RESPONSE PAPER INSTRUCTIONS
Here you will respond to an article written by an actual atheist. This article titled “On Being an Atheist,” was written by H. J. McCloskey in 1968 for the journal Question. McCloskey is an Australian philosopher who wrote a number of atheistic works in the 1960s and 70s including the book God and Evil (Nijhoff, 1974). In this article, McCloskey is both critical of the classical arguments for God’s existence and offers the problem of evil as a reason why one should not believe in God.
Please note the following parameters for this paper:
1. Your assignment is to read McCloskey’s short article and respond to each of the questions below. Looking for a detailed response to each question.
2. The response paper is to be a minimum of 1,500 words (not including quotes) and must be written as a single essay and not just a list of answers to questions.
3. The basis for your answers must primarily come from the resources provided in the lessons covering the philosophy of religion unit of the course (Evans and Manis, Craig, and the presentation) and these sources must be mentioned in your paper. You are not merely to quote these sources as an answer to the question—answer them in your own words.
4. You may use other outside sources as well, as long as you properly document them. However, outside sources are not necessary. Each of the questions can be answered from the sources provided in the lessons.
5. While the use of the Bible is not restricted, its use is not necessary and is discouraged unless you intend to explain the context of the passage and how that context applies to the issue at hand in accordance with the guidelines provided earlier in the course. You are not to merely quote scripture passages as answers to the questions. Remember this is a philosophical essay not a biblical or theological essay.
6. While you may quote from sources, all quotations must be properly cited and quotes from sources will not count towards the 1,500 word count of the paper.
7. You may be critical of McCloskey, but must remain respectful. Any disparaging comment(s) about McCloskey will result in a significant reduction in grade.
?******Specifically, you must address the following questions in your paper****:
1. McCloskey refers to the arguments as “proofs” and often implies that they can’t definitively establish the case for God, so therefore they should be abandoned. What would you say about this in light of Foreman’s comments in his “Approaching the Question of God’s Existence” presentation?
2.On the Cosmological Argument:
a. McCloskey claims that the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being [i.e., a necessarily existing being].” Using Evans and Manis’ discussion of the non-temporal form of the argument (on pp. 69–77), explain why the cause of the universe must be necessary (and therefore uncaused).
b. McCloskey also claims that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.” In light of Evans and Manis’ final paragraph on the cosmological argument (p. 77), how might you respond to McCloskey?
3.On the Teleological Argument:
a. McCloskey claims that “to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed.” Discuss this standard of “indisputability” which he calls a “very conclusive objection.” Is it reasonable?
b. From your reading in Evans and Manis, can you offer an example of design that, while not necessarily “indisputable,” you believe provides strong evidence of a designer of the universe?
c. McCloskey implies that evolution has displaced the need for a designer. Assuming evolution is true, for argument’s sake, how would you respond to McCloskey (see Evans and Manis pp. 82–83)?
d. McCloskey claims that the presence of imperfection and evil in the world argues against “the perfection of the divine design or divine purpose in the world.” Remembering Evans and Manis’ comments about the limitations of the cosmological argument, how might you respond to this charge by McCloskey?
4. 4. On the Problem of Evil:
a. McCloskey’s main objection to theism is the presence of evil in the world and he raises it several times: “No being who was perfect could have created a world in which there was avoidable suffering or in which his creatures would (and in fact could have been created so as not to) engage in morally evil acts, acts which very often result in injury to innocent persons.” The language of this claim seems to imply that it is an example of the logical form of the problem. Given this implication and using Evans and Manis’ discussion of the logical problem (pp. 159–168, noting especially his concluding paragraphs to this section), how might you respond to McCloskey?
b. McCloskey specifically discusses the free will argument, asking “might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right?” From what you have already learned about free will in the course, and what Evans and Manis says about the free will theodicy, especially the section on Mackie and Plantinga’s response (pp. 163–166) and what he says about the evidential problem (pp. 168–172), how would you respond to McCloskey’s question?
5.On Atheism as Comforting:
a. In the final pages of McCloskey’s article, he claims that atheism is more comforting than theism. Using the argument presented by William Lane Craig in the article “The Absurdity of Life without God,” (located in Reading & Study for Module/Week 6), respond to McCloskey’s claim.
Topics in regard to Gods existence have resulted in ongoing battles that have lasted for quite a while. These topics have sparked several debates with some people agreeing with the existence of God while other refuting such claims (Boehme, 2014). However, the debates that pertain to the existence of God have intrigued several philosophical ideas with many people alleging that they being that God cannot be seen, his existence is debatable.
Other schools of thought also allege that if God exists and claims to be all powerful, then evil should not exist in this world. It is essential to note that there are several pieces of evidence that support the existence of God (Boehme, 2014). This paper, therefore, attempts to critic McCloskeys views in regards to the atheistic objections and also describes several arguments that establish his illusions of the existence of God including the opposing arguments against his existence.
Proofs Can’t Establish the Case of Gods Existence
To begin with, McCloskeys view implies that there are no proofs that can establish Gods existence and those allegations should be abandoned. In my view, McCloskey makes no effort to determine what evil is nor does he explain its existence. In other words, he attempts to discredit people’s belief in God by making allegations against the origin of their beliefs. However, McCloskey fails to address why the faith of a people may not be valid and whether they take the time to discover such evidence before they ascent to Christian theism (H.J. McCloskey, 1974). McCloskey views God as jaded, unforgiving, uncaring, and punitive and believes that the best proofs on the nonexistence of God can be depicted in the evil acts of his creation since morality has strongly subdued the proof of an intelligent creator designing the universe. For Christian, the expressions of truth are only found in Christ’s words in John 14:6 that He is the way, the truth and the Life.
The Cosmological Argument
The author of the article, “On Being Atheist”, opens by giving a description on the reasons theist believe in God. He purports that the grounds of such beliefs are inadequate and gives the reasons as to why the atheist do not believe in Gods existence. McCloskey in his article tells of a Christian friend who believed that philosophers place so much of importance on the proofs that regard to the existence of God as the foundation to their religious beliefs (H.J. McCloskey, 1974). In my view, in order for the universe to exists, there was its origin or something that created its existence. Nothing has the capacity to create itself and there is the need of an independent creator that existed before the universe.
In the book: Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig, alludes to the fact that there must be a creator responsible for all the creation activities and the creator needs not a cause to do the things that have an origin. This, therefore, means that everything that exists needs a cause and saying that something has no beginning denies the existence of a predecessor. McCloskey also alleges that the Cosmological Argument does not give us the right to postulate an all-powerful case that he considers uncaused (H.J. McCloskey, 1974). In as much as this argument provides no proof of the existence of God , it supports the idea of a necessary being as the only responsible cause that erases the need for an infinite regressive cause. In my view, there is only one possible view that is compatible with other views on Gods existence, a factor that makes it an individual’s choice to desire learning about the existence of God.
The Teleological Argument
This argument is an argument from the design point of view that alludes to the existence of a maker of all the contingent objects. This argument in some way has some connections with the cosmological argument that implies that all the designs employ a greater designer, there is a designer in the world, and that the designer is the greatest (H.J. McCloskey, 1974). McCloskey as other philosophers claims that to believe that nature was designed; there is a need for indisputable examples.
In other words, this author claims that the evidence and examples on this must never be refuted and also contends that indisputable claims are essential and unreasonable in defining God. In my own view, a given example or evidence on the existence of God such as nature shows the indisputable possibility of a creator and there is nothing that can be disputed in this claim (H.J. McCloskey, 1974). In regard to McCloskey’s claim on the presence of imperfection and evil is an argument that is incompatible with the perfection of the Divine Creator since the creator set a perfection standard for goodness, but man as a sinful being made the imperfect evil possible.
On the other hand, McCloskey suggests that evolution should take the place of a Divine Designer. In my view, this would imply that everything that exists in nature is primarily motivated by chance, which would hardly be the case since everything in nature requires some guidance (Feser, 2013). This is a process since everything has a specific construction and certain functions. If there is not a Divine Designer then this would mean that everything in nature may function by chance, a factor that could see things happen in any manner. For example, the snows would come during summer since everything functions in no order.
On the Problem of Evil
McCloskey also stresses in his articles on his objections on the problem of evil by alluding that no being that is perfect and claims of goodness could create the world in which there is suffering of the creatures. According to Feser (2013), the element of evil remains one of the conversant objections that have widely been presented by the atheists. The atheists tend to view why people should not believe in God as described. These objections are mainly posed by the frequent occurrences of suffering and evil that is presently seen. This remains the reason why many philosophers, as well as McCloskey, dismiss the claims on Gods existence basing their claims on the presence of evil. The theist approach of Gods view is in relation to His attributes that depict Him as omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent. On the other hand, the atheist believe that if all this attributes point towards God and He truly exists as He claims then he had the capacity to stop suffering and evil.
Other theists also take a stance on the concept to the of evil by leaning on the free-will defense, which alludes that God was the creator of human beings and was the same giver of the free will to choose what is right and wrong. This according to them is considered better since humanity has the freedom of choice than to haven none. According to this view, the evil that is prevalent in the world today exists since man chose the way of evil (Feser, 2013). Considering the fact that we have been granted the free will to choose what we opt right or wrong, humanity therefore needs to choose to believe in God, who needs to be worshiped, and praised. God has the capacity to mitigate the element of evil, but this means we may lack the free-will to choose. The coming of Christ to offer salvation to Humanity would not have made any sense if God chose to eliminate evil offer salvation.
Some theists respond to the problem of evil through a free-will defense in which God is stated as the creator of human beings with a free will since it is better to have the freedom to choose that to lack the freedom of choice (LeDrew, 2013). In other words, the evil that exist in the world is a result of the choice of a man to do evil. As free will beings, we need to believe in God, worship and praise Him. If God would have eliminated evil, then Christ should not have come to offer salvation and he would not have died for our iniquities.
On Atheism as Comforting
At the end of his article, McCloskey concludes by asserting that atheism is more comforting than theism. In his argument on this point, he uses the existence of evil and the sufferings that occur of the innocent to support his atheistic perceptions that a perfect being may not necessarily exist and allow evil things to occur (LeDrew, 2013). He also contends that people who follow theism are more likely to find cold comfort in believing religiously and that people need to find comfort and strength wherever they can find it inclusively.
Thinking about this, it is essential to note that people in many instances may need comfort, a factor that makes them seek for spiritual authorities to assist them in understanding things, both the bad and the good (LeDrew, 2013). A Biblical understanding of the element of comfort is encouragement which can be done through the use of words or the presence of an individual to help in the times of need. Comfort in this case as viewed by Christians remains in the ability of Christians o choose whether to believe in God or not, thus giving them the chance to know God more, understand him and commit to him truthfully.
McCloskeys view implies that there are no proofs that can establish Gods existence and those allegations should be abandoned. In my view, McCloskey makes no effort to determine what evil is nor does he explain its existence. McCloskey also alleges that the Cosmological Argument does not give us the right to postulate an all-powerful case that he considers uncaused (Boehme, 2014). In as much as this argument provides no proof of the existence of God, it supports the idea of a necessary being as the only responsible cause that erases the need for an infinite regressive cause.
On the Teleological Argument McCloskey as well as other philosophers claims that to believe that nature was designed; there is a need for indisputable examples, views that find to substantial backings. McCloskey also stresses in his articles on his objections on the problem of evil by alluding that no being that is perfect and claims of goodness could create the world in which there is suffering of the creatures and concludes by asserting that atheism is more comforting than theism (Boehme, 2014). In a nutshell, I believe that McCloskey provides minimal pieces of evidence on his claims that are aimed at supporting atheism and instead attempts to point out to the faults of Christians as a claim to refute the existence of God. The arguments of this theist, therefore, point out to the existence of God.
Boehme, A. J. (2014). The Atheist’s Primer. Reviews in Religion & Theology, 21(1), 114-116. doi:10.1111/rirt.12286
Feser, E. (2013). The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument. Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 37(1), 154-177. doi:10.1111/misp.12000
H.J. McCloskey (1974). “On Being an Atheist, “The Southern Journal of Philosophy – Vol. 15 – Issue 1 – pp. 101-111
LeDrew, S. (2013). Discovering Atheism: Heterogeneity in Trajectories to Atheist Identity and Activism. Sociology of Religion, 74(4), 431-453.
Thiessen, J. (2014). There Is No God: Atheists In America. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(2), 453-455. https://www.doi:10.1111/jssr.12099
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