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“I shall offer reasons why I believe that atheism is a much more comfortable belief than theism, and why theists should be miserable just because they are theists.” (McCloskey, 1968) In his article On Being an Atheist, H. J. McCloskey provides the grounds as to why he’s an atheist by examining the problem of evil and using the problem of evil as an attempt to disprove various theist theories on this subject. Within his article, McCloskey discusses a diverse number of arguments regarding the problem of evil including the cosmological argument, ontological argument, teleological argument, and the theory of design. This paper will challenge the arguments supporting atheism made in McCloskey’s article by discussing that the arguments stated above can’t be perceived as proofs, by showing faults in McCloskey’s view within each respective argument, and by referring to William Lane Craig’s article The Absurdity of Life Without God to disprove McCloskey’s perception on atheism being more comfortable than theism.
McCloskey judges the cosmological, ontological, teleological arguments, and the theory of design as proofs. Due to this, McCloskey can conclude that these arguments can’t be foundational for the actuality of there being a God. Nonetheless, him alluding to these arguments as proofs signifies that McCloskey is ascribing to these arguments a degree of meticulous factuality that the arguments shouldn’t be perceived with in the first place. A proof is an accurate, indubitable declaration that reveals an ultimate outcome. The arguments referred to in McCloskey’s article by themselves can’t demonstrate the truth of God’s being, but these arguments do provide factors concerning God’s being. The cosmological, ontological, teleological arguments, and the theory of design present a feasible account as to how there can be a God despite the problem of evil.
Only because these arguments don’t provide a complete explanation as to why or how God exists doesn’t give the implication that they are arguments without well-founded points or arguments that should be fully rejected. The most reasonable and probable modus operandi requires to be considered and these arguments yield this necessity. These arguments most definitely do not deliver irrefutable doubt regarding God’s existence, but it’s more beneficial to consider the points made by these arguments than to completely reject them. Thus, McCloskey is fundamentally refusing himself the likelihood or chance of there being a God since he makes the grand mistake of presuming that these arguments made by theists are proofs. In relation to Foreman’s point of view, one can contend that McCloskey is utilizing and elucidating these set of arguments in a manner they weren’t meant to be utilized.
The initial argument McCloskey concentrates to disqualify from being reasonable is the cosmological argument made by theists. This argument rationalizes there being a God by stating that there must’ve been a maker of this reality and this universe. McCloskey contradicts the cosmological argument by arguing that there being a universe isn’t sufficient evidence of there being a God. The non-temporal argument thoroughly explained by Evans and Manis can be utilized to thwart the argument made by McCloskey. Examining the reality around one’s self, one can come to their own conclusion that the reality they currently see didn’t necessarily always exist. Even scientists speak of the big bang theory where nothing existed beforehand. This can bring one to the conclusion that all the things that have objective reality could have quite as effortlessly not have existed.
According to Evans and Manis, the answer to McCloskey’s argument can be refuted by the “contingency of the universe; if we look around us at the universe, each object we see (and all of them, taken collectively) appears to be the kind of thing which does exist but might easily have not existed.” (Evans & Manis, 2009, pg. 69). The contingency of the universe states that there are two types of beings within this universe with there being necessary beings and there being contingent beings. Evans and Manis describe necessary beings as a thing that “does not depend for his existence on anything else, and since nothing can threaten his existence, his nonexistence is not really possible,” whereas contingent beings are described as one whose “existence will be incomplete unless it culminates in the causal activity of a necessary being” (Evans & Manis, 2009, pg. 69). Thus, while contingent beings depend on other factors for their existence and being, necessary beings don’t necessitate any additional explanation and are independent of external factors to their existence. Under these circumstances, it’s evident that while God is a necessary being, everything else remains as contingent beings. Consequently, God needs to exist due to the world depending on it to exist, and due to the world already existing. With a point of view that contradicts that of McCloskey, he cannot reject the fact that the reality around him exists, and according to the cosmological argument, this reality being contingent is dependent on the existence of God, which means that God exists.
McCloskey declares that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause” (McCloskey, 1968). As aforementioned, contingent beings are dependent on necessary being which conveys that the reality one currently is in relies their existence on the existence of the maker of that reality, in this case, God. The cosmological argument is merely a platform to have a foundational possibility of God. Also, as aforementioned, any of these arguments by theists, including the cosmological argument, fail to provide reasonable support when they are utilized by themselves. Moreover, the cosmological argument doesn’t attempt to argue, by itself, the true existence of God, but rather it opposes the notion that there is absolutely no God, a notion believed by atheists. True understandment and comprehension of this argument can only be achieved through the actual knowledge of God; it is then McCloskey’s job, to himself, to seek out the knowledge of God.
The teleological argument made by theists and the theory of design go hand-in-hand, and thus, can be referred to as one here, which will be collectively referred to as teleological arguments. The teleological argument, most famously given by the example of one stumbling up on a watch on a beach, states that given the complexity of the nature and the universe around humans, it’s unreasonable to deny that there must be a designer of this nature to give it that perfect complexity, as would a watchmaker when building and designing a complex and sophisticated watch. Thus, God’s being as an insightful and perspicacious designer is proven through the complex control and organization the world around one has.
McCloskey’s argument is that no unassailable teleological arguments exist because there aren’t any examples of teleological arguments where it’s not contestable. However, this brings the point back to the fact that McCloskey’s doubts pertaining the teleological arguments are due to him considering these arguments as proofs. The theory of design isn’t an incontrovertible proof for there being a God, and instead offers an approach to understanding the universe which suggests that there is a God. Ultimately, McCloskey is correct in his argument where he states there aren’t any indisputable examples for teleological arguments because teleological arguments weren’t meant to be indisputable to begin; they weren’t meant to be regarded as proofs, they only provide probability and hope. Additionally, it’s unfair to necessitate only theists to provide indisputable teleological examples when atheists themselves serve only the problem of evil as their portion of evidence while rejecting the notion that the problem of evil is one that is beyond human comprehension because humans aren’t equal to God, and cannot come to understand the workings of God.
Even though the following examples aren’t incontestable, they do provide evidence that teleological arguments offer support for there being a God by examining the universe. The first example explored by Evans and Manis is how animals are self-supervising creatures that can preserve and sustain their own life and being. (Evans & Manis, 2009, pg. 78-79) It is noted by the very evolutionary theory that atheists swear by that humans came into existence much after animals, which goes onto show that animals can indeed do well on their own. Anyway, it’s argued by many that forcing animals into domestic conditions is unethical and against this self-regulating nature animals have. This complexity that animals have are existent in humans as well, and in a higher degree. The human body is capable of advanced logic, reasoning and thought, it’s capable of fascinating things such as breathing which is a complex chemical activity of converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. Examples such as the one that analyzes the complexity evident in animals and humans, along with Aquinas’ argument that there is a beneficial order within the universe, display that the universe and reality inevitably explain and point towards the actuality of an advanced designer of such a universe.
The factor that McCloskey utilizes to additionally disqualify teleological arguments is the theory of evolution. However, the factuality of the evolutionary view doesn’t mean the rejection of there being a God. One can presume and accept the evolutionary theory as a truth and still see the possibility that God developed such an order and organization within the universe that the initial beings it created are able to evolve. According to Evans and Manis, “the defender of the teleological argument might claim that the evolutionary process, even if it is a mechanical process, is simply the means whereby God, the intelligent designer, realizes his purposes” (Evans & Manis, 2009, pg. 83). Moreover, despite there being evolution, there still remain things that science can’t explain, specifically major things such as dreams, miracles, human psychology, and so on. The existence of such unexplainable situations and things goes on to show that there are indeed things that are beyond human comprehension, which directs one towards the realization that there is a God.
In his article, McCloskey continues to try disproving teleological arguments by arguing about the imperfection that can be seen anywhere in the world. According to him, because there is imperfection in the world, one can easily argue against the theory of divine design. However, McCloskey should notice that just because a certain thing is of beautiful and fascinating complexity doesn’t mean that it is perfect. Even in the theory of design, the watch that is being referred to isn’t a perfect watch, but merely a watch of great complexity that suggests an intelligent designer is responsible for making it. God is the necessary, perfect being, and it would be unreasonable for God to create yet another perfect being that can match God’s omniscience. The nature and reality around us, including the watch within the theory of design, are complex in their nature but are nevertheless contingent beings, meaning they are inevitably dependent upon God’s existence. Additionally, the teleological argument, alike to the cosmological argument, doesn’t attempt to state that they have an explanation for why or how God exists; rather, it provides a possible approach for believing in God.
The primary factor of McCloskey’s article that contradicts theism is the problem of evil, which proves to be by far the most problematic factor that theists face. The logical form of the problem of evil is stated so that it is plausible to have free will and solely commit good within the world. It states how humans are given the liberty of free will by God with the hopes from God that they will have faith and obedience in God and with the risks that if they reject God and are involved in evil acts, they sign up for their own damnation. Thus, although there are evils within the world they are partially for the sake of having a freedom in choice. As appealing as the idea of having a world where everyone is well-intentioned, atheists fail to recognize the fact that with the elimination of the problem of evil within the world there will also be an elimination of many good and moral deeds. As Evans and Manis point out, second-order goods such as courage and sympathy wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for situations calling for such qualities. If there wasn’t the natural evil of forest fires, then there wouldn’t be the courage of firefighters to fight such an evil. If there wasn’t the moral evil of poor neighbors filled with homelessness, drugs, and crime that is born from social injustice, then there wouldn’t be the sympathy of those who work in soup kitchens, and those who have riches and donate most of it to social causes. Even if it wasn’t for the horrendous evil of the school shooting in Douglas Stoneman High School that recently took place in Fort Lauderdale, there wouldn’t be the courage of the brave teachers and securities who sacrificed their lives without a second thought to save children that weren’t even their own. Also, one cannot claim that there are evils in this world that are insensible and don’t bring greater good, because one cannot also understand how the universe works and the mysterious ways God has. In this aspect, atheists seem hypocritical since they require indisputable examples when they themselves are working off of probabilities and possibilities, such as the possibility of there being insensible evils, when in all actuality this is not possible to prove.
In the final paragraphs of McCloskey’s argument, one can see a strong claim for atheism being a more comfortable lifestyle than theism. McCloskey provides evidence for his argument by offering an example that gives a scenario of a diseased daughter, and how an atheist and a theist would react in such a situation. McCloskey’s example lacks validity and soundness, because since humans have the freedom of will they can make the choice as well to take their daughter to the hospital, which doesn’t necessarily mean that God’s plans are being interfered with when this takes place, because it was also in God’s plan for people to be able to create such things as hospitals, and think actively to counteract situations that could otherwise prove harmful. William Craig, in his article, The Absurdity of Life Without God, states the pointlessness of life and universe without there being the possibility of a God. According to Craig, it would ultimately be less satisfactory and less comforting to live a life without the support of God and instead live a life where one only attempts to connect with God in times of need.
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