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There are basically two types of agnosticism:

the first one takes place and participates in the debate between theists and atheists, the agnostic stance consisting in the suspension of judgment.
Typically (and certainly historically) the theists put forward the claim "There exists a God, and He has the following characteristics...".
Then the atheists deny that such a God exists.
The agnostics accept the definition of "God" but do not side with either the theists or the atheists.

And then there is another sort of agnostic, but "agnosticism" in this case is but an euphemism for intellectual laziness. Such an agnostic refuses to participate in the debate and his or her stance can be summed up as follows:
As for "God" : anything goes
I do not know anything
I do not care

The essential difference between the two is that the former takes the debate seriously by accepting the common ground of this debate: the notion of God that is being asserted by the theist and denied by the atheist. In the absence of such a common ground, a meaningful discussion is impossible. A person who calls him- or herself "agnostic" should accept this common ground, or they should stay out of the debate altogether.

Matias 8 July 13

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First your definitions are narrow and exclusive. I'm an atheist because I don't believe in god. I don't deny that god might exist, but in the absence of further evidence, I follow Occham's razor. Hitchens' razor also seems sensible in this case. I don't care what you believe or what label you choose, but quit telling me what the fuck I believe and don't try to redefine these terms to fit your story.

As too those "intellectually lazy agnostics" I think they are wise to not waste time pursuing evidence that cannot exist. If god's existence is irrelevant to them, so what? Who are you to tell them what they should or shouldn't discuss. Your position is extremely arrogant.

JimG Level 8 July 14, 2019

Thanks for expressing my thoughts better than I'd have ! The end of the post sounds terribly sectarian to me. Be like this're out. Some people really need rigor in their lives...

@Nathalie_Quebec I'm glad you appreciate it.

@JimG - I do not think that there is anything in my post that justifies such an aggressive comment.

First of all: definitions are always "exclusive", and some of them are even narrow, which is not an argument against them.

Secondly I did not label all agnostics as "lazy" but only those who participate in the debate about God but refuse to accept the conditions of this debate (which has been going on for centuries) so that it would be rather arrogant to arbitrarily change the conditions just because I have entered the debate now.
If we want to talk about "God", let's accept that God is not anything but that this word has a long history of concepts and notions attached to it, and when we talk about God, we should be able and willing to specify about which "variety" and characteristics of God we are talking. And if somebody is not willing to do so, this - and only this - is "lazy" in my opinion.

If you do not want to waste your time with this debate, don't do it, it is up to you and I would never criticize you for your decision. Nobody is obliged to debate about God or even to have an opinion about it. But in this case you are IMO not an "agnostic" but just a "non-participant". That is not what I labelled "lazy"

Thirdly I do think that I have the right to express this opinion in a forum like this without being attacked for no good reason by ill-tempered people.


The second stance isn't technically agnosticism as there is already a label for it: apatheists.

"Apatheism (/ˌæpəˈθiːɪzəm/;[citation needed] a portmanteau of apathy and theism) is the attitude of apathy towards the existence or non-existence of god(s). It is more of an attitude rather than a belief, claim, or belief system.[1][2]"


I hadn't come across that term, but it's very helpful. Thanks!

Makes a lot of sense


The atheist and the deist are talking about an anthropomorphic, personal god-entity, one says it exists, the other says it doesn't.
The agnostic agrees THAT kind of god could not and does not exist, in all likelihood, so in that narrow sense agrees with the atheist.
He or she does NOT agree, however, with the assertion NO god exists. Maybe yes, maybe no.
After a few go-arounds, the "debate" becomes repetitious and boring, which is why if you've been coming to this site for long, you eventually yield the floor and let the next "generation" of agnostics carry on the fight.


Sorry but the point of the debate is - god exists, or doesn;t exist - and neither side of the debate can ever be proven ---- unless the sky parts and a quaint old white headed guy drifts down on a fluffy cloud.... it is a circuklar debate doomed to be inconclusive - so what is the point


This again??

What a blatant exhibition of one of two things.

It's an arrogance about one's position being superior due to definitions that matter.... why?

Or, an insecurity about one's belief, non belief, or position, to the extent that others are judged or accused of being incorrect because their stance does not match that of the accuser.

Who gives a crap?

As long as people are not bible thumping here, which is what we've come here to avoid. And, as long as people are not invoking science, as was done so recently, to claim that atheism is an "unscientific position" or other similar nonsense, then really...

What is the goal of these accusations?

Athena Level 8 July 14, 2019

I really do not see any reason that could warrant such an aggressive comment. Who is accusing whom of what? That IMO the I-do-not-care sort of agnosticism is kind of 'lazy thinking' ? Does this make you mad? Just take a deep breath 😇


You can mask this continued vehemence on this site to judge positions on agnosticism and what people "should" or should not do, or believe, with the projection that I am angry. Yes, this is frustrating as it continues to present itself as a judgement.

I wonder what the underlying reason for this persistence is.

Suggesting that anger is an overreaction to your offensive behavior is adding one offense to another. The normal reaction to your arrogant and thoughtless comment is anger. If you would like to speak to people who don't get upset about what you've said, you might try learning more effective interpersonal skills.


I think an agnostic can examine and refute a particular definition offered for a particular God and remain an agnostic. The claims of the existence of a diety are not something that can be readily verified and so we have numerous definitions for God - even within a single religion - with no means for determining which is correct and which aren't. Evidence is completely lacking and very often the evidence offered by believers is of an unreliable nature (such as a feeling). Believers also don't typically address how to differentiate between their God and an imposter who possesses the defined characteristics of their God, but is not God. While the agnostic may side with the atheist in refuting one definition of God, it does not exclude that God may exist, just not under an offered definition.

As I read the definition of agnostic, it says "a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience." This is very much how I feel about my agnosticism.


And then there's the ignostics. We don't participate in the debate either, because the word God is undefined.

That is the first time I come across this word 'ignostic", and it already has an entry in Wikipedia
Thanks for the hint !


Your opinion is noted.

...and mostly dismissed as well... 😉


As an agnostic, I do not participate in the discussion.
The main reason, is that if there is no god, then theists are all delusional. There is no point to argue with a delusional person.

rzig Level 2 July 14, 2019

Although this text makes sense, I have a problem with you using the word "should". As an agnostic, I have the freedom of choice to participate or not in any discussion. Accusing an agnostic of "intellectual laziness" because of that is ignorance. Some of them might be very intelligent and highly intellectual but they choose not to participate, which is a legitimate choice. I know I'm not highly intelligent and I don't dare to claim that I'm more enlightened than others because I'm agnostic. As you said, and very well, I don't take any of the sides, like any agnostic, as I don't accept the arguments and proof as facts. I don't think that atheists and even theists are less enlightened than the others in general. I know people from all these categories that are quite well informed and open minded. So it's not about how religious or not, it's about the person itself.

The term "agnostic" was coined in the context of this debate between theists and atheists, and IMO it is only in this context that this term makes sense (babies or dogs do not participate either, so it does not make sense to call them atheists or agnostics) .
Of course you have the right not to participate in this debate (there are hundreds of debates going on in which I do not participate), but in this case you should not call yourself an "agnostic" but what you are: a non-participant

@Matias, good explanation. Not only that, we don't have enough time to participate in each and everything, both here and in life in general. Most of the time, yes, I'm non-participant, you're right. I just participate in debates /discussions where I can relate to the situation in particular. What shocks me a bit in this site is most people see religious people straight away as closed minded and not intelligent. My experience tells me otherwise. Ok, maybe I'm a lucky bastard with people when it comes to this or, in the universe of people around me I'm getting this experience where in the universe of people of others it doesn't happen.

"and IMO it is only in this context that this term makes sense"
Minor quibble: while it's true that Huxley's Agnosticism is in the context of theology, I daresay it's use has or can be expanded way beyond. My favorite example for this is string theory and aliens, two concepts to which I can legitimately say I'm agnostic in a similar vein to my being agnostic about gods. Mind the word similar... it's not exactly the same... but all three carry the same flavor of humans minds coming up with a concept that may reflect reality but is beyond testing at this time (soft agnostic) or beyond testing for all time (hard agnostic)


Having grown up with no religion and no understanding or knowledge of god I find the whole thing baffling. I suppose for me, ignostic fits best


Personally, I don’t care about labels. I neither believe nor disbelieve, and I sure as heck don’t want to debate about it. Call it what you will ... though, to me, it matters very little.


I was a Jehovah's Witness and got involved in the ex-JW community online for some time. Many have made it their vocation to try to bring down the Watchtower organisation and challenge JWs online. Some, like myself, don't want to give the organisation any more of my time. So I can relate to what's described here as the 'lazy' approach.

I'm an ex JW too. I don't think your attitude is liked to laziness at's being clever ! Time is precious, why spend it thinking about what they did to us or anything else ?


I try to stay out of the debate but it is not because of laziness. I sincerely think that it is futile to debate about a higher level of reality that can not be understood or known.

The debate is over existence, right? Our human concept of existence involves sustenance over time, but time is nothing but an illusion according to modern physics. Clearly we do not even know what it means to exist. We do not understand our own existence—how can we have an intelligent discussion about the existence of this God figure?

It is perfectly reasonable to point out the mythical nature of old scriptures, to disbelieve the many far-fetched tales of the Bible, to ridicule the idea of hell. But when it comes to ultimate reality beyond the sense world we are totally in the dark and to pretend otherwise demonstrates a lack of basic awareness.

This is why ignostic is very attractive to me. Without the ability to precisly pin down what we mean by "god(s)" or arrive at a definition that is common to a large set of people, any such discussion is meaningless.

@TheMiddleWay I had to look that up, but yes, that describes my position. I go further and say that “existence” has no clear definition either, so it is doubly futile to argue over the existence of God. Since I have no clear idea of what it is that I am supposed to be it is triply not appropriate for me to engage in an argument that concerns higher reality.

Actually I am an atheist with respect to the God concept presented by many religious organizations. But atheism is not my mantra. There is something of overwhelming proportions behind nature, beyond our reach. There is much more to this life situation than meets the eye. Anyone who shrugs it off simply has their head in the sand.

@TheMiddleWay Exactly, "Do you believe in God?" is no different that "Do you believe in Fod?" say what?

@TheMiddleWay One doesn't have to believe in a God that is defined by a theist in a particular way. However, surely there can be some rational discussion and debate over the God that person claims to believe in; one can refute the evidence for the God as defined by the theist, or, at the very least, one could, as an ignostic, cast serious doubt over the certitude of the definition proposed.

I agree. I think if two people can agree on a definition of god, then those two people can discuss said definition. It's when it's three, four, more that it becomes a problem for there is no "god given" (pun intended) definition of god.


Labels don’t make a person! From my experience many religions and the atheist position are trying to sell something. I understand the religious product but not the atheist.

Both positions open debate which provides an intellectual exercise in critical thinking. Right or wrong is irrelevant unless you want to sell your product.

It’s an intellectual tragedy when one argument must be right or wrong. This isn’t agnostic disinterest. It’s enabling a position within the debate without the investment in an outcome.

I find label to be the starting point of discussion, not the end. If I label myself an agnostic, I am pre-loading the discussion one way and not the other.... that that label best represents my stance, that atheists and theist do not best represent my stance, and that is the best, but not only, word that describes my stance.

Thus, I consider people who think a label makes a person are of the opposite camp, that a label is the end all purpose of discussion... that once I put you into the "atheist" or "theist" or "agnostic" box there is nothing more to be said. It is those people who get irritated, upset, or otherwise defensive when you challenge their label, their box... as recently witness in a thread of discussion we shan't mention. 😀🙂

I agree! I feel like some atheists can be as bad as theists in pushing their beliefs/agenda. I don’t care for any of it, and I don’t have much care what label I have.

@TheMiddleWay For what it may be worth, your posts are very thought provoking, and you make for a good interlocutor as I think things through for myself.

Thanks; appreciated!


Again with the constant redefining of the words to fit a self indulgent sense of intellectual "superiority". Why the constant need to debate ridiculous philosophies that offer zero amounts of proof or evidence?


So the fact that I spend lots of time thinking about and discussing topics not related to god or religion apparently isn't good enough to win me a place outside the realm of intellectual laziness because I refuse to participate in one particular debate. Good to know.

Might want to look up the definition to the term "false dichotomy."

Misunderstanding. If you are not part of the discussion about God, you are not "lazy".
But if you take part in the debate (if only as an active member of sites and forums like this one), and you refuse to accept or give any reasonable definition of "God", you are a "lazy agnostic" IMO. "God" is not an arbitrary X but a fairly thick bundle of concepts with a long pedigree.


I agree but with one caveat. Some agnostics and atheists think they are accepting common ground, but actually they've assumed a-priori what "God" is under discussion. They assume things about theism that are not true from the point of view of the theist, and, consequently, debaters on both sides miss each other in the debate.
In any debate there needs to be clarity as to what it is one is debating, and that means making no a-priori assumptions.
But thanks for a helpful post!

That is my point: that we need a common ground in order to have a meaningful discussion. If every side has its own definition of "God" (or no definition at all as in the case of "lazy agnostics"!) , there will be no debate because all are talking past each other


does the agnostic in your first definition hold the suspension of judgements for all different religions, or is it suspension only in the case of their religion? i believe in most cases it is them coming to terms with their own religion. i read your post as the same. agnostic about a christian god. or a muslim god, mormon god... pick one.

i disagree with you. if you are an anti-theist first and believe that all known religions and myths are man made and disprovable and therefor don't believe their gods are true, you can still believe that an unknown, undiscovered god may exist. suspension of judgment without accepting any theist's definition of a god. defining the new god or giving it attributes is an issue. not much different than inventing a religion (cult), so good luck arguing your point if you come up with a definition to test against a theist or an atheist, but, the stance is not intellectually lazy. imo, there is not common ground between an agnostic anti-theist arguing with an agnostic theist.

i actually think it is odd to be an atheist about ALL OTHER gods and hang on to agnostic belief about the one your parents likely assigned. cannot get my head around it.

exactly! and this idea of laziness is also fallacious in several other ways - for one, most agnostic decided their position earlier in life and don't care to continually re-engage in the repetitive debate, and two, this presupposes we all are able to spend our lives navel -gazing to the nth degree, when agnosticism may just be a way-station and not a destination.

Thing is, that if you (the royal you, not you personally per se) reject the existence of all currently defined gods but accept that there may be a heretofore undefined god that exists, then IMO your worldview is not without gods, is not atheistic but agnostic... since you admit that there may be a god, you just don't know it yet.

I like to use the example of the Higgs. For decades, all current definitions of the Higgs were rejected.

So if were to label scientists as "atheistic" about the higgs, they knew or believed it didn't exist, there would be no impetus for them to continue to search for it, or, conversely, risk bias to prove it doesn't exist.

Similarly, there were many scientists that were "theistic" about the higgs... they just knew (or believed) that it had to exist, there was much impetus for them to continue to search for it, and there experiments run the risk of being biased to prove it does exist.

I like to think that most scientists would be labeled "agnostic" towards the higgs, that they made no determination either way and thus would be equally inclined to try and prove that it does OR doesn't exist. They would not risk as much bias as either camp since their belief doesn't lie in either camp; they would be, as I see it, the most neutral in the search for the higgs, a neutrality that is an ideal in scientific investigation exactly because it minimizes bias.

@TheMiddleWay semantics. you can, and i, do think the words are defined by belief and by knowledge. i am an atheist. argue against that all you want. i don't believe in god(s) by the definition of the word or as defined by theists. what else would you be if you reject all of that? if there were a device to measure this belief, it would register 100%. i think that Knowledge is an asymptote. the truth about this one is likely in the space between the curve and infinity and our time runs out before the plot gets to it.

i just allowed that something is above the curve, but it is NOT defined and in my example UNKNOWABLE. until someone can define a god concept that is that is not tied to a current false religion, i am fine with my parameters. nothing other than utter lunacy has been presented to me to date. science given the time will figure out what happened, or it won't. no set of tenets, dogma, rituals, belief, ALL of it that currently exists is worth the debate, imo. i don't believe a "god" exists, as an anthropomorphic entity or even a conscious entity that cares for us in some way as she does not care to involve herself in anyone's day to day. until she does, the man made crap will persist. and i will continue to be an atheist. i am agnostic about which is yet undefined. call it god and i'll argue with you. semantics.

Surely the point is that, for the purposes of a debate, one needs to understand the theist's definition of God. In that sense, for the purposes of the ensuing discussion, one accepts their definition, but to refute the existence of the God that they claim they believe.
If one doesn't accept their definition of God in that sense, then there can't be meaningful debate.

@Doubting which theist's definition of god? again are they agnostic within their religion? if that is the case ido not argue with what I see is lunacy. i do not believe there is common ground between an agnostic antitheist and an agnostic theist. most of the debates i see are not framed by agnostic antitheists. barely any. the debate referenced in the original post i believe said that i have to buy a theist's definition of god to be agnostic. i disagreed. if that was your point, i still disagree.

@larsatrg You don't have to buy their definition, but you can't refute something that you each define differently.

@Doubting I believe my point is that they are two separate debates. And agnostic to an antitheist is a position and not intellectually lazy. I am not however interested in arguing agnostic with a theist. I might if my ears actually bled. Then they might get scared and leave me alone.


The problem with professional philosophers is that their love of philosophy leaves them without a love life. The resultant frustration is then displaced into their theorizing.


The fragmentation continues, someone has to be right, right ?


"Then the atheists deny that such a God exists." < This is not always true, many atheists simply take the position that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that the theists have made. This is not the same thing as denying that such a god exists, it is withholding belief in the claim until there is sufficient evidence to support belief.

icolan Level 7 July 14, 2019

In my opinion, if you just "withhold belief" until more evidence comes in, you are not an atheist but an agnostic. The debate about God has been going on for 2000 years, all arguments have been exchanged, all possible evidence has been mentioned and defended and verified. The available evidence won't change. Or what could be a piece of NEW evidence that would turn you into a theist?

@Matias I don't know what evidence could make me believe in a god, but a god would or should know and since I have not been presented with that evidence I am still withholding belief. I am an agnostic atheist, I do not believe in any gods because I have not seen evidence sufficient to prove their existence.

If such evidence were presented to me, I would believe but would still not worship as none of the gods that humans have presented are worthy of worship in my opinion.


I disagree.
The agnostic tells that the question about God given what we can know is useless. Even if there is a good it don't show itself, there is no way to know what it wants. So simply go on with life as if don't exists, because in the end what we can rely is what we build.
The difference of agnostic and atheust is that for the agnostic there is no sense in discussing about a question that is by definition impossible to answer (because it it no fasiable).


Did you come up with the two types of agnostics yourself?

(Edit) I didn’t mean for this question to sound confrontational.

Yes, I've recently had a discussion with sb. who calls himself "agnostic" but refuses to give any meaning to the word or notion "God" in question. But IMO if "God" is just a big "X", a kind of semantic black hole devoid of meaning, we are no longer in the frame of the theist-atheist-agnostic debate

@Matias yeah odd. I refuse to label myself with any term that I don’t define for myself. Saying I’m “x” without having a definition for x is downright dumb.

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