I am really, really frustrated by the spineless unwillingness of my fellow atheists to just say simply, clearly, and without qualification that god does not exist. Period. End of story. Not worth debating. Drop the mic.
Instead, most are agnostic atheists who have followed the misguided lead of Richard Dawkins. Like him, they feel incessantly compelled to show how reasonable they are by pointing out that “of course scientists cannot say for certain that god does not exist” or “we can only say that god probably does not exist.” Even rabid, angry atheist “firebrand” David Silverman appends his comments with the same expected declaration of reasonableness.
The British Humanist Association did a now famous series of bus ads which said “there’s probably no god” (see here). Organizer Ariane Sherine defended the use of the word “probably” by invoking Dawkins:
There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t). As Richard Dawkins states in The God Delusion, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position. He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”.
I do understand some of the motivations behind this. First and foremost we atheists over-compensate out of fear of being called dogmatic. And we are cowered into sissy-talk to avoid the criticism that we too rely upon faith in the end. Finally, we are buffaloed into believing that a good scientist must be “open-minded” (agnostic) about everything.
Look, whenever you need to judge the reasonableness of any statement regarding god, just substitute “Easter Bunny.” It is neither dogmatic nor an expression of faith to state with absolute certainty that the Easter Bunny does not exist. You are not a bad scientist if you dismiss the Easter Bunny hypothesis out of hand. Quite the opposite, a good scientist is not a gullible scientist and good science does not require the suspension of rational thinking. A good scientist does in fact reject fundamentally implausible propositions out of hand. A good scientist does not acknowledge any possibility that perpetual motion machines might exist or that one might be able to chemically change lead into gold or that god might exist.
Although Dawkins has done a huge amount of good, this is one place where his tremendous influence has greatly undermined the cause not only of atheists but of rational thought. It does not show reasonableness to entertain unreasonable ideas and it is not enlightened to give any measure of credulity to absurd propositions.
This idea that “we cannot know anything with absolute certainty” may make for a stimulating discussion in a Philosophy 101 class, but science is built upon the foundational bedrock that we can indeed know the cosmos with certainty. Might we actually be hooked up to The Matrix being fed a simulated reality while we lie in suspended animation in a huge alien complex? Maybe, and that’s actually more plausible than granting any shred of doubt as to whether god exists. But we do not feel coerced into acknowledging that the idea we are all sleeping in The Matrix is a real possibility. Maybe when The Matrix becomes our next religious mass delusion, Richard Dawkins will feel compelled to point out that he cannot be certain it is not true.
Many argue that expressing this uncertainty is merely intellectual honesty. However it is not insignificant that no one goes to such great lengths to append this caveat to other absurd propositions. I have never heard anyone take pains to point out that “of course we cannot be certain that suicide bombers will not be greeted by 77 virgins.” We apply this only to our own Christian god proposition. And that is because this is not a principled expression of general intellectual integrity. This is a matter of showing a particular undeserved deference to our own preferred delusion. Our exceptional application of this disclaimer gives it disproportionate weight and distinction.
This is not just an academic nitpick. Repeating the meaningless truism that we cannot know anything with certainty in the context of our belief in god is highly counterproductive. When you say it, most listeners only hear “even you atheists have doubt,” and “even Richard Dawkins acknowledges that we cannot know for sure that god does not exist,” and “even David Silverman admits that we could be right.” Christians turn this language back against us with great success. Most believers or even impressionable fence-sitters are not impressed by Richard Dawkins philosophical honesty. They’re more like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber with Richard Dawkins playing the role of Mary Swanson.
Lloyd Christmas: What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me? One in a thousand?
Mary Swanson: Um, more like one in a million.
Lloyd Christmas: “So you’re telling there’s a chance then! YAAAY!!”
Mary should have simply said “no chance whatsoever – not gonna happen!” So come on atheists, stop being namby-pamby agnostics already. We can say with absolute certainty that pigs cannot fly and we can say with equal certainty that god does not exist. We can say this because there has never been any evidentiary proof of god when we should expect to see some, and there is no logical inference anyone can make based upon what we do observe to suggest he might exist in the way we might postulate a form of life on a distant planet or an evolutionary descendent in our far future.
I am an Absolute Atheist and proud of it. Does that make me arrogant? Well if it is arrogant to claim certainty that the Easter Bunny does not exist, call me arrogant. The day any legitimate evidence of an Easter Bunny is credibly reported, I’ll change my mind. Wait, I take that back. Even that qualification imparts way too much undeserved legitimacy to the beliefs of the Church of the Holy Easter Bunny.