Thursday, July 5, 2012

Atheism: Fact or Fiction

Matthew Henry once said “No man will say “There is no God” 'till he is so hardened in sin that it has become his interest that there should be none to call him to account.[1]”  As I began reading the accounts of H.J. McCloskey, I found myself circling and underlining facts in his article that I found to be absurd, because he had no proof and facts to back up his beliefs. I have no reason to believe that Mr. McCloskey was living a lifestyle that was immoral, as Matthew Henry might, but I found myself asking what he had gone through to cause such a hurt and pain in his heart. Without God he has to be experiencing a hole there, that nothing else can fill. I found myself highlighting facts that I don't agree with in his article and saying to myself that this is not true, or where is the proof for your statement. The purpose of this paper is to take a dive into the article by H.J. McCloskey, review it and refute it. My personal view on atheism is that many people believe there is no creator or God because of the evil in the world. How can they believe in a God that would send people to Hell even if they are good? By saying that, they are still saying that there is a God and that evil does exist and it had to start somewhere. So my outlook on atheism is that there is no such thing and it cannot exist. My goal is to write, not only as a Christian, but as a 3rd party reader of this article. The points I will discuss in this paper are to explain how there still can be a God in light of the “proofs” against God discussed by McCloskey, refute McCloskey's cosmological arguments against God, review his teleological arguments and find proofs against them, discuss McCloskey's problem of evil argument, and refute the statement of atheism being comforting.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of proof is “the cogency of
evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact.[2]” Proof is an important word. It can be the deciding factor between guilty or not guilty in a murder trial or the difference in a large scale embezzlement case. Proof is a word that many people throw around and misuse when they don't agree with a certain belief or lifestyle. Phrases such as “Where is your proof?” or “Can you prove that?” are common in any religious debate. H. J. McCloskey states in his “On Being an Atheist” article that his peers “...attribute too much importance to the role of the proofs of the existence of God as a basis for religious belief; that most theists do not come to believe in God as a result of reflecting on truths...” I would have to disagree. While I do agree that my faith as a Christian is mostly going on faith, I have to also use my head in thinking about proofs for God. There are 3 aspects to use to best argue my case. The “Best Explanation Approach” is an approach that uses the best explanation for certain cases, cases that we have yet to understand, in Science and life; that only an ultimate designer argument can explain. An example would be a Mother's milk production. According to, one of the beginning things that has to happen to a woman that is going to begin breast feeding is “The developing placenta stimulates the release of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which in turn stimulate the complex biological system that makes milk production possible.[3]” How does our body know how to do this? There is no scientific experiment to best describe how a woman's body knows how to start producing milk to feed her offspring, it just does. The “Best Explanation” is that her body was designed that way.
Another example would be gravity. Here in the northern North American region, we are a little above the equator, and we are really upside down at most times. How do we keep from falling off the planet and floating into space? Well, we have gravity that keeps our feet on the ground. It would be frightening if we just floated everywhere, and to think that anytime I can go floating off into space with no oxygen. The “Best explanation” for this is that a designer and creator made the world this way. Another aspect to argue my case is the “Cumulative Case” approach. It is true that there is a lot in this universe that we cannot explain. There are a lot of scientists in a lot of labs around the world trying to find the answers to life's mysteries. No one proof or argument can bring us closer to a proof for the existence of a higher being or God. But an accumulation of all the cases together moves to reason that there is an ultimate designer and creator. An accumulation of many different cases put together that are unexplainable have to move to an answer that says that it was just made that way. There are too many questions in our universe that are just unexplainable and put them all together and there is only one answer. The third case I want to bring up is the “Minimalistic Concept of God.” At the point with no answers, you have to come to the same conclusion that there is an intelligent creator that designed all the complicated things of this universe. It is true that you cannot argue for God, but you can argue for the complicated designs of the human eye, the habits of animals, or the complications of nature.
            C. Stephen Evans discusses in his book “Philosophy of Religion” the need to believe in a creator or being. He uses the argument that 1) Some contingent being exists, 2) If any contingent being exist, then a necessary being must exist (because contingent
beings require a necessary being as their ultimate cause,) 3) Therefore, there exists a
necessary being (which is the ultimate cause of the existence of contingent beings.[4]) Many will see this argument as proof that there is a being or group of beings that exist, but it could be anything from aliens to mythological gods of days past. But Christians believe in God, so this would be a cosmological argument for us. There are some arguments to this case. One of them states that the world has always existed and there was no beginning. The problem with this argument is that matter decomposes. If you take a table, a normal oak table, and let it sit for a millennium, what will happen? That table will decompose. Matter is not infinite. All the arguments against the case for a higher being all come back to the fact that there must be some type of higher being. This still does not prove God, but it does prove a creator. McCloskey claims in his article that this argument does not hold up. He says that cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.“ I say why not? I say where is your proof to the non-existence of a being? He claims to want proofs on an all-powerful being, he is the proof. An all-powerful creator must exist for us to be here. We cannot simply exist in time, and then cease to exist. Something had to have happened for us to exist. Scientifically speaking, we could not have just always existed. As Gerry J. Hughes puts it in his article The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God; “But surely universes cannot just happen, just appear without any explanation, any more than pink elephants or tartan sheep can. Something must have produced it, something external to the universe itself.[5]
            McCloskey goes on to say in his article that “evolution has replaced the need for a
designer.” For arguments sake, let’s say I agreed with McCloskey and believe that we have evolved from a single micro-organism, to primates, to what we are today. The theory of evolution is based on survival of the fittest. Beings that evolved did it because they learned a new technique or change that made them better, and passed those skills on to their offspring when they breed. Each new organism learns something new and passes it on, and that is how we have made it to what we are today. Now, this is what we have to believe, that there is intelligence in those organisms. Where did that intelligence come from? That intelligence had to be designed at some point. How did the organism know what was better for them and learn how to survive? It had to start somewhere; matter cannot just exist with intelligence formed out of goo. Take for example a tree, a tree releases seeds and grows other trees. If a “parent” tree was cut down and the “child” tree sees this, the parent passes unto its offspring the need for survival and the next generation of trees learns how to attack its attackers. This is absurd, right? Reminds me of the Lord of the Rings clip with the fight between Mordor and the forest. Those movies are fantasy and so is the notion that there is not a designer that made that organism intelligent at some point.
            McCloskey goes on to blame the existence of evil as being a reason there is no God. McCloskey states “We must conclude that he is either a malevolent powerful being or that he is a well-intentioned muddler, that the creator and ruler of the universe is either not a god but an evil spirit or a well-intentioned finite being whose limitations result in very disastrous consequences.” He also goes on to say “It is true that morally evil acts
and accidents may hurt us or our loved ones, and render us in need of comfort and
support, but since, for the reasons alluded to earlier, God must be held ultimately responsible for these too.” This sounds more like McCloskey wants to blame all evil doing on God. So my rebuttals to these statements are to ask him where our free will is. I would rather be able to do bad things once in a while, than to always be controlled by God or any other higher being. One argument to free will from atheists in the omniscience of God. How can we have free will if God already knows all? I will use my daughter for an example. I have a small daughter at home who I am teaching things, such as don't put your fingers in the socket or touch hot things. I tell her all the time not to touch the stove when it is hot. But I also know that at some time, my daughter will touch that stove out of curiosity. She has free will. I know it will happen and I know that she will do it anyway, but she made the choice to touch the hot surface. God knows that even though He tells us to not do something, that it can still happen. Do I think God knows that I will repent? Yes, I think He does. God wants to give me that option to repent or not to repent. Does God know that I will lie again sometime in my life, sure He does, it is my human nature. Does He know when it will happen, I think so. But He wants to give me that opportunity to prove Him wrong, just like I want to give my daughter her chance to prove me wrong that she will listen to my warnings. The problem is evil exists, but so does free will. I would rather not be controlled like a puppet. We cannot blame all of the world’s misgivings on God not changing them. To me this sounds more like whining than trying to prove a fact. God let this happen, God let that happen; when do we start taking responsibility for our own actions? Free will is also used for good. In Philosophy of
Religion C. Stephen Evans, it states “God also allows humans to act freely because,
without doing so, humans could not be morally responsible agents, capable of freely doing good by responding to and loving their neighbors and Creator.” If I do things for good, I want to know that I am doing them for my love of Christ and what He has done for me, not because I have a God doing these things for me.
            In response to McCloskey stating that atheism is more comforting than having a God, he has to mean that you have a void in your heart. To me it sounds as if there is pain there. While reading Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig, there was a statement that stood out to me. This statement says “Modern man thought that when he had gotten rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had only succeeded in orphaning himself. For if there is no God, then man's life becomes absurd.”[6] With nothing to live for and do good works for, what is the meaning of doing good works? What is the purpose to life? As William Lane Craig puts it in his article on page 72 “...what ultimate meaning can be given to his life? Does it really matter whether he existed at all?” If you do good works in this life, they are to have a purpose. I had an atheist friend of mine tell me that Christians live to die, while atheists live while they are living. I agreed with him, we do live to die. We serve our purpose here on the Earth to try and serve the Lord, and one day the Lord will reward us for that. I am not saying that all I do is for a reward, but is not our purpose to serve God and to live for God, to share the gospel and to do good? Craig puts these works as relative significance and ultimate significance, what is the significance to your work if you do it? What purpose does that good deed serve? It will
be good for the moment, but what is the longer lasting effect to a good work done as an
atheist? This would not be comforting to me to know that my deed ultimately is not significant. Also, the thought of dying would frighten me as an atheist. What would happen to me when I am gone? Would I just cease to exist and people would forget about me? As a Christian, I know that one day I will experience paradise because that is what the Lord has told me. I wouldn't be able to imagine dying without knowing that I was not going to paradise.
            I have discussed many reasons to believe in a god or the God over atheism in this paper. I tried to view a lot of these cases as a bystander, and not solely as a Christian. To me there are too many proofs to NOT believe in God or a god. There are too many cases in which all the circumstances tilt the scale to a god side. The best defense for a god is in our everyday life. The way we breathe, the way our heart beats, the way we see, the way we eat; everything points to a divine creator.