“On Being an Atheist”
The debate about God’s existence is one of the oldest debates in the world. There are several arguments for God’s existence including the teleological and cosmological arguments. These arguments are used by Christians to prove that God exists. On the other hand, atheists argue that God does not exist. McCloskey, a famous atheist wrote the article “On Being an Atheist” in which he challenged teleological and cosmological arguments. His approach is an attempt to not only define God but to also dismiss Him. The misleading notion of McCloskey argument in his article is obvious.
In “Approaching the Question of God’s Existence” Foreman argued that the term proof as used by McCloskey carries a certainty like that used in science and mathematics where results are not left to chance but certainty. In mathematics three plus three equals six. In mathematics, there is only one solution to a problem and there is no way any other answer would be accepted. Foreman argues that God’s existence cannot be proved the same way a mathematical problem can be solved (2012). Foreman also notes that proof is not always even in science where we believe in the reliability of our sense (Foreman 2012). Foreman provides four ways through which to approach the question of our Lord’s existence. One approach is the best explanation approach by noting that the best explanation for certain things is God. Foreman also argues that McCloskey’s argument is not feasible in making him lose his faith in god and he is yet to meet a theist who will make him give up his belief in God. The cumulative case approach is foreman’s third approach where he argues that one argument is not enough to disregard God’s existence. Finally, foreman supported the minimal concept of God that requires individuals to look at the qualities of a supreme being and use them to judge whether God exists. His qualities/characteristics confirm that there is a divine being who is the cause of all things in the universe.
The cosmological argument is important in proving God’s existence because of its logic. The Cosmological argument attempts to show that the there must be a cause that is not dependent on another cause for the existence of the universe (Evans & Manis, 2009).There are things existing on earth that do not have to exists. The cause and effect law states that all objects have a cause to explain the way their existence in their current form (Evans & Manis, 2009). It is, therefore, arguable that there is an uncaused, needed cause for the existence of the universe. Assuming that all caused objects depended on other caused objects, it would mean that there exist a circular/infinite reason of sorts where something is caused by something which is caused by another…this unending circle known as infinite regress shows there is no first or final cause (Evans & Manis, 2009). The universe’s existence and of the objects on/in it begs the question what was there in the beginning?
McCloskey finds it hard to believe that an uncaused cause of the universe has to be perfect and omnipotent. To some extent, he is correct because the cosmological argument cannot in isolation support the existence of such a deity. The Cosmological argument does not state there is a God. The argument only provides an argument for an uncaused cause of the existence of the universe (Evans & Manis, 2009). The cosmological thus urges individuals to seek characteristics of this uncaused cause. By assessing the characteristics, individuals can conclude that the cause of the universe is God whose existence is infinite and uncaused. According to Evans, the cosmological argument is a starting point for individuals to study the existence of God. The cosmological argument provides a platform for us to study the origin of the universe and also to study God.
McCloskey means evidence that cannot be countered by using an indisputable example (McCloskey. 1968). For example, if I fall an egg on the floor and it break its shell spilling the egg yolk on the floor. I have evidence that the shell of an egg is soft and will break upon hitting a hard surface with force. This is the kind of indisputable example that McCloskey is referring to. However, I find his argument that indisputability is important in proving God’s existence unreasonable. The world is complex in designs and the teleological arguments affirm that the there must be a designer behind the complex design of the earth (Evans & Manis, 2009). God cannot be defined but his existence can be proven as the designer of the universe.
One cannot look at a painting or a beautiful time piece and respond by saying that the piece appeared miraculously. When looking at a painting, one cannot help thinking about the painter behind the work. It is natural to attribute the designs to their designers. McCloskey would definitely not have disputed the fact that the presence of a design indicates the designer who made it, that behind every house built, there is an architect and a mason. However, McCloskey has a problem believing the universe in which we exist is an example of indisputability. Looking at the universe and its complex design, we cannot help but wonder; who is the master behind the masterpiece that is the universe? Who created the universe? The existence of the universe is reputable evidence that God exists as the designer or creator of the universe just like the evidence of a painting is evidence of a painter who painted it. The universe is an undisputable example that God does exist.
Assuming that the evolution theory is true as McCloskey claims, it does not dismiss the idea of God’s existence. God has to guide evolution to ensure that it occurs in according to nature laws. According to Manis and Evans, evolution is a process used by God to realize his purpose in the universe (2009). Evolution is in need of Guidance and who better to guide it than God? By arguing that evolution can be guided naturally by nature then it still begs the question: who guides nature? Laws of nature are complex and specific. However, these laws remain constant. By assuming that nature can guide itself we are implying that evolution is dependent on some sort of supernatural guidance. We cannot argue that nature operates by chance because that does not make any sense and is not logical. It is obvious that nature laws and the specific constructions of nature remain unchanged. If nature was a result of a chance occurrence, then the laws of nature would continue changing and people would not be able to study nature.
The cosmological and teleological arguments are limited (Evans & Manis 2009). The cosmological argument is not conclusive in itself to define God. The argument, however, creates a platform on which people can study God and through which the origin of the universe can be studied. Good and evil are interpreted differently b different cultures thus their definition is not conclusive. The teleological argument basically provides an order and an outline. Deviations from this order can be attributed to produce imperfection and evil. However, calling the deviations from teleological order evil and imperfection makes the free will that was bestowed upon us more of a curse than a gift. Upon creation, God gifted us with free will and with it, we were supposed to do whatever we pleased. Some people use their free will to deviate from the teleological order while others use it to conform to the order.
In light of the existence of evil, McCloskey argues that no perfect being would create creatures in a world of suffering. By following McCloskey’s argument, it is expected that God is expected to eliminate evil and suffering because He is perfect and good (Evans & Manis, 2009). Atheists argue that God should be able to handle all situations to ensure that creatures on earth live a smooth life. This would involve God eliminating evil. God can however not do what is logically unachievable. It is logically expected that for some acts of good to be achieved the certain evil acts will occur. Without the presence of evil, we would take good for granted or we would have no knowledge that it exists. Without knowledge of good, individuals would have no concept of morality. Individuals must accept the fact that God cannot be defined nor can we grasp the complexity of his thoughts. God has his reasons for allowing evil even if he has the power to alleviate it. The possibility that God has his reasons does not mean He does not exist.
Manis argues that if God created man with free will he might as well have arranged man to be virtuous to always choose what is right. However, by programing man to only do what is right then God makes it pseudo freedom (Evans & Manis, 2009). The free will would not have been will as creatures would only be acting in accordance to God’s will. Imagine you have just received a house as a graduation present from your parents. However, one day you have a party and you invite most of your friend. Your parents hear about it and they tell it that you cannot hold such a party in your house. They tell you that you are only supposed to have parties that they allow and during hours they allow. While the house was free, you realize that your parents are using it to control your social life. This is similar to God granting us free will and then controlling how we use the freedom.
Finally, in his article, McCloskey claims that another reason to reject God is that when tragedy strikes, individuals find solace in atheism. McCloskey argues that in grief individuals take solace in atheism because there is no one to blame for causing the event or for doing nothing to stop it. However, Craig argues that turning to atheism in grief or emotional pain makes the predicament worse “if God does not exist, then all we are left with is despair” (Craig, 2008). Without God, as our solace, we cannot account the purpose and worth of living. The atheist has to disregard the meaning and purpose of life to continue living.
McCloskey’s argument about the non-existence of God is the classic atheist argument. However, he does address issues that people ask every day regarding the existence of God. We all struggle with idea that God allows evil to exist among us. However, the existence of evil should not be used to dismiss the existence of God. We should accept that while the cosmological and teleological arguments help in proving the existence of God, they are not the end to the discussion of his existence. God cannot be disproven or proven but debated against or defended.
Craig, W. L. (2008). The absurdity of life without God. In W. L. Criag, Reasonable faith: Christian truth and apologetics.
Evans, C. S. & Manis, R. Z. (2009). Philosophy of religion: Thinking about faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Foreman, M. (2012). Approaching the question of God’s existence.
McCloskey, H. J. (1968). On being an