(surely this has already been thought by someone else, if so, excuse it)
In the Meditations Descartes says “if it were repugnant to the goodness of Deity to have created me subject to constant deception, it would seem likewise to be contrary to his goodness to allow me to be occasionally deceived; and yet it is clear that this is permitted.”
This made me think of an epistemological version of the problem of evil. I will present the argument, say some things abut it, and then wait for you to tell me whether you find it ridiculous or not. The argument goes like this.
P1 If (summing up) there is a three-O God then it cannot be that humans are constantly deceived.
P2 Humans are constantly deceived (by their senses, reasoning, intuitions, etc.)
C There is no three-O God.
If I remember properly, the usual reply to the “Problem of Evil” argument is that of Free Will. It is obvious that the same argument will not work here. The Free Will argument requires the possibility (or actual instances) of Evil, but not of error (or deception). One might be omniscient and still be free to take the dark side. So there is at least something attractive about the “Problem of Error” argument.
The obvious problem seems to be that one can turn Error into the epistemic counterpart of evil. So perhaps the theist will reply by saying that God wants us to have Free Epistemic deliberation. For which he requires that we are able to deceive ourselves. But this, to my mind, does not seem to make much sense.
Think of it this way. The Free Will argument works on the assumption that we are able to tell the difference between good and evil (otherwise we would not be able to pick). This literally means that it presupposes that we are correct about (i.e., have knowledge of) what is good and what is evil. The “Problem of Error” argument directly attacks this assumption.
Similarly,, for the “Free Epistemic Will” argument to work, it must presuppose that we are able to tell the difference between good (true) epistemic attitudes (beliefs) and bad (false) epistemic attitudes (beliefs). But if, as the argument says, God allows us to be deceived so that we are epistemically free, then we cannot be epistemically free. We cannot in fact choose between true and false beliefs because, to begin with, we cannot tell the difference between them (we are deceived). Hence the “Epistemic Free Will” reply does not seem to have any success against the “Problem of Error”. And we seem to have a better atheist argument than the “Problem of Evil”.
Briefly put, Descartes’ (my reading) point seems to be that not only did God did wrong by allowing the possibility of Evil. It did even worse by allowing the possibility of deception and error. Whether or not ignorance is bliss, false belief seems to be the worse evil. Can we be free even if we are constantly deceived?