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In a very broad sense, “atheism” can mean simply “the absence of belief that any
deities exist”. In that sense, I am an atheist.
However, that’s not the commonly accepted meaning of the word, especially among many
self-styled atheists. The narrower usage of the word is
“specifically the position that there are no deities”, with the level of certainty
approaching one hundred percent.
My position is that we do not know for sure — there being no evidence either way
— whether there is any god.
There are many
definitions of atheism, several of which could apply to me. I’ve chosen to
identify as an agnostic atheist
(definition) because my position is that we do not
know for sure — there being no evidence either way — whether there is any god
or other heretofore undetectable intelligence that exercises control over the universe.
I do not believe in any god, fairy, ghost, magic, or other imaginary being, power, or force.
I don’t believe there is any evidence that any god exists, though I haven’t ruled out
the possibility that some evidence will someday be found. I think one shouldn’t rush to
judgment without evidence and that all underlying assumptions should be examined.
I recognize that to a Christian, Muslim, or other theist, my
position is equivalent to atheism. To most believers, a person is “either in or out”.
And, to many of today’s believers, atheism is worse than their archenemy religions — a
typical Christian will despise an atheist more than he despises a Muslim, for example
For that reason, I empathize with atheist activists, especially in their distaste for the
pointlessness — and sometimes outright harm — of religion in our world. I am
sympathetic to their cause for recognition and protection from persecution.
I choose to avoid a complete assertion of certainty, having been fairly certain of something which
turned out to be demonstrably false.
However, I choose to avoid a complete assertion of certainty, having been fairly certain of
something (which turned out to be demonstrably false) for half my life. God
wasn’t something I took for granted; I believed with every fiber of my being that he was as
real as the LCD screen I’m staring at as I type this. That every atom in the universe was
created by him and under his control. That he knew of everything, past, present, and future.
That the Bible was entirely true — inerrant.
Having once been so certain of something and then finding it untrue, I hope my dear
atheist friends can forgive me for the lack of confidence to have that same certainty that there is
no god whatsoever.
The burden of proof is on the gods and his/her/its/their followers. If there’s no
evidence of an elephant in my closet, I won’t believe in the elephant. If someone asserts
there is an elephant in there, it’s up to them (or it) to prove its existence. It is
not up to me to disprove it. There should at least be elephant poop on the carpet, or
something. Perhaps strange noises coming from in there, or an odor. And even if I became somewhat
convinced the elephant might exist, then when I open the door to take
the elephant for a walk, and the closet is empty and clean, I would become very certain that it had
not been in there.
In the case of invisible deities, I assert that it’s extremely unlikely that any exist,
given the complete and utter lack of evidence. However, I realize that
atheism is falsifiable — that is,
certain evidence could disprove atheism, if that evidence ever presented itself. It
hasn’t. But it could.
Besides the traditionally considered deities — Yhwh, Allah, Thor, whatever — I
maintain that it’s possible there is something more subtle, less tangible, less describable
than all of those. And any of these are less likely than finding some alternate-evolution mole people
living under the crust of the Earth, but it could happen.
“I don’t know” is a perfectly reasonable position to hold, especially if
there’s no evidence either way.
A preacher once said to me, “Someone either believes in God, or doesn’t. There
can’t be an in-between.” Of course, this is ludicrous. “I don’t
know” is a perfectly reasonable position to hold, especially if there’s no supporting
evidence either way. Think of any proposition for which no evidence — for or against —
is known to exist. For example: “Life exists on other planets.” One cannot be certain
either way with what we know today. You could argue that it’s very likely or very
unlikely, or take the position “I don’t know, but I’d like to find
In other words, there is a sliding scale of certainty. Without enough facts, it
seems inadvisable to either completely agree or completely disagree. I created the following graphic
in early 2015, based on some sketch drawings
I made in mid-2014.
The scale below was written by a fairly famous atheist, though I think any reasonable person
from any point on the scale can recognize the steps.
1. Strong Theist: 100% certain of God. Knowing, rather than believing.
2. De facto Theist: God is very probable. Live with the assumption God exists.
3. Weak Theist: Very uncertain, but inclined to belief.
4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are equally probable.
5. Weak Atheist: Very uncertain, but inclined to skepticism.
6. De facto Atheist: God is very improbable. Live with the assumption God doesn’t exist.
7. Strong Atheist: 100% certain of no God.
(Source: The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, 2008, Mariner, pg. 73)
I spent the first 20 years of my life at or very close to number 1 on this scale, and the next 20
years at number 2 or 3. When I sat down to write this page, I was a solid number 4. My current
“agnostic atheism” would fall at about number 6 on this scale, perhaps 6.5.
When I refer to “atheism” with no qualifiers, I generally mean anyone in the 5 to 7
It depends on which definitions you’re using and how specific you want to be. I usually
want to be very specific, but am often driven to generalities to save time and make sentences
easier to read. Generally speaking, I am an atheist. And an agnostic. And a skeptic. But for those
like me who appreciate specificity, I can be most accurately described as an “agnostic