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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" ). 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 ❤


silvereyes 8 Jan 20

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Amen. This is a really good post.

Admin Level 9 Jan 20, 2018

Or Agal

thank you kindly, @Admin (blush) 🙂

@Leutrelle, what?

And R'amen to you!

@Admin Glad you can see that. Most people can't, even though it's very obvious. Atheists and agnostics for some reason can't seem to wrap their heads around it. It's the fourth stand, the stand of theological noncognitivism, which is neither theism, atheism, nor agnosticism. Since "God" cannot be used meaningfully in a sentence, it cannot refer to anything, not even to a deity. Theists, atheists and agnostics all three wrongly assume that "God" and "Allah" are meaningful words.

Not quite sure how your using the term Amen.
Are you using it like a pat on the back, an "I agree" sentiment?

“AMEN: In Egyptian Mythology, the mighty one (god) of life and procreation …later identified with the Sun-god as the supreme deity of Egypt, and was called “Amen-Ra.”

How do believers deceive themselves into thinking adding a "So Be it"(Amen) to the end of prayers will advance their case?
Do they not understand the nature and definition of the very God they claim to be serving?
In the Faith God's will is sacrosanct, all things fall in line with it, and we feeble humans do not understand why.
IF your prayer is in line with God's will, it will be fulfilled, and if it is not, God said No.
Further, if you pray at all, for anything other than Thanks, how are you not being a child crying "Are we There Yet?" in the back seat to a God you believe is eternal, timeless and ever present?
IT would know better than you exactly what you needed all the time before you do, like pestering your mother for dinner while she is cooking.

What truly fails about this Model for God is that it makes God responsible for everything, every crime, every natural disaster, every disease victim, EVERYTHING.
Because a being defined in such a way would have foreseen EVERYTHING before anything began and CHOSE that, and then watches it ALL, like reality TV through ever presence, literally watching every rape and murder, every genocide, every fire which claims victims, every disaster, every disease victim, every victim of starvation
Having the power to save each and every one with a word
and doing NOTHING.

It convicts your idea of God of a level of depravity we can scarcely conceive, to watch the Holocaust and take no action, through all time . . .

So how are you using that term, Amen? like "Amen brother, I agree?" (where it means in the Christian Dogma "so be it"?)
In that case what is it you want to be?
"Seriously, call yourself whatever you want, friends."--Silvereyes

Labels serve a purpose in communication, if you use the term one way and I in another, and we ASSUME we are using the term in the same manner we will miscommnicate.
THAT is why this always comes up, because we must achieve a meeting of minds on how terms are being used to have an intelligent discourse.

RAmen, may his noodley apendages embrace you.

@Davesnothere If they could realize that their belief is a mishmash of fairy stories from previous religions, they would be free.

Thank you.


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.

@silvereyes []

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

I would love to talk to an agnostic theist. I can't understand the notion of not knowing and yet believing.

@cmadler You said "Agnostic is about knowledge, atheist is about belief". No. They are BOTH about BELIEF. They both require the belief that "God" or "Allah" is a meaningful word. See my post above: "Unless you can show that "God" is a meaningful word, you can't use it meaningfully in a sentence either to say "God exists", "God doesn't exist" or "God may or may not exist".

@EdwinMcCravy I don't understand your argument. The term "God", capitalized and with no descriptors, is commonly understood to mean the Abrahamic god.

@cmadler I don't know how to even suspect in the least, let alone believe, that there is any possible mental image of anything to call "the Abrahamic god". I contend that if I can only speak or write the sequence of 3 words "the Abrahamic god", but cannot conjure up in my head any possible image of anything that sequence of words could stand for, then I cannot know of anything I could be talking or writing about when I speak or write that sequence. If you claim to be able to have a mental imagine anything that "the Abrahamic god" could refer to, then please describe the mental image to me so that I may be able to have it too. Without a mental image for some row of alphabet letters to refer to, all I can know of is the row of alphabet letters.

@EdwinMcCravy There are plenty of non-physical concepts for which no mental image (or no accurate mental image) exists. What is your mental image for "infinity"? What about "imaginary"? What about "vacuum" (as in an absence of physical material)? What about "noun"? For that matter, what about "mental image"?

@cmadler You ask "what is my mental image for 'infinity'?  Let's analyze the term.  The prefix "in-" on infinity means "not". the "fin" is like the "fin" of "finish".  "Infinity" means "something that is never finished, or 'all there'.  So "infinity" is meaningless because it means "all of what is never all there".  Yes, "infinity" is meaningless.  Contrary to popular belief, mathematicians never speak "of infinity".  We only say "as x approaches infinity", which only means "as the quantity x grow larger and larger".  We don't define 1÷ 0 "one divided by zero".   

You want to talk about our awareness of bodily activities as if they are not something physical.  But they all are.  We all agree that we imagine things.  Scientists have discovered that  neurons in our brains behave a certain way, and when they do, we can detect the results of their activity, and label our experience "imagining".  

Don't you imagine things?  Of course you do.  Everybody does.   What about "imaginary"?  That's a word we use for things we can imagine in our heads.  I can close my eyes and imagine unicorns and mermaids galore.  You can too.  So you know very well what I'm talking about.  Can you describe feeling pain?  No, but you know when you feel pain.  Everybody knows about having pain.  When we say "we have pain", our nerves are behaving a certain way that makes us feel uncomfortable.  It's an activity going on within our body that we are detecting.  

But I have no idea what you are claiming to imagine when you claim to imagine something for the row of words "God, the infinite incorporeal spirit that created the universe".  So I don't how to believe that you are imagining anything for that row of words to mean.  It looks to me like you're just speaking them or writing them and believing (on faith, what else?) that they refer to something.  

What about "vacuum"?   We just use the word "vacuum" to speak of something that does not contain any air or gas.. What about nouns?  Those are words in a language that stand for things.  Nouns are part of a language that humans have invented. A mental image is what we say we have when our neurons behave a certain way,  A neuroscientist can tell you about how they behave (move around and vibrate).  

@traceyanarchist that was all over the place. I am not sure what kind of emphasis you tried to give in the use of uppercase letters, but the idea is very wacky. Knowledge is, traditionally, a subset of belief. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance, and the opposite of belief is... well, disbelief or negation. Let me give you a fairly simple example of what I mean:

John did not count the number of words in his dictionary. However, he believes the number of words is even. Robert claims to have received revelation from his god, Lexicon, and believes the number is odd.

I can accept the fact that both John and Robert believe what they claim to believe. I understand why Robert thinks he is justified in holding his belief, though I'd disagree with him on that. But I do not understand how John can jump from not having any justification to believing something. It is not that complicated.

p.s.: just to make sure I am not saying BS, I made a quick stop at Wikipedia: "Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty.". Even the Venn diagram shows knowledge as a subset of belief.

@cmadler "Non-physical concept?" I don't know what that means. Please educate me. Maybe give me some examples of whatever you think "non-physical concept" means.

@traceyanarchist so Wikipedia is wrong because you say so. Wonderful. I'm glad I have up on this site

@hlfsousa I'd categorize my mother as an agnostic theist. She believes there is a god, but is also convinced that all the religions are wrong and that humans are unlikely to ever know the true nature of god. shrug Worked out for me, never had to go to church growing up and she knows and accepts that i'm a full atheist.


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 9 Jan 20, 2018

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 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.

@TheMiddleWay Are you talking about gods like Zeus and Thor? They are finite material things (superhumans) that ancient people imagined to exist. They drew pictures and made statues of them that are still around today. These gods didn't exist, but the labeled "Zeus" and "Thor" referred to these imaginable material things. Such things are called "gods" with a small "g". Nobody today believes they exist.

I find myself unable to believe that "God" with a capital "G" or "Allah" with a capital "A" refers to a god or to anything at all. If you believe it does, why do you?


Get out of my head! Point well stated, and exactly!!! 😉

"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.


@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.

I've recently come to the conclusion that it all boils down to believing if disembodied souls can exist (spirits, ghosts, gods, etc.). Since I can't come even close to explaining how a disembodied soul could exist (What is it made of?), they are an impossibility, and thus I don't believe they exist. Because of the non-existence of disembodied souls, there is no life after death; no spirit warehouses such as heaven, hell, or purgatory; and no reincarnation. Also, since gods are disembodied souls (with special powers, of course), I don't believe they exist, too.

Got a label for my belief system?


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 8 Jan 20, 2018

Well put.

@WizardBill True. Unknown. But, the concept has no basis in fact. Just a concept. Same as warp drive. An idea until someone proves it's either possible or impossible.


"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.

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


Like you, I don't care for labels. All I can definitively say is, for me, there are no gods, period. So, call me what you will, I honestly do not care.

Gods and religions are, in my opinion, derivatives of man's early efforts to explain the unexplainable; which somehow devolved into mechanisms for controlling the less powerful in society and taking advantage of those susceptible to the comfort of belief.

It is beyond my ken that one could look at the universe, and with even the slightest understanding of what we know, evidentially, about it, could firmly enjoin the notion that it was spawned from nothing but the mind of something or some "one" of whom we are not even able to conceive, if you accept the theistic viewpoint. Sounds like pure fantasy to me.

Sorry, but one good rant sometimes begets another rant.


You are on a journey. One that I took. Eventually, I "believe" you will end up a Humanist.
I could define that word, for our reasons, as we are all humans. Some have beliefs in supernatural beings and others doubt we can know.
Agnosticism is the preferred philosophic position, but I find Humanism the friendliest. Once again, we are all humans.


Anyone have a problem with this? Has been useful for me, especially in debates/discussions...

That is a great chart and sums it up nicely.

Can't agree with that chart. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who claim 100% certainty about God one way or the other. And then there are honest people.
Additionally, from a Believer's point of view, this chart denies the existence of faith. Where there is 100% certainty there is no need for faith. One does not have faith that one plus one equals two.

@Heraclitus sounds like you are oversimplifying.
Nothing wrong with choosing to specify if you are an agnostic atheist vs a agnostic theist. And while I don't agree with gnostics and both may be irrational stances there are certainly some major differences between gnostic theists and gnostic atheists, I would only lump them together in the category of claiming to know something for sure that they don't.
Referring to the latter half of your statement:
"Certain in/of their faith" then(or at least they say)

@ClaytonE83 Yes, I can agree with what you say, just not with the oversimplication of that chart. 🙂


Theists are wrong for saying "God exists". Atheists are wrong for saying "God does not exist". Agnostics are wrong for saying "God may or may not exist". Theological noncognitivists are RIGHT for saying "'God' is meaningless".

Agreed. Except the label is not very convenient haha. Easier to say atheist and then if people ask why, you talk about how god doesn't have a proper referand and therefore doesn't make sense etc...

@silvereyes It's not lower case "god" that's meaningless. It's upper case "God" that's meaningless. "Zeus" is not meaningless for Zeus was an imaginary god.

@Manestor The word "god" with a small "g: is NOT meaningless. "Zeus" is not meaningless. Zeus was an imaginary god. "Zeus" is like "unicorn", a meaningful word for something nonexistent. It's the word "God" with capital "G" that's meaningless. Why do atheists want to write the meaningful word "god" for the meaningless word "God"? I showed you that the word "creator" can only be learned in terms of the already existing universe. Therefore "Creator of the universe" is meaningless. Thus "God" is meaningless but "god" is meaningful.

"Thus "God" is meaningless" Only if everyone stops talking about him/her

Yes, I learned a long time ago that a room of people can all proclaim a belief in God and yet everyone in that room believes in a somewhat different God, even if everyone in that room claims to believe in the Christian God. But, to admit this is to concede that every believer is, in effect, their own religion.

@Heraclitus You claim "a room of people can all proclaim a belief in God and yet everyone in that room believes in a somewhat different God". Does each say "My God created the universe"? Or do some say "My God did not create the universe"? I claim that if they all said "My God created the universe", then they're all speaking nonsense instead of referring to a concept of anything they could be imagining. If you are able to have a mental concept of anything any of them in the room could be talking about, then please describe that mental concept you claim to be able to have, so I will be able to have that mental concept too. As it is, I am unable to believe that "creator of the universe" can mean anything, since the word "creator" can only be defined in terms of an already existing universe.

@Manestor Why do you misspell the meaningless sound that theists mouth, "God" or "Allah", as "god" with a little "g"? The word "god" with a little "g" is meaningful, but the row of letters "God" with a capital "G" is meaningless. I guess it's because you hold a believe that I am unable to hold -- that theists have coherently defined the row of letters "God" to refer to a god. Why do you believe that?

@Mcflewster People speaking and writing a meaningless sound does not cause the sound to be meaningful.


These are words that make no much sense.

For example, Jesus Christ is the hero of the New Testament, where he is described in great detail. While we know little about the historical Jesus, the New Testament Jesus, we know a lot.
We also know that this book with this character has defined the last 2,000 years of our history.

This is enough to make sense to comment, explore, and criticize this hero, who is God for millions of people today.


Words are shadows. Ideas are light.

I focus on the one that helps me see.

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 😉

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


It's really quite simple. Gnostic and agnostic refer to knowledge. Atheist and theist refer to belief. The two terms neither contradict nor mutually exclude each other.


That is why I define myself as an agnostic atheist, but mostly call myself an atheist when soaking to others.


I watch The Atheist Experience on a regular basis (it was the show that educated me to understand that I was, in fact, an atheist.... and that the label atheist wasn't a scary horrible thing!).

I like the way Matt Dillahunty from that program explains it, and it helped me understand this clearly:

atheism/theism is about BELIEF
agnosicism/gnosticism is about KNOWLEDGE

And he also goes on to explain that knowledge is a subset of belief - that is, knowledge is when you believe to a degree of certainty that it becomes knowledge. Hence, agnosticism is a subset of atheism. Some atheists simply withhold their belief because they haven't been presented with evidence to support the claim that there is a god... and those who are anti-theists, or gnostic theists go one step further and say they believe to the point that they know there are no gods.

This is what I found very helpful in my understanding, and it's how I describe it to others when we talk about this topic.


I really enjoyed your post. I have bit of a different take on it, though. Let me know if you have thoughts.
I'm not particular on what someone calls themselves, I know atheist has negative connotations associated with it and I can see why people avoid it. However, I think the confusion is that theism and gnosticism address two separate prongs of the question and that's what is getting mixed together.
Theism is a belief in god/s. Atheism is lack of belief in god/s.
Gnosticism is a claim of knowledge about something. Agnosticism is claim of lack of knowledge of something.
Essentially one is dealing with belief, and the other is dealing with claiming knowledge. You can believe there is god/s and claim to know for sure. You can also believe in god/s and claim not to know for sure. You can disbelieve and claim to know for sure, or disbelieve and claim not to know. They are separate questions.
The confusion is that both positions are binary. As you state you don't believe in any god/s. Then you say you don't disbelieve. These are contradictory statements. You can say you hold no belief either way, but that in fact makes you an atheist because you have to have a belief to be a theist. And if you are not a theist, you are by definition an atheist. Now if you want to call yourself something else, that is perfectly fine. None the less, unless you believe it, you are not a theist.
Same goes for gnosticism. You either claim to know or you don't. If you don't claim to know you can't then say but I don't claim not to know. You either do your you don't.
The difficulty, and where I feel this is important, is that claims of existence are by their nature unfalsifiable. Take the statement "fairies exist." Now you cannot prove that fairies don't exist anywhere in the Cosmos. However, currently we don't have any good evidence that they do exist. At some point we might have proof they exist, but we will never be able to prove that they don't or cannot exist. Now the question is do you believe they exist? I'm guessing you don't.
It's the same proposition for god/s, dragons, unicorns, people, gravity, and anything else you can claim exists. The difference is we have proof of things like people and gravity existing and no good proof for god/s, dragons, or unicorns.
This is why I think god claims are ridiculous, because we can make anything up and claim it exists and nobody will ever be able to falsify that claim. But just because you can't disprove something doesn't add an ounce of truth to the claim.
Why it's important to understand the difference is that people act on their beliefs based on what they claim to know. And this is how people can justify burning witches; racism; slavery; and a lot of other horrible things based on unsubstantiated beliefs.
What I don't like about the term agnostic has nothing to do with those who call themselves that, but how it gets used against those who don't believe. Because it's how religions use the term to make the claim that belief and disbelief are on equal footing because you don't know for sure either way. When in fact they;re not. Religions are making claims to know god/s and what they want us to do, and what will happen to us if they don't, as where atheists are just saying "I don't believe you." Atheists aren't making the claim so they don't have burden to prove it false. Theist are responsible for proving their claim is true, otherwise how do we know they didn't just make it up. However, if you're a theist who doesn't claim to know for sure if there is a god/s and what they may or may not want or do and generally have a live and let live policy for others then I don't have a problem with you. I just think you believe for bad reasons.
I think the confusion here is that atheism gets branded as if we are claiming there are no god/s, when that is not the case for most atheists. And for those that claim that, that is something they would have to prove, and you can't definitively prove a negative.
Thanks again for the post, it was very thought provoking.

Tyrel77's: >>Theism is a belief in god/s. Atheism is lack of belief in god/s.<< What god/s do you believe Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews and Muslims have DEFINED that they believe in? If they haven't DEFINED a god, then they don't really have a god to believe in, so they can't be believing in a god. They only BELIEVE THAT THEY BELIEVE in a god.

@EdwinMcCravy I agree, I've never gotten a sensible definition of a god. But they believe none the less. I know, it doesn't make sense to me.


A convert 🙂

Thomas Henry Huxley grandsons include Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World and Doors of Perception) and his brother Julian Huxley (an evolutionist, and the first director of UNESCO), and Nobel laureate physiologist Andrew Huxley.

It is appropiate the god in the Brave New World was Henry Ford.

This was too nice to be a rant IMHO, more like an overture or something of that sort.

cava Level 7 Mar 19, 2018

I like simplicity, and it is really simple to look at the prefix and root words.

a- means without

-gnostic comes from the word gnosis, meaning knowledge.

-theism is the belief in a god or gods

Simply an agnostic knows of no gods (but might believe, given proof, or as pointed out might believe but not "KNOW" God) while an atheist believes there is(are) no god(s). That lines up with the definition that Webster so kindly published.


Actuaslly a theist would believe and an Atheist would lack that belief (a prefix)
No one has any need to DISBELIEVE in something fantastic and unproven but claimed (say the millenium falcon in your backyard) IF you believe that You believe, if I do not, that is not my DIS belief but my failure to be convinced in the first place.
When it com,es to God I find no way to disbelieve it IN FACT, as I find such poor and incomplete definitions that I cannot build a proper model to either believe or not.


I agree fully. In my late 20s, 1974, I was in Bible College and later a minister. I found the same thing regarding the terms. I have been an agnostic since my early 50s. I went from a right wing bible fundamentalist to a spiritual theist to an agnostic liberal over about 27 years. What a trip. And without drugs.


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


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.

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.

@bingst What are you agnostic about the existence of? I ask that because I don't know how to have any concept of anything that theists label "God" to be agnostic about the existence of, so please explain what you're agnostic about. Thank you..

@EdwinMcCravy The nature of ultimate reality, per Webster's definition. It helps to stop thinking within the Judeo-Christian framework.

@bingst "The nature of ultimate reality"? I see those words there "the nature of ultimate reality" but for the life of me, I'm not able to conjure up any thought of anything in my head fror "the nature of ultimate reality" that I know of any reason to believe that any Christians, Jews or Muslims would label "God". If you are able to conjure up such in your head, please describe it for me. Then I will be able to conjure up a concept in my brain for it to mean like you say you are able to have in your brain..

@EdwinMcCravy You make it sound as though I'm talking about a god that I believe in. I am not. The whole point of agnosticism is that the nature of ultime reality is unknown, and you want me to describe it?

I can give you an example. There's been a lot of talk lately that we're actually living in a simulation. One could describe what might be outside the simulation as ultimate reality. But what is its nature? Is it a god? Is it... another level of simulation? Or what? Who knows?

@bingst You said "You make it sound as though I'm talking about a god that I believe in." No, no. You sound like you're talking about a god that you DON'T believe in." Are you able to imagine any god that you DON'T believe in? I claim you aren't able to. So why do you believe you disbelieve in a god if you can't think of any god to disbelieve in. I'm not an atheist because I don't believe Christians have defined any god for me to not believe in. As I have said before, Christians do not believe in a god. They just believe that they believe in a god. They can't be believing in a god because they haven't defined one to believe in. So they don't believe in a god. They just think they do.

@Rhetoric: You say "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. Why do you believe that Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in a god? I know they THINK they do, and they SAY they do. But what god have they defined? They haven't defined a god to believe in. They just think they have. But they haven't. They say "God is the creator of the universe", but that can't possibly mean anything. Why believe it means something? I don't because I don't know how to. How are you able to?


I frequently state, "In my experience," "based on my life choices and experiences, I, personally feel," etc. I try, always, to let it be known what I am saying is My Own personal belief, and/or why this or that or the other thing Is or Isn't imporant to me. I even try to reveal Personal information, information I do not like to share, not because I am secretive, but because I am Private, yet even still, I reveal personal life experiences here In Order to show Why I feel And believe as I do. Yet I am told, frequently, that I am dictating to someone else what "This title" or "that title" means to Them. No. I am not. Like you, I care to an extent how one chooses to address themselves, but so long as they do not try to title me against my own will, I will do neither to them. I Do Say I feel certain ways, but I also say I am open to Changing those opinions, that I have met such a variety of atheists in my time here that I Am changing my point of view in Certain aspects, but that those things still have yet to alter what I have Already experienced. Even still, I continued to get crap for My opinion. Mine and mine alone. I was tagged in other peoples "Additions" regularly. I thought I made myself crystal clear when I expressed how I felt, why I felt that way, gave Personal, Private life examples to support my claims, I left it Open that I could be mistaken, that I Am in flux, that I Am learning, yet still... it was as though a few people in particular were picking and choosing what to see and it was not a complete picture of my approach in the slightest. I tried to be gracious. To be kind. Yet here I am again and again being linked in to this or that. I tried to walk away. I was pulled back. There are even Specific Individuals that took to contacting me in private regarding this matter and to critsize and needle me regarding TheMiddleWay and myself.

Although I can see both sides, and even I, personally, have been... stressed out and frustrated over this entire thread to the point that I Almost didn't even come to read this. Last night when I said "Stick a Fork in me I'm Done!" I sooo meant it. haha! However, I have a Deep and abiding Respect for you Silver. I have followed your posts long enough, quietly in the background and the shadows, the way I do my observing hee hee hee, to have a decent enough understanding of your person. For Those reasons and those reasons Alone, I came here. I have varying levels of respect for everyone here. Some go up and up and up in calibur, while others can go down to the point of indifference in my world. And in that indifferene, I stop caring What titles they use to represent themselves with because in my mind, they are a non-issue in my life. However, the people I Do respect, they are the ones whom I Do look to and I look at the titles they use to represent themselves with because, frankly, in the beginning, thats all I've got. So to me, as with TheMiddleWay, those things Do count. They don't count for me in All cases, as I stated above, if someone isn't to a point of having built a relationship with me already, and we merely circle one another in loose circles, then call yourself whatever you want. It is When I begin to become personally invested in someone around here because of mutual respect and of admiration. It is in those times that I express my Viewpoints, my beliefs, if you will. For example, Frequently I am referred to, just flat out as "atheist." Like intros, first time emails here, "So how does an Atheist like you enjoy this site?" I then restate, "Hello! Its a great site! However, I am an Agnostic, not an Atheist. 🙂" Many times, the Same mistake is made by the Same person... later down the road, "Is it tough being an Atheist in your town of god?" How difficult is it to Remember I am an Agnostic after I went over it with you In Private about Why it mattered So Much To Me to be referred to as Agnostic. I even choose to Explain myself to this person, in detail, so they would understand my reasoning for feeling as I did. It is a Common misconception for Other Atheists to simply Assume I am an Atheist too. And even after the fact and I explain I am Agnostic and I go over it time and again, how the hell is it that hard, if you Truly respect me and my views, to Remember I am an Agnostic?

It feels to me, as though, unless you are on this side of the fence, which You, Too, are on now Silver, it isn't that easy to sympathize with, and rather, it Annoys some people. And sure, TheMiddleWay can seem assertive in his approach when it isn't so. He is misunderstood. It is passion for understanding and for the exchange of knowledge, healthy discourse, and for Mutual Respect among us. He isn't passive because these things Matter to him. Rather than see it as a flaw, a negative, why can't you see it for what it Really is: Passion. And also because he's been on this side of things. The Same side I am on and have been for many, many years.

I must admit, even I myself wouldn't have made a fuss. I would have allowed others to continue mislabeling me, probably, but when I saw how TMW defended it, spoke up about how it matters that it was misrepresenation, I knew I had always felt the same and if someone else was willing to bring it up, it would make me a coward, a chickenshit, to not support that Very speech Because I Agree with him. 100%, I do.

I want the same things too. I want us to be able to discuss things, civilly, without it degressing next time as it did this time. Even I need to keep my cool, but what you didn't see were the things outside of, the private things I was also receiving. Those things only served to make me more flustered. I think it went to far and it began as such a benign inquiry. It exploded into something much more volatile than need be.

In the end, I want to have True, meaningful friendships here. So many of you, I Absolutely Adore and Admire AND RESPECT, which means So Much to me. I want us to have peaeful disagreements, not insultfests. There must be a way we can Still discuss things, deep, profound topics, topics we won't Always see eye to eye on, but nonetheless, it will come to pass, and we Must be capable of exercising self respect and self control. All of us, myself included.

And in closing, please, Do Try to be mindful of those of us who Are Agnostics. We Are here. We are asking for no more than you Already have, Atheists. We are merely asking to be respected for our beliefs, Equally. Remember we Are Agnostics and Not Atheists. We Aren't the Same. And even within Those two labels, we are Soo much more varied, so much more than a name. Withing "Agnostic" there is a sea of variations to each of us who carry that title. Same of "Atheist." We are all shades, hues, colours that could exist in such a vast thing as one Macro title. Go beyond the macro and we have the micro, each of us, as individuals. We Must try to be mindful of Each of those layers, those nuances, if we are to mutually respect and care for one anothers feelings in this forum. I hope we can ALL learn tolerance and to be mindful of our actions, our Reactions most... and of our Words. Words can hurt. Words can burn. If we hurl them like weapons, we are no better than common assholes we talk shit about in our day to day lives. We become bullies when we lose respect. Let us not go down that ugly path, friends.

Sadoi Level 7 Jan 20, 2018

@silvereyes I have a sneaking suspicion you and I are probably closely aligned as our Agnostic views go. It wasn't so much that I was frustrated, well, yeah I supposed I was frustrated. lol! I am just not a fan of that much aggression, contention and disagreement in one place, at one time, by Many individuals. It was a tad overwhelming. I work hard to keep my life harmonious, streamlined, smooth... hence, I am no fan of heated tempers and heated heads, especially. Even I got so irritated and pissed off that I said some nasty things in response to consistently being drug back in After I Tried so hard to explain/express my perspective and get the heck out of dodge. It was like the gravity of that thread kept pulling my poor shuttle back in for a fresh landing and I couldn't escape. lol I did not want it to get to that point, but, even I lost my shit and went after the juggular too and that isn't how I like to go. Sure, I might be sarcastic and even a smart ass from time to time, but in reality I am a Very gentle, compassionate person and I Don't Enjoy hurting others nor insulting them. I was getting it from many angles at once though. I simply didn't reveal what was taking place outside of that thread. That only served to exasperate and already sticky topic to begin with.

Now, because I tend to agree with TMW, frequently, and I swear I am Not trying to simply agree with him, as I have been accused of doing, that seems to have an entirely different wave of bullshit associated with it. It is assumed I am "teaming up" with him, by a few, and that just isn't true. We do not sit around in a private convo some where online deciding how to "tag team" others. We weren't speaking outside of during that entire thread last night, hence, we clearly were not teaming up and plotting. I think it was basically a culmination of events occuring all at once that got under my skin. It isn't how I want things to remain though and I cannot help the fact that I do agree with TMW on a things of this nature. It isn't something planned out. It isn't me trying to kiss his ass. It isn't us plotting this out behind the scenes either, so for anyone wondering or stating those things, I can say right here and now, that isn't the case. Our approaches are different as well. TMW and I don't even have the same approach. I believe people see what they wish to see. If they wish to see it as a coup, they will. I can do nothing to alter that perception other than doing what I am in this moment: explaining things I feel I needn't, but do so for the sake of making it Clear where my head is at.

And honestly, I do agree with you on not minding as much what a person opts to refer to themselves as so long as they do not infringe upon my rights either. I dislike being told I do not understand my Own, self selected label for Myself. Most people that view this as a ridiculous point of contention are typically the ones who have No issues being mislabeled, typically an Atheist around this neck of the woods. And, like you, I am willing to simply accept labels I come across so long as my own is respected all the same.

I would always acknowledge and heed to a request you make of me because I consider you an honest, forthright, genuine person. I see you as a solid beacon at this site and you were one of the first people here that I initially took notice of. There are a small few of individuals here that I would do whatever they asked of me because of Who they are, How I perceive them based on their input and output. I am fond of you so, naturally, I would come if you made a request for my attendance, so to speak. chuckle Even if I wasn't too keen on the topic at hand, haha, I would still succumb to your request. 🙂

@silvereyes I just posted a public apology, actually, for my behaviour last night. I'm bothered by my behaviour. I'm ashamed of some of the mean things I said. It's not my nature. It was just a lot to deal with all at once and I lost control. I felt it Necessary to publicly take responsibility for what I did, what I said and to truly apologize for my actions.

I don't like where that went...

Yes, I agree about TMW. I like to practice the same philosophy of taking my own beliefs and theories apart and deeply delving into my own nature to find the real "truths" I hold to. It's a difficult process. It's also how I became an Agnostic. I,too, bounced around from atheist to Agnostic for a time there. Eventually I realize I prefer the Eastern philosophy of the middle path. This is why I tend to agree with TMW on numerous things. That's why I first clicked his name, because I adhere to belief in the middle path. It didn't just happen to me. It took decades of difficult self analysis and of painful honesty to come to this conclusion, all the while u was losing religion. There was a time I was devout. Hardcore. Pentecostal. Eventually I stopped at latter day saint, last of over a dozen churches I was baptized in while in search of the True Church. I Earned the middle path philosophy through bloodletting my... Soul, if you will. So, it is much the same for me. I continue to purge my truths, to refine them, and to try each day to become a better version of myself. It is a constant work in progress. But I find it is Well Worth It. I would want to be no other way.

And I do think you and I have some similar points of view too. I honestly do watch and study people typically before I approach them, so even though you do hear a ton From me, directly, I have been watching, and not just you, I watch Many people. Haha. And si senorita!! 😉

@silvereyes typo, "so even thought you Don't hear a ton From me, directly".

For some reason it would allow me to edit that post.


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.

Exactly Paula. My question, and I'll ask it again, is this: Why do atheists and agnostics criticize me for my DISBELIEF that "God" is a meaningful word?

@EdwinMcCravy Paula? If you're asking me, then I can't I can't explain to you what I think others are thinking... If you're asking me to do that, then you should be able to do it too and your question is pointless.

@Paul628 You and I cannot know for sure what concepts others have, but we can know for sure whether we know of any reason to believe that "God" and "Allah" are any different from the rows of alphabet letters "Ziggle", "Floof" and "Driffit", which I just made up, as far as having any meaning.

Paul628 And how can anyone possibly argue with that?

@EdwinMcCravy To me, when someone describes their god in the most common generic way I've usually heard... omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, omniscient, they might as well be describing the Easter bunny to me. I see no reason to believe in either one.

@Paul628 You're trying to "compare the incomparable". You're trying to compare the meaningLESS capitalized row of letters "God" with the very meaningFUL term "Easter Bunny". It's easy to imagine the Easter Bunny, which is what the term "Easter Bunny" refers to, but it's impossible to imagine anything that the row of three alphabet letters "God" could stand for. .

@EdwinMcCravy I'm comparing two fantasies.

@Paul628 What fantasy do you think theists refer to when they say "God"? I am unable to imagine any fantasy they are referring to when they say "God"? If you know of a fantasy labeled "God", then please, please, tell me how to have a concept of it, because I do not know how to..

@EdwinMcCravy ^^^ Go up three replies.

@Paul628 I don't know which reply is "three up", nor am I able to conjure up a concept in my head of anything, fantasy or whatever, Christians are talking about when they utter the sound or write the row of three alphabet letters "God", written with capital "G". (not with little "g", like so many atheists write instead of "God" ). Since I can't have a concept of anything labeled "God" that Christians believe in and atheists and agnostics claim to disbelieve in, I cannot be a theist, atheist or agnostic.

@EdwinMcCravy "Go up three replies" means go up to the reply I posted three replies up from there. There are arrows pointing the way ^^^ Label yourself however you want. I'm not trying to do it.

@AMGT I've called many things... Paula is a first. 😉

@Paul628 But I have a very vivid mental concept of the Easter Bunny, just as I do for Santa Claus. Therefore the terms "Easter Bunny" and "Santa Claus" are meaningful, for I have vivid mental concepts of them both. 'Meaningfulness' has nothing to do with 'existence', for we all have vivid images of mermaids and unicorns, neither of which exist. Now if you claim to have any mental concept of something nonexistent labeled "God" or "Allah", then please describe it for me so that I will be able to have it too. Thanks. But I claim that "God" and "Allah" are NOT like "mermaid" and "unicorn", which refer to the imaginable, but are like "Zipple" and "Smoofage", which I just made up, and which refer to nothing at all.

@EdwinMcCravy Describe for me the mental images you have for non-existent things like the Easter Bunny, Santa, Mermaid, or a Unicorn.

I can say with confidence that your descriptions will not be identical to mine. Similar but not identical.

Now if I describe the image I have of god I picture an old man with a white beard, white hair and white robes standing on a cloud in heaven.

Allah, I picture someone with dark skin wearing robes who looks similar to Osama Bin Laden or maybe even Jeebus.

Now you have mental images of God or Allah similar to mine but not identical.

@Paul628 You say "Describe for me the mental images you have for non-existent things like the Easter Bunny, Santa, Mermaid, or a Unicorn". The Easter Bunny is a big rabbit. Santa Claus is a big fat man in a red suit with a white beard and a pointed cap. It's easy to imagine such things. Did you see the movie "Splash"? That was a mermaid Darryl Hannah played. You can easily imagine what you saw in that picture. That was the concept of a mermaid. You are talking about finite things -- animals. They are easy to have a mental concept of. We can imagine all sorts of nonexistent animals. If I could draw on here I'd draw them for you. I can find pictures of all these things on the Internet. Is that what you want me to do? All Santas look very similar to the men we see in shopping malls at Christmas time.. All look very similar. But there is no way to have a concept of anything labeled "God, the omnipresent infinite incorporeal spirit that created the universe". You can't even make sense when you say "created the universe" because you can only define the word "created" in terms of one part of the already existing universe creating another part of the already existing universe. So when you stick the word "universe" with "create", you are constructing a row of words that sound like it refers to something but it doesn't. So don't be fooled into thinking it does. If you believe you are able to conjure up a concept in your head for "creator of the universe" to refer to, then why not explain it to me so I can have that concept too? I can easily explain the concept of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, a unicorn and a mermaid. And while you're at it, explain how the verb "create" can be defined without speaking of anything in the universe. You can't and you know you can't. So why not just admit that you can't? . .

@EdwinMcCravy "Also explain how "create" can be defined without speaking of anything in the universe. You can't and you know you can't. So why not just admit that you can't?"

I ate a big dinner and created a big shit later. (Yes I know I shit inside the universe. Give it rest already.)

Surely you have been able to imagine something similar to one of these images and can summon it up in your head from memory.
I couldn't find an image of Allah because it is considered blasphemy and I really didn't care enough to keep searching, so you'll need to use your very limited imagination.

This is the last time I'm going to respond to this circular argument since it is going nowhere and I think you're only keeping it alive because you like to quibble over meaningless bullshit.

I haven't felt the need to block anyone since I signed up here, but you could be #1.

@Paul628 "I ate a big dinner and created a big shit later. (Yes I know I shit inside the universe. Give it rest already.)"

Right, a part of the universe, YOU, created another part of the universe, the SHIT. But if you say that one part of the universe creates another part of the universe, and then you are calling a PART of the universe "THE WHOLE UNIVERSE", then you aren't making a lick of sense. So realize it. 🙂


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

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. 🙂

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

Please define the deity that you believe that Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in. Thanks.


Nice. I like it.


I don't know if this muddies the waters but I have simple definitions of both. Agnostic deals with what someone knows, Atheist deals with what someone believes. I am an Atheist because I do not beleive in God. Cheers

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