The universe appears to be lacking in purpose in some ways, but not in others. For example, the Holocaust and the panda’s “thumb” would seem to suggest that we live in a historically contingent universe indifferent and blind to both suffering and purpose. But before leaping to atheism, there is also the thorny problem of accounting for so much apparently purposeful information in the universe (for example, the information inherent in the laws of physics and in the first cell). These seem to favor the idea that there is at least some sort of mind (or telos) prior to blind matter in the universe.
Since the tensions between apparent contingencies and apparent purposes in the universe do not seem readily resolvable, the leaps of atheism and theism ultimately come down to faith. If you are not going to be an agnostic, and simply confess to being persistently confused about the nature of the universe, then you must choose whether to imagine yourself living in a blind chaos or a purposeful cosmos.
Did you catch my use of the phrase imagine yourself?
To be an atheist or a theist (as opposed to an agnostic) means just that: imagining yourself. It means, not just making a temperamental move towards pessimism (chaos) or optimism (cosmos), but making an imaginative move toward seeing yourself as really existing in either a chaos or a cosmos. Since you can’t prove it one way or the other, what else are you going to do? So this is what faith is: an act of narrative imagination. And it’s exactly what both atheists and theists do: tell imaginative stories to themselves and to one another, explaining all new sense data via some prescribed framing narrative to which they’ve already committed themselves.
And I’ll admit it: to be an agnostic (as I am) also entails an act of imagination—imagining myself to be living in a world where the incoming data is ambiguous. It’s the story I tell myself.
Enjoy the ride. You’re making it.