I very much liked how you described what I consider to be a more accurate answer to this question. This question does seem to be a Black or White Fallacy - trying to force the "belief" portion out of the "knowledge" question of god's existence.
You won't be standing alone to discuss the nature of faith if the silliness ever concludes. Though I've found that extremists, religious and non-religious, tend to need to "know" absolutely rather than be satisfied with continuing to learn and having firm beliefs. So, we might have to wait a long while.
All the gods to which names have been put were invented by mankind, and exist only as imaginations in people's brains. Many of us are 100% certain of that.
This leaves only some remote possibility of there being an unreachable creator god of the Universe about which we know nothing. This is where Richard Dawkins hesitates. He is a scientist through biology, not through theoretical physics. I have written about the unlikely possibility of some sort of creator god several times in this same very long-running thread (q.v. the thread's many pages a year or more back).
The short of it is that if one posits a creator god, then what created that god? And so on ad infinitum--- with creator god after creator god.
This means you would do better to specify that a Universe is always present, even if the current Universe has replaced earlier ones
I prefer to call up the physics of quantum mechanics as set out by Vic Stenger, viz. that of the quantum instability of an unstable void as providing a purely natural mechanism for the transition empty Universe to non-empty Universe.
That is to say, the Universe was instantly self-created, uncaused, from an unstable void or false vacuum --– an abiding, timeless, quantum void -- with the property that incipient, virtual particles were omnipresent.
Thus on the basis of known theoretical physics, one can postulate that the unstable void and its alter ego the Universe is all there is to contemplate--in effect, meaning that universes in real time are all there can be.
They are eternally present, forever existing, because their absence would imply an unstable state of the void that cannot exist in time.Thus, our Universe simply is . . . because at least one universe is always necessarily present.
For if not, there would be a void instead—but a void being truly unstable, a universe would instantly replace it (via perhaps a Big Bang, for instance).
On this reasoning, a universe–or universes—must be. Always were; always will be.
Therefore too, because time cannot exist prior to universes, universes cannot have any first cause.
With no first cause, there is no primary origin, no creation. Therefore postulations of the supernatural are superfluous, dispensable, worthless.
It is improbable that there is a god who is interested in and interacts in the lives of humans. Given the massive number of species that have existed and now exist on this planet it is obvious, at least to me, that the concept of a god is an anthropomorphic construct.
I base my skepticism on the history of religion and the many gods that have come and gone and the ones who simply refuse to go away. There has never been any conclusive evidence to support that there is a god who interacts and answers prayers, this is the current philosophy of most religions at this time so in this case I am going to say I am 100% sure there is no god who answers to the current definition of most of the world's religions.
I am 100% certain there is no personal God who embelishes our anthrpromorphic qualities. The imperfections of ourselves would be mirrored in an all perfect God and hence impossible.
The Universe is filled with imperfections that end with death and collapse...from exploding Super Novas to our own spinal column. And as someone once said, whoever arranged our entertainment system to be located next to our plumbing system should go back to the drawing board.
I cannot say with any degree of certainty who or what the prime cause of our reality is or whether or not there had to be a prime cause but I am certain if we can continue our species we can and will come closer to this knowledge...and if and when we discover it...we will call it God.
You know, when I was a good little christian [tm], I remember sermons saying how other things become gods before nonbelievers, like money, power, sex, drugs, rock'n'roll... (they'd probably add WoW to the list, these days, am I right?) ---Anyway, in that context, then anything that is a control in your life is a god. But in the whole personal, omnipotent, magical dude in the sky? Highly doubtful.
When I was a pagan, I thought of all the pantheons, monotheistic included, as being sort of like ISPs to divinity. That people needed a humanesque or conscious mask on divinity, in order to connect to something that other life was naturally linked into. Even as a pagan, I had that concept of man having separated himself from the natural order. So it wasn't a far step for me to shed that concept and become a pantheist. No god needed. Everything that is awesome and majestic is all around us. We don't need to boogie it up a notch to appreciate it. In fact, I now see that as a disservice, not only to oneself, but to the whole notion that something as inspiring and vast as the universe itself needs some graffiti-esque human stick figure tossed over it and called a 'creator.'
I'm not 100% convinced there is nor isn't a god. When it comes down to it, for me, it's just semantics anyway. Your family, your friends, your community, and your world needs you more than a god ever could, and vice versa. Be good for goodness' sake!
Proof of beliefs come with evidence for those beliefs. Absent proof, faith comes into play and certainty becomes a circular arguement...." I am certain because I have faith I am certain".
Lacking such evidence, I am 100% certain there is no God until and unless I'm proven otherwise. And" proven" to me means scientific proof which is the only standard we have in measuring the natural world.
"By definition: all atheists agree that there is no such thing."
Assuming that you mean:
"all atheists agree that there is no such thing (as a god)"...
and that constitutes “atheism 101”, then I must admit to having gone to a different college.
Perhaps I didn’t attend a Christian School.
Why do I say that?
Because the image of all atheists, that theists want projected, is an image of negativity, of “NO THERE ISN’T!!” stridency, easily remolded into being, gasp! anti god. for heaven’s sake!!
My atheism 101 class, on the other hand, concluded that what atheists agree upon is that we share "a lack of faith in the existence of gods".
Think about how different our encounters with theists would be if in response to: “there is a god” the atheist simply said: “I’m sorry, but I do not share your faith in the existence of god.”
The subject is now “faith” (or, better yet, their faith), not the existence or non existence of an object of that faith.
We can go a lot further with such a discussion, because now we are talking about something that is real, the results of which are clearly observable.
we share "a lack of faith in the existence of gods"
Atheists aren't "lacking" anything, we are simply free from that particular unproven lunacy. The purpose of this discussion is not (as are most discussions here) to "provide" proof of anything at all. Proofs are for laboratories and courts of law. What we look at here is various sources of evidence. These discussions' main purpose is to exchange ideas and to provide new reading and research suggestions. Anyone coming here looking for "proofs" is just as delusional as any religious cook.
We could turn around the entire paradigm on its and state that our definition of faither/believer is that They share a lack of understanding of the processes of the natural world ??? I don't think that would fly with 'them'. That's what happens when you let 'the others' provide the definition to what you think you are.
95% of this planet's population is religious, the definition of atheists you provide one those defined by theists. I don't respect their religious ways nor them defining me. Frankly I don't place much importance on anything a religious person has to say. Lord only knows where they got it from!
“Anyone coming here looking for "proofs" is just as delusional as any religious cook.”
Yet here we are with 79 pages responding to a question of “certainty”, and “certainty”, at least in my life, requires a certain amount of evidence for any corresponding level of “certainty”.
I don’t mean to quibble here but when you write:
"Atheists aren't "lacking" anything,"
It seems you are denying the essence of atheism, its simplicity, its clarity, and you seem determined to complicate it with judgmental proclamations such as
“...we are simply free from that particular unproven lunacy.”
(“unproven”? Is it not you who are now bringing the element of “proofs” to this discussion?)
Are childless couples simply “childless” or are they “free from that particular biological responsibility”?
Atheism is a simple enough concept that the simplest description is the best.
Atheists lack that characteristic which defines theists.
Atheists are atheists because they don’t have (“lack”) faith in the existence of gods.
If you pursue “denial” of the existence of gods (or at least a satisfying level of “certainty”), you are adding an entirely new layer of theological discourse which has nothing to do with what atheism, in all its simplicity, is.
Denial of the existence of gods is not what atheism is.
You are an atheist when you simply accept/recognize your lack of faith.
It has nothing to do with how “certain” you are about gods’ non existence.
Atheism isn’t a christmas tree upon which we hang our individual ornaments of personal philosophy which we bring to the subject.
That’s religion’s job.
That’s what theology is.
And I am weary of the theist’s accusation that atheism is a religion, an accusation which is a direct result of some atheists’ pursuit of a level of “certainty” of gods’ non existence.
Let theists mistake faith for certainty.
“95% of this planet's population is religious, the definition of atheists you provide one those defined by theists.”
I have no idea how you arrive at that conclusion, but that’s your personal ornament that you have to deal with.
Don’t hang it on my tree.
I am a simple atheist.
Very well said TNT....I've been struggling with what type of atheist am I...Am I a Naturatlist...a humanist...an agnostic.etc? I am unable to say with 100% Certainty there is no God and that makes me a candidate for conversion on my death bed for some Theistic conversion (although I don't think that will ever happen).
What I can say with 100% conviction I lack Faith that there is a God. And since Faith requires you to lay your rationality aside, I don't ever think I'll die an irrational human being( unless of course I'm unfortunate enough to succumb to some sort of dimentia).
Other than that, I am quite certain I can and never will put reason aside and replace it with some magical hocus pocus supernatural faith in an irrational God.