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LINK New research uncovers stereotype differences between agnostics and atheists

Not often that you find some attempt to analyse differences between agnostics and atheists, from a psychological perspective.

As the article admits:

"The researchers do cite some limitations to this work. β€œAgnostics are an extremely difficult group to study because being agnostic is not mutually exclusive with atheism or theism. In other words, it is possible to be an agnostic atheist or agnostic theist,” Bergstrom said."

It is true as the article says that in the general debate agnostics and atheists are often lumped into one 'non religious' group. But between the two groups clearly differences exist, as this site has shown me, anyway. I would like to see more research on this. Perhaps it does come down not so much to position but psychology.

David1955 8 May 9

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This is likely to piss someone off, but the way I see it, Atheists are much more like christians than Agnostics. Agnostics understand that there is no way to prove or disprove the possibility of some supreme power in the universe.

Atheists insist that there is none, with the same amount of proof as the christians who insist there is.

One must be cautious though with regard to my wording . . . by "supreme power in the universe", I am not implying any man-made, personal "gods", because man-made gods are laughable at best. As an Agnostic, my mind is open to many possibilities, and I have some ideas about what form this "supreme power in the universe" might take, but I do not insist that I KNOW, only that they are ideas with nothing other than intuition, thought and science as guiding principles, and, note that I said "ideas", plural, not "idea" singular, which means that I think that there could be a number of possible forms for this "supreme power in the universe", or, none at all.

Thomas Henry Huxley, who coined the term "Agnostic" explained this position well, and when I think of myself as Agnostic, I literally throw out all the modern trash definitions in the dictionaries and bull shit variations like "Agnostic Atheist", etc., my view differs none from Huxley's . . . . so I am an Agnostic, PERIOD.

Yes, it's pissed me off. πŸ™‚ Your comment is quite common from some agnostics, and is mistaken. Theists believe irrespective of evidence, in fact they don't care about proof, fact or evidence. Now we atheists would be interested in any evidence about any god or gods, not that we expect any to ever be offered. So it's a position based on a total absence of proof, which is both logical and valid, as we are not obliged to prove a negative. Theists assert a positive -- belief in a God or gods -- with utter indifference to the lack of proof. So, the theist and atheist positions are in so way similar. The agnostic view is 'I don't know', which to me is a non position, like 'I don't know if leprechauns exist, or if I can know if they exist". That's silly to me. I don't believe in leprechauns because there's no evidence for them. Same with God or gods.

@David1955 Atheists are indeed closer to the christian way of thinking than Agnostics by degree, (obviously, not by some 50-50 split), but my contention is simply that they are more alike than Agnostics are.
Many years ago, there was a total absence of formal proof that Force = Mass * Acceleration, but absence of formal proof does not mean that such a formula was bogus. Years ago, there was no proof that black holes existed, but that did not disprove their existence. Atheists insist that it is bogus, in the same manner, with regard to some supreme power in the universe, yet they are not much more than ants, not even that, when confronted with the vast expanse and confounding nature of the universe.

Absence of "proof", that something exists, does not in any way prove that it doesn't exist.

The Agnostic view IS a position, it is a position less arrogant in the face of a vast universe, even Einstein himself had a sense of the awesomeness of the universe.

An Agnostic is well aware of the pitfalls of making unwarranted assumptions based upon deficient evidence.

@Archeus_Lore I think these arguments only have the effect of creating wedges between agnostics and atheists, when I'd rather see us on the same side in rejecting religion. Over the years I have become wary of the agnostic view, due to comments like yours. I hate saying that, but it's an honest comment.
Also drawing a comparison with constructs suspected in the physical world but not validated until proof is found, is a false equivalent with imaginary things in metaphysics which, wouldn't you know it, can never be proved or disproved because they are metaphysical. Like gods.

@David1955 Do you think unicorns exist?

There is no reason to be agnostic about the existence of a supreme power in the universe, and no complicated proof is needed - it’s self-evident. The observable natural laws of physics, taken as a whole, are clearly β€œsupreme” relative to any powers humans might possess.

@skado Except . . . no one has definitively proven that these laws are universal throughout the cosmos, a cosmos that we have no sure evidence proving just how vast it really is, or whether or not there are alternate universes, and, physicists have even speculated that in alternate universes, different laws would apply . . . . so there you go.

None of that changes the obvious fact that whatever is out there is clearly supreme relative to us.

@skado In what way "supreme?"


In every way the word is defined. It is of the highest order. It created us - we did not create it. We are subject to its laws - it is not subject to our laws. It was here before we existed, and will be here after we are gone.


@skado So, it creates . . . . I think you would find that hard pressing to prove. There is nothing that proves that everything in the universe did not exist beforehand . . . . and if it was "superior" to us, it would posses superior intelligence . . . . proving that will take some doing.


"Creates" in the sense of being brought into existence. Like dripping mineral-laden water creates stalactites and stalagmites. It requires no intelligence.

By your reasoning there is nothing that proves anything. We can't prove Russell's teapot isn't out there, but we have no evidence that it is. If we are to just go by the evidence we have, Homo sapiens has existed for only two or three hundred thousand years. And life on this planet for only four or five billion. Sure, maybe life has existed elsewhere, but they are not us. We came into existence on this planet due to the combined natural forces inherent in the universe. We did not make the universe - it made us. We are products of its laws and energies and substances; not the other way around. There is nothing to prove - it is self-evident. There isn't a scientist in the world who thinks otherwise.

Your original comment - to which I was responding - brought up the topic of "supreme power". There is nothing in the definition of "power" that requires the inclusion of intelligence. A tornado is a lot more powerful than any human, and I'm pretty sure it has no intelligence at all. "Supreme power" just means the greatest or most ultimate power. And that, axiomatically, belongs to whatever system brought us into existence. It has nothing, necessarily, to do with intelligence, and no proof is needed. It's observable. The universe was here before you and I were born, and it will be here after we no longer exist. It has the ability to generate life, but we don't have the ability to generate universes. The supreme power resides with it, not us.

@skado My reasoning is similar to that of science . . . . in science, there is no absolute, and ANY theory or hypothesis is open to questioning . . . . . and indeed, there are many valid questions. While proof in science is based on statistics, it is understood that one instance of a counter-example of a proof can throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, just as in our time, the standard model of physics is being scrutinized more critically because there are problems with it.
Once again with regard to your last paragraph, you are claiming a "creation", which is unprovable in the face of the possibility that the cosmos always existed. You cannot prove a creation happened. The Big Bang does not answer that question, Roger Penrose, one of the most preeminent physics of our time is not as certain as you are that there was a single big bang creation event that created the cosmos. If he is correct, the big bang was just one small event in an infinite universe.

Now you think you can prove creation still? I don't think you have the credentials.


I'm not suggesting any absolute. "Supremeness" is a relative term. It's a direction - not a destination. It's an abstraction - not a concrete entity. I'm not talking about certainty or proofs. I'm not a "Creationist". I'm not using the word "create" like religious fundamentalists use it. I'm just using it generically, as in "to cause to exist".

I'm not claiming a beginning or a "creation" of the universe. I'm claiming a beginning of humans. I've not heard any scientist claim we've always existed. As for the universe, my assumption is like Roger's. I think it's likely to have always existed in some form or other. But that has nothing to do with what I'm saying.

All I'm saying is that reality itself is the supreme power. What's more powerful than the entirety of reality? The entirety of reality has more power than any other conceivable thing, does it not? That makes it supreme. That doesn't mean we understand its nature, or that we can quantify it, or that we know anything about it absolutely. But if we agree that there is an objective reality ( and I know some folks don't ) then we have to acknowledge that the entirety of it must be more powerful than any part of it. No?

@skado Supremeness is usually associated with some form of volition. Once again, something damned hard to prove. Some folks believe the universe is teleological, I don't.

Geometry has multiple forms including Euclidean, Hyperbolic and Elliptical, and how that ties in to the nature of the cosmos is still being debated.

Everything is questionable, even our number system is highly suspect. I give you 6 apple seeds, and from that you are to define a "unit" . . . . while each apple seed varies in the size and number of atoms it has . . . . then you want to calculate using that "unit", and expect it to be perfectly accurate? This is one of the reasons science is so obsessed with statistics.

None of that makes the foundation that we are working with all so secure. Humans crave order, that is likely what drives them to try to create the solid foundation, but underneath it all is still a lot of questions, imperfections and mysteries.


You keep putting words in my mouth and then telling me I can't prove them. I haven't said or implied anything about volition or teleology. Where's the teleology in being the "greatest, utmost, or extreme? Where's the volition in a Taco Supreme? Where's the certainty in the concept of "largest"?

All I'm saying is the whole is bigger than any of its parts. What's so mysterious about that? No human can be absolutely certain about anything. It doesn't mean we shouldn't use reason to arrive at practical solutions, or that we can't use words to communicate those solutions. If we can't agree that the biggest is the biggest, then we needn't bother trying to have a conversation.

@skado You said 'The agnostic view is 'I don't know', which to me is a non position, like 'I don't know if leprechauns exist, or if I can know if they exist". That's silly to me.'

"I don't know." Is a position after all.


You have mistaken me for David. Now I see why I felt like you were talking to someone else the whole time! 🀣

@skado Yes, indeed . . .


Me? I am an atheist.


Being behind an agnostic at an ice cream while they debate with themselves whether they want sprinkles on the sundae or not.

Better than the atheist convinced that the ice cream stand has hot dogs while the theist is convinced that they have soup, despite the sign listing neither item. πŸ˜‚

@TheMiddleWay My preferred car wash spot with hand wash promises free hot dogs on Sundays though this only happens when they feel like it. And I would still need to supply my own onions.
I have no faith the hot dog cart will be there on any given Sunday.


To the extent that this search for the grail of knowing the statistical proclivities for stereotyping the religious spectrum is of any relevance, the categories should at least specify gnostic theists, agnostic theists, agnostic atheists and gnostic atheists.


Interesting but not exactly ground breaking, fairly predictable results.

Meanwhile, later that same night in a tawdry part of Toronto. the supervisor responsible for giving the nod to the design of this PhD drivel was taken out and served with several sacraments.

To have not formed the holy quadrinity of agnostic/gnostic/theist/atheist is an apostasy before all that is academic.

To discover different stereotypical opinions are attached to agnostic/atheist/christian people is somewhat unsurprising.

One can only hope that the paper was strong, yet gentle and flexible.

I think it's an interesting subject that needs some analysis and this article just points to it. The problem of the rather nebulous group who call themselves agnostic is an issue, I think, and that's not a slight, but an observation.

@waitingforgodo The paper was not really about agnostics and atheists, but about peoples, mainly theists, attitudes towards them. My point being that those prejudices are fairly well known already.

My agnosticism has always been a slight to you.
Glad to hear it's just me and not your universal position on all agnostics.

@TheMiddleWay no, what is annoying here is that this article was about differences in perception about agnostics and atheists, which is interesting, and not a dig at either. Nor did my post seek to take a pot shot at agnostics, unlike your comments, and your own post on the same article, which, as usual, took a shot at atheists, claiming dogmatism. You simply can't help yourself on this subject. It consumes you. Fortunately not all agnostics are like you and your slanted view of atheism.

That you consider my questioning your views as "taking a shot" is an excellent example of dogmatic thinking.

Consider that when you stated my bias towards agnosticism and that I would not personally be an arbiter of any "truth" in this matter, I fully engaged said critique and told you that I have techniques I use to address and hopefully minimize said bias and better seek out said "truths."

Engaging critique = non dogmatic.

But when I state that atheists might be similarly biased, OH BOY NO NO NO NO! Can't have that! That represents a slanted view of atheism and it merits no further discussion as you are taking shots at atheists!

Rejecting critique = dogmatic.


Fortunately not all agnostics are like you and your slanted view of atheism.

Can you name one pure agnostic on this board that doesn't carry a slanted view of atheism?
I would like to examine said slant within myself and learn from them how to minimize or excise it.

@TheMiddleWay "pure agnostic". Amusing. The others are impure, I suppose.

I'm a pure agnostic, not agnostic atheist, gnostic theist, or any other combination. As are a few others in this board.

With that disambiguated, can you name one agnostic thus defined on this board that doesn't carry a slanted view of atheism?

@TheMiddleWay probably not. They're all equally biased. Not that we atheists care at all. We really don't. Agnostic snipes are just part of the background noise that surrounds the struggle against religion, which is the main struggle. Agnostic self pronoucements about their superiority because they don't know what they know and can't be sure if they can know what they don't know, is a distraction and nothing more. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, we might say, 'It's the religion, stupid!"


Fortunately not all agnostics are like you and your slanted view of atheism.


Can you name one pure agnostic on this board that doesn't carry a slanted view of atheism?

Also you

probably not. They're all equally biased

Your struggle against religion is made more difficult by your evidenced struggle against contradiction.

@TheMiddleWay Did you mean -
Can you name one pure agnostic on this board that DOES carry a slanted view of atheism?

-- yes, you for starters.

If 'DOESN'T' was your meaning, then no I can't, (name one that doesn't) though there may be, but nor do I care.

Are you sure you are clear with your contractions and positive and negative questions?

You're repeating yourself so all i have left to say is:

Good night folks! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

@TheMiddleWay good night Gracie


Either you are or you are not!!!

There is no real in between in reality!!!

Just a bunch of man made shit, physical and mental!!!


I'm an agnostic atheist. Agnostic = no knowledge of gods, and Atheist = lack of belief in gods.

I know this view, and honestly I've always thought this is not having your cake and not eating too, to be honest.


Agnostics and atheists are often lumped into one group. I am an atheist. If you like you can call me an agnostic atheist.

I consider myself an A-theist but you can call me anything you like ... I am that I am.


Well, this was done in the US. Very likely if the same research was done in different countries a different outcome would happen.

I had the same thought.

I could be entirely off base here, but it seems to me that the US has an above average interest in things theological. And that's probably why so much of the religion research is us-centric.

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