On Being an Atheist

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A Reflection on H.J. McCloskey’s

“On Being an Atheist”

Liberty University
Submitted By: Heather McElroy
Professor Mark Wesley Forman

In 1968, H.J. McCloskey wrote an article on atheism called “On Being an Atheist.” He states that there are three proofs which do seem to move ordinary theists to their theism to constitute major motivations towards a belief in God, namely the cosmological proof, the teleological proof, and the argument from design (McCloskey). In his article he states that these proofs are inadequate, and that atheism is much more comfortable than theism. He also says that most theists don’t come to the belief in God through as a reflection on the proofs, but they come to a belief in God through others reasons and factors. Through our faith as theists we believe God exists and that the existence of God is the best explanation for the effects we observe in the universe. Philosophers say that an argument is a set of statements or propositions, which are premises, which show that another statement, the conclusion, is true. Throughout this paper I will mention the premises and conclusions of each argument and explain why McCloskey is incorrect when trying to prove his arguments. The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument attempts to prove that God exists by showing that there cannot be an infinite number of regressions of causes to things that exist (Slick). It states that there must be a final uncaused-cause of all things. This uncaused-cause asserted to be God. According to Evans, the temporal form of the argument expresses that the universe had a beginning. The non-temporal cause expresses that the universe doesn’t have a beginning. McCloskey says “If we use the causal argument at all, all we are entitled to infer is the existence of a cause commensurate with the effect to be explained, the universe, and this does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause. The most it would entitle one to conclude is that the cause is powerful enough and imperfect enough to have created the sort of world we know (McCloskey). In Evans chapter on the cosmological argument he claims, along with many other philosophers, that it is sound regardless of whether the universe had a beginning (Evans). A sound argument is one that is not only valid, but begins with premises that are actually true. Aquinas, Leibniz, Clarke and Taylor defend the non-temporal form of the argument. They say that God is the necessary cause of the universe, whether it has always existed or not. McCloskey says that the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in the existence of such a being.” On the other hand, the mere existence of the world does support a necessary being, like God. There are contingent creations everywhere in the universe. What are contingent things? They are things that exist but very well could have not existed in the past. These contingent things must have a cause for existence and this cause is from a necessary being. A necessary being is a being that cannot fail to exist, a being that is the cause of the existence of all contingent things. And this necessary being is God. After reading Evans conclusion on the cosmological argument, I see that the cosmological argument alone doesn’t prove the existence of God but it proves the existence of a necessary being. That necessary being can very well be the existence of God but it does not fully support the mere existence of God. There is much more to be proven on the existence of God, not just the cosmological argument.

The Teleological Argument
The teleological argument (or argument from design) by contrast begin with a catalogue of properties and end with a conclusion concerning the existence of a designer with the intellectual properties (knowledge, purpose, understanding, foresight, wisdom and intention) necessary to design the things exhibiting the special properties in question (Ratzsch). In...
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