In terms of deism v. atheism, as an agnostic I’d say that deism is the more appealing position. If atheism is true, afterall, then the universe doesn’t, in any ultimate sense, really cohere, and that’s a sad thought (to think that we live in a random chaos containing chance patches of order, and not a cosmos).
But deism has its big problem as well: if deism is true, it means that a mind preceeded matter but (oddly) never actually speaks to us about what it was up to in creating a universe, or what we, as humans, should do while we’re in it.
Alternately, if theism is true, it means that God both creates and speaks, but all the religions that claim to have received a revelation from God are unconvincing to me (to put it politely).
So I guess I’m still holding to my ridiculous tight-rope walk with agnosticism.
And to what is the rope tied that keeps me balanced and not dropping into the abyss of nihilistic despair? I would say that it is an intuition that somewhere, out there beyond the rope that I can see, there lies an ontological mystery—a big truth that I would be pleased to discover, and comforted to face. Reinhold Niebuhr called this primary religion and associated it with optimism. In the meantime, I sustain myself on little truths and diversions, and try to explain myself to those curious about what I’m doing up here in so absurd a situation.
Below is the first stanza of Percy Bysshe Shelly’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (1816). This is what I mean by having occasional hints and glimpses of an ontological mystery that seems to reside, to echo Gerard Manley Hopkins, “deep down things.” And I would add that Percy Bysshe Shelley was an atheist:
The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us,—visiting
This various world with an inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,—
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,—
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,—
Like memory of music fled,—
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.