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H. J. McCloskey’s ”On Being an Atheist”

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Contained herein is an analysis of H. J. McCloskey’s On Being an Atheist article that provides teleological and cosmological arguments on beliefs in God, good and evil. McCloskey has approached the topic with greater emotions that can be seen all over the paper. His article’s thesis illustrates the rejection of a higher power’s presence that theists believe is all powerful and created all that is seen on earth. McCloskey denies the existence of higher being by arguing that the perfection of earth creation is extremely overblown; he states that Creator was highly imperfect and malevolent in His earth making processes.

McCloskey claims that believing in God on the basis of creation is not convincing because a good number of theists hardly take that route. This claim is among the few ones that McCloskey comes close to agreeing with theists, especially considering that most people believe in God because of life experiences. There are also atheists who undergo serious life experiences, lead to accepting the existence of higher being that helped overcome challenges. This claim challenges atheists to have deeply convincing reasons for belief in God and be ready to defend against atheists attacks. To address various points made in McCloskey article, the analysis shall touch on key points through distinct sections.

Teleological Argument

            McCloskey denies the existence of God based on the evidence of creation. According to McCloskey, the so called wonders of creation are not enough to become a believer in who created them. The complexity of creation alone fails to convince McCloskey and other atheists of God’s existence, and therefore argue that theists do not think deeper before making conclusions on creations; they only take issues for granted and firmly believe without good reasons. This is an utterly wrong argument because the world is beautifully made withy many wonders, and the relation between different phenomenons of creation gives greater evidence of perfection that can only be achieved by an all powerful, all knowing being.

            McCloskey further denies the complexity of the universe as justification of for God’s existence and the powerful reasons behind theists’ beliefs. He instead turns to the age old atheists’ justification that universe complexity has developed though millions of years of evolution. Unfortunately, McCloskey leaves his arguments at that without providing further justification for his beliefs. Readers are therefore left with hanging questions, for instance about the genesis of evolution. For what was behind the beginning of the world before creation started evolving and adapting to respective environments.

McCloskey’s inability to explain the force behind earth before the evolution and adaptation leads to him concluding that all was a result of “powerful and malevolent designer” (1968, 64). He therefore agrees on the existence of a powerful creator but adamantly refuse to come to a conclusion that the same all powerful creator is who the creation should believe and give thanks. McCloskey further fails to consider the extreme degrees of perfection seen on the universe—this is an unfortunate happening as it leaves his arguments with delinquency of convincing (Kreeft & Tacelli 1994).

Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument states that existence of everything in the universe depends on something else; the universe itself has continued to exist because of some influence outside its realm. In addition, the force that influences universe existence must also be behind its creation. But as in several other arguments made in the above sections, McCloskey leaves his claims half way; he for instance fails to present views on whether the powerful force behind earth’s creation is still behind its existence today. This force ultimately necessary is keeping the universe intact and functioning properly; the force deserves complete recognition and honor, which is what theists do in their belief in the all powerful and all knowing God.

McCloskey belief that the earth was not created leads to his conclusion that there is no reason to believe. In other words, there is nothing to believe in because nothing created the world. McCloskey seems to draw this conclusion from assumption that what was behind the universe’s creation had similar power with universe and therefore deserves no recognition. In addition, the possibility of having something making the other and both have similar powers is extremely minimal, actually flatly impossible. The argument therefore fails to provide acceptable degrees of conviction. This assumption leaves more questions on what was that power that created the universe and whether it exists today.

Rationality of Faith

            According to McCloskey, the belief in God is a complete hit and miss situation, which involves people willing to take risk. In this regard, believers look into benefits and costs of believing in higher being. The benefits seem to outweigh costs and therefore choose to believe in the higher being. On the other hand, atheists consider that costs of believing outweigh benefits and consequently choose to not believe. McCloskey fails to see the rationality of having faith is a being that one cannot touch, feel, communicate with directly, hear or taste. However, such occurrence is nothing new; it is completely logical and happens often in human life.

            McCloskey has further argued that faith in the higher being is no different from of human to human friendship. In fact, the friendships between friends is regarded as more reasonable because of they counterparts can see, touch and hear each other. McCloskey argues that friendship with God and believers from beginning to end of human life is impossible, because friendships often break (Evans 1983). Just like human to human friendships break as a result of one parties wrongdoings, so could the one between God and the human race. McCloskey therefore claims that God’s wrongdoing could also be the cause of friendship breakdown, because the universe has no history of anyone without wrongdoing. By so claiming, McCloskey equalizes man and with God, which is an error considering that the latter is the creator and the former the subject who need to live in accordance to the teachings.

            McCloskey’s attempt to equate God’s perfect nature and man’ imperfections is erroneous. This is in consideration to the greater evidence on the evidence of God’s support for his creation in both good and bad times. However, McCloskey seems to be generating his assumptions in considering suffering masses, whose misfortunes is tantamount to evidence that God forsake them. God’s imperfectness therefore develops for letting masses suffer despite being in a position to provide help according to individual needs.

Evil and Free Will

            The existence of free will and evil is another area that McCloskey has strong feelings and accordingly expresses strong thoughts. McCloskey has once again failed to provide his own explanation of what evil is and instead aggressively expressed thoughts on theist’s definitions. McCloskey starts by claiming that free will does not exist and if it did, God should have programmed man to always choose to desire good for themselves and rests the creation. McCloskey therefore claims that just like God had free will increasing all he wanted, so should man have free will in living his life on earth accordingly..

However, human living indicates that free will is in existence and people continue to utilize it on a daily basis. This is especially in consideration that human being make decision on how to lead respective lives and consequently face the consequences (Hasker 46). Human are further programmed to taking responsibility for their actions. Indeed, those who make excellent decisions reap good results, whereas those who make poor decisions end up suffering. Both equally understand that life in future days would depend on choices being made currently and consequently embark on making effective choices.

                                       Conclusion: Atheism and Comfort in Life

            Like other atheists, McClosky is on the opinion that being and atheist is more fulfilling compared to believing in the all powerful all knowing Creator. This conclusion generates from McClosky’s assertion that there is more happiness in living with mentality that there is no God, because believing he exists restricts one’s life choices. Believers are for instance restricted from doing things on their own in belief that God has not guided them in certain directions. McClosky further claims that atheists are more responsible in their actions because they do not have to blame God for misfortunes in respective lives. Though McClosky arguments carry weight in some instances, he makes the mistake of letting emotions drive his conclusions (Babcock 2003) and therefore dilute the weight of his arguments.


Babcock, A. (2003). The Christian Approach. Lynchberg: HPS.

McCloskey, H. On Being an Atheist. One Question, 1968 (4): 51-68.

Hasker, W. (1983). Metaphysics. Downers-Grove: Inter-Varsity.

Evans, C. (1984). Philosophy of Religion. Downers-Grove: Inter-Varsity.

Kreeft, P. & Tacelli, R. (1994). Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Downers-Grove:      Inter-Varsity.

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