There is no greater evidence than self-evidence. Take the proposition “2+2=4”. How do I know this proposition is true? I know it is true because it is self-evidently true. I do not need to appeal to evidence outside the proposition to know it is true.
Of course not all propositions are this way. Consider the proposition, “George Washington was the first President of the United States.” I believe this proposition is true, and I believe my belief is correct. Therefore I believe that I know the proposition “George Washington was the first President of the United States” is a true proposition. But how do I know this is true? Because it is self-evident? No. I know it is true because trustworthy testimony tells me it is true. In other words, my knowledge of the truth of the proposition depends upon evidence beyond the proposition itself. It is not enough to simply state the proposition “George Washington was the first President of the United States” to know that the proposition is true. But it is enough to state “2+2=4” to know that is true.
There are many propositions besides “2+2=4” that are self-evidently true – at least to me: what is self-evidently true to one person is not necessarily self-evidently true to another person. For example, the proposition “I exist” is self-evidently true to me. Likewise, the proposition “I am not the only thing that exists” is self-evidently true to me. Also the proposition “it is wrong to torture babies for fun” is self-evidently true to me.
“So what”, you may be thinking. “What’s the significance of all of this?” Well, let’s turn to some theological propositions that some assert to be true.
Consider, for instance the proposition: “God, a morally perfect being, will torture people forever.” Is this proposition true? If you think so, if you think even maybe it might be true, then I think you are certainly wrong. For, to me, this proposition is self-evidently false. It is as self-evidently false, even more self-evidently false than the proposition “It is not wrong to torture babies for fun.” I do not need any outside evidence, no divine revelation, no expert testimony, not anything but the proposition itself to know that the proposition is false. The proposition has no meaning. It’s like saying 2+2=5.
Likewise, consider the Calvinist proposition that “God, a morally perfect being, has necessitated, or ordained, whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the evil (every murder, rape, act of pedophilia, the Holocaust, etc.)”. Again, that is self-evidently false to me. Even if someone were to persuade me that the “Bible” teaches it, that would only be evidence that the Bible is wrong, at least on this point (but the Bible does not teach this absurd proposition in my opinion). The same goes for other Calvinist propositions, for example the proposition that “God, a morally perfect being, holds people accountable for sins he necessitated.” And traditional Calvinism even combines these absurd propositions with the eternal torment proposition! Again, all of this is self-evidently false to me. Meaningless propositions. If the Calvinist wishes to amend the definition of God as a morally perfect being, then well and good. But so long as they define their God as a morally perfect being, the actions they ascribe to God are simply impossible. Nonsense. They might as well tell me “it is not wrong to torture babies for fun” or “2+2=5”.
As I said before, what is self-evident to one person is not necessarily self-evident to another person. And it is not even possible for everything self-evident to one person to be self-evident to every person. For example, to a great mathematician it is self-evident that 8,974 X 4,534 = 40,688,166. But it is hardly possible that this could ever be self-evident to anyone besides a great mathematician. But regarding the theological propositions discussed above, I suggest that although their falseness is not self-evident to all – otherwise, there would be no one who believes the propositions, but there are people who believe them and alas teach them, which is the only reason I write about them – their falseness should be self-evident to all. Or to be more frank: there is something wrong with the moral aptitude of the person to whom these propositions are not self-evidently false. Either that or the person knows not what he says. Or both.