As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found that God actually existed.On most demographic surveys that deal with religion, you’ll see many of the major faiths represented, and then a catch-all category for “Atheist or Agnostic.” This contributes to the popular confusion surrounding these identities.

Atheism, as defined by most of its proponents, is the positive assertion that there is no supernatural God.

Agnosticism is the assertion that the existence of God is either currently unknown or cannot ever be known.

Easy enough, right? But of course, whenever someone asks a rhetorical question like “Easy enough, right?” you already know the answer… Wrong.

The funny thing about identities is that there’s always a bit of wiggle-room when it comes to their exact qualifications. There’s no International Body of Atheism, no Atheist Pope to lay out the rules.

When I say I’m an Atheist, I’m not saying that I have a flow chart that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that no version of God could possibly exist. I’m saying that based on the evidence I have, the books I’ve read, the arguments I’ve heard and my own critical thinking, the existence of God seems extremely unlikely.

This is where I usually get called an agnostic.

But I’m not talking about your regular, run-of-the-mill unlikely. I’m talking about really, really, really unlikely. Like, waking up to find that you’ve metamorphosed into a giant cockroach unlikely.

I can offer you several very good reasons that I would not spontaneously turn into an enormous bug, but if you come at me and ask me to provide irrefutable evidence that I will wake up as myself tomorrow, I would be at a loss. And the same goes for the God hypothesis.

It’s what I like to think of as practical atheism.  Based on the evidence I have, I’d say that it’s a fair assumption that I won’t wake up like poor Gregor Samsa tomorrow morning.  Likewise, based on the evidence I have, I’d say that it’s a fair assumption that God doesn’t, in fact, exist.

Image by Allan Jones, see other work at http://www.jonseymonkey.co.uk/otherwork.htm

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