Interesting how one billboard says: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Notice the word “probably” : ) …and we thought they knew for sure!
Why do many Christians think atheists are certain there is no God?
One reason is that we tend to speak in absolutes when we talk about God. As a blogger, I don’t have the time or energy to modify everything I write about the Gods with nuanced words so it “seems” that I am certain there is NO God.
It is like the word Christian. When I write about Christians and Christianity, I am almost always referring to Fundamentalist oriented Evangelicalism. People who frequent this blog know this, but the newbie who finds this blog via a web search does not know this. As a result, they will often think that I am painting all Christians with the same brush. (and I need to do a better job at being clear about WHO I am writing about)
So it is with atheists and their talk about God.
I am an atheist and an agnostic. I live my day-to-day life as an atheist. The only time God enters my thinking is when I am writing a blog post or working on a book project.
When I first deconverted I called myself an agnostic. But, I got tired of having to constantly explain myself, so I decided to call myself an atheist. Even then, many people do not really understand what it means to be an atheist. (please read my post The A Word)
When it comes to the God question, no one can be absolutely sure there is no God. Anyone who says they are absolutely certain there is no God is stating something that can not be proved.(no more than the Christian can prove there is a God)
At best, atheists are agnostic on the God question. Based on the available evidence it is unlikely a God exists. It is all about probabilities. Is it probable a God exists? From my seat in the pew, I say No.
An atheist can, however, be atheistic towards the current panoply of Gods worshipped by humans. It is one thing to say, I am not certain a God exists and a whole other thing to say, the Christian God, as revealed in the Christian Bible, does not exist.
Perhaps there IS a God and that God has not yet revealed itself to us. Perhaps there is a divine energy that we can not see and know. We simply can’t and don’t know for certain and we need to be honest about not knowing for certain. Of course, the same could be said of those who believe there is a God. They can’t know for certain either.
Some atheists deride agnostics as people who are cowards, people who still have religious sympathies. I don’t think this is a true assessment of agnostics. The agnostic is a still open to new evidence. They are willing to consider any new study, find, or evidence that comes to light. However, the hardcore, there are NO NO NO NO NO God, atheist has closed their mind and is not much different from a closed-minded Fundamentalist Christian. Both have their minds made up.
Some people suggest that science will give us the answer to the God question some day. Science will some day answer the origin question. Perhaps. But, until then, I intend to continue to be agnostic when it comes to God. It will take a lot more evidence than is currently available for me to state with great certainty, there is NO God.
Let me end this post with the words of Clarence Darrow:
An agnostic is a doubter. The word is generally applied to those who doubt the verity of accepted religious creeds of faiths. Everyone is an agnostic as to the beliefs or creeds they do not accept. Catholics are agnostic to the Protestant creeds, and the Protestants are agnostic to the Catholic creed. Any one who thinks is an agnostic about something, otherwise he must believe that he is possessed of all knowledge. And the proper place for such a person is in the madhouse or the home for the feeble-minded. In a popular way, in the western world, an agnostic is one who doubts or disbelieves the main tenets of the Christian faith.
I would say that belief in at least three tenets is necessary to the faith of a Christian: a belief in God, a belief in immortality, and a belief in a supernatural book. Various Christian sects require much more, but it is difficult to imagine that one could be a Christian, under any intelligent meaning of the word, with less. Yet there are some people who claim to be Christians who do not accept the literal interpretation of all the Bible, and who give more credence to some portions of the book than to others.
I am an agnostic as to the question of God. I think that it is impossible for the human mind to believe in an object or thing unless it can form a mental picture of such object or thing. Since man ceased to worship openly an anthropomorphic God and talked vaguely and not intelligently about some force in the universe, higher than man, that is responsible for the existence of man and the universe, he cannot be said to believe in God. One cannot believe in a force excepting as a force that pervades matter and is not an individual entity. To believe in a thing, an image of the thing must be stamped on the mind. If one is asked if he believes in such an animal as a camel, there immediately arises in his mind an image of the camel. This image has come from experience or knowledge of the animal gathered in some way or other. No such image comes, or can come, with the idea of a God who is described as a force.
Man has always speculated upon the origin of the universe, including himself. I feel, with Herbert Spencer, that whether the universe had an origin– and if it had– what the origin is will never be known by man. The Christian says that the universe could not make itself; that there must have been some higher power to call it into being. Christians have been obsessed for many years by Paley’s argument that if a person passing through a desert should find a watch and examine its spring, its hands, its case and its crystal, he would at once be satisfied that some intelligent being capable of design had made the watch. No doubt this is true. No civilized man would question that someone made the watch. The reason he would not doubt it is because he is familiar with watches and other appliances made by man. The savage was once unfamiliar with a watch and would have had no idea upon the subject. There are plenty of crystals and rocks of natural formation that are as intricate as a watch, but even to intelligent man they carry no implication that some intelligent power must have made them. They carry no such implication because no one has any knowledge or experience of someone having made these natural objects which everywhere abound.
To say that God made the universe gives us no explanation of the beginnings of things. If we are told that God made the universe, the question immediately arises: Who made God? Did he always exist, or was there some power back of that? Did he create matter out of nothing, or is his existence coextensive with matter? The problem is still there. What is the origin of it all? If, on the other hand, one says that the universe was not made by God, that it always existed, he has the same difficulty to confront. To say that the universe was here last year, or millions of years ago, does not explain its origin. This is still a mystery. As to the question of the origin of things, man can only wonder and doubt and guess…