"And thus, in the absence of evidence, the rational position is absence of belief."
Is it? Maybe for everyday matters that don't really effect your life that may be true. Is there life on Mars? No conclusive evidence for it and I can be neutral my entire life about the proposition and not be bothered at all.
But the question of God and a higher meaning to our existence is not some inconsequential factoid. You may be betting your entire life's (and afterlife's) mindset and actions based on how you answer this question.
If you're stuck in the middle of a war and you don't know which side is the "good" side, the rational thing is hardly to stay neutral but to pick a side and hope for the best. Because being neutral means you're gonna get attacked from both sides.
God's existence is not just an intellectual debate.
"The analogy fails because in your example, you know that there are armies, but do not know which one to pick. In our case, there's no reason to think there even are armies. Perhaps if there were two gods, and you had to choose between them."
The analogy does not fail. You have two concepts of the world. These two concepts do exist. And choosing which you will follow has great effects on your life.
"God's existence is not *even* an intellectual debate. There's no evidence, so the babble is meaningless mental masturbation."
I think the question over whether the universe has an element of intelligent design in it or not is very debatable. I used to scoff at the idea of the anthropic principle, but the fact is that the physical constants and properties of the universe are in such an amazing balance it is hard to imagine them not being intentionally made that way. The typical atheistic response to this is that there could be an infinite number of unverifiable alternate universes which do not have life supporting physical laws - but that's more of a stretch than believing them designed. There is only one universethat we know about and we happen to be there.
If one concludes that the universe shows design then one might wonder what the designer might be and for what reasons it had for shaping the world.
It could be we just don't know enough about how the universe began to understand why it is that way, but there is support for a non-atheistic conclusion.
"'I don't know' is not a valid reason for a 'therefore.' 'I don't know why the universe looks the way it does' no more supports a designer than it does a multiverse. It's a total non sequitur. There is no support for any conclusion other than 'I don't know.' Because it starts there, it ends there."
Yes, you can intellectually conclude with the "I don't know" response, but these questions require answers.
Leaving the question open isn't a bold response to the issue, it's hiding from it. In searching for truth we can risk being wrong, if you just wish to avoid error then you can simply not believe anything at all.
Far better to go into battle and risk being wounded than to not fight the good fight at all.
"*Real* answers, not "it's magic." I was not suggesting to be *satisfied* with "I don't know." On the contrary, that dissatisfaction is a source of intellectual progress, and acrucial drive for the scientific worldview. Where I protest is when your need for understanding pushes you to believe something that outstrips the evidence. "I don't know" is not the end of questioning, but the end of answering."
Yes, generally we should wait for the evidence before we speculate. But life is short and it's far better to believe _something_ is true then to live forever in limbo.
Being proven wrong or changing your mind later on is not the end of the world.
Can anyone say Clifford vs James?