The agnostic argues that, unless you are omniscient, you cannot say for sure that there are no gods. However, the Atheist believes there are no gods, and most atheists are quite certain. How can the Atheist say there are no gods, without claiming infinite knowledge?
The answer lies in the method of analysis. There is no scientific test that can disprove a god. A legal truth test, rather than a scientific truth test, is more appropriate for religious claims.
If you want to determine the various differences between fresh water and sea water, the scientific method works just fine. You can “prove” that water boils at a different temperature, and so forth.
But religion is a credibility issue, not a scientific issue (this is why many who would be atheists instead call themselves agnostic, they want “scientific” proof, as opposed to looking at it as a credibility problem). There is simply no fact about life, nature, the universe, morality, or anything else, that would lead someone to believe in a deity (not without first having been brainwashed). So, religion isn’t a “scientific” issue. You wouldn’t look at a mountain, and conclude a deity plopped it there, without being pre-conditioned as a child to believe a god made everything.
I reject the arguments of Christians who attempt to use science as a basis of religion. Christian interpretations of Thermodynamics, creationism, all are just bad science. Science neither proves, nor disproves, a god.
There are some biblical issues which would appear to be scientific in nature. You could say that the issue of Creation vs. Evolution is basically a science question. Perhaps. You might say that the biblical references to a flood, and to a sun standing still for a day, present scientific issues. These are, in reality, credibility issues.
The real issue is, does the writer of Genesis (whoever those anonymous collectors of Hebrew folktales were) have it on good authority that God made the earth in seven days? Or, is he just repeating a common fable of the day? This presents issues of credibility rather than science. Do the gospels tell a true story? Did God really give Moses stone tablets with ten commandments carved on them? If so, then there’s a god. Did God one day actually say, “Let there be Light?”
Courtrooms exist for one purpose only: To determine whose story is the truth. If truth were not an issue in the courtroom, you could do a trial by mail. Standard courtroom truth tests developed for the sole purpose of analyzing credibility. Once biblical claims are subjected to the standard courtroom legal tests (hearsay, personal observation, contradiction, corroborating evidence, circumstantial evidence, common knowledge, and plain old common sense) and the claims of religion fall flat; there is no room left for agnosticism.
1. Personal Observations. In a courtroom, a witness is expected to testify as to his own personal observations. All religious documents such as the bible totally anonymous accounts by people who never claim to have seen what they say happened. (The book of Mormon is an interesting exception). Nowhere in his gospel does Matthew say, “I was there, I saw this. This is how I felt. Jesus healed me, personally.” Nowhere does Matthew say, “I was the apostle Matthew the Tax Collector.” You must assume this important fact, and the idea that Matthew saw the events of which he writes flies in the face of how his gospel was written.
What this means, is that if the bible were offered as evidence in a court of law, it would be rejected as an anonymous document, written by authors who do not even pretend to have seen that which they describe. It doesn’t matter whether we do or don’t know who precisely Luke was, or who Matthew was, or who John was; the important point is that, whoever they were, they didn’t witness the events they describe. If they did, they would have said so.
2. Hearsay. (Basically). Instead, he’s just repeating stories told. The beginning of Luke admits it was written at a time when a compilation of gospels existed. Bible scholars argue about whether Matthew copied from Luke, or Luke from Mark; the truth is, if the copied from each other, they weren’t eyewitnesses.
If the writers of the gospels could be resurrected from the dead, their testimony would not be allowed in a courtroom unless they could say (and they do not in any gospel) that they witnesses the events which they describe.
3. Contradiction. If a witness contradicts another, or himself, it may be inferred he is less than truthful, and all of the testimony of that witness may be rejected. We are all familiar with the hundreds of contradictions in the bible.
4. Corroborating Evidence. In a court of law, truth is determined by considering not only what evidence is available, but alsoe by what is missing. Where is the corroborating evidence of Jesus’ existence? Why are there no writings of Jesus? Why no contemporaneous historian claims to have met Jesus? Why no physical description? Where are the Ten Commandments? Where are the Roman records of Jesus’ execution? Why is there no document supporting the Gospel’s allegation of a Jewish custom to free a prisoner on Passover? Why didn t the Jews accept Jesus? etc.
The lack of evidence is evidence. From the total lack of corroborating evidence, you infer the allegation is unsupported.
5. Circumstantial Evidence. Direct Evidence refers to things like eyewitness testimony, and to this, the standard battle cry “You can’t prove a negative” applies. You’ll never have an eyewitness to say he saw something that didn’t happen, nor will there be a DNA test to say who wasn’t at a crime scene. Circumstantial evidence is how you disprove a negative. Is the bible a product of primitive minds trying to explain the unknown, as with other myths? Has there ever been a credible story of prayer answered, or miracles occurring? Does the bible have stories of amazing technology, or does it tell of a flat earth, immobile and supported by pillars, with four corners, covered by a canopy of water? Does the bible appear plagiarized from other religions? Do the actions of the major biblical figures reflect a high code of morals, or is the god of the bible used as an excuse to rape, loot and pillage? Does Christianity attract geniuses after lengthy investigation, or does it attract more than its share of idiots, recovering drunks, and arrogant children?
6. Common Knowledge. Neither judges nor juries are required to abandon their common knowledge as they enter the courtroom. Neither the Agnostic, nor the Atheist, has ever had a prayer answered. Neither has heard the voice of a god. Neither has seen a god, nor any spirit, nor anything remotely resembling one. The universe is comprised of material elements; there is no evidence of any spirit worlds. Miracles don t happen. Look around you; without exception, there are no gods.
7. Plain Old Common Sense. Is mental illness caused by demons? Will the stars fall from the sky? Do you expect that 1/3 of the ocean will turn into blood? Do you really believe 500 dead saints rose from their graves and walked into town, as Matthew tells, upon the death of Jesus? That Jonah lived for three days in a closed container of fish vomit? That 600 y.o. Noah, and his 500 y.o. sons, build a wooden boat the size of a WWII aircraft carrier, without power tools? That the Jews just let capital criminals loose on the Passover?
Courts require that juries toss out sympathy; Christians “want” to believe in a god, they “wish” they were created, but sympathy is not evidence. Toss out pre-conceived notions about a god; bias is not evidence. Religious claims, then, fail every truth test common to a courtroom.
So, you’re left with a large pile of undisputed evidence saying Christianity is bunk, being weighed against all the evidence in favor of Christianity: Nothing.
If some evidence pointed to a god, and some against, we could reason that the problem is ultimately unsoluable. On the other hand, where evidence is undisputed, we are left with no doubt: There are no gods.
These are the reasons why I’m an atheist, and not an agnostic.