Do you hate it when people label themselves as just 'agnostic?'

When I see someone say that their religious belief is 'agnosticism,’ I always cringe. In my point of view, everyone is agnostic towards god because no one has knowledge of it (i assume this because if someone did have true knowledge of god, why don’t they share this knowledge of it).

When confronted with such people, I try to tell them that there are 4 options: gnostic theist, agnostic theist, agnostic atheist, and gnostic atheist. The question I then ask is if they currently believe in god and then tell them if they are an atheist or theist.

I don’t know, its just a pet peeve of mine…

Posted: May 22nd 2008

Maxx Power www

For many people, there is a distinct difference between denying that there are any notable supernatural elements, and being open to the idea of there being something “more” than what we see in the world. This to me has always been the fundamental difference between a person who is agnostic versus someone who is fully atheistic.

An agnostic may not believe in any given religion present in the world, but they do believe that there is something else besides the physical world that we see. This is as much faith as any religious conviction, because we’ve yet to observe anything crucial about our universe to suggest that the laws governing it aren’t just the result of the normal laws of physics. It’s the standard teapot in orbit around the Earth, as made famous by Bertrand Russell; you can’t prove that there is a supernatural element to our universe, but you can’t disprove it either.

From a personal perspective, I’m a “teapot Atheist” – until I see compelling evidence suggesting that there may be something supernatural about our existence, I will carry on believing that there isn’t. Of course by definition both agnosticism and atheism could both be right, but I’m of the opinion that until I see a teapot-shaped object in the sky, I’ll remain atheistic until further notice.

Posted: June 1st 2008

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If you’re using the original definition of “agnostic”, then I agree with you.

But that’s not the meaning the vast majority of people use – they typically mean something like “religion is not important to me” or “I don’t really know about this whole god thing”. Or they want a label that is less charged than “atheist”.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – not everybody considers religion an important topic to spend a lot of time on, and those “agnostics” tend to be close to my attitudes.

Posted: May 23rd 2008

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George Locke

Of course I’d rather they’d pledge their allegiance to my flag, agnostic atheism, but I don’t think your four options cover the whole spectrum.

If you’re not sure whether God is real or not, then “agnostic” describes you.

Of course, it makes better sense to describe yourself as “agnostic” (rather than “agnostic atheist”) if you think the possibility of God is at least a little credible. If you have no positive proof of God’s nonexistence but believe that no such proof is likely ever to appear, then you’re an agnostic atheist in my book. I think agnostics prefer not to make a judgment as to this likelihood, for whatever reason. I personally don’t see a compelling reason to avoid the conclusion that such evidence will almost certainly never appear, but an agnostic would probably disagree with me there.

On the one hand, there’s no more evidence for evidence for God than for werewolves and pink elephants. On the other hand, there are no prime mover type arguments which make werewolves necessary. I think that prime mover arguments, or fine tuning arguments, or any arguments in favor of a deist, watchmaker type of god could be just persuasive enough that agnostics may not feel confident in rejecting them outright.

I don’t mean to argue for agnosticism over agnostic atheism, I’m just saying that agnosticism is distinct. It’s not an inherently inconsistent position, although I consider it a rather timid one.

Posted: May 22nd 2008

See all questions answered by George Locke

SmartLX www

I’m with you most of the way. I consider myself an agnostic atheist. You should substitute “a god” for “god” in your question to agnostics though, as the God of Abraham isn’t the only option. There are an infinite number of hypothetical gods.

Thing is, there is such a person as an agnostic who is neither a theist nor an atheist.

An atheist is someone who has reached a conclusion, not a belief, that there are no gods, based on the available information. If someone hasn’t yet reached that conclusion (and says “I don’t know” in answer to your question) then they still believe in a significant probability that gods exist.

That’s not theism by any theist’s standards, especially since it’s not a belief in any particular god, but it ain’t atheism. On Richard Dawkins’ scale of 1 to 7 where 1 is absolute belief and 7 is your idea of gnostic atheism (he considers himself only a high 6) this person is no higher than about 4.5-5.

I don’t mind people calling themselves agnostics, but I do encourage these people to think good and hard about it so they can get off the fence.

Posted: May 22nd 2008

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