Am I agnostic or atheist?

A good deal of people consider themselves to be "agnostics'. They usually do so because reason compels them to doubt the existence of any 'god', and yet, they also want to hold to their claims tentatively, because while their reason leads them to doubt the claims of theism, reason also demands that they keep an open mind on the question of 'god'.

If you are one such person, gentle reader, then it might interest you to know that your doubt actually makes you an atheist, not an 'agnostic'. Why is this so? Because the word 'theism' simply implies a belief in a god. Therefore, if you find yourself doubting the existence of a god, doubting the claims of theism, then you are an a-theist... one who does not believe.

Some people find this discomforting. You might feel that the word 'atheist' still implies more than what you actually hold to. A common response to hearing that one is an 'atheist' is for some to say: "But I don't disbelieve, I just don't believe!" But take a look at those words carefully: if you literally "don't disbelieve" - then, by double negation, you'd believe! Not disbelieving is believing! So there's really no 'middle ground' here, gentle reader. If you have any sort of doubt that leads you to not believing in the claims of theism, then you're an atheist.

But perhaps you still reject that word. Maybe you feel that it's still 'too strong' for you. But the word 'atheist' implies everything that a rational doubter means when he declares himself an 'agnostic', for while it's a common misperception that atheism implies a denial or rejection or active disblief in the very possibility of a god, this is not so. In fact, we require a special term for those those who hold to such beliefs: "Strong Atheists". The rest of us doubters simply don't hold the belief... we're all atheists.

So what does the word "agnostic" mean? Notice the 'a' in front. 'Agnostic' is a rejection of gnosticism. And what is gnosticism? It's the belief that a human being can possess knowledge about a god. It's actually an epistemological term - about the possibility of knowledge in regard to 'god' claims. Agnostics tend to believe that human beings can't actually know anything about something beyond nature, something theists call 'supernatural'. So they believe that there's no way for a human to know anything about a 'god'. But there are many theists who agree! Theists can be be agnostics! In fact, many theists say that they hold to their god belief on faith because they agree that we humans can't know things about the supernatural, or 'god'. Some very famous theologians have agreed that man is limited and that this means that man cannot have 'god knowledge". The list of theologians would include people like Martin Luther or Soren Kierkegaard.

So when one says that they are an 'agnostic' and they mean a 'doubter', they are really saying that they are agnostic atheists. They don't hold to a god belief. They might have believed this morning, they might change their minds back tomorrow - if you give them a good reason - but at the present moment they doubt. Ergo, they are atheists.

So if you find that this describes your own 'agnosticism', gentle reader: welcome to atheism!

- Todangst

SEE ALSO: Agnosticism and it's many misconceptions by RRS co-founder Rook Hawkins, and the definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary.

What is an atheist? From Jake... founder of

Video not loading? If it doesn't load: Click here or go to