Essay: Response to Being an Atheist

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Atheist

A Rational Response to Atheism

Atheism is a religious orientation which argues that there is empirical and irrefutable proof that God does not exist. Constructing rational arguments to demonstrate the inherent flaws in the thinking of the theologically oriented, those philosophically inclined toward atheism will tend to decry religious observation for its blind certainty of God's existence. Simultaneously though, atheism proceeds from a number of argumentative standpoints which suggest that its beliefs are quite similar steeped in a certainty that can only come with faith. In fact, as the discussion will show here, atheism often mistakes its own faith for scientific empiricism. Using the Minimialistic Concept of God as a counterpoint for many of the arguments posited in favor of atheism, the discussion here will provide nuanced response to the rigid defining features of religious atheism.

Proofs:

H.J. McCloskey provides the discussion with its primary endorsement of atheism. McCloskey offers proofs as to the absence of a God that are heavily tied to what is characterized as an absence of empirical evidence point there to. He uses this to deconstruct the various characteristics of God as proposed by the Judeo-Christian perspective and in doing so, leans too heavily on the idea that the debunking of any one attribute might effectively debunk the existence of God altogether. As the Minimalistic Concept of God shows the, it is reasonable to argue for a "personal, moral, intelligent creator of the universe," without insisting that this creator conform to an exact set of specifications assumed by various worshipers and observers over the course of history. This will be the driving argument of the discussion hereafter.

Cosmological Argument:

McCloskey discusses the cosmological argument as one derived from the notion that the universe cannot be said to simply exist without cause, and therefore that some cause must be attributed. As McCloskey phrases it, the theist is preoccupied with the belief that there cannot be an uncaused cause. In other words, the religious individual is incapable of reconciling the idea that the reasons for the existence of the universe may simply be beyond human comprehension. To this, McCloskey responds with the somewhat circular explanation that, in simpler terms, might state that this is not sufficient cause to believe in a single, perfect God. This is so primarily because God himself would then be an uncaused cause, an entity without apparent beginning or explanation absent the development of a similar cosmological mythology as he argues accounts for the existence of a creator. As McCloskey phrases this, "if we use the causal argument at all, all we are entitled to infer is the existence of a cause commensurate with the effect to be explained, the universe, and this does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause. The most it would entitle one to conclude is that the cause is powerful enough and imperfect enough to have created the sort of world we know." (McCoskey, p. 51)

McCloskey goes on to contend that the world simply does not provide us with sufficient proof that the rational explanation for existence rests in the hands of an omnipotent creator being. In many ways, this cosmological point is an acceptable one, most particularly because it does very little to dismiss the likelihood of God as the creator. As the text by Evans (1985) shows, the non-temporal form of the cosmological argument allows that with no end and no beginning, the cause of the universe is necessary by the very fact of its being.

And in Evans' discussion, many philosophers and theologically inclined thinkers throughout time have found no difficulty in reconciling the idea that the universe has no identifiable point of beginning with the existence of a causative creator. According to Evans, "Aquinas, Leibniz, Clarke and Taylor have defended nontemporal versions. They have all claimed that God is the necessary cause of the existence of the universe, both now and for as long as the universe has existed, even if it has always existed. God is the reason why there is a universe at all, regardless of whether the universe is young, old or infinitely old." (Evans, p. 69)

That this underscores a cosmological argument on behalf of the existence of God is important because in its various limitations, this perspective does allow for a great deal of flexibility in the way God is perceived. And though McCloskey employs this limitation as a device to undermine God's existence, it may in fact be held up to him as a demonstration of the many plausible forms that our understanding allows God to take. As Evans points out, "even if it is successful, the cosmological argument hardly constitutes more than an entering wedge into the knowledge of God. If someone accepts the conclusion, the proper attitude for him to adopt is surely a desire to learn more about God. Such a person should show an alert sensitivity about how he may obtain additional knowledge of God." (Evans, p. 77) This is a resolution that is compatible with the driving argument of this discussion. Namely, by fostering an understanding of God that is inherently flexible and receptive to new levels of understanding and knowing, we may find that such a God is far less vulnerable to McCloskey's cosmological argument.

Teleological Argument:

In many ways, the teleological argument in favor of the existence of God continues to carry weight in spite of the objections raised by atheist thinkers such as McCloskey. This is because is a unique regard, this argument allows for the kind of flexibility in perspective that feeds the argument of this discussion. Namely, the teleological argument asserts that there is an inherently intelligent and purposive design which underlies the universe and that this may be seen as the explain for the frequently rational order in which nature and reality occur. Within the context of this belief, we find, there are quite a great many opportunities for variation in interpretation. So is this demonstrated as we encounter any of McCloskey's proofs regarding the lack of an indisputable case in favor of God.

One such case is that contained in McCloskey's invocation of the theory of evolution. With the increasingly common acceptance of the Darwinian theory in atheist and scientific contexts, McCloskey grants his discussion the liberty that proof of this theory diverges from the notion of an intelligent designer of nature and the universe. For McCloskey, this denotes an explanation which its scientific evidence exposes the absence of indisputable proof of God's existence. However, Evans arms us with a strong response to this view, and one that reiterates the value of casting theological constructs in compatibility with perspectives often erroneously viewed as incompatible. This allows us to note that the existence of an evolutionary process and intelligent design are not inherently counter-intuitive. To the contrary, the Evans text cites an argument which "concedes the validity of Darwinian or neo-Darwinian theories as scientific explanations for the order in the universe, but questions whether an ultimate explanation is not still required. Mechanical explanations and teleological/design explanations are not always incompatible." (Evans, p. 83) This suggests that evolution may well be evidence that an intelligent design is in constant play and that its effects are various and complex.

The Problem of Evil:

Still, we are presented with what has perhaps always been the most difficult set of questions to reconcile, even for those of unwavering faith. The existence of evil in a moral universe, the persistence of pain in a world created by a just God and the constancy of suffering under the auspices of intelligence design all justify questioning. And as McCloskey queries, "is it not the case that complete virtue is compatible with the possession of free will, might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right? Clearly theists cannot consistently argue that free will and necessitation to virtue are incompatible, for they represent God himself as possessing a free will and as being incapable of acting immorally." (McCloskey, p. 66)

This question is posed with an assumptive air that is actually quite naturally discounted by the fact that the attributes of absolute goodness in the universe are not to be inherently extrapolated for the attributes shown in God. While it may be argued that God is an intelligent designer of the universe, it need not be argued either that his design be readily apparent to us nor that it predispose us always and only to the goodness of God. Indeed, as Evans states, echoing the claims of Mackie, our construction of God do not promise a universe that is free from evil. They promise a universe in which God gives us the means by creating us in his image to achieve goodness. As Evans notes, "the world has been designed by God to be, first and foremost, an environment that enables and facilitates each individual's moral and spiritual development. This solution is terms a soul-making theodicy."… [END OF PREVIEW]

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