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POLL What Does It Mean to Be Agnostic?

In 2018, Scientific American published an article titled “The Number of Americans with No Religious Affiliation Is Rising,” which looked at the rising number of Americans who don’t identify with any religion. In 2018, a survey done by the Pew Research Center found 34 to 36 percent of millennials identify as atheist, agnostic, or just “nothing in particular."


Question 1: What differences are there between agnostics and atheists?
Question 2: How many types of agnostics and atheists exist?

Differences or Similarities between Atheists and Agnostics

  • 3 votes
  • 3 votes
  • 16 votes
AnonySchmoose 8 July 3
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10 comments

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1

Agnosticism is irrelevant. I find that many people who define themselves as agnostic are simply holding on to a hope that "something is out there," without evidence, and using the excuse that they don't know.

A god that tried to hold you accountable for not believing in it without giving you evidence of its existence would be very stupid.

Everyone is agnostic, including theists. They, like everyone else, DO NOT KNOW definitively if a god exists, that is why agnosticism is irrelevant.

Theist: theist = belief in god
Agnostic: a = without; gnostic = knowledge
Atheist: a = without; theist = belief in god

In order to know, you must have knowledge, in order to have knowledge, you must have evidence. Believers simply believe without evidence producing knowledge. An atheist accepts knowledge that evidence produces. Theists have NOT produced any evidence for gods.

This is why atheists demand proof in order to obtain knowledge and theists demand belief in order to sustain their faith.

A god is not defined by reality or existence, believers make the assertion that it is, the god makes no assertion whether it exists or not, it is therefore the believer who must then prove the assertions they make.

There have been innumerable myths over the centuries that are no more real or relevant than they were when the first fool believed the idiot who invented them, it would be foolish to hold onto a false legitimacy of a god until it has been proven, have the believer prove their nonsense or "truth" with evidence first. There would be no need to believe, just the acceptance of evidence.

What you said is very clear. I was Agnostic, and I never hoped that "something is out there" without evidence. I was a 'strong agnostic'. "Strong agnostics—which are sometimes called hard or absolute agnostics— believe that there is no way that anyone can know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God exists . In the same way, they don’t believe that anyone can totally, 100 percent prove that God doesn’t exist, either! That’s because we can only know what we experience, which means our belief in God is subjective rather than objective." [blog.prepscholar.com] It is a rather logical approach to say that they can't prove or disprove 'god' without evidence, plus that approach also means they don't really wish to argue about 'god'. It's a way to sidestep the 'god' question entirely. I know this because that is how I was raised. We never talked about 'god' among ourselves. We privately disparaged people who did talk about 'god'. To clarify my stance, I now call myself atheist, because most atheist definitions describe how I am. Most agnostic definitions aren't clear enough

@AnonySchmoose Really, why waste your time on the myriad of delusions of humankind without evidence.

3

I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I can't "know" for certain about all possibilities of any type of a 'god', but I don't "believe" in any of the definitions/positions I've encountered to this point.
I have to concur w/ @Tejas below (& that doesn't happen often!)
@Word , just below, well, I don't know what he's on about. Most thinking atheists openly state that if proof of any god were actually presented they would obviously not be an atheist about that god any more. Now, whether we would worship that creature is an entirely different matter. & his definition on agnosticism seems off to me, too. We lack the knowledge, & maybe the ability, to "know/prove" a god now, that does not say anything about the potential future. Our tools & understanding may be "new & improved"!

I certainly can understand why you choose 'agnostic atheist' as a description for yourself. I think it is accurate to say I identify as that too. The definitions of agnostic are usually too confusing to most people, but how I experienced being agnostic my whole life, we never entertained any possibility of 'god'. It does seem logical to say I can never prove or disprove that any 'god' exists, because there is no evidence. That is how my family thought about it, and they disparaged talk of 'god' (or religion) because there is no evidence.

2

Both initially, lack direct knowledge about god thingies.

A major illogical tenet of agnosticism is "it can never be known if God thingies exist".

Atheism, after being slapped silly by God, will continue to argue, "I lack belief that just happened".

Word Level 8 July 3, 2021

I've been agnostic. Though I thought no one could ever know for sure if god exists, I did not think that conclusion was illogical or only empirical. I thought it was philosophical. Semantics tends to be messy, or funny. 🤣

@AnonySchmoose if pasta in the sky with meatballs is out of your control for knowing, as in you cannot force invisable pasta with meatballs to appear to you, that does not mean that, "if" pasta in the sky with meatballs did exist and had the power of discretion to choose to slap you with a noodle, then I think you would know you got slapped.

So to say, I can never know" does not seem to me to be with in a persons power or logic to dictate.

@Word
Are you thinking scientific theories can be improved, modified, or rejected? That is why I think one can not know for sure about the possibility of 'god'. I should probably quit using the word 'never'. Sorry to sound confusing. It is sometimes an emotional topic for me.

@AnonySchmoose I have really only recently come to an understanding of illogical atheist Richard Dawkin's mind virus organism. In just the last several months. However, I had come out of christianity many years ago now because in part, things were not as I "believed" and I had experiences I could not explain, even thought I know I experienced them.

If you know anything about Illogical atheist Richard Dawkins, he would NOT have any intention of providing explination to prove Jesus character but it seems, his intentions would be for disproving.

Look over my group for a fuller explination but illogical atheist Richard Dawkins in my recent discovery of his explination of a mind virus organism with the implications that it is a cognition organism with cognition capabilities unto itself IS the best way to understand the writings that explain Jesus character to be a meme virus organism that develops or evolves into a person.

"God" can be defined in many different ways. And if Jesus style "God" of the biblical text is said to be a proper defination for what a "God" is supposed to be, the it can be viewed that a meme virus organism does exist and that Jesus character is a meme mind virus organism that evolved or developed into a person.

John 1:1. In the beginning was the logos (meme) the logos(meme) was with God and was God. John 1:14 ... the logos(meme mind virus) became flesh(a person - Jesus character)

You always make it so personal, don't you. Don't attack the ball, just attack the man, like Richard Dawkins. He bothers you, and some agnostics , more than religion does, I note. I wonder why?

As to your comment:
"Atheism, after being slapped silly by God, will continue to argue, "I lack belief that just happened"."
That's about as silly a misrepresentation of atheism as I've seen on this site. Any atheist worth his or her salt would always look at any evidence about the existence of any god. It's the essence of atheist thinking. Certainly in your absurd example of being slapped by God, assuming the evidence was real, a serious atheist would consider it seriously. After 40,000 years of people worshipping dieties on this planet, without one proven God slap, I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps you'll be the first.

@David1955 go look for mind virus organisms and you will find the biblical style God. If illogical atheist Richard Dawkins gives evidence and explanation that mind virus organism exist and that is what the biblical God is, then we have a winner. Gods in the style of mind virus organism exist, atheism wrong or illogical.

@Word mind virus organisms? Ooooookkkkaaaayyyy

@David1955 The word meme itself is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins, originating from his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.[12] Dawkins's own position is somewhat ambiguous. He welcomed N. K. Humphrey's suggestion that "memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically"[12] and proposed to regard memes as "physically residing in the brain."[13] Although Dawkins said his original intentions had been simpler, he approved Humphrey's opinion and he endorsed Susan Blackmore's 1999 project to give a scientific theory of memes, complete with predictions and empirical support.[14]

@David1955 He welcomed N. K. Humphrey's suggestion that "memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically" [en.m.wikipedia.org]

@David1955 Richard Dawkins on the 'Cultural Meme'
Evolutionary biologist and "The Selfish Gene" author Richard Dawkins speaks about his concept that the replicator at the base of Darwinian selection doesn't have to be DNA.

[wsj.com]

@David1955 Biblical theme, Jesus was the cultural meme passed down thru the old testiment and represents the culture, law and prophets and as written, it was by the transfer of spoken words as a meme is passed by spoken words and in text, that is what Jesus character was "son of meme" son of god or to say, the offspring or product of the old testiment meme.

@David1955 "Viruses of the Mind" is an essay by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, first published in the book Dennett and His Critics: Demystifying Mind (1993). Dawkins originally wrote the essay in 1991 and delivered it as a Voltaire Lecture on 6 November 1992 at the Conway Hall Humanist Centre. The essay discusses how religion can be viewed as a meme, an idea previously expressed by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976). Dawkins analyzes the propagation of religious ideas and behaviors as a memetic virus, analogous to how biological and computer viruses spread. The essay was later published in A Devil's Chaplain (2003) and its ideas are further explored in the television programme, The Root of All Evil? (2006).

[en.m.wikipedia.org]

@David1955 What is Tourette syndrome?
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden, repetitive, rapid, and unwanted movements or vocal sounds called tics. TS is one of a group of disorders of the developing nervous system called tic disorders.

Not all organisms evolve into homo sapian. Not all mind viruses evolved into Jesus character.

A virus of the mind causes repeated action. This "disorder" has some limited cognitive capabilities to cause a person or for the thinking of a person to say and do things against their own thinking.

[en.m.wikipedia.org]

@David1955 How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants’ Bodies to Control Their Minds

[theatlantic.com]

@David1955 intelligence and cognition capability does not have to specifically have a brain. Brainless slime mould cognition activity across many single celled organisms.

Think of larger scale cognition operating across larger organisms called homo sapian and they call it "god".

Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behavior.

How brainless slime molds redefine intelligence

Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behavior. [nature.com]

2

It means you’re just as much a religious literalist as an atheist or theist.

skado Level 9 July 3, 2021

I'm curious which exact part of this post you are referring to here, so that I'm not misunderstanding your comment.

@AnonySchmoose

The title question, "What Does It Mean to Be Agnostic?"

@skado
However, can't being agnostic also mean that you don't think it is possible to know about the existence of 'god', thus meaning it's illogical to think you can know?

@AnonySchmoose

Yes, I think it can very much mean that, but still the ‘god’ being referred to is a literal god. I’ve not yet encountered anyone who has expressed any doubt about whether a metaphorical god could exist. At least not anyone who has ever heard of Eric Clapton. 😊
But seriously, the words atheist, agnostic, and theist are generally assumed to refer to the existence or non-existence of a literal, sentient, self-aware, god-person who created the universe, judges people, etc. So all three positions are literalist positions.

A religious figuratist position, on the other hand, might see the word god as a metaphor for reality, or nature, or universe, in which case the issue of its existence or non-existence is never at question.

@skado
It is not easy to determine in which category to put oneself. I think I'm in multiple categories.

@AnonySchmoose
From some perspective or other, someone might legitimately put me in any of them, and that wouldn’t bother me. But I don’t identify myself as any kind of religious literalist, because I don’t think that was even the original “idea” behind religion. I suspect it was more metaphorical all along. At least until the 16th century and afterwards, when literalist interpretations began to gain favor.

@skado
Yes, I suspect religion was more metaphorical than fundamentalist until the last 500-600 years.

0

Despite all fancy arguments in support of agnosticism, I have never felt that it is a position but really a non position.
If someone asks me, 'Do you believe in leprechauns?' and I reply 'Yes, because I just believe they exist", then it's a position, albeit not a position based on fact. If I reply, "No, I don't, because no evidence of leprechauns exists" that's also a position and one based on evidence or rather a total lack of it. But if they reply, "well I don't know, and maybe it's impossible to know, and maybe they exist but I can't say either way," then to me that's not a position but a non position since it just means "I don't know". If someone actually said to me, "I don't reject the possibility of leprechauns so I have to say I don't know" I would think that odd and strange given that no evidence exists. I find the same thing is true when people say this about gods.

I also have never heard a convincing reply from any agnostic when I ask the question, as Bertrand Russell did, 'Are you EQUALLY agnostic about ALL gods? Are you as agnostic about the God Apollo as you are about your culture god, for example the Christian god? " If, after finally admitting that, as an agnostic you are not, then what IS your view of all those other gods? Defacto atheism, I would suggest. Is that logical consistency?

I have thought agnosticism is a non-position also.
One can be agnostic and say there is no evidence of god. That is akin to scientific and logical reasoning. It does not leave open the possibility of god. God has not been proven, therefore does not exist in one's opinion. As a former agnostic, that is what I have thought agnosticism is.

4

I stay out of the debate, I'm ignostic.

I appreciate the spelling 'ignostic'. 🤣

@AnonySchmoose [en.wikipedia.org]

@Druvius
Thanks.... That taught me several things I hadn't known.

1

Agnosticism is theism lite.
One cannot be agnostic and claim to be atheist, it is like one claiming to be a probably dead, but you're not actually sure you are dead you are open to being proven right or wrong either way.
It is a very wish washy expression when used in relation to religious epistemology.
If you are alive you are not dead, if you think there might be a god, you are not atheist.

An atheist can only at worst acknowledge that he or she is open to actual evidence of a being that some might acknowledge as a god. This still would not, however, prove the existence of or even the possibility of a god or gods as defined in most "holy books" only the possibility of something that pretended to be such at some point in the past.
The whole concept of the Judeo-Christian definition of god is a logical impossibility

What if you are partly correct? Strong agnosticism is more akin to philosophy and logic, without an ounce or whisper of theism. That's what my childhood was like. Bertrand Russell was loved in my household. I never heard any mention of God. Most reading material at home was about sciences, logic, mathematics, philosophy, ethics. Can you say that Bertrand Russell was theist? No. He was read and talked about a lot in my home. We denounced religion as superstition like Russell. And yet we identified as agnostic. From where do rigid definitions of agnosticism come? I am curious, and think you may have a reasonable answer. I now say I am atheist to dispel suspicion that I am open to theism. No, I am not, nor have I ever thought "there might be a god."

@AnonySchmoose
Bertrand Russell is my philosophical hero.
I can recall various agnostics claiming him as one of their own, because he refused to condemn agnosticism in that he commended them to "stand on their own two feet and look fair and square at the world with a fearless attitude and a free intelligence". But was himself an obvious atheist, as by the sound of your autobiographical sketch are and were you and your family.
In the era I grew up many many atheists identified as agnostics simply for social convenience, acceptance and to avoid prejudice.

@LenHazell53
Because of black listing in the U.S., I think my parents played it safe by identifying as agnostic rather than atheist. I'm frightened to remember one or two bad arguments with the husband of a relative that didn't like our politics and our aversion to religion during the 1950's.

1

Agnostic is searching for what's going on

Good answer.
Agnostics could search with various hypotheses, and yet not search for the possibility of god. I think agnostics could search with the hypothesis that there is no god.

2

Agnosticism is knowledge Atheism is belief. The two don't relate

Tejas Level 7 July 3, 2021

How is atheism belief?

@anglophone by definition atheism is lack of belief in god

@Tejas I regard your definition as flawed. A theist for one god can also be an atheist about another god or gods.

@anglophone its not my definition but the literal definition of the word atheism. Lacking belief of God or gods

@anglophone if a believer doesn't believe in a certain God they are an atheist, no ifs ands or buts

@anglophone Quite, so you can be both an atheist and a theist, just as Tejas said, you can be both atheist and agnostic. But the common usage of atheist is for total atheist about all gods, and it is not specified in the post that anything other than the common usage is implied.

@Tejas You claim that is "the literal definition of the word atheism". Please cite your source.

@Fernapple My issue with @Tejas is that he fails to define "god".

@Tejas Atheism is literally "being without god(s)" that is what the word etymologically and lexicographically means, it has nothing to do with belief
A =without
Theus =god(s)
-ism = in the state of being

@anglophone [google.com]

@LenHazell53 yes, but every word has a definition

@Tejas Re google reference: that is at variance with the definition of atheism that you originally stated.

1

I find the poll to be oversimplistic.

How about a suggestion... what is missing?

@AnonySchmoose Given the context provided by the poll, I feel unable to provide a succinct alternative (but that could just be a function of my currently malfunctioning brain). An alternative could be "Other, please elucidate", but that would amount to a cop out in my opinion.

I love your reply to my comment, though. 🙂

@AnonySchmoose P.S. I think the option that you have added is wonderful. 🙂

@anglophone
Thanks very much.

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