In my profile, I state that I am an “agnostic atheist.” Some may find that a confusing way of identifying what I believe, so I thought I'd try to explain.
Thomas Paine uses the term “God” in his book but is clearly atheist in his thinking. He did not believe in any of the extant gods or religions of his time (he clearly and unequivocally states that he does not), and neither do I. In that sense, I am, as he was, an atheist.
I also realize, as I'm sure Paine did, that there had to be a beginning of all that we see; a beginning scientists refer to with the vague term, “big bang.”
Until recent times and the advent of quantum theory and mechanics, about the only thing human minds could come up with as a first cause was an anthropomorphized being, or beings, called a god or gods to explain the existence of existence.
Paine never heard of quantum theory or quantum mechanics or quantum anything. I'm sure something like evolution probably never entered his mind. People of his time who realized that the gods people believed in couldn't be real usually turned to Deism – the belief that a real god started everything but then took a hands off policy.
Even Darwin had a hard time accepting the possibility of such a thing as actual evolution for a good long while. He wrestled mightily with what facts and reason told him and what had been drummed into him from the time he was a babe in a cradle.
I just don't know what happened to start it all back there billions of years ago. So, I add “agnostic” to my definition of my basically atheist beliefs, because “agnostic” simply means, “I don't know.”
I am, however, certain that there was not a super-intelligent being in the general pattern of a human being (I'll have more to say about that soon, after the reference books I've ordered arrive) that just magically sprang into existence or existed for all eternity, with an intelligence and powers that would dwarf anything we can imagine; which being then created all that we see here on earth and throughout the cosmos.
If there should now exist what many refer to as “universal consciousness,” it has to be a manifestation of the energy involved in and constituting the “big bang” and the subsequent evolution of the universe and life. It too would have had to evolve. It may be no more an actuality than the gods people have invented.
My mind is open to theories and postulates. It no longer is closed and padlocked by “faith.” As an agnostic, I will question until the day I depart this mortal life.
As far as the “gods” people prate about and get all emotional and hostile about, they do not exist, and those who promote them have nothing but “hearsay” to present in their defense.
Hearsay gets nowhere in a court of law, and it gets nowhere with me. Not anymore.