Formally, I classify myself as a gnostic atheist, meaning I know there are no gods. Most atheists (from what I read online) appear to be agnostic atheists, people who are without gods but who do not claim to know there are no gods. Some people who fit this description simply call themselves agnostic. But, on formal forums, like reddit’s atheism subreddit, all who are without gods are atheists and agnostic or gnostic is a statement of whether they know or have doubt. Similarly, they allow for agnostic theists, those who believe in god(s) but have some doubt.
In no other area of discussion do we expect certainty or proof when we speak of knowledge. Nearly all knowledge, outside of mathematics, is empirical knowledge, gained by empirical evidence.
Empirical evidence, also known as sensory experience, is the knowledge received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (empeiría).
After Immanuel Kant, in philosophy, it is common to call the knowledge gained a posteriori knowledge (in contrast to a priori knowledge).
This is the type of knowledge we use when we say that we know that if we drop a ball on the surface of the earth, it will fall. I don’t hear a whole lot of people telling me, you can’t claim to know that because you can’t prove it. But, indeed we cannot. We know the ball will fall because it has done so the last gazillion times we performed the experiment.
For some reason, most people expect that if you say that you know there are no gods, that this one case of knowledge requires certainty. We do not require certainty from any other type of knowledge. Why do we demand certainty to state knowledge only when we are discussing knowledge of the existence or non-existence of gods?
Why this one?
Nowhere in the definition of knowledge does it ever specify that we must have 100% certainty.
So, when I say I know there are no gods, I mean it the same way that I know the ball will drop or that I know the planet on which we live will continue to rotate through the night causing the appearance of a sunrise in the morning, even if it is blocked by clouds. Night will become day as the earth rotates. I know it. You know it. We cannot prove it to 100% certainty. We only know that it has always done so before.
To begin our discussion, we have to classify gods. This way we can address different claims of gods individually.
I’ll call the first type deist, because that’s the most common form of belief in this type of god. Though, this god is also often discussed in philosophy as the prime mover. The Deist god put things in motion and left or became inactive or died or whatever. Regardless, the god who put things in motion and left is not here now. So, even those who believe in this sort of generic prime mover still essentially believe we live in a gods-free universe now. From a functional standpoint, they don’t expect any more god-related activity or behavior than I do as a gnostic atheist.
As such, this type of god hypothesis makes no testable predictions. A universe with such a god is indistinguishable from a universe with no such god. So, in addition to the point made above, from a scientific standpoint, we can call this a failed hypothesis, meaning that it fails to meet the criteria to be a scientific hypothesis.
Then there are personal gods. These gods are reputed to take action beyond just the creation of the universe. These are gods who demand or expect worship. They take action based on the saccharine adoration of their sycophantic followers.
If we can show statistically, that there is no effect from the saccharine adoration, worship of, and self-enslavement to such a deity, then we can show that the hypothesis that gods do respond to prayer is false and that this particular type of god does not exist.
That test has indeed been performed. God, if s/he exists does not, in fact, respond to prayer.
Intelligent Designer God:
One common hypothesis about god is that s/he (or they in the case of multiple gods) designed things. The Abrahamic God in particular, which is the most commonly discussed deity in my area of the world, but far from the only one, is even said to have created us in His image. (I do not know why anyone would assume that a god who birthed a universe is male rather than female. That makes little sense to me. But, so be it.)
If we can show that design did not take place, then we can show that there is no intelligent designer.
So, we can look for flaws in the “design” of our universe or ourselves. Looking for flaws in ourselves is the easiest thing to do because we actually know rather a lot about our flaws. And, from the human-centric standpoint that is very common among members of our species, we are the pinnacle of god’s creation (for an obviously self-centered and self-aggrandizing reason). So, we should be the least flawed creatures in the known universe.
Far from it.
For some reason, most male mammals, including humans, have nipples. These serve no reproductive function in human males. Though, some of us derive sexual pleasure from having them touched. I’m not sure how many religions would consider this a worthwhile feature.
Back pain. 80% of humans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. I know I do. Our back pain is evidence of our recent evolution from knuckle-walking apes. Their spines are straight and cause them no pain. But, we weren’t designed as bipeds. Rather we were kluged into it through evolution from quadrupeds. So, unlike bipedal birds, we have a lot of structural problems from our curved and recurved spine.
As an evolutionary kluge, it is functional enough. But, it is certainly bad design.
Knee pain. All the same applies to knee pain. Though, I don’t know the statistics on how many of us experience knee pain.
Hernias. The males of our species are particularly prone to hernias. These are caused by the fact that our testes start out up in our abdomens, where they are in the fish from which we evolved. But, for mammalian purposes, we need them to be in external sacks in order to regulate the temperature for sperm production, which must be slightly cooler than the rest of our body’s temperature.
So, if all goes well, at about 9 months old, our testes drop from our abdomen to our scrota leaving a cavity that makes us vulnerable to hernias.
Of course, good design would mandate that the testes just start out in the scrota where they belong in mammals. But, since all mammals are in the taxa sarcopterygii, the family of lobe-finned fish, our testes must drop and our risk of hernia is increased.
Though I know of no health problems caused by this bit of obvious bad design, it is a rather amusing piece of evidence that there was no designer. It’s a silly piece of human anatomy. Watch this video to see just how extremely silly this down and back nerve gets in a giraffe!
The laws of physics work. Every single time. Our most tried and proven theories such as General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics do not have exceptions in them. There are limits to the ranges at which they work, just as there are with Newton’s (so-called) Laws of Motion. But, within the realms for which they are defined, they always work.
We don’t need exceptions in our laws of physics for when some god or other intervenes.
If you drop a ball while standing on the surface of the earth, it will fall to the ground. Every single time. This is just what it means to be a scientific theory. We actually don’t have any proof that this is so. It just keeps on working every time we perform the experiment. This is how science works. It is all empirical.
With the exception of mathematics, which does in fact have proofs, everything we know about our world is empirical.
If you believe in god(s), you will never know whether the ball will fall to the ground when you drop it. Seriously. You don’t. If you believe there are god(s), you must believe that one of them might catch the ball and hold it suspended in mid-air, or cause it to fall up, or cause it to go sideways and hit you in the eye. You have no clue what will happen next in a godinfested universe.
Thank God there are no gods! /snark
Judgement Day God:
Many people believe in what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call Judgement Day God (JDG).
They worry that JDG will judge them for not believing correctly and thus will damn them to hell for eternity. There are many specific sets of rules about how to be judged worthy of heaven from the various religions, most notably the Abrahamic religion (deliberately singular), centered around a JDG.
All of these sects, subsects, and religions say that you must follow their specific instructions or burn forever. And, the instructions of each contradict the instructions of the others. So, it’s impossible to get it right.
Or, is it?
Here’s the real question regarding a JDG, what is the likelihood that the creator of the universe is a psychopathic sadist?
This is the crux of the matter, pun intended.
In order for any god to create a hell in the first place, or even to allow one to be created, god must have at least some pretty serious sadistic tendencies. But, to actually send people there for eternity, not just until they repent, and to do so for the sole crime of non-belief or of following a wrong set of rules, is just plain psychopathic and sadistic with overtones of narcissism and cruelty beyond human imagining, or more literally, right out of the worst of human imaginings.
Now, I admit that such a god might not be possible to actively disprove. A universe in which the vast majority of the volume of space would be lethal in about 30 seconds? A JDG might find this amusing. A planet where 99% or more of all species that ever live go extinct? A JDG might find this entertaining, like watching gladiators fight lions. A basic body plan that causes 80% of people to suffer from back pain at some point in their lives? Hilarious, right?
So, perhaps all that’s left for this type of god is an argument from personal incredulity.
Is there even the remotest possibility that the creator of the universe deliberately created us to torture the vast majority of us for eternity?
Or, perhaps I can also add to the incredulity the question of whether such a god is worthy of worship? Is this a bad plot line for the ultimate horror movie? Do you really see a way to avoid such a god?
If there were such a psychopathic sadist as creator for the universe, would there be One True Set of Rules of the One True Religion will escape Hell? A sick fuck of a deity who would set things up this way would probably take the most pleasure in torturing precisely the people who worshiped correctly.
Remember, this is the same god who, according to the tradition of all of the Abrahamic sects, created the tree of knowledge with the best fruit in the garden, said eat all the other fruits but not this best fruit of all that will give you what humans crave most, knowledge.
Then the sick fuck sent a talking snake to convince them to violate the rule and eat the fruit. So, of course they did!
And, this psychopath jumped out from behind a bush and yelled “Gotcha!!”
I’m not personally capable of believing in a god who taunts people into doing bad things then yells gotcha. There’s nothing anyone could do to appease such a god.
More importantly, if someone managed to find some hard scientific evidence that such a god exists, I would cease to be an atheist. But, I would not become a worshiper of such a god. I would become a misotheist instead.
Such a god is worthy of contempt, scorn, and hatred, not sycophantic worship.
Again, thank God there are no gods! /snarkety snark snark
None of the above types of gods exist in our universe today.
TL;DR: Deist God is already assumed not to exist or be powerless today, leaving us in a gods-free universe now. Personal gods are shown not to exist by the lack of effectiveness of prayer. Intelligent Designer gods are shown not to exist by obvious bad design. The concept of a psychopathic Judgement Day God who would set things up as necessary for their to be a hell and a judgement day is beyond ludicrous. There is no action you could take to prevent a sadistic JDG from torturing you, were there such a creature. Be glad there’s no evidence of this creature.
There are no gods.
P.S. Show me a single shred of hard evidence and I’ll reconsider. I’m not going to deny hard scientific evidence. But, if anyone does find any hard evidence, I might become a misotheist.