Agnostic versus Atheist

With respect to the existence of God, what material difference is there between being an agnostic and being an atheist?

Your thoughts?


Basically, an atheist proclaims that there is no deity of any kind. An agnostic offers some variation of “I don’t know/don’t think we can know whether or not there is a deity of any kind.”

Atheist: I don’t believe that gods exist.
Agnostic: I don’t know if gods exist.

It’s pretty simple. But I’ll wait for the points scoring to begin…

Correct. An atheist is making a positive claim to knowledge, an agnostic is usually not (unless they are a “Hard Agnostic”, in which case they claim to positively know that no one can positively know that God exists :rolleyes:). Some agnostics *will *say that they believe that the arguments against God are good, in which case they might be considered “tentatively atheist” or an “agnostic atheist.” Properly speaking, agnosticism doesn’t even really apply to God so much as to one’s certainty about God existence. One can, for example, be an “agnostic theist” who believes in God, but doesn’t think we can know for sure. (This is a *really *rare position, however.)

From the Christian perspective, both are in the same position of lack-of-belief in God and can often be addressed with the same type of apologetics, as their objections are usually similar.

In modern times, it gets a bit confusing because of the rise of New Atheism and all the populism that implies. The new atheists usually aren’t really very good philosophers (some even claim philosophy is a meaningless junk subject) so they often claim to take positions that contradict the strict definition of the philosophical stances they are actually taking (so someone who claims to be an atheist will often not have any positive evidence against God, but will rather take a position more technically akin to agnosticism when pressed).

Often, among the uniformed, the names simply seem to be an expression of how much one is opposed to theists – the “atheists” are often those who really dislike theists while the agnostics are more like the “theists are stupid, but we can be nice to the poor morons” crowd. (On the other hand, we have the anti-theists, who just hate theists in general. They at least understand the correct definition of what they are calling themselves!) Of course, this isn’t what “atheism” and “agnosticism” *actually *mean but are more what the people who often use those words seem to think they mean. :shrug:

Robert Ingersoll began the modern tradition among atheists/agnostics of sneering at the intelligence of theists.

“If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish – if a little more enlightened, religion would perish.” Robert Ingersoll

+1 point for you then.

You have much nicer atheists in Australia. In the US, it is more like:

  1. Atheist: @$%^@$&#%^ NO! There’s no !#$%%&%&^! god! You $#*(%T#@# religious idiots!
  2. Agnostic: “I’m more ‘spiritual’ (lazy) than religious.”

In either case, I think that pondering life and creation a bit more deeply would be advantageous.

Agnosticism is more intellectually valid than Atheism in that it allows for proof of a God and really just says that they don’t know if there is a God. Atheism on the other hand, is as intellectually challenging as a belief in God. They are saying they can prove there is no God, an absurd position intellectually. Pray for both, but be just a little more understanding of the agnostic. LOL

Depends. There are broad and narrow definitions for both of those words, and people tend to prefer one set over the other and then debate endlessly with the people who like the others (at least online) .

-atheist: anyone who simply lacks a positive belief in the existence of God
-agnostic: anyone who doesn’t claim to know whether or not God exists

-atheist: someone with the positive belief that there is no God
agnostic: someone who believes that the existence of God is unknowable

It’s so fun to mess with Atheist on the internet. They explode with anger and start making the most ridiculous accusations against you while swearing up a storm. Lol

Fractal Fire and KTS have furnished interesting information.

Recently I met an atheist who draws (with variations) on Continental beliefs of 50 years ago. His worst hate mail is from atheists who accuse him of being a theist.

A lecture I missed due to illness was going to demonstrate that there are as many different kinds of atheist as of theists.

Another person recently pointed out that to be a Christian is to be a kind of theistic agnostic in that we say that we “see through a glass darkly yet we shall behold Him face to face”, “we walk by faith and not by sight”, “hope” is mentioned a lot, etc. Our experience of God wanes and waxes, with vague “oo-er” bits in between.

From the way folks were talking in my youth (including young folks, who were frank) the most commonplace range was “broad” (as per KTS) whilst now it is the “narrow”.

People have neither the time nor the mental equipment to think sufficiently dimensionally.

Because theism is so varied, and because people don’t notice their thinking becoming over-fluid in mid-thought, completely different theistic systems confuse some atheists and agnostics who don’t realise distinct systems are distinct.

It’s been traditional for one’s main god, all round the world for thousands of years, to often go under the rather boring name of “God” or local equivalent. Maybe there is a “Oh no not Him again!” factor to all this :wink:

Also in my young day there were “functional atheists” who averred the non-existence of God based on their non-belief but they didn’t mind some of us being agnostic or theistic. Nowadays there is a lot of outright hostility and a feeling that people must be made to stop believing whatever they want to believe.

If neither the atheist nor the agnostic prays, what difference does the other distinction make?

Indeed it is. Could you point us out to a few of these guys? We can explain to them the difficulty in proving a negative. By the way, there are none on this forum.

Well then, perhaps you ought to switch to calling yourself by your proper philosophical title “agnostic atheist” if you don’t feel up to the challenge of disproving God. :wink: (Which, by the way, *is *perfectly possible if you can prove a contradiction in our definition of God. You can disprove any universal negative if it is logically contradictory. There are, for example, no invisible pink unicorns, because one cannot be both invisible and pink. Nor are there any married bachelors. Good luck.) .

It’s about the reason and the function of their stance.

There are infinite shades and varieties of “both” ragbags of course.

Could there possibly be a god, God, gods? Probably be a god, God. gods?

If so/if not, would I probably tend to believe/not believe (whatever on earth “believe” meant)?

Should other people be allowed freedom of belief?

Why might I believe/not believe? Why might I believe/not believe that other people are in fact believing/not believing?

And so on.

And then the whole lot of questions all over again for each different system of pictures of God for the Muslims, the Hundus, and all the extremely diverse systems.

My post 12 on this crossed with your question. Hoping it helps a little!

Because I think “hypothesis” territory is sounder than “proof” territory, I’ll hazard the hypothesis that we are talking here of a kind of infra-pink. Which raises the hypothesis that we cannot definitively “prove” your statement :wink:

In other words, rebadging “proof” as “an apparently pretty likely hypothesis” strikes me as psychologically far more comfortable.

Furthermore (as good as) disproving God in one religion doesn’t disprove God in another (though you may have hinted at implying this).

Ask their wives !!!


Are you suggesting that there ARE married bachelors? -_-

In which case, I would like to call your bluff and/or remind you that the definition of bachelor is an unmarried man.

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