On Being an Atheist


Having completed the unit of philosophy of religion, you are now ready to respond to an article written by an actual atheist. This article titled “On Being an Atheist,” was written by H. J. McCloskey in 1968 for the journal Question. McCloskey is an Australian philosopher who wrote a number of atheistic works in the 1960s and 70s including the book God and Evil (Nijhoff, 1974). In this article, McCloskey is both critical of the classical arguments for God’s existence and offers the problem of evil as a reason why one should not believe in God.

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On Being an Atheist

In his work, On Being an Atheist, McCloskey attempted to show that atheism to hold more sense and facts compared to Christian beliefs. The large part of his work focused on arguing against the three major proofs that exist among most individuals in the universe today. Through his argument against theistic proofs that include cosmological argument, the argument from design and the teleological argument, McCloskey stated that it is irrational for any human being to live by faith. He goes on to deduce that the three agreements cannot prove or cannot be the basis to show that God exists. Proof helps in establishing a fact or the truth of a statement but according to McCloskey there is no proof that God exists, and thus, it should not play a vital duty in the belief of God. According to the article, most polytheists do not consider God as the reason to why they have a religious belief, but they associate themselves with various religions for other accounts rather than God (Davies, 2011). However, by crediting the three proof arguments, McCloskey diverges from his earlier statements that the cosmological, teleological and designs arguments alone are not enough to establish that God exists despite offering justifications for the existence of God. On the other hand, foreman in his presentation “Approaching the Question of Gods Existence,” it is clear that McCloskey interprets the theistic proofs in a wrong way.

The first argument to be deduced and inferred by McCloskey is the cosmological agreement. According to McCloskey, this argument widely focuses on describing and justifying the universe as is known by all individuals today. According to the cosmological argument regarding the presence of God, there must exist a creator be it a being or a thing that made the world as we know it today. However, according to McCloskey there, the mere presence of the universe and everything in it is not reason enough to affirm that God exists. Despite the existence of a positive and strong correlation between the things that will come to be extant, things that live and exist and things that used to be extant, McCloskey does not believe that that something else like power, being or force plays any important part in their existence. On the contrary, Evans and Manis’ discussion, there are necessary beings and contingent beings that are responsible for setting forth in motion the ring of causality. Thus, the necessary beings must exist for the contingent beings to exist. As a result, God must exist for the world to exist concluding that he is the creator and the all-powerful, all-perfect and uncaused cause.

According to McCloskey, cosmological argument does not make us eligible to claim an all-powerful, all-perfect and uncaused cause. Although this is true to some extent, Evans and Mani differs with McCloskey as they believe that the presence of nature and its forces suggests the existence of a cause with a significant magnitude that can only be likened to God. The world and everything in it are dependent the creator who is God making him the all-powerful, all-perfect and uncaused cause. However, it is worth noting that cosmological argument alone is not factual enough to provide evidence that god exists (Davies, 2011). The argument contains a fraction of knowledge about God and thus can be deemed to be a wedge into the knowledge of the existence of God.

The teleological argument which is also widely referred to as the physic-theological argues that based on perceived probable cause of deliberate design in the natural and physical world is clear that an intelligent creator exists. Despite combining both the teleological argument and argument from design, McCloskey dismissed them stating that human beings do not yet have enough understanding of the creation and existence of the universe. The argument goes on to state that based on the appearance, organization, and order seen on Earth, there must be a presence of an intelligent designer who helps to keep all things in order and ticking. This demonstrates that God exists and works miraculously through forces of large magnitude to keep everything in order. As if this is not enough proof, McCloskey objects these theories stating that to get a proof going; there must be the presence of genuine indisputable paradigms of design and purpose. Notably, he gives an account of the evolution theory to explain creation but later discredits the theory stating that there is no existence of undisputed proof of the actual presence of first organism development or a real sequence and pattern of the way the organism evolved. Additionally, the teleological argument and argument from design are not an obsolete demonstration that exists, but rather they are justifications of creation which only suggests that God exists (McCloskey, 1968). Similarly, there are no foundations and undisputed proof of understanding where the diverse species come from in the evolution theory. As a result, McCloskey is right in his claims that there is no indisputable examples and purpose.

The Teleological arguments and the argument from design are based on the principle of the known order and movement of the earth and creation. The universe strictly operates and functions on the basis of strict set laws and patterns and continue to unfold in a subsist pattern. However, there is no one single individual who is known have set the laws and patterns that are followed by the universe thus showing the presence of an intelligent designer. A strong evidence of the presence of an intelligent designer would be the way human and animal body functions. Often, the brain is the most important part of a human body as well as that of the animals as it helps to coordinate and operate all other body parts. The brain usually sends messages to other parts of the body telling them what to do, when to do and how to do them. Additionally, it is to the brain that the body designs a defense mechanism from both internal and external attacks. As a matter of fact, without the brain, the human body cannot function normally.

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According to the mere existence of evil in the universe, today is a clear indication that the all-perfect being is not perfect after all. He goes on to say that if God really exist and he is perfect as most individuals think and feel there would be no flaws in his creation. Despite discrediting and dismissing the Teleological argument and the argument of design, he still uses the same argument that from the effects and outcome of something, it is easy to identify and determine the cause (McCloskey, 1968). Thus, I creation has flaws; this means that God is flawed. However, the presence of the evolution theory that states organisms evolve over time and adapt to their new environment, it is a clear indication that God exists as an intelligent designer who designed these patterns millions of years ago. Through creation, human beings can understand the designer God and realize his purpose.

McCloskey has the right to question the presence of imperfections n in a creation that was created by an all-perfect God. He goes on to say that the presence of imperfections negates the presence of a divine being. The decision to trust a theory or an argument is based on the consistency of previous standards and facts and the probability of the argument to hold the same standards and facts. As a result, if human beings understand God, there will be no need for trust since they would already know him. However, teleological argument is not meant to provide proof that God exists but rather to offer an opportunity and platform for further studies considering that this is a mere justification of the probability that God exists.

The presence of evil in the universe tends to contradict the belief that an omnipresent and all-powerful God really exists yet allowing all the imperfections and sufferings to trouble his creation. Although McCloskey does not define what is evil, he gives all kind of notion to explain what is evil. The theist explanation dies not prove why there is evil in the universe but rather offer possible justifications to account for all evil in the creation. From the arguments, it is easy to point out that the arguments they admit the presence of perfect God, but they cannot negate the possibility of all-perfect God allowing evil into the universe. The presences of evil help to magnify the good as well provide set standards to measure good. Thus, the presence of evil in the universe is the free will of human being.

The argument of free will gives a justification as to why there is so much evil in the world today. Considering that God gave humanity the right to choose the right and wrong, all the evil can be attributed to this freedom (McCloskey, 1968). If free will were not true, the laws, rewards, and punishments would eventually lose their purpose and meaning. Right and wrong create the necessity for an individual to understand the difference between them. Without the free will, people with good intentions would not have the freedom to choose what is best for them. Free will gives human being ultimate glory of making life choices.

According to McCloskey, atheism is more comforting as he feels that it is good to entirely believe that there is no God rather than suffer knowing that God allowed it happen. The laws of nature as we know them today make life worth living as life would be meaningless, with no purpose, no value, and quality without them and God. By giving human beings fee will and allowing some degree of evil to go their way, God ultimately gives human life value and purpose.


Davies, B. (2011). Aquinas, God, and Evil. Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil, 113-132. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790890.003.0010

McCloskey, H. J. (1968). Some Arguments for a Liberal Society. Philosophy, 43(166), 324. doi:10.1017/s0031819100062860


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