One of the more frustrating elements in the search for God’s existence, at least for some people, is this nagging question: why doesn’t God just shout “HELLO! YOU THERE! BELIEVE IN ME! I AM REAL!” On the face of it, this would be extremely easy for God to do – if He existed. After all, the idea is that God is good, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing. What’s the problem here? If marketers for major companies can send me personalized mail with the Postal Service, what’s keeping God from doing the same?
On the other hand, if God did, in fact, reveal Himself to us in this way, we might be tempted to write it off as a delusion of the mind, a malfunction within our neural circuitry. This is the hypothesis that Richard Dawkins puts forward for religious belief in general (see this website). (By the way, the key question to ask Dawkins is this: if we should accept his view and explain away religious belief as neural misfires, what keeps us from then explaining away all belief as neural misfires? This leads to a self-contradictory position, where we have to explain away even our beliefs about the brain itself as neural misfires, and therefore end up unable to trust anything our brain delivers to us as ‘true’!)
But back to the question — if God wanted to, surely He could reveal His existence is such a dramatic and obvious way that no rational person would be able to dispute His existence. Right?
I don’t know how other major religious traditions would answer this question, but the Bible has some interesting stories in it that happen to address this concern. For instance, consider Deuteronomy 5:23-30.
And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’
“And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.”
The generation of Israelites that saw the Lord face to face was the same group of people who witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt and who miraculously crossed the Red Sea while Pharaoh’s army was drowned right behind them. After this, the entire community heard God speak to them from a mountain covered in fire. Now, if you’re looking for sustained, miraculous activity from God that clearly reveals his existence, beyond all rational doubt, I think this series of events qualifies. But as it turns out, the people did not want to hear His voice anymore! They begged Moses to do the listening for them! We have to ask ourselves: do we really want God to reveal His presence to us?
What this story can teach us is that, at least according to the Christian faith, we need more than evidence for God’s existence. Whether or not the story is true is another question – the point here is that, internal to the logic of Christianity, we need intellectual humility and a heart that is willing to love and obey God. It just isn’t enough for God to reveal Himself to us.
On the other hand, I have heard dozens of stories, from people who are open to God’s existence, about the very interesting ‘coincidences’ that led them to believe God was seeking after them. Random pattern seeking? Maybe. Or they could be clues.