There is a discussion in the literature on whether the argument from divine hiddenness is a special case of the argument from evil. Here is an interesting difference. While many evils, like suffering and death, are evils no matter whether there is a God, divine hiddenness—the state of affairs of some epistemically virtuous agents not believing in God—can only be an evil if God exists. Indeed, if there is no God, then non-belief in God is intrinsically good.
This has an interesting implication. Say that an evil is "unjustified" provided that God does not (or would not?) have good moral reason to allow it. Then divine hiddenness is not an unjustified evil. For:
- Either God exists or God does not exist.
- If God exists, there are no unjustified evils.
- If God does not exist, divine hiddenness is not an evil.
- So, either way, divine hiddenness is not an unjustified evil.
This means that the hiddenness argument cannot be a special case of the argument from apparently unjustified evils. It's tempting to run the argument in counterfactual mode and make it a close parallel to the argument from apparently unjustified evil by contending:
- If there were a God, then hiddenness would be an unjustified evil.
- If there were a God, there would be no unjustified evils.
In fact, the following argument is valid and only the first premise is controversial:
- Divine hiddenness is an evil.
- If God doesn't exist, divine hiddenness is not an evil.
- So, God exists.
Hiddenness is not the only case where this logical issue comes up. It comes up in the case of any state of affairs that has the property that necessarily it is an evil only if God exists. In all such cases, the state of affairs simply cannot be an unjustified evil, and one has an argument from the state of affairs being an evil to God existing. Blasphemy against God is another such state of affairs.
(And if it could be shown that, necessarily, there is only evil if God exists, then this would mean that all arguments from evil are in this boat.)
None of this means that there is no argument from hiddenness for atheism that's worth discussing. It just means that one shouldn't see it as just a special case of the problem of evil. A much more cogent formulation of the hiddenness argument is this simple one (inspired by Trent Dougherty):
- P(this pattern of hiddenness | God) << P(this pattern of hiddenness | no God).
- So, probably, no God.
That said, one needs to be cautious about (10). For a part of this pattern of hiddenness is that some people have thought long and hard about whether God exists. And it's not clear that they would have been likely to think long and hard about whether God exists if there were no God.