Response Paper: Atheism

Date: Jan 14, 2019


The issue of atheism has always been interesting for philosophers. The confrontation between theists and atheist seems never to end up by consensus. The article “On Being an Atheist” by H. J. McCloskey in 1968 demonstrates the position of atheists. The author pays attention to the grounds of religious beliefs, to the arguments of theists and, therefore, gives critical response to these arguments. This response paper is aimed to analyze McCloskey’s point of view and to find out the essence of theistic beliefs. In the work, the issues of God’s existence are carefully discussed. The evolution theory with the critique of theists is paid attention. The issue of evil’s existence, studied out by a number of theosophists and philosophers is analyzed. Free will and its features, as attributes of God’s creatures are accurately discussed. In this response paper, the positions of both theists and atheists are comprehended and discussed. In conclusion, the author’s personal opinion about researched issue is given.


The issues of atheism and God’s existence remain a centre of philosophers’ attention in the 21st century. Atheists, who doubt in existence of any Supernatural powers, base their proofs on critical thinking and logic. One of them, H. J. McCloskey studied the reasons of religious beliefs and put them into critical analysis. In his article, the atheistic position is dominant over the religious worldview.

The author is skeptic about Christian worldview and philosophy. He repeatedly mentioned about the proofs of theists, which explain rational reasons of faith in God. McCloskey understood that believers did not come to faith in God after reflecting on the proofs of God’s existence. Some people do not even need logical background and a gain of rationality when they believe in something. The author distinguished three main arguments of theists, which make the existence of God evident. The cosmological, theological proofs and the argument from design seem to be enough for believers in order to prove the entity of God. I agree with the authors’ opinion about the proofs, listed above. There is no necessity in extremely high intellect in order to realize that these proofs have many defects. For example, it may seem that people, who cite at the necessity of powerful Designer’s existence, seem to have a lack of general knowledge about the theory of evolution. This argument is rather ridiculous and erroneous. The proofs of theists, such as cosmologic and theological, are based on unreasoned suggestions, which are not connected with any facts, scientific discoveries and other sufficient evidence.

Numerous philosophers argue the cosmological argument’s analysis of McCloskey. For instance, Evans and Manis insist on God’s role as a Creator of the Universe. “Which only proves some of the necessary beings that is the cause of all contingents being and their existence” (Evans & Manis, 2009, p.74). According to Evans and Manis (2009), “God is a necessary cause of the existence of the universe” (p.77). These authors comment on McCloskey’s position of perception the universe as the existing, but not as the result of someone’s existence. However, Evans mentioned that watching on different objects from the outside would make us think about the purpose of their existence. Anyway, all of these objects are necessary, though they may have no natural cause of their existence. If the existence of the object is not necessary, it becomes incomplete. The necessity of the object’s being does not demand further explanation. Though McCloskey claimed that nothing could make people believe that being is necessary, Evans insisted that cosmological argument has enough sufficient proofs in order to explain the existence of all-perfect, uncaused, and all-powerful cause. Evans postulated that contingent beings and premise exist, which leads to the suggestion that there are some contingent beings, a necessary being must exist as well. People, who accept the conclusion of cosmological argument, should agree that things simply exist on their own. Despite the fact that the Evans’ suggestion remains unproved God’s existence, but they confirm the rightness on metaphysical point of view on this issue.

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McCloskey realized the necessity of indisputable proofs, which make true the theological argument. It is worth noticing that the author used to the theological argument the same premise as to cosmological. Nevertheless, the comments of McCloskey are reasonable, because all the evidence, which proved the existence of Creator have already been replaced by Darwin’s evolutionary theory. McCloskey treats to this theory as a rational and grounded explanation of world’s development. However, Evans and Manis provided an argument on Designer’s existence. They claimed that evolutional process is a machine, which was masterly used by an intelligent Designer. Otherwise, according to Evan’s and Manis, evolution was a God’s way of regulating the development of the Universe. I cannot see the sufficient argument in the works of Evans and Manis, which could really convince me in Designer’s existence. Furthermore, I suppose that debates on God’s participation in world’s development do not make any sense at all. Therefore, I agree with McCloskey’s suggestions about the evolution and Designer’s existence, and consider that evolution had no purpose and Creator that Evans and Manis strived to prove.

The atheists often cite the problem of evil in order to prove that God is not so powerful and perfect as he is considered to be. McCloskey stressed the issue of evil in the world that is physically and morally affecting people. He stated that perfect being could not create such an imperfect world, where God’s innocent creatures suffer. I would respond to McCloskey in the same way as theosophists of the Middle Ages did. The problem of theodicy, which means the presence of evil postulates that God, gave people both endless love and freedom to make decisions by themselves. I would say that everybody really has free will (though it is argued by McCloskey) and is able to make choice, and to worship God or deny his existence. In the issue of evil’s existence, I completely support Evan’s and Manis’s opinion about this question, because they also wrote that God created humans as beings, who could serve him as a result of free choice.

Article “On Being an Atheist”

In the article “On Being an atheist”, McCloskey discussed the essence of humans’ free will. Particularly, he claimed that God created human being biased to virtue, thus, the chance for free choice is completely excluded. From my point of view, it is one of the sharpest McCloskey arguments, because if people are free, they may be also good and evil, though God created them as good ones. J.L. Mackie assumed that beings, which are free, logically are capable to exist without making evil deeds (Ibid, 159-160). Alvin Plantinga responded that this world may exist; however, people have no reasons to claim that this was the world, created within God’s power (Ibid, 161). These statements do not exclude the suggestion that God created absolutely free beings even if He realized that these creatures may become evil. I suppose that God made us free to choose and we still have freedom even if we do wrong, forbidden and evil things.

It is not surprising that McCloskey has many oppositionists. For example, he has always been existing on life’s comfortableness for atheists. He regularly called theists unhappy people, because they worship to divines, which are unjust, cruel and evil. For example, it is terrifying for people to accept the position that all-perfect, all-powerful and kind God allows them or their relatives to suffer and die. According to McCloskey, this belief cannot make person’s life happy and satisfied. On the contrary, William Lane Craig, in the article “The Absurdity of Life without God”, insisted that the only way of people’s happiness is believe in God. Craig is convinced that life without God is absurd and the life without God does not make any sense. Moreover, he insisted that atheism only creates an illusion of sense without it is true essence, which is believing in God. William Craig claimed that life of a believer is more comfortable and happy than atheistic lifestyle.

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It may be concluded that the article “On Being an Atheist” by H.J. McCloskey has met much criticism. For the most part, the author is criticized by oppositionists, who represent the position of theists. McCloskey managed to remind atheists the grounds of their beliefs and to make the readers doubt in God’s existence. The issues, discussed by McCloskey are controversial and cannot have a single correct answer. Nevertheless, I think that the argument about believers’ atheists does not make any sense. It is caused by the difference in aims and means of both positions. Atheists’ who represent rationality and scientific approach to the world’s exploration are the opposition to theists, who cite at faith and believe in God’s will without sufficient evidence. Religion and science are absolutely different points of worldview. These extremes are fighting for dominance over the mind of a person. Going from one extreme to another makes no sense and wisdom. However, the discussion, provoked by McCloskey is very interesting and cognitive as the argument of the entire participant reflects different types of worldview.

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