Agnostic vs. Atheist

AgnosticAtheist1's picture

Often, I hear people claim that they are ‘Agnostic’. This is entirely a misnomer, due to misunderstanding of Agnosticism, using it as a softened version of atheism, rather than its true meaning. What such people mean to claim, is that they are weak atheists, or negative atheists, who lack belief in god. Such a description applies to babies, and so on, people who have never heard of the idea of a god. Some would argue that it applies to people who simply don’t know what they believe yet. However, not knowing implies a lack of conviction. A belief is a conviction in something’s truth. If they lack that conviction in the existence of god, that means that they are at least an implicit atheist. Furthermore, that claim of simply lacking a belief in a god, does not take somewhat of a middle ground. The fact that they lack belief in all gods they know of, means that they have rejected all the gods possible, which is a position of strong atheism, or disbelief, at least of all gods they know of. Therefore, all people who have no specific belief in god are strong atheists, at least towards the deities they know of. Thus, the only people who are complete weak atheists are babies, or people with no knowledge of any supposed deities.

The problem with this misunderstanding of Agnosticism is mainly due to this common scenario. Somebody asks ‘do you believe in god?’ and receives the answer ‘I’m agnostic’, meant ‘I don’t know’. However, the original question was not about knowledge, but about belief. However, as to the question ‘is there a god?’ I remain agnostic. I cannot know of every possible god, that none exist, as one could simply add ad hoc characteristics to fix all situations I could think of invalidating its possible existence. However, I still do not believe in that god, making me an atheist towards it. Should I be asked if I believe in a specific God, then I can say ‘I’m an atheist’, as I have my own reasons for believing that such deities do not exist, but furthermore, my atheism can be Gnostic(given I can provide evidence for why I lack such belief, and show how it contradicts itself, or creates a paradox/impossibility).

FroMagnon's picture

What I find most interesting

What I find most interesting is that people find atheism and agnosticism to be incompatible. This shows a true misunderstanding for the two concepts. Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. Atheism is about one's state of believe in a deity or god. Agnosticism is about the nature of knowing whether or not gods can be proven. That was an interesting point you made about belief verses knowledge.

I like the two of you.

I like the two of you. :P ;-)

GeneralRamos's picture

"To say 'I'm agnostic' when

"To say 'I'm agnostic' when asked if you BELIEVE in a God, you are avoiding the question. If you answer 'agnostic,' then that's like answering 'Chocolate' to 'What is your favorite sport?'"
-Samuel in InfidelGuy chat