An honest atheist has to admit that although he denies the existence of God, he is at heart an agnostic. Not the agnostic of the dictionaries (Merriam-Webster’s : “A person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable. Broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the non-existence of God or a god.”) But there are so many things which he knows he does not know, and never will, that his intellectual honesty (the real meaning of humility) forces him to recognize that absolute certainty applies exclusively to axioms like 2+2 = 4. He denies God’s existence like Bertrand Russell, because of lack of evidence. For him, what believers claim to be “evidence” – the very existence of the Universe, the emergence of life, the vastness and complexity of the cosmos as well as of animal and human organs like the eye – “prove” nothing. Indeed, all such “arguments” leave unanswered the conundrum of their PURPOSE (what on earth – or in outer space – are all those planets and galaxies FOR ? What are WE for ? Why have 99.9% of living species become extinct ? Why are some babies born blind ?).
An atheist can no more claim to be absolutely certain of his conviction than a non-atheist can be absolutely certain of his belief (note the difference … ). But I have no valid reason to believe that God exists (let alone believe IN Him !), and having spent half of my life studying and questioning the “evidence” I once accepted, I am now, for all intents and purposes, as certain as I’ll ever be about anything, that “God” is a human invention.
HOWEVER . . . Yes, I do admit that I am flabbergasted when I examine the established scientific data about the immensity of the Universe and the complexity of multiple forms of life on our planet, and even – to borrow the title of Ron Vernon’s book – “Beneath Our Feet”. I don’t know who did the calculation nor how s/he did it, but I have learned that the weight of the world’s worms is equal to that of all of our planet’s animal and human species. I don’t have a lot of truck with worms (Darwin was an expert !), but the night sky seen in the Australian deserts really blows my mind : even the worlds I can see (a tiny fraction of what’s out there) are so far away that we see them only as they were, billions of years ago. Impossible, for me at least, to be blasé about stuff like that. WHY, for heaven’s sake (!), WHY is the world the way it is (or was) ? I can, more or less, understand why the majority of people still claim that God, the supposed First Cause, the mythical omnipotent Creator, did all this for mysterious reasons known only to Himself, and created us for a purpose which He relatively recently decided to reveal to a primitive shepherd like Abraham, to creative story-tellers like Matthew, Mark and the other two, and to an illiterate laborer named Mahomed. These “revelations” save credulous people from the uncertainty and the ignorance which honest agnostic-atheists are forced to admit. The worst part is not that I don’t have the answers, but that I and no one else no doubt ever will. I’m learning to live with it.