Here's my take on it.
Agnosticism is illogical and refutes itself. Agnosticism and agnostics characterize God as unknowable, ineffable, incomprehensible to all attempts to understand him. This doctrine is self-refuting. The agnostic is making a knowledge claim about what he/she claims is unknowable. How do agnostics know that God is unknowable if he is unknowable ? How do they even know that God's existence cannot be disproved if God is unknowable, or that God even exists if he is unknowable ? To claim any attribute for God is knowledge and claims to know this unknowable God possesses certain attributes. That's a logical contradiction, and any being containing two incompatible attributes cannot possibly exist. So one need not resort to agnosticism. He/she would be justified in not believing in that God if the concept of it contradicts itself in any way. One is justified in accepting and adopting the atheist position.
...those of us who have walked the walk and talked the talk, until there was nothing to support our walk and talk.
I think I've heard that stated this way:
The loudest arguments are between people who gave up a belief yesterday and other people who will give up the same belief tomorrow.
Tom, I like your version; I think that is what happens, indeed. Thanks.
Ultimately, we have all rejected theism
There are many beliefs that have a good psychological explanation. Various religious beliefs are like that. It's easy to see how religious beliefs serve a psychological purpose for many people.
When there is a good explanation available, that argues that religion comes from inside people.
It's not a proof, and I respect proof enough that I don't want to claim anything true that hasn't been proved. Not making many un-noticed, implicit assumptions is part of being a good thinker and an aware person. Making the implicit assumption that the already-established is the whole truth, is a hallmark of pseudoskepticism.
But I can tentatively say that beliefs that serve an obvious psychological need - such as the belief in personal immortality - exist because people want to believe them; and point out that reality suggests otherwise.
People hallucinate rather often. So, since stories of ghosts, visions, angels and so on, walk like hallucinations and quack like hallucinations, they almost certainly are hallucinations.
It's a matter of adopting the best explanation. The best explanation isn't for sure the correct one, but it's a good working model.
We as human beings finite in space and time, can't nail down Ultimate Truth; instead, we're in a process of discovery.
Hallucinations are common, a kind of wishful thinking or dreaming, perhaps. Or a deeply felt emotion that manifests as a very real experience. Nothing wrong with that. It is like the Neolithic woman with a baby on her hip, seeing the grass move. Not knowing if it is a lion or the wind, she flees, only to discover no lion was there. Had she not taken evasive action, she and her baby would have been food for the lion. It is a survival strategy that people evolved as a self-protection device.
Homo sapiens are pattern seeking creatures. We imagine someone loves us, only to discover the attention was exploitation or manipulation. Or one thinks he or she can't survive without another, only to discover humans are an adaptable lot. In the meantime, we have all kinds of hallucinations, nightmares and thoughts, most of which keep our minds bound to untrue beliefs.
A mentally healthy, mature human being has hallucinations, and on reality testing realizes it is a fantasy of our minds. We shake ourselves free of the images and go on. Maybe wiser, maybe smarter, and possibly gaining by the illusion.
There is a little trick I, and many of my students tried that has some benefit. A nightmare is often ourselves sending a message we need to tend to something. For example, I had recurring nightmares of a snake lunging at my throat, and I would wake up in cold sweats. The trick is to do some lucid dreaming, ask the antagonist what its message is for me. The next time I had that nightmare, I asked the snake what its message was to me. The snake replied, "you have all the knowledge you need to solve your problems." Awakening, I did a reality check and I never had that nightmare again. I know, it sounds silly. And it works for me and for my students. You might give it a try and see if your hallucinations or nightmares are sending you a message that you are telling yourself and not aware.
Ed Lindaman, former president of Whitworth University stated in a seminar, "information without awareness yields me no freedom." He told a story of an ant on a hot asphalt pavement in August, running across the sticky goo into the shade of a car. It rested in that cooler place, and when the shopper came out of the store and drove off, the tire squashed the ant into the pavement. If the ant had known the shopper was buying beverages and snacks to take to Mt. Spokane for a picnic, the ant could have crawled up on the axle and taken a ride to ant paradise. Unaware, the ant was doomed.
Sometimes life is like that ant having paradise within reach, and being unaware, we remain doomed. .
A distinction needs to be made between knowledge and belief. Knowledge requires justification or verification, belief does not, although most base beliefs on what they believe constitutes evidence. When someone says simply there is no god, we have no way to determine from his statement whether he is asserting knowledge or belief— or in the case of belief, what probability he assigns to his statement. Agnostics merely refrain from claiming knowledge when they lack definitive objective evidence.
Religious people often say that atheists are "more fundamentalist than the fundamentalists", meaning atheists take religious claims literally and argue with them as literal claims.
Meaning, that less-fundamentalist religious people are more, simply participating in a social agreement not to say or think certain things, than making definite reality-claims.
They agree to organize their experience in a certain way, to say "God has been doing xxx in my life", to experience certain thoughts as Jesus talking in their head, etc.
Atheists also have socially-determined ways of thinking, but different ones.
If a religious claim isn't testable, if it's just a matter of faith, then it's only a social agreement to organize one's experience in a certain way.
Believers cannot have it both ways: they cannot say they don't make claims about reality, that their religion is merely a social compact and then insist that there is one true religion to which all must adhere. Statements like this one of Reinhold Niebuhr say much more:
The Christian faith begins with, and is founded upon, the affirmation that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ represent an event in history, in and through which a disclosure of the whole meaning of history occurs…
If your position is "We just like to get together on Sunday mornings for a little bread and wine, you can't claim that Christ transformed history for everyone.
they cannot say ... that their religion is merely a social compact
This is exactly one of the things that the believer agrees not to say or think. Once they start perceiving their religion as just a social compact, they're no longer a believer. Once they actively deny that something "magical" is happening.
It sounds as though you make them out to be hypocrites—everyone. They view their belief system as a social compact, but refuse to acknowledge the thought.
That may well be the case, but then they are poorly positioned to criticize the atheist who takes them at their word.
Most people would agree there's a role for fantasy in human life - is there a role for permanent fantasy? It's been useful sometimes in the past.
So if you apply the Goedel incompleteness theorem to human thought, what do you get?
A statement that is true but for humans, unprovable?
If known to be true, it's been proven. So does that mean the statement must be something we can't even specify?