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There is no agnostic vs. atheist! The peeve I have...

Dear friends,

This is my first real rant... breaking out that soap box.

Agnostic has broadened my world and introduced so many lovely people into my life that I deeply enjoy the company of. Our conversations are sometimes fun and lighthearted, other times intense and intellectual. I've learned many things from this community and the people in it.

That said, there is this tired old debate. One where agnostics and atheists can't seem to agree on definitions for the words. I'm not going to sit here and post telling all of you that people misunderstand and they need to be taught! That is so demeaning and presumptuous when people do that. It's preaching and coaching rather than talking to someone like a peer. I respect all of you as peers and fellow critical thinkers, so...

I can tell you my own interpretation based on the digging that I've done. I won't ask you to agree with it. All I ask is you do what you already do, think critically. Be open minded. And, most of you are pretty cool and respectful peeps, so I don't think I need to say it-- but there is always one person that needs the reminder. So, here it is! Please play nice. ; )

Disclaimer: if you want to call yourself an agnostic, atheist, agnostic atheist-- whatever, it's your choice based on what fits you most comfortably. The term you choose for yourself is what matters more than my interpretation of the words.

Ah, so for almost 20 years, I've said I was an atheist. After joining agnostic, someone ranted about atheism and agnosticism being mutually exclusive. That someone made me re-evaluate my own thinking. I started digging into the words a little more... and then I started questioning my own bias.

Was I calling myself atheist, because I rejected the dogma of religion (which on an emotional level really pisses me off)? When I thought about it, I could only reject certain gods. Because there was not only no proof of these gods, the evidence was stacked against the holy books these gods are defined in.

  1. I absolutely do not believe the Abrahamic god as portrayed in the bible or similar holy texts is real. These holy texts disprove themselves with contradictions and inaccuracies.

  2. I do not reject the idea of the possibility of a creator of some sort. I do not believe it. But, I do not disbelieve it.

  3. My beliefs and disbeliefs are based on facts and evidence. I will shift beliefs regardless of my feelings, if the facts and evidence align.

When I looked into the terms atheist and agnostic here is the defining difference:

Definition of atheism 1 a : a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods b : a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

Definition of agnostic 1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god

The difference between the two, per Merriam-Webster (and I agree with this interpretation, which is why I regularly quote it):

Many people are interested in distinguishing between the words agnostic and atheist. The difference is quite simple: atheist refers to someone who believes that there is no god (or gods), and agnostic refers to someone who doesn’t know whether there is a god, or even if such a thing is knowable. This distinction can be troublesome to remember, but examining the origins of the two words can help.

Agnostic first appeared in 1869, (possibly coined by the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley), and was formed from the Greek agn?stos (meaning "unknown, unknowable"smile009.gif. Atheist came to English from the French athéisme. Although both words share a prefix (which is probably the source of much of the confusion) the main body of each word is quite different. Agnostic shares part of its history with words such as prognosticate and prognosis, words which have something to do with knowledge or knowing something. Atheist shares roots with words such as theology and theism, which generally have something to do with God.

Depending on your interpretation, I could be defined as an atheist or an agnostic. Atheist if we're talking ONLY about the Abrahamic god. But, why was I defining myself as if Christianity was the anchor of the definition?

In broad strokes, I realized agnostic fits better for me. I don't know if a god or creator exists. And, if I have to label myself, I prefer to think in general.

Some people call themselves agnostic atheists. Per wiki, one of the earliest definitions of agnostic atheism is that of Robert Flint, in his Croall Lecture of 1887–1888 (published in 1903 under the title Agnosticism).

I understand the intent behind the conjoined term, but in my mind these two concepts contradict. How can you both not believe (disbelieve) and claim unknowability? Why have both terms at all, aren't you just agnostic if you require evidence?

But, I suppose it comes from the desire to say, I disbelieve until someone proves otherwise. Which, I do get. But, agnostics don't believe anything without evidence either. So, I don't feel the need to put the terms together. Though, I don't find I need to argue with people who do want to put them together. It does make it's point, which is the whole purpose of labels to begin with. So, OK.

ah, semantics

To sum this up, in my opinion there is no perfect term, label, or word for me. I use labels as a general means to find things that interest me under these headings and to connect with people who generally share my viewpoint-- or at least share the desire to reject dogma and examine things critically.

This rant is only because I've seen several people try to "educate" others on the definitions. To tell everyone they are wrong and have a misconception. This has long been debated and really, to what end? There isn't a good conclusive resource to say side A is right and side B is wrong, so why keep bringing it up? To educate people without a strong source to reference is against the very concept of freethinking. It's better to say "my opinion is..." or "my interpretation is..." and even myself, I cannot claim that I am right and others are wrong. There is no really good corroboration for either side here. Our sources don't even really agree.

Truth be told, I hate labels anyway. I don't feel the need to have a specific tattoo of either agnostic or atheist. Those of you who know me get the gist of what I do and don't believe. I hate dogmatic thinking-- that's the end game.

Fuck the labels. If you don't like dogma, you are my people, my tribe, and I'm good with whatever definition you want to use.

Seriously, call yourself whatever you want, friends.

If you read to the end, thank you for hearing me out. This is the longest blurb I've written. I will now step off my soap box.

With smile015.gif


By silvereyes
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Amen. This is a really good post.

Admin Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Or Agal

thank you kindly, @Admin (blush) smile001.gif

@Leutrelle, what?


"Fuck the labels."

Well said.

VictoriaNotes Level 8 Jan 20, 2018

People can (and do) call me whatever they want to, but I don't feel any need to assume an identity (pro or con) based on other people's hallucinations. Different dictionaries define those terms differently anyway, so a conviction of one perspective over another is really a statement of arbitrary loyalty to, you guessed it, another book!

To my mind, a more vexing problem is that everybody seems to assume that they are all talking about the same thing when they use the word god, when, realistically, no two people are likely to see that concept exactly the same if they were to talk it out fully. By various definitions I am a theist, an atheist, and an agnostic, as well as none of those.

I don't know of any way to communicate my position other than through lengthy, two-way discussions. Two-way because I don't know how to add an idea to your current understanding until I am familiar with that understanding. I don't know how to talk to you until I know what certain words mean to you. Communication is relational.

Arguments over the definitions of words are not really arguments. They are just two people telling each other what those words mean to them. They are both right. All we can do is listen, believe them, and try to take that into account.

skado Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

"verybody seems to assume that they are all talking about the same thing when they use the word god, "

This is why labels matter to me: how you lable "god" is critical to understand what you mean by "god".

And what you say is so true: too many people assume that their meaning of god is "the" meaning and thus fail to see how others do not share in that same meaning.

This is why I often, before "getting into it", ask people to precisely define what they mean by god... or leprechaun... or spirit... or unicorn... etc. smile009.gif

Exactly. It can be tedious but otherwise you have no way of knowing if your intent is reaching the other person and vice versa. @TheMiddleWay

@TheMiddleWay that's not the label that matters. It's the definition. The label itself if flexible based on the person's definition. This is why, it is not good for one to tell a person what that definition must be... in terms of deep matters like what is god? This is more my point.


Is not a label merely shorthand for a definition?

When I label this apple "red", surely we can debate what type of red it is but that label still serves to distinguish it from "blue" and "green. Likewise, when I use the label "god", it serves to distinguish it from "horses" and "dirt" even as we can debate exactly what type of god we are talking about.

I would argue the opposite, that it is ONLY by you telling me what red or god means to you and by me telling you what red or god means to me that we can get anywhere using the label "red" or "god" for an apple or a being.

@TheMiddleWay it's funny, I feel like I'm saying the same thing as you are... this really isn't disagreement on this point you're making here about discussing what it means to a person. I am also saying we need to understand what the other person means. Labels are just the approximation. Not the definition. It is the person's definition that matters more than the label. However, there isn't going to be a right and wrong answer here. Because there is no governing source that can settle this very old debate.


I get the same feeling, don't worry. smile002.gif smile002.gif smile002.gif

@TheMiddleWay however, what if the person has neither of the colors within their viewable range? You may see red, however the other person sees a color not even in your spectrum in place of red. So, your strict and tedious description only applies to you and those like you. Also, how do you strictly and intricately describe or define something that's ultimately unknown? Hence, the reason we're supposed to identify as agnostics and the reason I relate to the definitions and theories of agnosticism.

The meaning(s) of abstractions, concepts, words, et cetera are the central point of every debate. That's why it is so important to clearly define your terms in any academic endeavor. The problem is that to the religious, defining terms is secondary to their inviolable pro-god/supernatural stance. To them anything you say against their version of god/supernatural must be wrong - and by extension you must be an outsider. If you are familiar with ingroup outgroup social dynamics then you already understand how easy it is for these people to purpetrate blatantly evil acts.

@TheMiddleWay That is a super good practice. When asked "do you believe in God" one should first reply with "Well, what do you mean when you say God?" A lot of people will be completely perplexed by this question - as so many have never considered the idea. Their reaction will tell you a lot about where that conversation can go.


There is no "agnostic versus atheist". Each is the answer to a different question. Agnostic is about knowledge, atheist is about belief. If they're being honest, many religious people would agree that they think the existence of a god (or their god(s) in particular) is unknown and unknowable; a person can clearly be an agnostic believer.

cmadler Level 5 Jan 26, 2018

An agnostic believer? I don't think so. How can you both believe in god and say that you think it is unknowable? The very definition of agnostic contradicts this assertion. It requires proof. For god, there is none.

@cmadler thank you for the link. Blech. I know that people have been conjoining agnostic with things and I don't know when this started happening. But, hmm, yes it is vague. No word complete encapsulates my beliefs. Perhaps I will avoid the terms all together (like I avoid the word "spiritual"smile009.gif and just say I'm a Humanist Freethinker. Those terms conjoin quite nicely. smile001.gif

@cmadler I agree, I have said similar statements, that said, I don't get hung up on what you call yourself.


@silvereyes I totally agree with you. Do not like labels. Conflicted between atheist and agnostic myself. Freethinker seems to be an umbrella term. I think I'll continue to use freethinker.

sassygirl3869 Level 8 Jan 20, 2018

That'll do! smile002.gif


Well done. As for me, I fall in the camp that believes the existence of God is unknowable. One may label that whatever one chooses. It doesn't rule out the possibility of a God of some sort. It just states that (with our current understanding and ability) we can't prove or disprove the existence of a greater being than us.

Duke Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Well put.


Get out of my head! Point well stated, and exactly!!! smile009.gif

"In broad strokes, I realized agnostic fits better for me. I don't know if a god or creator exists. And, if I have to label myself, I prefer to think in general."


"Fuck the labels. If you don't like dogma, you are my people, my tribe, and I'm good with whatever definition you want to use."


Thanks for this post. Love it.

MyLiege Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Part 1) Precise thoughts come from precise language.

If we adopt the "call yourself whatever you want" ideology, then are we ok with theist calling themselves atheists and atheists calling themselves theist? I should think not.

As well with agnostic and atheist; these are two different words with two different meanings. They are not synonyms. And in teasing out the differences we tease out what our true intentions and feelings are on an issue. You said it yourself, by posing the idea that agnostic and atheist were mutually exclusive, someone smile009.gif made you think about your own beliefs, made them more precise.

Part 2) "The limits of my language are the limits of my world" - Wittgenstein

There is a problem in relying on dictionaries and that is that dictionaries try to boil down complex ideas into a sentence or two and we are on this site discussions some of the most complex ideas in philosophy and theology. Thus, while we can use dictionaries as a jumping off point, we have to be careful that they are not the only point. The Wittgenstein quote can be viewed to mean that if you use the wrong words to describe yourself, you are unfairly limiting your worldview and, conversely, by choosing the right word you broaden your world view. I've seen many many many posts on this site about people, whom once their realized they were atheist, once they could put a name to their feeling, felt like a weight was off their shoulder, like the world made more sense to them. As such, an exploration of labels is very important to us for as humans it not only give definition to our thoughts but also to give us a sense of where we belong and what communities rally around the same words, the same thoughts.

Part 3) A personal account

I've had two threads where I've brought into question the meaning of the word agnostic. For a site named agnostic.com, this should be par for the course and yet I've often met this idea that I'm being pedantic, that I should leave well enough alone, or that I'm just flat our wrong. And that is fine! We pure agnostics are the minority on this board (and perhaps in society) and it should come as no surprise that how we view ourselves is not in vogue. If you don't agree with how I define myself, then so be it. If you don't agree with how I see you define yourself, I challenge you to also be ok with it. I am a teacher by trade and, ironically, I don't teach; I facilitate. It is not my intention to be a teacher on what agnostic means but it is my intention for me to facilitate your understanding of what I mean when I say agnostic.

Conclusion) Respectful discourse is more important than labels

While I disagree with the content of Silvereyes post (as I believe labels do matter), I wholeheartedly agree with it's spirit: let us strive to understand each other using whatever labels we see fit.... but let us not get upset if the labels we choose for ourselves or others are challenged for growth comes from challenge, not blind acceptance. If this clashes with how you view me or that term, then I say more power to us both! Most of the clashes I've had on this topic have been respectful and intelligent, with each side presenting their points for why they feel this way. Most. Not all. And thus I will continue to espouse my views and live by them peacefully and respectfully. If you want to join me for the ride using the labels I chose, great! If you don't or if you want to use different labels, great as well! But let us challenge each other to meet our disagreements with the spirit of respectful discourse for that is more important than just about anything... including labels. smile002.gif

TheMiddleWay Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Thank you for your well thought out response. But...

If we adopt the "call yourself whatever you want" ideology, then are we ok with theist calling themselves atheists and atheists calling themselves theist?

This is not the same. There are several reasons.

  1. Labels are to be precise. But, if anything defines me... it is the fact that I don't fit into a singular label. The only way you can understand me precisely is to talk with me about what I do and don't believe. No label covers it.

  2. And, people don't agree on the definitions. Neither do major sources. So, if I tell "Bob" and "Joan" that I'm an atheist... they don't have the same definition of the word. Same with agnostic. Neither can understand my POV through the label. So, it's pointless. In fact, if anything, it only stands to cause confusion in what my perspective really is.

  3. Christians can be easily defined. You are Christian if you believe in: the father, the son, and the holy spirit. They live their lives under a label that defines them. That is the nature of dogma, of tenets, of doctrines... to tell them who or what they should be. What they are supposed to think... I reject that very notion.

I am not resigned to sit in a box or subscribe to a team. When I say "define yourself how you want..." what I really mean is, a person has to decide which definition fits them most closely. For most freethinkers, these labels can only be used as an approximation. You have to really talk to them, to understand what they believe as people. Because, they don't fall into a precise category.

As you say "There is a problem in relying on dictionaries and that is that dictionaries try to boil down complex ideas into a sentence or two and we are on this site discussions some of the most complex ideas in philosophy and theology..." this is true. This is actually at the heart of what I'm saying. (Despite using the dictionary, it's just the best way to dissect the words).

We can try to understand each other-- not criticize the labels other people are using or tell them they cannot use them. We can discuss it, but really there will be no firm conclusion on the appropriate label. That is why, in terms of people, I don't like labels. They are an oversimplification, no matter which one a person chooses. You have to talk to understand the viewpoint-- the label matters little in the scope of things.

I do also agree that we should strive to understand each other. smile001.gif


I feel we are in 99% agreement. We both feel that the discussion is more important than the label and that a label does not wholly define the person (that's stereotyping, really)

The only 1% difference, as I see it, is what benefit we each see to using labels at all.

When I call myself a "pure agnostic", there is a general, broad understanding that I'm not atheist or theist but (grossly speaking) somewhere in between. This saves a ton of discussion and serves as a spring board for further discussion, such as when instead of "pure agnostic" others use "atheistic agnostic" or other combinations. Same as when a person calls themselves "atheist"; I don't have to spend time asking if they believe in jesus, or the bible, or the divinity of allah, etc... I know off hand how to approach discussions with them and what their baseline is.

So perhaps the key is that because a label like agnostic doesn't fit you well... but it does me... I see a use in it where you perhaps don't.

@TheMiddleWay yes, I just replied to you above similarly. We do agree. Perhaps maybe even entirely 100%. My point isn't really that they don't matter at all (as I said in my post, I find them useful in a general sense) my point is that they just that they don't need to be the focus and the "be all end all..." and it's not so black and white. Which, I think we agree on. People get very antagonistic about the labels and when it comes down to it-- most times it's semantics. Am I making sense?


Yes, always. smile002.gif

Just keep in mind that for some of us, some of the time, the focus of the discussion turns to or explicitly is the label and in those cases, the "be all and end all" are the semantics.

@silvereyes I agree with you. DO we discuss our ideas or definitions because my definition of terms is quite evidently not always what the speaker meant by using the term so does the terminology matter or is it the underlying message of meaning for that person that is important? Unfortunately we have not been all educated to understand the meanings of words so it skews our communication and even though I have a definite definition of a term it does not mean that it is understood by others or that they even really know the meaning.


Fuck the labels ... I call myself what I want, you do you, and let's respect other humans ...

How fucking hard is that?

You are fucking amazing @silvereyes smile001.gif

evestrat Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

I 100% agree. The mental mastrubation arguing subtleties of definitions annoys me especially when we tend to agree more than disagree. Seems like a waste of energy.


"but in my mind these two concepts contradict. How can you both not believe (disbelieve) and claim unknowability?"
Easily, you do it too.
Do you believe you'll be dead in 30 minutes time?
I'd assume the answer is no.
Can you know right now that you won't be dead in 30 minutes time?
So it's not at all contradictory to disbelieve something while simultaneous accepting you can't know it.

gavlar Level 4 Jan 21, 2018

Well, this comes down to interpretation of atheist. So, for some atheist is interpreted as holding a belief that "this is not true." While agnostic is the feeling that "I don't believe. It hasn't been proven, but there is a possibility that this is true." I do not see how you can both feel that something is absolutely not true and simultaneously believe that it might be true. This is the part that is a contradiction.

That said, there is an alternative understanding of the word atheist. That is it is that you disbelieve until proven otherwise. Many atheists use their label this way versus the first interpretation of the word. I covered it in my letter when I mused more deeply into my understanding of the conjoined words. When used in this manner atheist + agnostic feels like a redundancy to me.

Agnostics don't believe to begin with. So, the purpose of adding atheist to me... is more to point out the fact they disbelieve more strongly. And, I can understand why one would do it. Agnostic is often misunderstood as being simply undecided and atheist clearly states "I don't believe." But, people overlook the fact that neither do agnostics! Agnostics don't believe either.

I'm not going to tell people the correct interpretation, because there is no governing source that can settle this old debate. Some people interpret the words one way, some interpret them another. And, it isn't my purpose to be correct about the labels or to tell people they can't use them in this way. Many people like to conjoin the terms.

The theme of my message, "whatever you call yourself is OK. We're in this together now." smile001.gif

I think this keeps it necessarily simple, otherwise it get's tiresome having a discussion using words that mean different things to different people. [mycinqminutes.com]

@gavlar I see the point of it, yes. Still, I do not prefer the use together when speaking for myself.


Words are shadows. Ideas are light.

I focus on the one that helps me see.

stinkeye_a Level 7 Jan 21, 2018

I like that. It's a lovely phrase.

I love this soooo much! <3

Both do... Like some decent transliterations of the Tao te Ching... We can't know the light sans darkness.

Don't credit me. I have no idea who beat me to it, but I know I'm not nearly clever enough to have thought of it first.
@silvereyes & @Tenacious

@BobFenner that occurred to me but I declined to elaborate for the sake of pithiness smile009.gif

@stinkeye_a Heeeee! I so wish I were pithy. Cheers


Silvereyes, you have hit the nail on its head. I have for some time been trying to get people to define the word "God" since it is necessary to establish exactly what it is that's being discussed or debated. Specifically, I want them to make the distinction between a personal and an impersonal god. The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Gods are all personal gods, a supernatural entity who supposedly listens to and sometimes answers payers. The other half of the world's population - mostly in Asia - believe in impersonal gods. For example, the gods in Hindu belief are manifestations of nature. They might pray for a good harvest the way American indians did/do, but they are looking for general favor and without the expectation of an overt answer.

Thus, as my agnostic.com bio page states: I describe myself as an agnostic atheist. If the person asking me is a Christian or Muslim, I'm an atheist. To everyone else, I'm an agnostic, but with absolutely no reason for belief in a deity.

PS - for clarity, I define agnosticism the way Thomas Huxley did; agnosticism in my opinion means the existence of God is forever unknowable. Again in my opinion, an agnostic is not simply a person who is undecided.

astrochuck Level 6 Jan 20, 2018

Yes, the definition of God is absolutely paramount in my own definition I apply to myself. There is no perfect word. I don't feel the need for one either. Yes, your method is pragmatic and I like it. To use Atheist when talking to specific theists of whom you are atheistic when it comes to their god.


silvereyes you are one smart lady! I love this! Right on! you nailed it! Kudos!

twshield Level 8 Jan 20, 2018

Read and I'll try not to rant...much...

Honestly, I like a lot atheists I've meet here but a much greater percentage of atheists who are renowned scientists or otherwise directly involved in research. Why? There seems to be a direct correlation to their education and intelligence levels down to those of the dogmatic "science worshipers" who deify science as irrefutable and immutable truth; in their levels of hostility, inflexibility and intolerance.

A truck driver who knows everything about everything? Please.

Anyway, good rant...much better stated than the many I've posted on the subject. Carry on.

DangerDave Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

No one with the slightest understanding of how science works would regard it as irrefutable and immutable. On the contrary, a scientific theory is only acceptable if it makes testable predictions and is, therefore, potentially refutable.


Great post Silvereyes, I have another rarely used label I think I may have mentioned here before.

Quora definition: To the igtheist/ignostic, unless a theist can provide a concrete, detailed and falsifiable definition of what they mean by "God" then there is really no point in discussing deeper issues involved with "God" such as whether or not it exists.

Paul628 Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

I came across the ignostic on these boards and find it a very satisfactory label, for if you cannot properly define what it is you mean by "god" (or any other concept), then any further talk about "god" (of that concept) is equally undefined.

I would call my husband Ignostic.


Thanks for the info - I am too lazy to look it up myself. smile001.gif

I consider myself as a temporary agnostic in practice (TAP), which basically means that there is no evidence of a deity to confirm whether one exists or not. However, evidence MAY/POSSIBLY pop up in the future that WILL prove that there is.

As far as Christianity goes, I believe the same way as I do with other deities as my views as an agnostic (I don't want to keep on using TAP because it seems weird looking to me, lol). It took me a few years to officially choose to become agnostic due to my commitment to the Christian faith. I was a leader in a youth ministry as a teen, preached, and "led people to the Lord."

I've said things, felt things, experienced things that seemed so real; and maybe it is. But when it comes down to it in a logical and not an emotional perspective, it seems like a fairy tale. Still, it is a struggle with people that I was very close to who were committed Christians as myself, especially our youth minister who I worked closely with. I haven't talked to him directly about this change.

The healings, resurrection of Jesus, people like Elijah being taken to heaven, the commitment to theses beliefs over the few thousand years or so seems to originate from people who have Schizophrenia and other mental illnesses who make people experience hallucinations and delusions (from how society sees them). People don't talk about this at all; if people today have mental illnesses that influences them to have these hallucinations and delusions, then it very likely happened in the past, especially with it not being treated by psychotropic meds as it is today.

Working at a crisis hotline, people have literally told us bluntly that they are God or Jesus. But who knows? Maybe some of these people, or all, are seeing/believing things that are real but in some parallel universe which may be likely due to string theory and the many words interpretation (let's not get into that right now, lol. A good post for later).

In the end, love people, don't judge them, respect people and their perspectives. Because when it comes down to it, everything is a matter of perspective. That's what I have to say for now. smile001.gif

RYSR10 Level 6 Jan 20, 2018

"I consider myself as a temporary agnostic in practice (TAP), which basically means that there is no evidence of a deity to confirm whether one exists or not. However, evidence MAY/POSSIBLY pop up in the future that WILL prove that there is."

If it helps any, this is what is commonly referred to as "soft or weak agnosticism"

"Weak agnosticism (also called "soft", "open", "empirical", or "temporal agnosticism" ) The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. A weak agnostic would say, "I don't know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, if there is evidence, we can find something out."[31][32][33] Apathetic agnosticism"



@TheMiddleWay That's great info - I think empirical agnosticism is what I would like to refer myself as. Thanks. smile001.gif


Nice. I like it.

Sarahroo29 Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Thank you for this! I hate labels, as well....but I relate most to agnostic, as you have described it above. There have been a few times on this site that I have considered never coming back, mainly from the aggressive "education" attempts from a few extremist, self-labeled atheists. No one has the right to define who I am, except for me. Labels are just words, that are a tool to help describe a viewpoint. But those words can be arbitrary if they're not flexible enough to include everyone's interpretation. If someone wants to dig their heels in over their own interpretation, then they and I are not communicating. If they insist that I am wrong, and they are right, conversation is over. Sometimes that's for the best! Ha.

Tenacious Level 5 Jan 21, 2018

yes, you totally get it smile001.gif



Thank you for your input.
You did a fantastic job of differentiating between the two and expanding our knowledge of the two.

Kojaksmom Level 6 Jan 21, 2018

Thank you for reading through and listening to my viewpoint smile001.gif


For me it's the "strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods" that I don't really possess at the moment and because of that I can't really call myself an Atheist.

Also, I've come to realize that there are a lot more people using "atheist" as an umbrella term for everyone who "isn't a theist"; this is kind of like how someone can be a Christian theist, but someone else can believe there is a God but no frills attached and is thereby a "Theist" in a more specific sense. It used to be that this general "not an umbrella theist" was referred to by the "nontheist" label, but has increasingly just been getting referred to by "atheist". Just another shift in language that makes things more confusing—I don't mind either way so long as the individual is clear and specific with their usage.

Rhetoric Level 5 Jan 21, 2018

Indeed. I agree with you completely. I'm not so caught up in the terms. I find most people who call them atheists basically hold the same position as I do. And, I'm OK with that, but I don't find it as good of a fit for me when I define myself.

I think for me personally, it's the disbelief connotation of "atheist" which keeps me from self-identifying as such, whereas "non-theist" lacks such a connotation. I would be okay with "non-theist," but "agnostic" is a much better fit.


Thanks for the rant.

I self-identify as an atheist. I marmalise anybody who (cherry) picks a dictionary definition to tell me what I am. I get sick and tired of people who fail to understand the limitations that are inherent in all dictionary definitions.

When asked to explain myself, I trot out this tired old war horse: "Nobody has ever produced any falsifiable evidence to support the existence claim of any god. Oh, and it is trivial to prove that both the god of the Torah and the god of the Bible cannot exist.".

irascible Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Thanks for reading my rant smile001.gif Yes, definitions are very limited in scope. Yeah, the burden of proof is on the belief. Make a claim, back it up. That's how it should be!


while I would like to agree I don't. we use words to define what we are talking about, if everyone had a different meaning of the words we use, nobody could get any point across. or know what the other person was talking about. I agree it should be talked about and not seen as a fight, or us against them. the stigma and propaganda is why I bring up this topic, or remark on post that do, I am forever told that atheist are this and that, and rarely is it true. the theist have lied about atheist for so long, that we have people avoiding the term , because they may be viewed some way , that makes them look bad, this is all part of the theist intent, to pit even nonbelievers against one another. what better forum to clear up this theist mess, than a site without those trolls on it? to undue some of this stigma and set the record straight. this idea that seams to come across from those that avoid the term atheist, is its some unwavering position. I can tell you if some evidence shows up for a god existing, I would examine it and decide from there. though I am inclined to think like michael shermer on this, and his explanation of why gods are man made.

MichaelSpinler Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Yes, we use words to define what we are talking about. But, you say "I am forever told that atheist are this and that, and rarely is it true." Have you ever considered that your version of atheist is just different than theirs? How do you know your definition is the true one? What can you compare it to?

People rarely agree on the definition and what it means to them. So, the label matters less than getting to know and understand the individual. (Which seems to even be some of your sentiment). Let's not get caught up in labels- rather the understanding of what that label means to the person who is using it.

how do I know? by talking with other atheist, as I have for the last 20 plus years, this is far from my first site with non believers talking about this very topic. typically its some agnostics, and theist, that have a problem with the way atheist define their lack of belief, and wish to add to the meaning. I have seen certian dictionaries, define it as a denial of gods. which is wrong, there is no god to deny. dawkins scale of atheism, is a good place to go. or ask atheist, how they define it. we are not stating there are no gods, we are not in a fixed position of non belief, seams some act like its a place you can never return from, every atheist I know would change there position if evidence was presented that meets there satisfaction on empirical evidence. . trying to stop a topic like this will never happen, it would be like asking this site to not keep talking about jesus and the bible. I just skip the repeats unless there is something that catches my eye. I don't try to control what people talk about.


@MichaelSpinler this is complete confirmation bias, though. See, if you're defining it based on talking to other atheists for many years... well, not all atheists define themselves the same way. So, you can't cherry pick which is the true definition. The problem with dictionaries is that like the one I put above, some do state it as a complete disbelief, whilst others do not. There is no consensus.

That is why I don't believe there is a true and untrue in this situation.

More so, that people have to talk it out and see what the word means to the person using it. So, in this case, I don't believe your definition is wrong, but I don't believe it is the only definition and it can't be corroborated as more correct than the alternative. As a person who claims to rely on evidence, I would think you would differentiate that this is only your interpretation that is supported by some sources and not by others. It's about open-mindness rather than rigidity.

I know this topic can't be entirely stopped, but I'm making a point that regardless of semantics, we're on the same side of the fence. And, often, those who believe just as I do-- call themselves something different and I'm OK with that. This is a letter of inclusion of ideas, regardless of whether or not the definitions fit for me the way they fit for you.

its not confirming any bias, its understanding that we live in a theistic world, and those people write definitions that are bias, and uninformed, words evolve, and the early atheist are not the same as modern day atheist, or the same as the atheist communist. so when you want to find out what a word means to an group of people that use it to define themselves, you talk to the people in that group, you don't just open a dictionary written by theist, and go with there uninformed bias view of this word. to ignore the fact atheist are demonized and misrepresented, is just playing into their hands. most of us are on the same side, we do have agnostics that are on here that still believe in gods and deities. you won't find that with atheist. . words evolve, just like the term universe, that used to mean all that there is, now with multiverse, it only means this hubble expanse. this is why its important to talk about things until everyone is done, not to try to limit or stop the conversation. I understand your want to all get along, that will never happen, there will always be that guy, or gal, that throws a wrench into the mix. further by your statement you already understand people use words in different ways and don't agree on dictionary definitions, which is all the more reason to further the discussion, not silence it.

I have not met any agnostics that believe in god. The definition of agnostic includes nothing about believing in god. No definition I have ever seen does.

And, I'm not saying that we need to silence it and that we can't have a conversation-- but that can't be had when someone treats their opinion like a fact. Or their viewpoint as superior. Which, is precisely what you are doing. It's riddled with assumptions ( i.e. dictionary definitions are wrong because theists wrote them-- where are you getting this from??? it is an assumption that may or may not be true) and biases and superior talking based on your experience viewpoint, and belief. This is not a conversation- it is not a debate packed with supporting facts. It's an opinion that does not acknowledge other points of view. To assume that you are the teacher and the other person is the learner, that kills the discussion and the process of two-way learning and understanding.

agnostic only means god is not knowable, or they lack any knowledge that gods exist. there are agnostic theist on this very site, I can't believe you have not seen them I wish I knew all there names , I would point you at them, I have run into many over the years. . as far as my assertion about who writes the dictionaries, all we need look at is the position of the people who write these books. when I read a definition that states, that atheist state there are no gods, or that we deny gods, its not much research needed, to determine that these are misinformed people, with a bias, that a god exist, and we do not choose to believe it. or that we are making a claim that gods don't exist, these are common themes with creationist and god believers. agreed not all opinions are fact, yet some are based on fact. so you cannot just lump all opinions in the same camp. that is what a god believer does, to make it seam like all opinions are equal. I agree that not all things are equal, and that you had better be sure what you are stating is based on fact. but to pretend that some peoples opinions are not crap, and you are not justified to teach them. is another way of undermining the teacher. I don't pretend to know everything. I do know a lot when it comes to religion, atheism science, and related topics. so yes some positions are superior.


I completely understand and support your view. I have heard many people claim that atheism is more logical or scientific than agnosticism but based on your definitions and others I've seen it seems to me that atheism is as based on logical galaxy than religion because it equates absence of proof with proof of absence.
On the other hand, because of the roots it could be argued that atheism opposes the worship of something that can't be proven to exist, although that might be antitheism. Regardless, as you said it's still semantics.
As a writer I value the precision of communication but usage is where words are truly defined. I agree that labels limit all of us a well. I think taking the time to know individuals and their ideas rather than defining them as a group would not only foster greater communication here but with those who practice religion as well.

11Novelist Level 4 Jan 20, 2018

" think taking the time to know individuals and their ideas rather than defining them as a group would not only foster greater communication here but with those who practice religion as well." I must say, very well said.


I need to be enlightened. The letter 'a' used as a prefix in front of the words Gnostic & Theist Does it mean 'not' ?

Skyfacer Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

Yes. "Not", "without" or "away"

Here is a handy list of "a-" words to get a better feel for it.


True for "atheist," but not "agnostic" as the word doesn't relate directly to the Gnostics, IMO.

Thanks for the link Middle Way. It's much appreciated. And it has good definitions of the two words I asked about.



hankster Level 7 Jan 20, 2018
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