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On Being an Atheist

What is an atheist? Before discussing H. J. McCloskey’s “On Being an Atheist” it is quite necessary to establish our understanding about what atheism is. Jeaneane Fowler defines atheism as “the belief that God does not exist. ” From the Greek atheos meaning without God, Fowler stated that the term Atheism stands in contradistinction to theism which in its widest sense means “belief in a personal god, goddess, gods and goddesses” Going back to McCloskey’s article “On Being an Atheist” McCloskey raised several arguments that rejecting theist arguments on the existence of God as well the Christian belief of Jesus Christ.

While McCloskey had a strong argument particularly on the problem of evil, however, his arguments were simply based on narrow realities of life such as pains and anguish which are commonly experienced by many people. In this argument, McCloskey dismissed the Christian teaching that God is a perfect God, full of goodness and mercy for his people, wherein he stated, “To have faith in his existence and perfection in the face of existence of evil is to be irrational and foolish. ” The following are detailed response on the arguments raised by McCloskey in his ‘On being and Atheist. ’ The place that proofs play in coming to believe in God

There are three proofs that play a place for people to believe there is God. These three proof which were each refuted by McCloskey include the cosmological proof, the teleological proof, and the argument from design. McCloskey noted that Christians’ laid much importance on these proofs as source of their belief. McCloskey’s view however was simply based on a humanistic philosophy which lacks sufficient basis as it is simply a criticism of the theist beliefs. The cosmological proof McCloskey apparently had enough understanding of the cosmological argument judging from his clear and detailed scrutiny of this proof of the existence of God.

He may be right to say that this argument is defective the fact that its name it self does not apply to what it actually argued. McCloskey argued that the place this proof of God’s existence does not lead anyone to believe God the way theist do, rather it makes one to conclude that the uncaused cause is powerful enough and “imperfect enough to have created the sort of world view we know. ” However, the weakness of McCloskey’s argument is that he merely based his argument on the philosophical viewpoint which relies on the finite reason.

McCloskey had indeed no solid argument which disproved that there is God, as he merely refuted the arguments based on his own philosophical reasoning. There were many biblical references being recognized even by scientists who do not believe in God like him which proved there is God, such as the remains of Noah’s arc, Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground, and accurate fulfillment of biblical prophesies such as the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 2 which clearly tells of God’s revelation of the future.

McCloskey simply argues that the existence of evil points to a conclusion that the ruler of this world “is either not a god but an evil spirit or a well intentioned finite being whose limitations result in very disastrous consequences. ” But again, the consistency of the knowledge about God started from Adam down to the experience in Egypt during the time of the Exodus to the time of David and Solomon, to the time of the prophets, and finally to the time of Jesus Christ are very clear, very consistent, and well documented accounts that proved God’s presence with his people.

The need for uncaused cause McCloskey argued that, granted the uncaused cause had caused the world to exist, “the mere existence of the world constitute no reason for believing the existence of such a being. ” This might be logical argument for McCloskey as there is no way he could criticize theistic argument of the uncaused caused. However, his argument is empty because he miserably failed to discredit the Biblical accounts which are the real source of the theistic argument. The question of all-powerful, all perfect God

On the question of all-powerful and all-perfect God, McCloskey argued that the world contains “a great deal of evil which include the avoidable suffering endured by innocent human beings and animals. ” In view of this, McCloskey concludes that the creator of the world is either malevolent powerful being or that he is well-intentioned muddler, or, that the creator and ruler of the universe is either not a god but an evil spirit or a well-intentioned finite being whose limitations result in very disastrous limitations consequences.

Again, his views were based on very subjective assumption. While he acknowledge the creator but blamed him of all the imperfections of the world, he failed to acknowledge that there is also the evil one that caused many things in this world ugly. Rather, McCloskey subjectively charged all the imperfection to God. The Biblical account tell us that the world was created perfectly by God, but it was shattered and corrupted by Satan who incited Eve to violate God’s law, the sin that caused all the evils and imperfections in this world. God as a limited being

As noted above, McCloskey sees God as a limited being in view of the imperfection that he sees in his creation. The evil that was a result of man’s disobedience and sins against God being clearly taught in the Bible was viewed by McCloskey as part of the creation rather than as consequence of men’s sins, and therefore he regarded it as a result of God’s limitation. Apparently, he can only argue on the basis of criticizing theistic doctrine as atheism does not really have solid bases for their belief aside from asserting that there is no God. McCloskey’s criticisms of the teleological argument

John Hospers in his “An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis” explained that teleological arguments or the argument from design “appeals to empirically observable features of the universe and attempts to infer from these that God exists—not necessarily God the creator or God the first cause, but God the cosmic designer” In his criticism of this argument, McCloskey argued that the problem of evil in the world concludes that “there is a supreme malevolent designer, or supreme, well-intentioned, bungling, or finite designer, who muddles with best intentions and the most unhappy result”

His position on the problem of evil may be formidable but it appears that he simply cannot accept the fact that the problem of evil is not only in the physical sense rather it is spiritual. It is true that while God did not create men like angels, yet the first human beings were created perfectly. Definitely, God was more interested to see his creation to believe him based on their own free will than see them same as his angels. It was the corruption of Satan of the innocence of the first man and woman that brought all the problems of evil. Evolution as an answer to the evidence of design

For McCloskey, the theory of evolution has opened our understanding to see that things that were construed before as evidenced of design and purpose, are now seen as nothing of that sort. That is, for McCloskey the theory of evolution gave light to see things as merely part of the imperfect world. However, the theory of evolution remains a theory and is still in search of the missing link. Thus, it cannot be qualified as a reference for refuting established arguments. The need for “indisputable” proofs For McCloskey; there is a need of indisputable proof that there is God.

However, this is not needed because even our very own existence is an indisputable proof there is God. The theory of evolution has failed miserably to establish that man came from a monkey. That is, there are many things in him such his superior intellect, his being religious, his abilities are not simply product of circumstantial events. The only logical explanation is there is an intelligent God who designed and created him that way. God as a malevolent, imperfect designer McCloskey concludes that God is a malevolent, imperfect designer simply because of the problem of evil.

Again, McCloskey blamed the evils of pain and corruption to God because his understanding of spiritual things was very limited. As partly discussed earlier, it is the impact of sin that created the problem of evil. It is a spiritual rather than physical issue. Sin is associated to Satan and is therefore it was Satan who is the author of the problem of evil. McCloskey’s view of faith McCloskey’s view of faith was that faith is not like what the theist explain that it is like faith in the goodness of a friend. He pointed out that to have faith in his existence and perfection in the face of the existence of evil is to be irrational and foolish.

His view of faith in God is defective because his understanding of things that are supposedly spiritual is based on humanistic philosophy. Faith as taking a risk Faith as taking risk was not actually McCloskey’s original view. He merely emphasized on Tellich definition of faith. While has a clear understanding of faith, McCloskey obviously have not. Faith in a friend based on past knowledge Faith based on past knowledge is the theist illustration of what faith in God is. McCloskey refuted this illustration stating that the situation with God is not like that.

I guess he is right on this regard. However, right faith should be trusting God for his divine plan of salvation for humanity. McCloskey’s use of the problem of evil McCloskey use the problem of evil to argue that there no is perfect God who created everything. His main argument is that the imperfection of the world due to the problem of evil runs counter to the claim about God. But this argument is of course out of bound because his use of the problem of evil concerns on the physical aspect rather than spiritual. Indeed this issue is more on spiritual than physical

What is evil? For McCloskey, what is evil is the sufferings and pain suffered by innocent people and animals. However, the real evil is what makes people experience the pains and the sufferings. It is spiritual; it is a consequence of men’s continues offense, neglect, and trespass of the holiness and greatness of God. The pain and sufferings is apparently the works of the author of sin which is Satan. Proposed solutions that McCloskey claims don’t work The proposed solution that McCloskey claims don’t work is the use of the problem of evil against the perfection of God.

However, McCloskey’s denial of the existence of Satan as the author of all evils puts in a position of playing safe on his use of the argument. The problem of evil should not be seen only as a physical problem but spiritual problem. Moral evil – is free will necessary? Couldn’t God set it up so people would freely choose to do good? Yes, free will is necessary for his creation to enjoy the nature that God created men. With out free will, God would not have created human because there are already many angels serving him. I believe that even angels do have free will as we what we have learned from Lucifer.

McCloskey’s view that atheism is more comforting For McCloskey it may be comforting because he felt free. He need not fear about God or bother to go to church to worship him or anything that would oblige him to do something. It’s a complete freedom from spiritual and religious concerns. However, the statement of Jesus Christ is more comforting for Christian but alarming for atheist like McCloskey. Jesus said, “Those who believe in the son are not condemned but those who do not believe have already been condemned because they have not believe in God’s son”

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