McCloskey Article (278.205 Kb)
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.
Your assignment is to read his short article, attached above, and respond to each of the questions below. The basis for your answers should primarily come from the resources provided in the lessons covering the philosophy of religion unit of the course (Evans, Craig, and the PointeCast presentation). You are not merely to quote these sources as an answer to the question – answer in your own words. You are also encouraged to appeal to other outside sources as well, as long as you properly document them. This Response Paper is to be a minimum of 1500 words (equivalent to six pages) and should be written as a single essay and not just a list of answers to questions. You may be critical of McCloskey, but should remain respectful. Your instructor is looking for a detailed response to each of the questions below.
Specifically, you should address the following:
1. McCloskey refers to the arguments as “proofs” and often implies that they can’t definitively establish the case for God, so therefore they should be abandoned. What would you say about this in light of my comments on the approaches to the arguments in the PointeCast presentation (Lesson 18)?
2. On the Cosmological Argument:
o McCloskey claims that the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being [i.e. a necessarily existing being].” Using Evans’ discussion of the non-temporal form of the argument (pp. 69-77) explain why the cause of the universe must be necessary (and therefore uncaused).
o McCloskey also claims that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.“ In light of Evans’s final paragraph on the cosmological argument (p. 77), how might you respond to McCloskey?
3. On the Teleological Argument:
o McCloskey claims that “to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed.” Discuss this standard of “indisputability” which he calls a “very conclusive objection.” Is it reasonable?
o From your reading in Evans, can you offer an example of design that, while not necessarily “indisputable”, you believe provides strong evidence of a designer of the universe?
o McCloskey implies that evolution has displaced the need for a designer. Assuming evolution is true, for argument’s sake, how would you respond to McCloskey (see Evans pp. 82-83)?
o McCloskey claims that the presence of imperfection and evil in the world argues against “the perfection of the divine design or divine purpose in the world.” Remembering Evans’ comments about the limitations of the cosmological argument, how might you respond to this charge by McCloskey?
4. On the Problem of Evil:
o McCloskey’s main objection to theism is the presence of evil in the world and he raises it several times: “No being who was perfect could have created a world in which there was unavoidable suffering or in which his creatures would (and in fact could have been created so as not to) engage in morally evil acts, acts which very often result in injury to innocent persons.” The language of this claim seems to imply that it is an example of the logical form of the problem. Given this implication, using Evans’s discussion of the logical problem (pp. 159-168, noting especially his concluding paragraphs to this section), how might you respond to McCloskey?
o McCloskey specifically discusses the free will argument, asking “might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right?” From what you have already learned about free will earlier in the course, and what Evans says about the free will theodicy, especially the section on Mackie and Plantinga’s response (pp. 163-166) and what he says about the evidential problem (pp. 168-172), how would you respond to McCloskey’s question?
5. On Atheism as Comforting
o In the final pages of McCloskey’s article he claims that atheism is more comforting than theism. Using the argument presented by William Lane Craig in the article “The Absurdity of Life without God,” respond to McCloskey’s claim.
You can access the article by clicking on the link above. The paper is due by 11:59 p.m. Friday of Module/Week 8, the last day of this course.
Submit your paper through the link located in Course Content>Module/Week8>Learning Activities.