Can we ever be sure about anything in life?
Is a feeling of 99% certainty enough to say you “know” something? Or do you need to feel 99.9999999999% certain before you’re willing to commit?
If you say you need to be 100% certain, you don’t understand how human brains work. It’s common for the human brain to be certain about things that later turn out to be completely false. It happens all the time, to everyone. If it has ever happened to you, then you know you can’t trust your own powers of certainty.
This brings me to atheists. In order to be certain that God doesn’t exist, you have to possess a godlike mental capacity – the ability to be 100% certain. A human can’t be 100% certain about anything. Our brains aren’t that reliable. Therefore, to be a true atheist, you have to believe you are the very thing that you argue doesn’t exist: God.
Perhaps you will argue that being 99.999999% certain God doesn’t exist is just as good as being 100% sure. That strikes me as bad math. As other philosotainers have famously noted, a small chance of spending eternity in Hell has to be taken seriously. Eternity is a long time.
Let me put this in perspective. You might be willing to accept a 10% risk of going skiing and getting hurt, but you wouldn’t accept a 10% risk of a nuclear war. The larger the potential problem, the less risk you are willing to tolerate.
An eternity in Hell is the largest penalty there could ever be. So while you might not worry about a .00000000001% chance of ending up in Hell, you can’t deny the math. .00000000001% of eternity is a lot longer than your entire mortal life. Infinitely longer.
I sometimes call myself an atheist because it’s too hard to explain Spinoza’s version of god. And it’s too hard to explain that agnosticism is the only intellectually defensible position.
Are there any atheists out there?
[Update Bonus Question: What's the difference between a "weak atheist" and an agnostic? Don't both subscribe to uncertainty?]