Cosmologists for a long time have been intrigued by the question of why life appeared so late in a universe which has been expanding for 20 billion years, and why the density of matter in the universe is so small that successive generations continually relive Pascalian anxiety in their experience of the emptiness of infinite spaces. Modern cosmology supplies a partial explanation. Even if life were to develop in only one place, a large and old universe would have been required. Billions of years of cosmic evolution are necessary for the appearance of carbon producing stars, an indispensable element for the rise of known forms of life.
Joseph Zyncinski, quoted in Mariano Artigas, Mind Of The Universe: Understanding Science & Religion, p. 136
The elimination of the Christian tradition and Scripture from social theory, and thus from the public debate, left a void that was filled by philosophy popularized. That is how the 18[th] C[entury] publicists come to be called philosophes. For them, [Pierre] Gassendi’s maxim that all knowledge is drawn through the senses from experience of the outer world was undoubted truth, but this empiricism did not prevent differences — or difficulties. Here again, Locke has been credited with established that truth and removing the main objection by the principle of association: sensations felt together form mental pictures of things, that is, ideas, which by the like process form significant connections. The mind has no pre-existing ideas; it creates its own order out of what happens to it. This mode of exploration finds its highest fulfillment in natural science: experiment is experience channeled and closely observed, so as to ascertain more and more permanent connections or “laws” of nature.
Most of these empiricists of the first generation acknowledged God as the Creator, the Great Watchmaker, who set the cosmos in motion and then let it run on its own. But He had also endowed Man with the gift of reason, with which he discovers this orderly scheme. The thought then occurred that sensations imply the existence of matter; therefore ideas, feelings, knowledge — life itself — are but the interplay of bits of stuff. Matter in motion acts as cause, and the effect is another part of matter in some other motion. God has no point of entry into the relation; very likely He does not exist. There is in truth no need for Him. Did not the Roman Lucretius write a magnificent poem to teach this lesson? He demonstrated that all things and beings are but the combining, breakup, and recombining of atoms. Atomism is perfect for science, being simple and deterministic. By this route the belief in Predestination returns in full strength.
Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present, pg. 365
A stiff dose of honesty for atheists from an atheist: