Is the Problem of Evil an ‘Atheism of the Gaps’ / Incredulity Argument

Not a day goes by in the debate between atheism and theism where one does not hear some unbeliever intone that some argument for God is either a ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ / ignorance argument (essentially, and crudely, an argument which claims that we do not know how something happened, so God did it) or an argument from incredulity (where the believer allegedly claims that he simply cannot believe some naturalistic explanation, and so it is false), and yet what is fascinating about this atheistic desire to label so many arguments for God as ‘gap’ and / or ‘incredulity’ type arguments–even when they are clearly nothing of the sort–is the fact that arguably the greatest, most significant, and most well-known atheistic argument, namely the ‘evidential argument from evil’ (an argument which claims that since God would not permit gratuitous suffering to exist (either qualitatively or quantitatively), and since gratuitous suffering does exist, then God most likely does not exist), is actually an ‘atheism-of-the-gaps’ / unbeliever’s incredulity argument, for note that what the unbeliever is ultimately saying when he offers forth the evidential argument from evil is that he cannot understand or see any explanation for some evil that exists, or that he simply cannot believe that God would have a morally sufficient reason to permit some allegedly gratuitous suffering, and yet the former claim is just a ‘gaps’-type claim (namely:  there is no explanation for this evil that I can see, so God does not exist) while the latter claim is just a claim of incredulity (namely: I cannot see any explanation for this suffering, and so there is none); and yet note that the standard answers that atheists use against ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ arguments (namely: “Scientists are still working on it” or “We just need more time”) or the answers they give against arguments from personal incredulity (namely: “The fact that you can’t come to believe the answer does not make it false), can just as readily be used by the theist, for the theist can always say “Theologians are still working on it” or “We just need more time to understand the reason for this evil” or “The fact that you [an atheist] cannot accept this explanation of this particular evil does not make the explanation false”…and so it seems that the unbelieving community is stuck in a dilemma, for 1) if many arguments for God are claimed to be ‘gap / incredulity’ arguments and are thus considered invalid, then the same reasoning can be turned on many atheistic arguments, thus rendering them invalid as well via their parity with theistic arguments, or else 2) the atheist denies that his arguments are ‘gap / incredulity’ type argument (or, alternatively, accepts the legitimacy of such argument types), and yet thereby gives the theist the ability to claim the same thing, but either way, the unbeliever loses a significant intellectual advantage which he falsely believed that he had over the God-believer.


3 thoughts on “Is the Problem of Evil an ‘Atheism of the Gaps’ / Incredulity Argument

  1. The argument is actually this: given the definition of a God as both benevolent and omnipotent (and, arguably, omniscience is necessary to this argument too) then it follows that gratuitous suffering cannot happen.
    You need to get the argument right.


    • Allallt,

      You miss the point: the point is that atheists often re-frame theistic arguments into ‘gap’ / ‘incredulity’ formats, and this claim that those arguments are illegitimate (even though they are not gap arguments at all), and thus if the atheist can do that, then the theist can do the same thing with the problem of evil. What is sauce of the goose is sauce for the gander.


      • I have no idea if atheists do that or not. But it’s an intellectual mistake to do it. All the information I have is that now you are advocating it.
        I don’t know what it is that you have seen atheists do, but you are saying one should be allowed to contort and misrepresent arguments to make them look like arguments from ignorance — even when that is not what is being presented.
        It’s a straw man fallacy.


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