On Being an Atheist Essay
On Being an Atheist
In this article McCloskey writes what he believes as truth in the world we live in. He states that theists believe in a God and that they have “proofs” that this God exists. In the article he addresses these “proofs” and in a very academic and respectful way tears them down. He attempts to eliminate all possibilities of the existence of God, through what he calls “reasons why I believe that atheism is a much more comfortable belief than theism, and why theist should be miserable just because they are theists.”
The first issue that McCloskey references to is the “proofs” that Christians hold to prove that God exist, but as we learned in one of our PointeCast presentations, the reasons Christians believe in God are not exactly proofs, because they cannot scientifically or in any way prove to a point that God does in fact exist. These reasons are arguments, theories and carefully thought out propositions that try their hardest to justify what we believe in. Because of this McCloskey argues that humans should give up on the notion that God exists, yet since there also no way to prove that God does not exist, McCloskey is defeated by his own logic. So if humans are to give up on both the notion that there is or is not a God, then that leaves us with nothing whatsoever to believe in. There is no way to prove that God does or does not exist, what I might believe to be a strong argument for the existence of God, and atheist such as McCloskey might deem nonsense. These “proofs” are simply and objective argument for the existence of God, thus have to be taken as valid argument, propositions, and theory and not as tangible proof.
McCloskey dissects three major arguments being the cosmological proof, the theological proof, and the argument from design. He takes all these arguments and picks them apart for both atheist and theist to see what he is trying to prove. In all honesty in some cases in these arguments of his I can see what he is trying to prove, yet in the end I have no sense of what he has accomplished with his arguments if he himself cannot prove that God does not exist.
The first argument that McCloskey addresses is the Cosmological proof. He states that we cannot possibly assume without proof on an “an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause” and to this notion I somewhat agree. The reason being is that this argument does not specify the qualities of a god that could create the universe as it is. Thus the argument simply states that there must have been a first cause or there would have been infinite regress, or in other words gods and that is what the argument is trying to avoid.
The next argument that McCloskey addresses is the Theological proof. He states that there cannot be indisputable proofs and examples of design that the whole argument becomes invalid. In this case he is again defeated by his own logic; because once again there is no way that any arguments attempting to prove that God does not exist are indisputable as well. In the world we live we must believe in what we as individuals take to as truth, since there is no possible way that a person can prove or disprove that God does or does not exist. McCloskey is attempting to support his arguments so hard that in the essence of itself he is defeating himself without realizing it.
I believe that a perfect example of intelligent design is the human body. There is no possible way that such a complex and amazing creation came from a bunch of cells meshing together. Our bodies are built to live on the earth in a way that is amazingly thought out. The body is functioning, living organism in and of itself with thousands of different parts and pieces all working together to accomplish one goal: to live. The human body is the perfect example to show that intelligent design was indeed included in the universe and in the world today. Though this does not prove that there is one God, it does prove that there is a higher being that created what we are today.
I do not object to the thought of microevolution or even evolution itself, but I do not believe that evolution exterminates the need for intelligent design and a creator. Evolutionists believe that there exist the “perfect condition” as to what created the cosmos and the world around us, yet all the experiments to prove that this event took place have failed. Again there is the fact that we cannot prove or disprove this belief, while the experiments have failed; there is no way to go back in time and to prove that it indeed does not exist. Yet people must take into account that evolution does not cancel out God, in fact why couldn’t it have been God himself that created the “perfect condition” that brought into place evolution.
McCloskey also addresses the fact that there is imperfection and evil in the world, he states that there could not possibly be a God who would allow this. First of all, the cosmological proof in itself does not tell us the characteristic of the creator, simply that there is one. Secondly a person who believes in God would tell you that there is evil in the world because God gave his creation the right to choose. The choice of the first man and woman of the world which God created chose to sin and brought evil into the world. There is also the fact that I believe McCloskey is being quite bold by stating that there is no divine purpose. After all he is simply a person in the world; he himself is not the creator and definitely does not have all the knowledge of the universe.
The fact that McCloskey brings up the presence of evil is quite understandable. I completely understand where he is coming from and have had experiences in my own life with people like this. This is actually a very common argument among atheist and McCloskey is not an exception. It is sometimes hard to accept that fact that evil sometime does in fact fall into God’s Will, even some theist have trouble with the problem of evil when they themselves believe in a “good God”. In this argument I honestly have trouble as well. It is hard to justify a good person’s murder, or the rape of a young child, or the death of thousands because of a natural disaster. Yet in the depths of my heart I personally believe that when God created the world it was not as such, it was perfect. When sin entered into the world it brought the evil as well.
As for why God allows such evil to take place, that is a harder question and an even more difficult answer. I was brought up to believe that when God sees his creation in pain, it hurts him too; there have been times when I have questioned why God allows certain evils in our lives. The truth is there is no arguments that can make a person feel better in the face of child abuse, rape, murder, suicide, and even natural disasters, yet in the moments when people are hurting the most is when they turn to God. Thus I believe that is the way in which we see the reason there is evil in the world. God did not create the world with evil in place, but he did create a creation that could choose for their selves. Thus in essence the human race suffers from our own choices. McCloskey makes some very valid arguments yet I find that most of them stand empty handed.
McCloskey also questions why God would not create a human race with free will to always to choose what is right. To this statement I honestly believe that would not be freewill. The reason that God created man with free will was so that he could love God of his own free will. If God had created man to the point where he could only choose what was good and right then in essence it would not have been free will at all. The beauty of having free will is the fact that God lets you choose, though he knows the choices that you will make, the choices are yours. Whether to love God or to reject God, free will cannot be controlled for then it would not be free will at all.
At the end of his article McCloskey states that atheism is a much more comforting belief than theism. He uses the example of an ill child that was dying and that he would find no comfort in knowing there was a God. I on the other hand find that if there was no God and man was here on earth simply to be and that there was no reason for living that the death of a child would be unimportant. This might sounds very cruel but it is the truth. If there is no reason to live then dying is not much of an issue, since there is no afterlife simply the life we have here on earth. I find the fact of not knowing what will happen after death disconcerting.
To know that when I die I will be in heaven with God is more than enough to help me through this life on earth. Atheism to me is a sad religion with no reason for the existence of man. Heaven holds so much for the believer, peace, no pain, and an eternal home with God. Atheism to me is the religion that is the most miserable to live with, not theism. The greatest reason being that if there is no God, no afterlife, no salvation; then when death is on your doorsteps there is no hope only despair and fear of the nothingness beyond the grave. I cannot live believing there is no reason to live here on earth, knowing God loves and has a place for me in heaven is what helps me live on this Earth.
Craig, William L. Reasonable faith: Christian truth and apologetics. 3rd Ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008. 71-90. Evans, C. S., Manis, R. Z. Philosophy of religion: Thinking about faith. 2nd Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. McCloskey, H. J. Question 1: On being an atheist. 1968. 51-54.