35 4

When to switch primarily identifying as an Agnostic to Atheist?

At what point should a person make their main identifier (regarding the God question at least) be Atheist instead of simply Agnostic?

I'm contemplating the switch myself, but from my background, it would be a pretty substantial one for me to make. So I'd love to hear other peoples' thoughts.

Rhetoric 7 Sep 3

Enjoy being online again!

Welcome to the community of good people who base their values on evidence and appreciate civil discourse - the social network you will enjoy.

Create your free account


Feel free to reply to any comment by clicking the "Reply" button.


Do you believe there is a god?
No -> atheist
Yes -> theist
There is no in-between. Agnostic is just a statement about knowledge. You can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist.

Dietl Level 7 Sep 3, 2018



Or maybe 'Hitchen's Razor' might help you in your decision...

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"


I'm an atheist. Not because I can prove or believe absolutely that there isn't a 'God' but because I have never been presented with compelling evidence to suggest that there is one. Added to that I have never been presented with evidence strong enough for me to countenance the possibility of a 'God' being at all plausible, which means I cannot claim to be agnostic.

It would be ridiculous for everything to be completely open to acceptance without some decent level of evidence or proof. Without evidence of existence it is perfectly reasonable and right to believe that a thing does not, in fact, exist. Following this path in terms of a Creator can only sensibly lead to one defining themselves, and taking the position of, an atheist rather than an agnostic.

Bertrand Russell comes to mind...

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

Doesn't it annoy you when people believe that the lack of evidence to disprove the existence of god is on equal footing with the lack of evidence to prove its existence? A great many people seem not to understand where the burden of proof lies.

@TheMiddleWay Atheism is simply stating that I don't believe in gods. I don't feel a burden of proof because I make no claim about their existence, and I don't think I can prove what I believe or don't anyway.

@TheMiddleWay It is in no way, a claim that there is no gods. I don't believe because, I've seen no evidence that compels me to believe. The difference between believing without evidence and not believing without evidence is that it only takes one piece of incontrovertible evidence to change nonbelief to belief, while the opposite is not possible because there is no way to prove a negative.

Why do you presume to know what I believe?

@TheMiddleWay prove that bigfoot doesn't exist, or that ancient aliens didn't visit the earth, or at the very least that you can post a comment that isn't obnoxious or condescending.


I made the decision to be atheist when I was talking to an ex-boyfriend. Explaining that I could entertain the concept of god, but that I really didn’t care and didn’t see any evidence for it. If someone pressed me for a yes or no answer I would say no god.

He made the observation that a lot of people aren’t atheist because of the stigma attached to the word atheist. I thought that was a good point and decided that I was atheist.

Myah Level 6 Sep 3, 2018

It's simple

Do you believe God has a possibility to exist? Do you believe there absolutely is no god?

If the former agnostic, the latter atheist


I find both the theist and atheist positions absurd! It's beyond our purview to know whether there is or isn't a god. To take either of these positions demonstrates a preposterous lack of humility.

Gmak Level 7 Sep 3, 2018

Wrong, sorry. An atheist asserts there is not a scrap of evidence for any God, not one. Come back with evidence and we will consider it. No lack of humility involved.

I once would have agreed. However, 3 points: Once you do your homework and move from simply not seeing enough evidence for a SPECIFIC GOD OF SOME RELIGION (let's use the example of the god of the Bible), to seeing the piles of evidence that show errancies, contradictions, absurdities, fraud, corruption, etc., you can be as sure as you can be about anything else that it's B.S. Second, Atheism is not about knowing, it's about belief. Third, whether there might be some deist god(s) who are without dogma or doctrine, who don't intervene, who remain hidden, and who you could just as well call nature, but why should anyone give a hoot about that!

@David1955 I don't know why you insist on putting burden of providing evidence only on the theists and not the atheists!

@Gmak because you don't have to proof a negative. That's science. If you don't agree, please prove to me that dragons don't exist. Assuming that you are a nonbeliver in dragons.

@Rossy92 I don't like or agree with the assertion that atheism is a belief. I'm also an A-Leprechaun-ist, and that's not just a belief; there's no evidence!

@David1955 Ah. There's the rub! Belief in god can't be held to the standards of science. It's not falsifiable (testable). Also, a stance that god does not exist is also not falsifiable; it's also a matter of faith. In other words, it's a belief. Science takes no stance on issues that are not falsifiable (testable). How can it!?! It makes no sense to hold theists to the standards of science. Shame on people like Richard Dawkins who try to do so! If one abides by the standards of science in all things, the only stance one can take is agnostism.

@Gmak I make no claim about the testability or otherwise of any God. You make a lot of assumptions, otherwise known as strawman arguments. Any God worth the name should be able to make itself known, I should think. Omnipotence and all that. I simply state there is no evidence of any God, hence I am an atheist. Should evidence appear, I would consider it. No lack of humility there. I've heard your arguments many times before, always misleading. And I'm still waiting for your evidence that dragons don't exist, or perhaps you are agnostic about dragons too. No shame on Richard Dawkins. Only on some agnostics who attempt but fail to claim the higher ground that they don't deserve.

This part of the tread reminds me of the flat earthers. No matter how many satellites and space ships circle the earth, they create excuses to dismiss. No matter how much you can’t show any evidence for an invisible diety, where it is, what and how it does what you think it might do. If you believe in an after life, where you go, how you you get there, what you are. Nothing provable, nothing within the qualifier of reality. Ghosts and aliens have more proof available than gods.

@Barnie2years Like many, you fail to understand science. First off, evidence does not equal proof! So many assumptions are made when the scientist designs her experiment, some of which she isn't even aware of, that evidence only supports a hypothesis, but never proves it. Deborah Mayo is a contemporary philosopher of science who suggests that we can approach the truth only by fully vetting the alternatives! Secondly, the question of whether there is or isn't a god simply isn't testable. To come under the purview of science, the hypothesis must be testable. God's existence or lack of existence isn't amenable to testing. Read Chalmer's "What Is This Thing Called Science" for further clarification. It irks me to be called a flat-earther, particularly by someone who has so little understanding of the nature of the scientific endeavor!


When the question is no longer relevant 😊


That is really up to you. Do you feel safer identifying as Agnostic because of fear of god? You will know when you're ready.
To me if there were such omnipotent power, it's not a good one... and it has lots explaining to do.
But no evidence, no proof...

No, not fear of God—concern about family, friendships, even a possible closing of my own mind. And a lingering feeling of God (a good feeling) at times. My mind's pretty well settled in non-belief, but feelings don't always change so easily.

@Rhetoric oh.. there's a difference between accepting yourself and telling others... my lack of belief is personal. I don't share that with everyone.

@Sirena Same here; very personal and quite private.

But when I do share it, right now I say I'm agnostic, but I'm wondering at what point would I be willing to change it to atheist... Have I reached that point? How would I know if I have/haven't? ... Thoughts along those lines.

@Rhetoric also a non-religious mind will be more open minded, no matter what you identify as.

@Rhetoric I moved to atheist in HS. I was probably 17 or 18 when I finally used the word. I have not stopped reading, being curious and learning. I explored Wicca, Santeria and read on other concepts and beliefs. Still if someone asks, if not close I say not religious. My area is very conservative. When I came out as Atheist in HS I had actual girls try to physically fight me. I had born again Christians try to "save" me and others just feared me. I read Anton LaVey in 10th grade and thought to be a Satanist. But whoever heard that label thought it meant I worshipped Lucifer. Once I was out of HS I thought it wiser to keep it on the DL. I have atheist friends and agnostic friends IRL and I enjoy their company and conversations the most. My non-believer friends consider me very spiritual, (a recent convo with a few brought this to light) which I find interesting.
I am also a very active member of my community and started my own Secular Girl Scout troop. I made sure to let every parent know that I respect their beliefs and that I am just not religious. I rather have a safe non-religious environment in an age where a lot of problems come from organized religion and fanatics. They all respectfully agreed and have trusted my with their daughters since day one. I have never used the Agnostic or Atheist with them.

@Rhetoric -- I suggest that it might be better for you to be concerned with your own honesty and integrity than adjusting to others. I don't walk around town with an atheist sign over my head and I don't initiate any conversations about the issue of 'god -- no god' or 'religion -- no religion' at any time, but when someone asks or I am pushed into a corner with things like, "And tell me, my dear, what church do you attend," I am then concerned with my integrity.

Most of my family and friends were and are good with it. Some were, well, a bit swishy about it, and some were downright nasty. Their problem, not mine. I will not sacrifice my freedom for anyone at any cost.

Above all else, I am an evidentialist and my world view is informed by the epistemology of Evidentialism employing the scientific definition of what constitutes evidence.


From the article:

Naturally, then, we see this traditional conception reflected in the writings of many influential philosophers. David Hume, for example, writes that the “wise man. . . proportions his belief to the evidence,” and he proceeds with this as his epistemic ideal ( 73 ). Bertrand Russell endorses the view that “[p]erfect rationality consists . . . in attaching to every proposition a degree of belief corresponding to its degree of credibility,” credibility functionally depending on evidence ( 397-398 ). W.K. Clifford writes that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” ( 518 ). Such quotations help to illustrate the dominance of the view that justified belief depends upon one’s having good reasons or evidence. Though this by no means settles the issue, it does provide reason to try to work out a theory of justification that appeals solely to evidence. The remainder of this entry turns toward a detailed consideration of the theory itself.

@evidentialist I think this odd process is me trying to be honest with myself:

What do I mean when I call myself agnostic, and were I to call myself atheist what would I be trying to say honestly about myself with that?

It's a question I can only answer for myself, but I just want to see how other people's thoughts on the labels of Atheist/Agnostic help me with a resolution there.

@evidentialist Also, that quote is fabulous and I want to get deeper into philosophical evidentialism. I very much like the bits I've got of it so far!

@Sirena It's really great that you've found a balance there in how you positively operate without religion in a religious environment. I really hope to be able to do so myself. 🙂

@Rhetoric thanks... I'm more of a chaos coordinator, but it works for me ?

@Rhetoric -- I understand where you are with this. It is all part of the road out, and I appreciate your dilemma. I think the question is, do you still harbor some belief/doubt, or do you not? That alone is the determining factor for which word fits best.

@evidentialist This is a good way of asking the question. I appreciate you putting it this way.

Intellectually, no, I don't have any belief in a deity. However, while I understand that one doesn't need to adopt a Strong Atheist position in calling oneself an atheist, on an intellectual level I would prefer to have made my thoughts more coherent in that direction than they stand now before I would want that label.

But emotionally, yes, I do have a subtle emotional and (not that I like using this nebulous term) "subconscious" belief in God. It's only in times when I am especially tired, forgetful, or deliriously happy that a little belief pops in, but it's still often enough that I'd at this stage be dishonest to say otherwise.

I guess to answer your latest question, and to my own original one, I haven't yet crossed these two lines to where I think I could call myself an atheist.

However, I do think what sent me down this question today was a realization of what the "finish line" (so to speak) would be for me with regards to the intellectual side of being an atheist. Who knows... maybe I can now push myself to cross that line soon. It'll take some reading and a far bit of laying out more of my own thoughts, first.


@Rhetoric -- Yay, we hit the threshold of understanding. Wishing you the best during your struggle. May the wind be gentle and warm on your back and the seas calm.


atheism means "without a belief in god". when you no longer have a belief in gods, you are an atheist.

you can actually be both, but I'd say the primary moment to switch would be when your disbelief is the first thought, instead of your uncertainty.

when you hear the question "do you believe in god", if you think "hmm, i don't know if there's a god", you're still agnostic. if you think "no, I don't believe so", you're an atheist.

"The primary moment to switch would be when your disbelief is the first thought, instead of your uncertainty."

That's a good delineation for when one may feel they are one or another. Thanks!

@Rhetoric no problem. I went through it myself, as de-converted Christian seeking some other spiritual answer, then as an agnostic, then as an admitted atheist. as a de-convert, my agnosticism actually had two stages, "wanting to believe but not quite getting there" and "not wanting to believe but not quite letting go".


If you want to signal to others that you're open to conversion, tell them you're an agnostic.

If you feel you've given deities the same chance you gave Santa Clause and you'd rather talk about other things, tell them you're an atheist.



I don't think I will ever make that move. It is no different to me than those pious folk who live as though they are certain what happens after death. No one can know for certain. And I'm okay with not knowing. What proof do atheist have that they are correct?

Do you believe in doggy heaven? Or that elephants exist in some other form after their natural demise? Or that the porpoise has a purpose after death? Or is it just the arrogance of man that demands we of all earth's species exist again on some celestial plane? Or is it simply fear of death because we are the only species that can foresee our own impending doom? ?

@TheMiddleWay such speculation doesn't interest me in the slightest. Obviously it does others. That interests me. ?

@TheMiddleWay indeed, but my meaning is i waste no time on it ?

@SimonCyrene I too believe the same as TheMiddleWay on this. Energy is the thing I cannot get around.


I went from heathen to atheist. I still do some tribal crap


When you feel comfortable with the title of atheist. I was comfortable with title immediatly after I accepted there is no god and religion is for fools, 6 1/2 months ago.


Interesting that you assume both that there are only two choices and that the switch is inevitable. I myself am an ignostic. My wife is an apatheist.


I guess (for me) it depends on what is meant by god. I don't believe in a personal diety. The historical conception of an all powerful loving creator is untenable.
I don't dismiss higher power (s) which may be totally indifferent to our plight. A kind of pluralistic pantheism.

cava Level 7 Sep 3, 2018

True, @cava why does God have to be a person? When you mention the term God or afterlife different ideas pop up in different people's heads. The mere concept of God / afterlife in and of itself is extremely restricting. after all, not one human has died for 6 months to a year and come back to tell everybody the truth. Even Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson claim to be agnostic. these two men are extremely well educated and intelligent, but they know that they don't have all the answers and they don't have all the proof that they need to consider themselves to be 100% atheist.


How many gods do you believe in? If the answer is zero, then your an Atheist.

But what about something that is undefinable. Perhaps something that no one could even wrap their brain around. Perhaps were all wrong.


You can be both.

Yes, I understand the synergy of the two, as @evidentialist represented it well.

But let me give you an scenario:

You see an old pall (and basically all my "old palls" are Christian) on the street who, after some actual conversation, asks you "What church do you go to?" and you reply "I don't anymore, I'm an ___." What do you say?

In my opinion, it's usually much more courteous and easier to communicate meaning by saying one word, so I'm curious which might you choose, and why?

This is also relevant in surveys of religious/non-religious belief identification where only one option is usually provided.

@Rhetoric -- Atheist. If that is not understood and respected, it's not your problem.

@Rhetoric Just say, I don't go to any church.

If you are struggling with what label to use, don’t use a label. As courteous as you think it may be, it will only muddy the waters. That person will use their definition of the label you use and likely get it wrong. If pressed further, explain what your position is.

Personally, I would just say I’m an athiest.


@Rhetoric -- When one looks at the meaning of the two words it becomes apparent that they may both be used simultaneously. I am an atheist because I don't hold any belief in any deities and by extension in nothing else related to the supernatural. However, when discussing the issue I am agnostic. I cannot make the claim that there is no god because of the supporting evidence issue. If I make that claim, the burden of proof rests with me, and that is a fool's folly. So, the fact that I don't believe in the supernatural/god(s)/fairies/pixies and other nonsense does not automatically make me right. I can provide a rational and logical argument, but I can't provide adequate evidence to prove my stance.

I suggest to you that the time is now, if you do not believe. Call yourself atheist, but do not make absolute statements about the non existence of god or gods. It really is simple. "I don't believe in god," is different from, "There is no god." One is a condition, while the other is an activity.


Until I see even one convincing argument favoring a god's existence, I remain atheist

A simple enough criterion.


I would say there isn't much of a difference. In actuality agnosticism pertains to knowledge and atheism to belief. Though most people don't know and think agnostic is an inbetween. I take on atheist because it has this rebel feel lol I really don't sure agnostic it just seems like people think you don't really lean one way or another. I'm not all sure there isn't a god but I lean that way. If you choose atheist you just need to be ready for he stigma it comes with. Until people get to know atheist and figure out we are good people really.


It's quite simple to be honest. For me, I believe there is a creator who's just enjoying his time observing us. Religion and everything is man made crap.

So you can get your answer by asking a simple question - do you think there "might be" a God or not? Yes-you're agnostic, No- you're an atheist.


I went straight from beliver to atheist. Since I was questioning the bs for the last few years I was a believer. I do wish i had broken away from religious bs earlier in life.


I've had people try to tell me I'm agnostic because I'm willing to change if offered proof. I tell them I'm an atheist.


Late in life (early fifties) I went from "I really want to believe", to "there's nothing out there".....later was telling my "romantic love" about the experience...and she said "you've always known that"


I don't believe but I don't claim to know. I am a political atheist.

Write Comment
You can include a link to this post in your posts and comments by including the text q:170384
Agnostic does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content. Read full disclaimer.