Let's get one thing straight: Agnosticism is not some kind of weak-tea atheism. Agnosticism is not atheism or theism. It is radical skepticism, doubt in the possibility of certainty, opposition to the unwarranted certainties that atheism and theism offer.He cites Thomas Huxley (who coined the term "agnostic") [I]t is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.
He quotes the blogger John Wilkins,
We are all atheist about some things: Christians are Vishnu-atheists, I am a Thor-atheist, and so on. But it is a long step from making existence claims about one thing (fairies, Thor) to a general denial of the existence of all possible deities. I do not think the god of, say John Paul II exists. But I cannot speak to the God of Leibniz. No evidence decides that.
I agree with Wilkins and that is why I call myself an "agnostic atheist." I don't believe any of the gods that have been described by religions exist, however, I cannot rule out once and for all the possiblity that some type of deity exists. I am not sure, though, that the "New Atheists" would disagree. I think their primary purpose is to argue against the belief in the god of the Abrahamic faiths (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
Rosenbaum argues that the "New Atheists" treat science the same way that believers treat divine revelation. He says that they believe that science will someday have all of the answers to man's existence. He says that they are exercising faith in science in the same way that a Christian exercises faith in the Bible. He writes:
Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence (And some of them can behave as intolerantly to heretics who deviate from their unproven orthodoxy as the most unbending religious Inquisitor.)
He says that he doubts that science will ever be able to answer the question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
Faced with the fundamental question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" atheists have faith that science will tell us eventually. Most seem never to consider that it may well be a philosophic, logical impossibility for something to create itself from nothing. But the question presents a fundamental mystery that has bedeviled (so to speak) philosophers and theologians from Aristotle to Aquinas. Recently scientists have tried to answer it with theories of "multiverses" and "vacuums filled with quantum potentialities," none of which strikes me as persuasive.
He goes on to say:
I challenge any atheist, New or old, to send me their answer to the question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" I can't wait for the evasions to pour forth. Or even the evidence that this question ever could be answered by science and logic.
Perhaps I am being simplistic, but it seems to me that the fact we can discuss this question acknowledges that there is something and not nothing. It is simply the way things are. Perhaps there will never be a scientifically provable explanation of how something can come from nothing but that is a different question than "why is there something rather than nothing." In addition, the idea that there originally was "nothing" begs the question. The simple fact is that we don't know what existed prior to the big bang. We may know one day but probably not in my lifetime.
Al Mohler, a fundamentalist evangelical, and the President of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky maintains that there are two problems with agnosticism as set forth by Rosenbaum. He writes:
This is one of the central problems with agnosticism as a worldview. In claiming to take a humble approach, it actually ends up in a posture that is rather lacking in humility. The agnostic argues that we, as human creatures, are capable of deciding the intellectual terms when it comes to the big questions such as, first and foremost, the existence and possible knowledge of God [emphasis mine].
A first principle of the Christian faith is the fact that special revelation is necessary in order to have any adequate certainty on these questions. Prior to this, the Christian worldview affirms that God has implanted the knowledge of himself in nature. In both forms of revelation, God sets the terms for his own knowability [emphasis mine].
The intellectual state of affairs that makes theism possible is the knowledge given by God himself in revelation. Atheism rejects the possibility or actuality of such revelation. Fair enough; at least we know where we stand. Agnosticism requires what divine revelation does not offer — certainty on our own arbitrary terms.
The second major problem with agnosticism is more practical. It just doesn’t work as a middle position or alternative to theism and atheism. Why? Because the question of God’s existence or non-existence is simply too important and fundamental to human life. Every human being acts either upon the assumption that God exists, or that He does not exist [emphasis mine]("A 'New Agnosticism'--Coming Soon"?).
I disagree with Mohler. With regard to his first criticism, he simply begs the question that there is divine revelation. He says that agnostics have a false humility because they believe that man "decid[es] the intellectual terms" of what he will and will not believe. But how else can it be? Mohler himself, I imagine, sets the intellectual terms by which he decides between Evangelical Christianity and Islam or Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. We all have to use our intellect if we are come to any conclusions about anything.
Secondly, he says that it is not practical to leave the "God question" unanswered. It is too important. I would respond to this by saying that we can either pretend that we know (as apparently He does) or be honest and admit that we don't. I think at the end of the day that it really doesn't matter much what one says one believes about the subject anyway. Most theists live as practical atheists. God has little or no place in the decisions they make in their lives. I say this as one who was a Christian minister for 20 years and observed, up close and personal, how Christians live.
I think in the final analysis that there is enough evidence to conclude that the God of the Bible, as well as the god(s) of other religions do not exist. Can I prove it? No. Can I say for certain that no deity of any description exists anywhere? No, but I highly doubt it.