Being An Atheist
Study Books Used in Class:
Philosophy of Religion, second edition
C. Stephen Evans & R. Zachary Manis
RESPONSE PAPER INSTRUCTIONS
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. Please note the following parameters for this paper:
1. Your assignment is to read McCloskey’s short article found in the Reading & Study folder in Module/Week 7 and respond to each of the questions below. Your instructor is looking for a detailed response to each question.
2. The response paper is to be a minimum of 1,500 words (not including quotes) and should be written as a single essay and not just a list of answers to questions.
3. 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 and Manis, Craig, and the presentation) and these sources should be mentioned in your paper. You are not merely to quote these sources as an answer to the question—answer them in your own words.
4. You may use other outside sources as well, as long as you properly document them. However, outside sources are not necessary. Each of the questions can be answered from the sources provided in the lessons.
5. While the use of the Bible is not restricted, its use is not necessary and is discouraged unless you intend to explain the context of the passage and how that context applies to the issue at hand in accordance with the guidelines provided earlier in the course. You are not to merely quote scripture passages as answers to the questions. Remember this is a philosophical essay not a biblical or theological essay.
6. While you may quote from sources, all quotations should be properly cited and quotes from sources will not count towards the 1,500 word count of the paper.
7. You may be critical of McCloskey, but should remain respectful. Any disparaging comment(s) about McCloskey will result in a significant reduction in grade.
8. Please note that all papers are to be submitted through SafeAssign, which is a plagiarism detection program. The program is a database of previously submitted papers including copies of papers that have been located on the Internet. Once submitted, your paper will become part of the database as well. The program detects not only exact wording but similar wording. This means that if you plagiarize, it is very likely that it will be discovered. Plagiarism will result in a 0 for the paper and the likelihood of you being dropped from the course.
Specifically, you should address the following questions in your paper:
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?
2. On the Cosmological Argument:
a. 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 and Manis’ discussion of the non-temporal form of the argument (on pp. 69–77), explain why the cause of the universe must be necessary (and therefore uncaused).
b. McCloskey also claims that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.” In light of Evans and Manis’ final paragraph on the cosmological argument (p. 77), how might you respond to McCloskey?
3. On the Teleological Argument:
a. 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?
b. From your reading in Evans and Manis, can you offer an example of design that, while not necessarily “indisputable,” you believe provides strong evidence of a designer of the universe?
c. 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 and Manis pp. 82–83)?
d. 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 and Manis’ comments about the limitations of the cosmological argument, how might you respond to this charge by McCloskey?
4. On the Problem of Evil:
a. 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 and using Evans and Manis’ discussion of the logical problem (pp. 159–168, noting especially his concluding paragraphs to this section), how might you respond to McCloskey?
b. 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 in the course, and what Evans and Manis 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:
a. 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,” (located in Reading & Study for Module/Week 6), respond to McCloskey’s claim.