H. J. McCloskey, a renowned philosopher in the mid 20th century, wrote a provocative article in 1968 titled, “On Being an Atheist”. McCloskey argues for atheism as the preferred and better belief system based upon his refutation of the theistic arguments. He argues against the existence of God by attempting to refute the cosmological and teleological arguments; as well he endeavours to discredit a God based upon the presence of evil. In doing this, he extends the boundaries for arguing God, whilst opening the floor to debate free will and the apparent comfort of the atheistic belief system. However, through careful analysis of the arguments for God, and an insight into the mysterious free will that God has given man; we see that a theistic belief is logically more sound and preferred. McCloskey says that the proofs for the argument of God cannot definitively establish a case for the existence of God. Therefore, all those proofs for God cannot be used in the logical argument for a God. However, McCloskey didn’t recognize the three aspects when approaching the question: does God exist. Through these three studies, we are shown that though no one person can empirically prove the existence of God, He in fact still exists (Foreman, Lesson 18). The three aspects to approaching the question of God are: best explanations approach, cumulative case approach, and the minimalistic concept of God. The best explanations aspect refers to the existence of God as the best way of explaining the effects that we can empirically observe within our universe. The cumulative case view tells us that no one argument can get us to the existence of the God of Christianity. Finally, the minimalistic concept of God argues for a personal, moral, and intelligent creator; minimally, the argument is not arguing for every attribute of God (Foreman, Lesson 18) The cosmological and teleological arguments are both attacked and argued against in McCloskey’s article. In understanding his attacks, the arguments themselves must first be understood. The cosmological argument is an argument for a theistic outlook through a creator God. “[A]ttempts to infer the existence of God from the existence of the cosmos or universe” (Evans, 67) Similarly the teleological argument argues for a theistic perspective through an intelligent God, a God who created “self-regulating mechanisms, designed to maintain their own existence and reproduce themselves” (Evans, 81). “On being an Atheist” begins with McCloskey’s first defense for atheism in arguing the cosmological argument by asserting that the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being” (McCloskey) Theologians would argue against McCloskey by using the cosmological argument as foundation, saying that the universe is in need of a cause and that the cause must be a God; based upon the contingency of the universe. Contingency defined as “things which do exist but not have” (Evans, 72). The response by McCloskey to the ‘need’ for a causer is explained in the statement, “ the cosmological argument] does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause” (McCloskey). Within this parameter, McCloskey would be sound in his argument. The cosmological argues for a cause, not necessarily an all powerful, perfect creator. Evans says, “the [cosmological] argument only seems to show the existence of a necessary being is the cause of the universe” (Evans, 77) In conclusion of the cosmological argument against McCloskey; the universe is indeed in need of a necessary cause, based upon the mere possibility, the contingency, of the universe itself. However, the cause being an all powerful, perfect, creator God is not necessarily the cause for the universe in existence today.
McCloskey continues his defense of atheism by moving from the cosmological argument onto the teleological argument. He sums up his argument against this proof for God in the phrase, “to get...
Cited: Approaching the Question of God 's Existence. Pointe Case Presentation: Lesson 18. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from Liberty BlackBoard
Craig, William Lane, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Ed., Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008, 71-90.
Evans, C. S., & Manis, R. Z. (2011). Philosophy of religion, thinking about faith. IVP Academic.
McCloskey, H. J. (1968). On being an atheist. Informally published manuscript.
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