I am a “seven”.
That is, I consider myself a “strong atheist” on the Dawkins Scale. On that scale, one represents a “strong theist”, a person who believes 100% in the existence of a supreme being. Four represents someone completely impartial, believing that a supreme being is as likely to exist as not.
A lot of atheists consider themselves as six, or “de facto atheist” since, although improbable, there is always the slight possibility that some supernatural deity might exist. (“Agnostic” might be a better term.) Richard Dawkins, in a 2008 interview, suggested that he might place himself as 6.9 on the scale. And for some time, I felt that that was an appropriate number for me too.
But here’s the thing: Although people have been worshiping some deity or other for thousands of years, there has been no concrete evidence put forward by anyone that even remotely hints at a solid proof for the existence of a god. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if it weren’t for countless ancient myths and legends, some of which have been given such honored status that many people actually consider them literally true, with only their faith as support.
Strip way the old stories, and what are we left with? Setting aside the myths, and starting from scratch, would anyone have any grounds to theorize a supreme being? And if someone put forward a new theory positing a supreme being, without knowing anything about any existing religion, would that theory bear any similarity to any existing religion?
In ancient times, deities and spirits may have been reasonable explanations for various natural phenomena. But over the past few thousand years, we have steadily revealed the inner workings of nature to the point where supernatural explanations are no longer needed.
Although there is always the slight possibility that there might be supernatural agents at work, there are various possibilities: First, if there is a supernatural agent, if may simply be something that is just slightly beyond the reach for our current scientific tools to understand. For now. Alternatively, a supernatural deity may exist but chooses not to reveal itself. Or perhaps cannot reveal itself. If that is the case, it is for all intents and purposes equivalent to no deity at all.
If a god existed, it has had several thousand years to unambiguously and incontrovertibly present itself to humanity. We only have handed-down stories about various prophets who claim to know “God”. Or claim to be “God”. Just the fact that there is still nothing close to universal consensus among theists as to the nature of a supreme being is for me a strong enough indication that such a thing doesn’t exist.
I am a “seven”.
By the way, in case you were wondering about the photo at the beginning of this piece. I took the picture 40 years ago. I’m not sure how the scene came to be, but I thought a cross lying in a hole in the ground presented an interesting metaphor.