the theist population, at least of the U.S., would answer both
          questions affirmatively, and for those theists there is a problem of
          nonbelief, which in this context is the problem of explaining why there are
          so many non-theists in the world. If God wants the non-theists to love him,
          then he must also want them to believe that he exists, since such love
          requires such belief. So, why, then, hasn't he simply appeared to them or
          done something else that would have effectively eliminated their nonbelief?
          It seems that no reasonable explanation can be given here.

          That gives rise to an atheological argument, similar to Schellenberg's,
          which may be called "the Argument from Nonbelief" (ANB for short). Here is a
          formulation of it:

          1. If God were to exist, then he would have great love for humanity and a
          strong desire that humanity love him in return.
          2. If such a deity as described were to exist, then probably all, or
          almost all, present-day humans would believe that God exists.
          3. But many present-day humans do not believe that God exists.
          4. Hence [from (2) & (3)], probably there does not exist a deity as
          described in
          5. Therefore [from (1) & (4)], probably God does not exist.

          This argument is not to be applied to God in general, only to that specific
          concept of God with respect to which its first premise would be true. That
          would include the concept of all those theists who answer both survey
          questions Q1 and Q2 affirmatively, which I believe would be the majority of
          them, at least in the U.S. It thus aims only at atheism with respect to that
          specific concept of God.

          The rationale behind ANB's premise (2) is that people cannot love God if
          they do not believe that he exists. Thus, if God exists then he must want
          people to have such belief, which implies that he would have done something
          to bring about universal (or near-universal) theistic belief, even if that
          would require giving humans some sort of "brain-boost" to help them
          comprehend his nature. The appeal to God's desire for humanity's love fills
          out what was missing in Schellenberg's premise (2). In my opinion, ANB
          presents good evidence for the nonexistence of any deity which satisfies
          premise (1). However, defenses might be mounted against it.

          Consider, first, the Free-will Defense. Might God refrain from clearly
          revealing himself to people in order to avoid interfering with their free
          will? I think not. People's free will is not affected by them merely
          learning or being shown the truth about something, even by God. For one
          thing, people do not normally use their wills in the process of belief
          acquisition but rather rely on the available evidence. For another thing,
          they want to know the truth and therefore would not be forced against their
          will to acquire it if they were to be shown something. Assuming that God
          exists, for non-theists to become aware of that truth would actually make
          them more free than they were before, for it would open up options to them
          that were not available before. Schellenberg thinks that if God were to
          exist then he would reveal his existence to people by providing them with
          some sort of religious experience.(2) Maybe that would work, but I shall not
          pursue that line of thought. There are a great variety of ways by which God
          might impart knowledge about himself. One way would be by appearing to
          people and performing spectacular miracles. Another would be by inspiring
          humans to write scripture that possesses special properties, showing it to
          be divinely inspired. God could then help disseminate knowledge of such
          scripture worldwide. We need not pursue the details of this. It is
          counter-intuitive to claim that God cannot do any of these things without
          interfering with people's free will.

          Another objection to the Free-will Defense makes an appeal to the idea of
          irrationality. There are well over a billion people on the planet earth who
          lack a belief in God. And with the great proliferation of conflicting belief
          systems even among those who are theists, presumably billions of them
          ascribe properties to God which he does not possess. Assuming that God wants
          all those people to come to believe in him and to come to have correct
          beliefs about him, how does he expect them to do that if he is unwilling to
          provide the evidence they need? Does he want them to arrive at the relevant
          beliefs in some irrational manner? That would certainly conflict with the
          usual concept of God. Theists may reply that there is evidence for the
          existence of God and so theistic belief is in no way irrational. But if
          people are aware of good evidence for God's existence, then how is their
          belief in God "free"? Advocates of the Free-will Defense may say that there
          is just the right amount of evidence: enough to make their theistic belief
          rational but not so much as to interfere with their free will. If God were
          to provide still more evidence of his existence, no matter how slight, then
          that would cross the line and interfere with free will.

          One objection here is that there really is no good evidence for God's
          existence, especially when God is given the attributes mentioned in ANB's
          premise (1). That is a large topic in itself, which we need not get into.
          Another objection is that even if there were such evidence, apparently
          billions of people are unaware of it and are in need of something more.
          Presumably for God to provide that little extra would not interfere with
          those people's free will, for it would only bring their level of awareness
          up to that of the theists who (with no interference with their free will)
          already are aware of the given evidence. Thus, there would be no good reason
          for God to permit nonbelievers to remain that way. If there is a level of
          evidence sufficient for belief but less than that which would interfere with
          free will, then God should see to it that everyone is made aware of evidence
          for his existence which is at that level. There are still other objections
          which we need not get into. From what has already been said it is clear that
          the Free-will Defense will not work.

          Another defense, which is very similar, is proposed by Daniel Howard-Snyder
          in an exchange with J. L. Schellenberg.(3) According to it, God knows that
          if certain non-theists were to be presented with good evidence for his
          existence, then they would respond inappropriately. For example, they might
          come to hate God or be indifferent to him. For that reason, God simply never
          presents himself to them, thereby permitting them to retain their nonbelief.
          One objection to this defense, among others, is that a person's immediate
          response to theistic belief may not remain fixed. People could come to
          believe in God and at first respond inappropriately, but after some time has
          elapsed, they may come to modify their response. Schellenberg makes this
          point in his reply to Howard-Snyder. He suggests that God, being all-loving,
          would "seek in various ways to facilitate a better disposition."(4) I agree
          with that. Certainly it is hard to see how God could get any better behavior
          or better disposition from non-theists by having them remain ignorant of his
          existence than by causing them to become aware of it. I shall omit
          discussion of other objections. It does seem that the given defense can be
          refuted in somewhat like the way in which the Free-will Defense was refuted

          Theists usually fall back on the Unknown-purpose Defense according to which
          God has some adequate though unknown purpose for permitting people to be
          nonbelievers. Schellenberg seems to resist this line of thought, for in his
          book he says: "Without strong independent evidence for the denial of my
          argument's conclusion, S [a person] has no reason to appeal to the
          possibility of an explanation unknown to her, perhaps beyond her grasp.
          Without the indirect support for an appeal to the possibility of unknown
          explanations afforded by strong independent evidence of God's existence, S
          must, if she agrees with this argument, come to believe that there is no
          God.(5) This seems to be a rejection of the Unknown-purpose Defense out of
          hand without due consideration. Someone could agree with the basic points of
          Schellenberg's argument and yet suspend judgment on whether or not there
          might be some divine purpose which would adequately explain why God remains
          hidden from (at least a large part of) humanity.

          We are confining our investigation to theists who believe in a deity who
          strongly desires that (almost) everyone at least be aware of his existence.
          What are we to make of the claim that such a deity exists but has some
          unknown purpose which conflicts with his desire for (near) universal
          theistic belief among humans and which outweighs and overrides it, thereby
          falsifying premise (2) of ANB? Is there any good objection to that claim?

          Theists who answer questions Q1 and Q2 affirmatively are saying that God
          loves humanity greatly and wants that love to be reciprocated. But if God
          were to want people to love him, then it would seem to be counter-productive
          (and perhaps even irrational) for him to stay hidden from them. Of course,
          it is logically possible that God desires people's love and yet have some
          (unknown) purpose which overrides that desire. Nevertheless, the idea does
          appear to be counter-intuitive.

          Another consideration, the focal point of Schellenberg's argument, is that
          if God has great love for people, then he presumably wants whatever would
          benefit them in the long run. But surely that would include a close personal
          relationship with himself. How in that case could God deny a large portion
          of humanity such a benefit by staying hidden from them? If he loves people
          greatly, then presumably he could not permit them to be so deprived. The
          appeal to the Unknown-purpose Defense again becomes increasingly
          far-fetched, though, admittedly, more is needed here to clarify the benefit
          that non-theists are supposedly missing out on. Perhaps what should be
          emphasized is the intrinsic value of wisdom, or genuine knowledge of the
          ultimate nature of reality. If God loves us, then he must want us to have

          My overall assessment of ANB is as follows. I readily grant that the
          argument has no force whatever if the concept of God is left unrestricted
          (using, for example, just the dictionary definition of "God" as the
          all-powerful creator and ruler of the universe). However, many theists have
          a more definite concept of God, and ANB becomes much stronger when it is
          applied against that more definite concept. I think that more than half of
          them (in the U.S. at least) would answer both survey questions
          affirmatively. For all those people, ANB presents a formidable case for the
          nonexistence of their deity. On a scale of zero to 100, with fifty being the
          cutoff between weak and strong arguments, I would give it a score of
          seventy-five. (Of course, that figure would be reduced for theists who
          answer only one of the questions affirmatively, and it would be zero for
          theists in general, apart from the survey questions.) ANB may not prove
          conclusively that God does not exist, but it does render that result likely.
          It presents good support for a certain form of atheism and a serious
          challenge for theists which they have yet to overcome.

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          (1) J. L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca, NY:
          Cornell University Press, 1993), p. 83.

          (2) Ibid., pp. 47-57.

          (3) Daniel Howard-Snyder, "The Argument from Divine Hiddenness," Canadian
          Journal of Philosophy 26 (1996), pp. 433-453, followed by J. L.
          Schellenberg, "Response to Howard-Snyder," pp. 455-462.

          (4) Ibid., p. 460.

          (5) Divine Hiddenness, p. 211.

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