The concept of atheist and theist

The terms atheist and theist are mental constructs that people use to justify their religious beliefs. Both atheists and believers have misunderstandings about God’s presence and nonexistence. While theists attempt to support their worldview of the presence of a Supreme Being by arguments and proofs, atheists attempt to refute the former’s stance by questioning their belief in God and defending their position of not believing in anyone. These two sides have engaged in a never-ending debate, some of which is based on solid evidence, while others build their claims based on fallacies. This paper examines the atheist H.J. McCloskey’s article “On Being an Atheist” in which he tends to convince the audience that there is no comfort in theism. The paper, however, responds to H.J. McCloskey’s assertion in line with other philosophers of different worldviews.

Response to H.J. McCloskey’s “On Being an Atheist”

As much as proofs are of significance in determining the truth in the scientific phenomenon, H.J. McCloskey’s argument of based on evidence to confirm the existence of God does not hold. According to Dr. Mark Foreman’s views in his article “Approaching the Question of God’s Existence,” proof is only practical in the mathematical situation where one plus one equals two, and thus, there is just one definite answer. However, he argues that God is not definitive and they’re His existence cannot be explained through proofs as it is done in scientific arguments. Instead, Mark Foreman suggests four ways to approach the question on the presence of a supreme being which includes best explanations approach; arguments are defeasible, the minimalistic concept of God and cumulative case approach, all these negates H.J. McCloskey’s debate concerning God’s existence. It is therefore agreed that it is impossible to prove His existence in the manner H.J. McCloskey suggests but instead, Dr. Mark Foreman provides a better viewpoint to support Gods existence (McCloskey, H. J. 1968).

The need for Necessary Being

Theists have employed the cosmological argument to justify the existence of a necessary being that created the universe. H.J. McCloskey, however, disagrees sharply on this way of reasoning and claims that the mere presence of world does not mean that there is a necessary being that is more intelligent (Westerholm, 2017). According to him, only evolution is the valid explanation for the existence of the universe. However, Evans and Manis (2009) assert that there must be a cause for the presence of the universe. They argue that God is a necessary cause of the world today and even forever so long as it will continue existing and had existed. It, therefore, a worldview of the non – temporary forms of existence and thus a necessary being never fails to exist, and the contingent being required the necessary one to exist. Evans and Manis state that question God’s presence is not the same as asking if a monster exists (Westerholm, 2017). Thus it is not all about proving the existence of God but the metaphysical explanation for His presence. “Ultimately, the question is not Can God’s existence be proved? But rather which metaphysical view is most plausible?” (Evans and Manis 2009) p. 76). The entire discussion can continue on and on, but the conclusion is that the cause of the universe is a necessary being which is not caused and thus its existence is independent of anything.

The Bases of Cosmological Argument

According to Evans and Manis cosmological argument, H.J. McCloskey’s position does not hold since the universe existed before and still do. Moreover, the best explanation is the only way to prove the existence of a superior being who does not depend on anything (Westerholm, 2017). The questions to ask in this case include; why do the objects in the universe exist? And if they have a cause, what is it? It, therefore, follows that their cause is necessary, since if it was contingent then the same question could be asked about it, and the answer will never be available. The only way to address this dilemma is through the best explanation for the existence of the universe. This argument is that the cause of the world must be a necessary being uncaused by anything else (Westerholm, 2017). The entire debate will finally culminate to the existence of God who is ever-powerful and does not depend on anything and ever exists. H.J. McCloskey’s claims that cosmological evidence “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.” does not hold and that cosmological argument provides a significant basis to believe that God exists.

Response to the need for Undisputable Design

H.J. McCloskey’s requires an indisputable example of a design to prove that there exists an intelligent designer of the universe (Hackett, 2016). The question on should ask here first is; does he give an example of an undisputable design to support his argument? The answer is apparently no; therefore he has no moral right to demand the same from the theists. Moreover, the cause of the universe is unseen, and thus, it is impossible to offer an evidence of something that is not observable (Evans and Manis 2009). Moving forward, it is important to note that, H.J. McCloskey’s claim is absurd considering that he does not provide a basis for his argument and the existence of this intelligent designer cannot attract a prove as in mathematics but requires the best explanation.

Example of Design

The ability of animals to reproduce and sustain their existence provides a significant evidence of an intelligent designer of the universe even though this case is not entirely undisputable (Hackett, 2016). Animals are made of a complex system that has to work in coordination to provide self-sustenance through reproduction.

Does Evolution Replace the Need for Designer?

It is difficult to establish how the cells could just combine to form such elaborate beings like animals on their own without any intervention of an intelligent designer (Ju, Zhang, You, Alterman & Li, 2016). If the evolution theory of atheist is correct, then where did the simple cell come from? The argument on evolution does not explain the origin of the cell that H.J. McCloskey believes caused life; it is, therefore, dismissible on the bases of lack of explicit premises.

Limitations of cosmological argument

According to Evans and Manis, cosmological argument alone is not conclusive enough to provide all the answers to the nature of God. They admit to the fact that it the evidence does not give an explanation of who the necessary being or their numbers, but only asserts its existence (Hackett, 2016). Therefore, H.J. McCloskey’s claim that the available designs are not sufficient to prove the cause of universe that is intelligent may have an element of truth(McCloskey, H. J. 1968). However, Evans and Manis recommend that if one agrees with the premises of the cosmological argument, they need to continue with further studies to establish more understand concerning God(Evans and Manis 2009). Additional research can only explain the imperfections in the world, and thus people should just rely on the existing evidence from the teleological argument but seek for more knowledge.

Problem of Evil

Superficially, H.J. McCloskey’s claim on the existence of evil is compelling. Why should people suffer from things they could avoid or could have been made in a way that they don’t have to engage in painful events (McCloskey, H. J. 1968)? Any person who has ever lost a beloved one through natural causes could also ask a similar question. In fact, H.J. McCloskey’s claim forms a logical perspective of the problem of evil in the society. If God was so kind and compassionate then why did He create an opportunity for innocent people to suffer? However, as Evans and Manis put it, it was not God’s original intention to create evil, in fact, He had a plan for peaceful and perfect world and everything he made was right as stipulated in the book of Genesis 1and 2 (de Sousa, 2012). According to Christians theists, the suffering and evil resulted from man’s failure to follow instructions and obeyed the rules provided, and it’s by God’s grace and mercy that some good still exists in the world.

The Concept of Free Will

Free will Mackie and Plantinga’s response to the impossibility of having a God who is perfect that can bias human being to doing right, such situations contradicts the principle of free will (de Sousa, 2012). The world is explicitly full of evil, and God’s ability to create a world without choice is not possible since God has to consider the needs of the inhabitants of the world (Craig, 2013). Moreover, the existence of the problem of evil is just a basis of informing a greater good and therefore it should not be used to discredit God’s good deeds. Finally, atheist also believes son what is right and wrong. Thus, the presence of evil in the world is justified to provide a threshold assessing how right an individual is through their deeds.

Atheism as Comforting

The final section of McCloskey’s article focuses on the unprecedented and shocking acts of God. He points out that God allows people to suffer from losing their loved ones, loss of property through natural calamities such earthquakes, floods and drought (de Sousa, 2012). It is heartbreaking to watch one’s child suffering from a terminal disease and therefore McCloskey holds the view that if God existed, then He should be held responsible. McCloskey thus claims that he cannot find comfort in someone who causes suffering (Craig, 2013). However, William Craig in his article “The Absurdity of Life without God” argues that if God did not exist, their life would have no meaning and it will be valueless for the universe to survive (Craig, W. L. 2008). God’s existence, therefore, informs the need for morality as people strive to be good as they believe in life after death which is only feasible in theism (Evans and Manis 2009). It is not possible to agree with McCloskey’s argument that atheist finds comfort in looking out for one another as theist equally believes in brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ. Moreover, one will net decline and depend on God’s intervention even if it could work as God is the one that gives a human the knowledge to make medicine for their survival.

Conclusion

In summary, if I clear that McCloskey’s arguments and critics of theism can only make sense to fellow atheists since they lack substantial and justifiable premises. There is a Supreme Being who is all-powerful and the cause of the universe. The complication of the animals’ bodies is clear evidence that they did not just come into exist but was caused by an intelligent designer.

References

Craig, W. (2013). God and Necessity, by Brian Leftow. Faith and Philosophy, 30(4), 462-470. http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/faithphil201330442

Craig, W. L. (2008). Reasonable faith: Christian truth and apologetics. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

de Sousa, D. (2012). Epistemic Probability and Existence of God: A Kierkegaardian Critique of Swinburne’s Apologetic. The Heathrow Journal, 55(1), 45-58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2265.2012.00772.x

Evans, C., & Manis, R. Philosophy of religion.

Foreman, M. Approaching the question of God’s existence. Retrieved from: http://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/courseMain?course_id=_59675_1

Hackett, J. (2016). Approaching God: Between Phenomenology and Theology by Patrick Masterson. The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review, 80(1), 156-160. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/tho.2016.0006

Ju, C., Zhang, B., You, X., Alterman, V., & Li, Y. (2016). Religiousness, social support and subjective well-being: An exploratory study among adolescents in an Asian atheist country. International Journal of Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12270

McCloskey, H. J. (1968). “On being an atheist.” Retrieved from: http://learn.liberty.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-2869540-dt-content-rid-17861871_1/courses/PHIL201_B22_201430/Master/McCloskeyArticle.pdf

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles. (2001). retrieved from: www.esvbible.org

Westerholm, M. (2017). On Webster’s God without Measure and the Practice of Theological Theology. International Journal of Systematic Theology, 19(4), 444-461. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ijst.12265

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