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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 athΓ©isme. 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

Enjoy being online again!

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304 comments (251 - 275)

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That is an excellent comparison. Labels are, in my world, merely footnotes to communicate general ideas. Dialog is available for clarification in any particular discourse. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Steppenwolf in the song 'Rock me': "...if all this should have a reason we would be the last to know..."


I would have to agree with your opinions here.


Are you absolutely sure this was your 1st real rant??


Well said. Let's not submit to the tyranny of the word police.(Or become the word police.)


Well, that was some rant, and I agree with you. I also do not care for labels. I call myself an atheist, because I do not believe in gods, but there is no proof one way or the other. Who knows; who cares. I like Isaac Asimov's take: "I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending."
Be well.


I didn't read it. Too long. Ancient argument. I stuck my neck out too, only to take my lumps.
Atheist--knows there's no god.
Agnostic-- doesn't know if there's a god.

The ONLY thing I ffel I know FOR SURE is, there is no hell. No "god" could be that evil.

@Doraz I thought "good" was one of the defining characteristics of "god." But you're right; to believe in "god," the definition would have to be radically revised.

@Doraz In other words, there is no evidence for a "god" and if one insists god is "good," hell or no hell, the evidence is convincing there isn't. So if one insists there IS a "god," that "god" must be "evil." Put another way, god must be a complete asshole. OR, as an alternative, "god" must be something else entirely different than which is commonly thought. No clue what that might be, which is precisely the agnostic point of view.

@Doraz That is, IF there is a "god." Still no evidence in support of such a possibility.


I've also traveled that agnostic/atheist trail, and have come this conclusion: I am a post Big Bang atheist, and a pre Big Bang agnostic. I know - we shouldn't think in terms of 'before the Big Bang since time started then, but that is my stand. We pretty well have it nailed that the universe started at the BB, but those first few microseconds after the start is still a mystery. 'Before' the BB is so out there I can't even speculate

How do YOU know time started then? Maybe it's a nevr-ending cycle.

@Storm1752 - I don't know, but the cosmologists who study and do the experiments agree that space and time were started at the BB. There was no space and time 'before' that, and the expanding universe isn't expanding into empty space, but is creating space and time as it expands.


I agree with you and without having done all that research I started calling myself an agnostic atheist. My reasoning was I don't believe in a god or gods like in religion. The agnostic part is because I like to recognize that I don't know what could be , especially when it comes to a power that is the universe , like the laws of physics and quantum mechanics there may be power but I don't believe in a personal God or a Creator God. I guess it's the word god . Its hard to leave off the connotations we grew up with like an old man sitting on a throne in judgment. So just because I believe in something like a higher power or a force in the universe I still think in terms of being an atheist because I don't believe in the gods of religion. Or a god thats separate from religion but is in control of our lives or things that happen.I'm starting to think more and more about other dimensions I do believe we know very little about what's really going on. Anyway thanks for your thoughtful and informative post.

You can "think in terms of" anyghing you wish. But you don't KNOW sh*t. Ergo: agnostic.


Nice post.
The only exception I take to the wording occurs in the following portion of a sentence:
"The difference is quite simple: atheist refers to someone who BELIEVES that there is no god (or gods)," (emphasis mine).
Because many "religionists" argue that atheism is simply another "belief system" when, in fact, it's the lack of belief. The concept of depending on demonstrable facts rather than blind faith in beliefs.
It's a minor point in semantics for us, but those dependent on "faith" use it to argue atheism is just another "faith", which is SO wrong, IMHO.
PS: I realize that the "definition you quoted actually says what I'm saying but I wanted to clarify that, at least for me, belief itself doesn't demand "facts" and so I avoid applying it to myself.

Einstein was constantly badgered and misunderstood because he used the word "god" when he never intended to claim any belief in any personal god whatsoever. His "god" was the universe and how it stood, without sentience of any kind.
Sorry I kind of rambled there. ?

You're agnostic. You just think atheist sounds cooler.


I can identify. Maybe I am an agnostic atheist. I was once a believer in the Abrahamic god but have come to realize that there is no proof of any gods and various holy books are only the writings of those who believe. The books are written by men and not supreme beings. What is a god? Having a god who is greatly concerned about my sex life is disturbing. Make this god all powerful and yet have him unable to do things is more disturbing yet. It gets much worse when I discover how the holy books were assembled and how long it took to get them in our present forms today. Belief in gods of any sort is much worse than science fiction.

Belief in there NOT being a god is just as bad. You don't know. At all. Admit it.

@Storm1752 Nobody on either side of the god argument has any proof for or against that argument. This is the basis of the entire argument. Yes, we do not know.


I'm still working with freethought tho.


A person’s opinion about religion is of little importance. Dressing up your opinion with some grand label does not change the fact that we are all abysmally ignorant about the ultimate nature of reality, including ourselves and conscious awareness itself, which is the only thing that enables this discussion.

THANK YOU. All these people yammer on about what they "believe" and "not believe" when they don't KNOW anything and are just blowing smoke. Everybody is agnostic and it doesn't MATTER what they think.


It's certainly not black and white. Like with music genres, it's all a blur, and as you point out, much of it depends on how an individual defines it for themselves. You say potato... blah!

godef Level 7 Feb 17, 2019

Phew! What a long post and a well written one. It reminds me of Voltaire's Zadig. Zadig came across two groups of people at a temple and they were almost at each other's throats with one group saying that a person should enter the temple with the right foot stepping first and the other group who argued that the left foot should be the first foot to enter the temple. Zadig resolved the matter by jumping into the temple with both feet together.

Also, the scene where Alice meets Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass, springs to mind. One of the many activities of men and women consists in slapping derogatory labels on one another, especially those with whom they disagree. It is as though by name calling they feel or imagine that they have somehow defined and confined that which they find disagreeable.

We're all agnostic. Period.


Very well written and reasoned.

I have always operated under the definitions you shared above.

I’m quite comfortable in my atheism. I’m also comfortable with the agnostics uncertainty and the faith of the religious. To each their own.


@silvereyes. Is it not true that this flame up between agnostics and atheists has mostly subsided on this site, compared to the first months of the operation of the site? Seems to me that the two "sides" have accepted that while differences exists, sometimes irreconcilable differences of opinion, that amongst the coalition of the non-religious, we are all ultimately on the same side?



Nice text, I agree.
Strong atheism believe in the non existence due to lack of evidences.

Weak atheism is a refusal to believe, just working and taking decisions based on data and facts.

I am using this terminology because on the day to day life and decisions, both will act as if there is no entity.

Go read on Ignosticism, I think is the next step after agnosticism XD

Ignorance is bliss.


How does this keep turning up as a new post, when in fact it's the Halley's Comet of the Community, the Old Faithful, the Oh No Not You Again!, Oldie but a Goodie, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the

For the record, I commented eons ago, stating my atheist credentials on it. Can't remember when, but I know I had more hair back then. πŸ™‚

You can call yourself whatever. In reality you're agnostic.


I hear you on this. I call myself an atheist to make it clear I’m a nonbeliever, and also to fight against the stigma again non believers. As if to say β€œI’m an atheist, this is what we look like.”

Marz Level 7 Feb 17, 2019

But you're not.


to me it's quite simple. i consider myself an atheist b/c i don't believe in a god that could give a shit (if gods shit) about the human race.
however, i do not disbelieve the possibility that there is a superior intelligence out there so that there could be a supreme being.


I'm agnostic, not atheist. I know the difference. Atheists, on the other hand, are actually agnostic, but don't know it.
Glad I could clear that up.


Knowing and believing are two different trains of thought, so you can be both at once.


But if you hate or disagree with The labels, why discuss? I always thought the agnostic term was a bit of a cheat, bit of a non- commit all type stance. If you can’t believe in any god, then you are automatically named an atheist.
To me the possible other theory is alien intervention from way back. The research is very defendable given the monuments left and scriptures indicating this.
As you said, it is a totally individual opinion and should be respected as such. Just joined so not sure of the format of these discussions x


Truth will alway win every discussion. I don't like to argue. Philosophy is the stepping stone to Theology so wrote a great Philosopher on taking the leap. One has to be an Atheist before he can relate his true reasons for such and the only one I ever knew who went this road was Thomas Merton who wrote 'Seven Story Mountain' . The Book of Joel Olsteen is filled with touchy feeley music and total nonsense which brings him in quite and Income. Cadaver Catholic likewise are brainwashed into the stigma of Hell and Damnation if you don't go to Confession. I believe there are only three Sacraments which are listed in the Bible like everything else to include the four Evangelists who were totally illiterate and the fact that if Jesus did exist he was definitely a Dark Skinned Mediterranean and if you want to take a trip to Israel you will be astounded as to what is where and why.
Lost Books of the Bible are being discovered every day and if we don't totally annihilate the Middle East other artifacts and scrolls could be unearthed and who the true authors really are.
Now back to your article. I quote all of the above small inadequacies because I read and investigate. I went to a Catholic College and had to fulfill a Philosophy and Theology requirement that would give me a minor in both fields of Study. My Theology Classes required us to read 'Manchild in the Promise Land', 'The Wretched of the Earth' by Franz Fannon, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Victor Frankels 'Man's Search for Meaning. We were not brainwashed in any sense of the word and most of the courses went this way which when coupled with the Philosophers left you with a field of exploration and direction that went every which way but your own decision and how to get there. I can truthfully state that I will never go back to that Bible with the Nihil Obstat that is only different from the King James version by one word. They seem to be mute about the other 5000 + other mistakes, misquotes and embellishments. There are beautiful Cathedrals in Europe that are mind blowing works of Architecture, Art and History.Thats where you will find me when I am abroad. Has it changed my view on Religion. Only when I am using if for Historical Exploration. Martin Luther was a phenomenal person who changed the course of Religion with the Reformation. It was only possible through the invention of the Printing Press and other followers who felt exactly the same way that he did and he even went before a Board and defended what he believe was correct. Lots of Blood were shed on those pages.
As far as definitions, semantics and accusation to make a stand I will conclude with one of your closing remarks and tell them to 'Fuck Off' My four biggest areas of contest relate around four very specific groups whom I believe are the greatest threat to our existence. Doctors, Lawyers, Priests and Politicians. I think I could bring to the that query of 'Are you a Liberal or a Conservative' The other is as bad as being a R or D to which I politely inform them that I am a registered Independent and have been all of my life and will remain so.
Does the 'Big Bang' Theory fit into any of the classifications re Atheist vs Agnostic. I would use that mantel as a safe haven from having to make any discussions
Great Article which I hope this response will find my feelings as I wanted to share.

Truth will always win every discussion.
I am a registered Independent and have been all of my life and will remain so.

@Nevermind345, I like these two positions of yours a lot πŸ™‚


I have to agree with you on this, interpretation is on each one of us. I actually ran into a profile on another dating site where the woman said atheist only, no agnostics. At least atheist are willing to commit to an idea.

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