Response to McCloskey’s Article “On Being an Atheist”
The existence of God is a question, which has a considerable significance for society. There are many discussions related to this issue. People are divided into two groups, namely those who believe in God’s existence known as theists and those who do not believe in the existence of God named atheists. Each party provides reasonable arguments, which finally lead to the situation when there is no right answer to the question of God’s existence, and each person should decide what side to choose. As far as this question has high social value and determines many aspects of person’s life and behavior, many philosophers and thinkers focused their attention on the development of this issue. One of them is H.J. McCloskey, who wrote many articles related to religious topics. In the article “On Being Atheist,” the author attempts to explain the weakness of the approach to God’s existence provided by theists. This work gives logical arguments, which reveal gaps in a generally recognized approach to God and His nature. Therefore, the article affects the consciousness and provides an opportunity to consider and perceive religious issues in a new way.
One of the first points discussed in the paper is the argument of proof. Different religions develop own theses and statements, which explain and prove the existence of God. Doubtlessly, these proofs do not have any scientific or logical background. However, they remain sufficient enough for theists. McCloskey in his article stresses that even evidence provided by theists does not prove the fact of God’s existence. Therefore, an individual should ignore such arguments. At the same time, Foreman in his presentation “Approaching the Question of God’s Existence” gives another point of view, saying that true believers should not think about any proofs at all owing to the fact that the way life exists itself is the best evidence of God’s existence. Therefore, there are two opposite opinions with regard to the issue of the existence of God. The first one states that is there are neither proofs nor facts, and another one basically disclaims the need for any proofs. Even though McCloskey provides many logical arguments in his article, the point relating to proof is not especially persuasive. Evidently, all religious beliefs in person’s mind are formed on the basis of his or her moral values and outlook. Therefore, logic and science are not key elements, which influence the way a person thinks about God and the probability of his existence. Under these circumstances, the reference to the proofs of God’s existence and their strength is not that point, which highlights irrelevance of theists’ approach to God. On the contrary, it only shows the background of such attitude to God, which is grounded on moral values but not on material facts.
Another argument criticized in McCloskey’s article is cosmological one, which provides a direct connection with the existence of the universe and God. The author states that the fact of the universe existence does not prove the existence of God. However, Evans and Manis in their discussion of non-temporal argument managed to develop the concept, which clearly demonstrates a casual nexus between the universe and God. In fact, there is no exact reason explaining the existence of all things in the universe. Therefore, they could not exist or easily disappear, but they still exist. If some things exist, there is a necessity for their presence. Subsequently, there should be someone who determines this condition of necessity. McCloskey also highlights that cosmological argument does not give clear evidence of God’s unlimited strength and power. Even though this observation is true, the conclusion provided by Evans and Manis in the chapter about cosmological argument gives an exhaustive answer. The target of the cosmological argument is not to persuade an individual that theistic approach to the existence is right but to explain the basics of theism and encourage a person to learn more about God and roots of religion’s development. Under these circumstances, the cosmological argument loses its function of persuasion claimed by McCloskey but remains an important source of religious theoretical knowledge.
McCloskey also discusses teleological argument. The main idea in the article is to show that constant evolution of human beings opens new facts and brings unexpected discoveries. As far as God’s existence is the question which significantly influences the whole person’s life, the decision with regard to this issue requires the presence of indisputable arguments. Theists strongly believe in indisputability of arguments relating to God’s existence. However, there are no arguments which can prove it and leave aside all doubts. Therefore, the standard of indisputability is dependent on the ability to prove the fact without any further changes. It is worth mentioning that the author uses a tricky approach to the evaluation of indisputability as a key feature of the universe is constant change. Therefore, there are no things in the world, which will not be changed and, hence, remain indisputable. However, there is also another approach to the indisputability. Apparently, indisputability may be also measured by the readiness of a person to follow his or her beliefs and do not change them. Therefore, such understanding of indisputability enables one to understand the meaning of this word form theists’ point of view. Nature and the universe itself offer various examples of designer existence. Aquinas developed many proofs, but there is one of them, which is simple and persuasive at the same time. This example is animals. Talking about animals, they are similar to naturally-programmed machines. They have all survival skills, and they understand their role in eco-system. Therefore, there should be someone, who gave them an opportunity to have appropriate knowledge and exist in the world. McCloskey also claims that the fact of evolution itself made the existence of God unnecessary as things develop on their own. However, it is rather difficult to explain the process of evolution purely in mechanical terms. There is no clear reason for the existence or disappearance of creatures in the universe, but the order still exists. Therefore, there is a designer, who controls this process. The next author’s claim is about the contrast between teleological argument and the existence of evil in various forms in the world. Meanwhile, McCloskey attempts to presume that there should be a certain kind of behavior for God or to state that there is no God at all, while there is also another explanation. Theists emphasize that the purpose of teleological argument is not to explain the way of designer’s thinking, but to highlight the fact of the existence of designer’s intelligenc.
Concerning the issue of the presence of in the world, McCloskey states that God, as a perfect creature, could not design the world full of injustice and sufferings. Therefore, God does not exist. However, such approach does not give an opportunity to develop wider understanding of God and person’s mission in the world. In the discussion of the logical problem, theism takes into consideration Aquinas’ philosophy. In fact, its point is that a true believer knows because believes, but they do not believe because they know. This statement means that first of all, a religious person has roots of the belief in the soul and moral values, and there is no need for logical arguments in this case. Moreover, Aquinas claims that the reason for God’s actions may not and should not be clear for people, as He is much more morally developed. The next point which McCloskey discusses is the question of free will and God’s role in it. The author presumes that omnipotent God should have created the world with people whose free will would always direct them to do the right things. Mackie develops this argument, claiming that a perfect world could potentially exist if there was a creature capable of its designing. As long as there is no perfect world, there is no designer. However, Plantinga’s argument is related to the libertarian concept. The concept of free will is the ability of a person to have a choice in any situation, regardless of what God wants. Therefore, free will is a statement of full independence from any external factors and influence.
The closing argument of McCloskey in the article is connected with a higher level of comfort, which atheists have in contrast to theists. Atheists are not dependent on divine miracle and God’s help. Therefore, they act themselves to reach the goals they want. Therefore, self-reliance is a feature, which helps atheists to strengthen their spirit and character. However, there is another side of the question demonstrated in the article “The Absurdity of Life without God’. This article has deep philosophic context, which makes a reader think seriously about the sense of life, its value, and mission. Those who have belief in the mind live a life targeted at getting virtues, which a designer has. Mental connection with God is a way for many people to tackle many obstacles and difficulties. However, it does not mean that a person tries to decide its problems with God’s help or is dependent only on divine assistance. It means that God is a source of inspiration and power for people. Belief is a thing which roots deeply in person’s consciousness and helps to easier overcome many life difficulties than it might be. Another point is that the existence of God gives a high sense to the existence of the universe in general as it determines many moral aspects and values in the person’s life. At the same time, the absence of God makes the whole life simply a mechanical process that lacks any higher sense. It means that material values and physical joy from life are the only reasons for existence. However, such purpose of life may not be satisfactory for the intelligent and ambitious person. Therefore, theism in addition to mentioned above points gives considerable proofs of the existence of divine power, namely God.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the question of religion has many not fully developed areas, thereby requiring a person to decide which side to choose. As far as the approach to God’s existence is one of the fundamental issues relating to the development of society, the concepts and arguments of both atheists and theists have a sufficient background. However, the distinctive feature, which is common to both parties of discussion, is the absence of undisputable arguments. McCloskey provided strong and logically grounded arguments to prove that God does not exist. However, the followers of theism provided not less amount of arguments, which demonstrate the strength of their approach. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude that the issue of belief or disbelief in God’s existence is an interesting but difficult question. There are many theoretical disputes related to this topic, but all in all, an individual should take his or her own decision and express respect for the decision of others.