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Atheist or Agnostic?

Author/DatePost
JoeDSileo1988
Dec 4 2009
Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Atheism and Agnosticism are similar in that neither acknowledge the existence of a deity or deities and neither is an organized religion. However atheism asserts that there is no supernatural power governing the universe and therefore is a form of faith. A Faith in the absence of a god or gods. This is the key difference between Atheism & Theism and Agnosticism. Agnostics by definition do not believe in a god or gods or no god at all. It is essentially a rejection of faith all together. A divine equivalent to "sitting on the fence".

n-atheist
Dec 5 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Hey Joe,

I guess words might mean different things to different people. But, your definition of "atheism" is not quite the same as mine. Since I call myself an atheist, this is somewhat important to me. Let me tell you where your post differs from what I would have said. Perhaps I can convince you that my definition a more sensible one. Or, if not, then at least we should be aware that other people mean slightly different things by these words.

Here's the thing. I'm an atheist. This means that not only do I not believe there are any gods, I actively believe there are none. I'm perfectly willing to tell people about this belief. But, when I do, I tell them I don't believe in God or gods. That's not quite the same as asserting that there are not gods, which sounds like I'm telling them what they have to believe. Personally, I don't care if other people believe in gods or not. So, the word "assert" in your post does not seem right to me.

Now, you also conclude that atheism is a kind of "faith". I disagree with that too. I've reached my disbelief in gods through careful observation of the world, reading about religion and science, and thinking about it. I can list the evidence for and against and I think there is far more on the "against" side than the "for". But, as new evidence comes along, I add it to my mental "list" and I'd be perfectly willing to change my mind if the balance ever switches the other way.

Anyway, that's why I don't agree with your description of atheism. I would have said "atheism is the belief that there is not supernatural power governing the universe" without adding anything about "asserting" or "faith."

I'd be curious to know what word you'd use to describe someone like me. Since I don't go around "asserting" that there are no gods (only that I believe there are none), since I reached this conclusion based on evidence, and since I'm open to evidence to the contrary, if I'm not an atheist, what am I? Or, if you're going to say that my atheism is an example of "faith", then give me an example of a belief that isn't "faith"? (To me, to say a belief comes from faith means it does not require evidence and does not leave room for questioning. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, my belief that the universe is naturalistic is about as evidence based as any belief anyone has. If you're going to say this is "faith", then I think the word "faith" just becomes synonymous with "belief" and then what's the point of it?)

I hope I don't seem too argumentative here. In the end, this is "semantics" and doesn't really matter much. I bet you and I agree on a lot more things than we disagree on. But, since this is really the purpose of this topic on this discussion board, I hope you don't mind if we have a friendly debate about it.

Thx - n-atheist

JoeDSileo1988
Dec 8 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

It is all about semantics really. The dictionary is the rule book of vocabulary usage. That having been said perhaps I should have used a different word then assert. But the point still stands that atheists "believe" that there is no god or gods. Using root break down a-theism is a form of theism. Atheism by definition must be a faith because it is a statement without absolute truth. The connotation of faith ticks a lot of atheists off, so let me break it down to its most basic form.

I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, but I do not know. I cannot know because I being a non-omniscient being cannot see the future. That having been said my faith in the sun rising is rooted in the knowledge that it has risen 7939 times since my birth. (Actual number). Now atheists being non-omniscient beings themselves cannot know there is no god or gods. So it is a true statement to say they have faith, because it is their "belief".

Agnosticism in a way is an acknowledgment of the limitation of being non-omniscient. As far as semantics are concerned the terms "I believe" or "I know" are replaced with "I think" or "I don't think" or "I don't know". Furthermore, agnosticism can be broken down into three schools of thought. Rather then it explain it here I am going to ask a hypothetical question and list all possible answers and explain how each answer identifies each category (atheism, agnosticism, theism)

Question: Is there a God/Gods?

A. Yes - Theist Response - By answering plainly "yes" the answerer is not leaving room for error and is stating that they believe there is a God/Gods.

B. I Think So - Agnostic Theist Response - By answering "I think so" the answerer thinks there may be God/Gods but is uncertain about it.

C. I Don't Know - Agnostic Agnostic/Pure Agnostic Response - By answering "I don't know" the answerer is stating that they do not know(or probably care) either way.

D. I Don't Think So - Agnostic Atheist Response - By answering "I don't think so" the answerer thinks there isn't a God/Gods but is uncertain about it.

E. No - Atheist Response - By answering plainly "no" the answerer is not leaving room for error and is stating that they believe there is not a God/Gods.

Side Note: In-fact belief is synonymous with faith. They are listed in each others thesaurus entries.

http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/faith

http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/belief

To quench your curiosity about what I would call someone like you I will analyze your post.

"I'm an atheist. This means that not only do I not believe there are any gods, I actively believe there are none. I'm perfectly willing to tell people about this belief."

This is a purely atheistic statement. However you also say,

"I've reached my disbelief in gods through careful observation of the world, reading about religion and science, and thinking about it. I can list the evidence for and against and I think there is far more on the "against" side than the "for". But, as new evidence comes along, I add it to my mental "list" and I'd be perfectly willing to change my mind if the balance ever switches the other way."

This is agnostic atheist statement.

Since there is a contradiction between the two statements (however minuscule) I cannot say what you are. I can say you are likely one of two things.

A. An Atheist that views faith as exclusively linked to religion and therefore rejects the notion of faith being a part of atheism as religion is exclusively linked to theism. Then uses agnostic ideas to compensate(justify?) for the separation of faith and atheism.

B. An Agnostic Atheist that needs to tweak their vocabulary usage.

The only way to know for sure how I would label someone like you is to read the question above and choose one of the five answers.

P.S. Assert has a connotation of being aggressive but is not always the case. In the context I used it in and according to reference.com it is simply another way "to state".

http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/assert

n-atheist
Dec 9 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Joe,

I can see that you have thought long and hard about these definitions, and as it is a matter of semantics I cannot say that you are wrong, only that this is not what I mean when I use the same words.

Where do we turn when there is a semantic disagreement? Certainly, the dictionary and thesaurus are resources. But, I do not have unquestioning confidence in those sources either. In fact, I've seen enough definitions in dictionaries that were literally wrong (especially in my academic field of expertise) that I cannot say that we should simply accept what the dictionary says as true. And, as for the thesaurus, they frequently list words as synonyms which are related but are not truly identical.

So, I will argue that even in the case of semantic disagreements, we can resort to logic and reason, arguing not only what words do mean, but what they should mean. Let me explain why I think that "faith" and "belief" are not really complete synonyms, and why they shouldn't be.

The thesaurus lists them as meaning the same things because any "faith" is a "belief", but the opposite is not true. As I use the word, not every belief is a faith.

The difference between "faith" and any other belief has to do with both the source of the belief and how the belief is held. In particular, I would say it is a faith if its source was not "evidence" and "reason" and if further "evidence" and "reason" could not change it. (I've put "evidence" and "reason" in quotes because those words also have not been defined yet...more semantics. I'm hoping you mean by those what I do and that we don't have to talk about that too, but if you want that could be a future discussion.)

For example, I suspect that your belief that the sun will rise tomorrow is not an example of what I'd call "faith". You've already listed the fact that it rose lots of times as evidence for your belief. That's step one. Now, what if I could call on my expertise as a celestial mechanic and prove to you that the sun will not rise tomorrow. IF that proof was really convincing, if I showed that the alignment of the planets and sun right now are such that the gravitational forces will stop the Earth's rotation and that your home state would never see daylight again, would you not change your mind? If so, then your BELIEF that the sun will rise tomorrow is not the sort of belief I describe with the word FAITH but another kind of belief.

Notice that my definition is not "beliefs about God are faiths and beliefs that scientists agree with are not". You may mistakenly jump to that conclusion, and then I would agree that it is a silly and elitist definition. But, to me the word "faith" refers not to what is believed, but how that belief was reached and held. For instance, if you believe in the Big Bang because someone told you about it, but you have not actually considered the evidence for/against it on your own, then that could be "faith". On the other hand, for the cosmologists I know it is not a faith but a belief reached though strong evidence and still subject to future reconsideration and new evidence arises.

We could do a study to find out how many people agree with my distinction between "faith" and "belief", and I bet that you'd find most people (like me) actually think some beliefs are "faith" and some are not. But, to me, that's beside the point. The point is that the distinction is useful, and that if we were to switch over to your approach of treating these words as being 100% equivalent then we would need some word that captures the difference.

Bill and Ted
Dec 9 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Wow, you guys have a lot to say about a minor disagreement.

As far as I can tell, it comes down to this: n-atheist thinks an atheist is a person who believes there is no God, and JoeDSileo1988 says an atheist is a person who knows with absolute certainty that there is no God.

A problem with JoeDSileo1988's definition is that I don't think there is anyone like that. To know anything with absolute certainty you'd have to be omniscient, and to be omniscient you'd have to be a god, and so if you don't believe in gods then you'd have to admit that you don't know that with absolute certainty. This makes JoeDSileo1988's definition kind of pointless. (It also makes a good weapon for people who want to attack atheism because it makes the word mean something silly.)

I think it makes sense to use the word "atheist" to mean "a person who believes there is no God" (what JoeDSileo1988 called an "agnostic atheist") and not bother having a word for "a person who believes that they know with absolute certainty that there is no God" just like we don't have a word for "a 900 pound tomato that fits nicely in an ordinary sized envelope".

almonsky
Dec 9 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Joe,

In your initial post, you say "Agnostics by definition do not believe in a god or gods or no god at all. It is essentially a rejection of faith all together." I disagree. Agnosticism has nothing to do with faith, or the rejection of it. It addresses knowledge. I notice that you argue in later posts that "faith" and "belief" are interchangeable (for the record, I disagree with this and think n-atheist did a fabulous job of explaining not only the differences, but how the differences are important to the discussion at hand), but "knowledge" and "faith" are definitely NOT interchangeable.

While I acknowledge that some people hold the definition that agnostics lack belief, that is not the definition I maintain. Furthermore, I do not think that (a)theism and agnosticism are mutually exclusive. In fact, I'd say that they go hand in hand. Always. One addresses belief; the other addresses knowledge. I consider myself both an atheist (I do not believe in gods) and agnostic (I do not KNOW that there are any gods and I do not believe that knowledge is even possible). So while some people label themselves as agnostic and are "sitting on the fence," I would not label them agnostic. I would label them as a nontheist or a nonbeliever or even *gasp* atheist, technically speaking. Keep in mind that, while one definition of "atheism" is "the belief that no gods exist," another accepted definition is simply "the lack of belief." That doesn't necessarily mean they (the aforementioned "agnostics") actively believe there are no gods, just that they don't have a belief. And that's essentially what you're saying agnostics have in your definition - a lack of belief, one way or the other. I personally think that when people label themselves as agnostic in the fence-sitting style, it is often because they are uncomfortable with the negative stigma of the atheist label, and don't want their lack of beliefs to be mistaken for the active/positive belief in no gods. But I digress a little. My definition of agnosticism does not address belief or uncertainty in a belief, but knowledge. In other words, an agnostic holds the view that the truth of the existence of a god is unknowable. By this definition, everyone is an agnostic in my book, so I think the whole labeling of people as agnostic is silly and redundant. For what it's worth, my definitions of atheists and agnostics as addressing two separate ideas (belief and knowledge) are back up by your thesaurus website. See the Note at http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/agnostic.

Would you say that you have faith that there are no unicorns? Or would you say that you believe that there are no unicorns? Speaking for myself, I would have to say that I do not believe in unicorns (and/or I believe there are no unicorns), and that belief (or lack of, depending on which way you look at it) has nothing whatsoever to do with faith. (But, if I did believe in unicorns, it would be a belief based on faith alone.) I also don't believe that a 900 pound tomato will fit in an envelope, even a big one.

You have mentioned that (and I paraphrase here - I'm tired of scrolling through looking for exact quotes, sorry) that atheists assert there is no god/gods, and that this is a form of faith. Hmmm... IF atheists made that assertion, I think you may have a case for opening the door to faith. Let's back up and look at this, though. As I've said above (and as n-atheist has said very well), atheists lack a belief in gods. The atheists I know say they do not believe in gods (an assertion of belief, not of fact), not so much that there are no gods, period, end of story (an assertion of fact). Because one cannot prove a negative, I might agree that making an assertion of a negative as fact, could be seen as a form of faith-statement. But, I have to agree with Bill and Ted that I don't think there is anyone like that, and we are back at the definition of atheists as those who simply lack a belief in god or believe there are no gods.

JoeDSileo1988
Dec 10 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

We can very much prove a negative. We can't prove all negatives but we can certainly prove negatives in general. Every time a person is acquitted of a crime a negative is proven. That having been said by your own admissions this negative cant be proven therefore it is a belief.

Let us assume that belief and faith are not interchangeable. If I ask someone: "Do you believe in God?" and they answer "Yes" then do they inherently have faith? You will probably say they do but based on your standards its not always the case. The existence of Phi, any unexplained phenomenon can all be contributed to the existence of God. Now you may respond saying that this evidence is circumstantial, and not concrete. I completely agree. But again using your standards to them this is evidence. All three of you have said "This is what it means to me"(paraphrase). So using the same idea the evidence they are using which may seem circumstantial to you and me appears concrete to them and is therefore correct.

That is unless we are all bound to a certain standard. Then its not about you/me/them. Its about what is.

"But, I have to agree with Bill and Ted that I don't think there is anyone like that, and we are back at the definition of atheists as those who simply lack a belief in god or believe there are no gods."

I can name more then one. I could name friends but nobody knows them so lets start with a famous person.

Just stumbled across this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_and_strong_atheism

There is a whole school of thought around people who explicitly believe there is no god.

[u:21mjedfn]Penn Jillette[/u:21mjedfn]

Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian (he has stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist),[9]and skeptic, as well as an adherent to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, as stated on his Penn Says podcast. Jillette is a Fellow at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. In January 2007, Jillette took the "Blasphemy Challenge" offered by the Rational Response Squad and publicly denied the existence of a holy spirit.[10] His cars' license plates read "atheist", "nogod", and "godless".[11] "Strangely enough, they wouldn't give me 'Infidel,'" he says.[11]

In 2005 he wrote and read an essay for National Public Radio claiming that he was "beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God....I believe there is no God."[12] His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout.

[u:21mjedfn]Buddhists (Some) [/u:21mjedfn]

In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be exclusively irreligious or unspiritual.[10] However, religious and spiritual belief systems such as forms of Buddhism that do not advocate belief in gods, have also been described as atheistic.[11]

Yes I do have faith that a 900 pound tomato can't fit in an envelope.

Having never seen a 900 pound tomato or said envelope but being pretty certain I must still have faith. Just as everybody must have faith in it.

There is but one single provable fact. I exist. You can never ever prove to me that you exist. Nor I to you except to the level that I observe you. For all I know im doped up in a mental hospital and this is an illusion. The same could be true for you (should you actually exist :)) It takes a great deal of faith to live normally and accept reality. This is why its so easy for theists to be theists. I am pretty certain that nobody here observed mans actual evolution, or the bang that created the universe. But even if we use evidence to defend our beliefs it is still a belief and still faith. And there is nothing you or I or anybody can do to change that.

...Well maybe Q from Star Trek.

n-atheist
Dec 10 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Joe,

I'm going to have this last say and then say no more. It's not worth disagreeing about -- I'd rather be your friend than your enemy. But, you make two mistakes in your last post that I just have to comment on.

First, you say:

"Do you believe in God?" and they answer "Yes" then do they inherently have faith? You will probably say they do but based on your standards its not always the case.

No, I would not say that belief in God is necessarily a faith. I tried to make this clear when I said:

Notice that my definition is not "beliefs about God are faiths and beliefs that scientists agree with are not".

But, there is a more specific point I need to make that has to do with the question of whether agnosticism is somehow superior to atheism. The agnostic claim seems to be based on the idea that there cannot be evidence for or against the existence of God. But, this never made any sense to me. If only evil people died of cancer and people of a certain religion never got sick, if the mountain ranges of the Earth viewed from space spelled out messages from God in every language, if there were no parasites that killed innocent children, if people dropped dead when they tried to commit murder before getting a chance, if God appeared to us every morning in a vision that everyone sees with a forecast for the day's weather that is always 100% accurate, and so on. And, if all of those things were true and a person believed in God I would certainly agree that they had strong evidence. If they also would be willing to reconsider given further evidence (like maybe a demonstration that these things were reasonable coincidences or the work of aliens rather than a God), then I would agree that their belief in God was not "faith" but really reason.

I don't even have to fantasize here. I think there really are people who believe in God based on REASON not based on faith. Lot's of people, for instance, seem to think the existence of order in the world is evidence for the existence of God. It isn't a completely ridiculous argument, but when you learn a bit of math and science you learn that self-organization is a real, natural phenomenon. The question becomes: are those people willing to reconsider their belief in God based on such arguments? If they aren't, then their belief is what I would call "faith". Listen to Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God". She had reasons for believing in God, and was willing to reconsider it. (When she did, she became an atheist.) Also, I think that Thomas Jefferson is an interesting example. Now, that guy is famous for not always being rational (what was his deal with slaves?!) but he listed his reasons for believing that there is a supreme being (which for him was not the God of the Bible). Among the evidence he cited for why he believed in it was (a) animals never go extinct (he believed that they would find live dinosaurs in Louisiana!) and (b) comets never collide with planets. Well, now that we know that and that [url=http://seds.org/archive/sl9/sl9.html]comets collide with planets[/url], I think Jefferson (if he were alive today) would have become an atheist, too.

But, my point is, YES, it is possible for a person's belief in God not to be "faith"...if it is supported by evidence and reason and if they are allowed to question their belief when faces with new evidence or arguments.

SECOND, I fail to see the point of your discussion of Penn Jillette. According to your quote, he says he believes there is no God. He also says this belief is very important to him. So? The question was, does he insist he knows this with absolute certainty, or does he say (like I do), that it is his belief based on the best available evidence at the moment and that he would of course be willing to reconsider it if given further evidence (like the list up at the top of this post). I am pretty sure that he is in that same category.

In the case of your quote about Buddhism, here the word "atheist" is being used in its literal, original, and very weak sense that means even less than I mean when I say I'm an atheist. Etymologically, "atheist" just means "without a belief in gods". (The prefix "a" in "amoral" means "without morals". See [url=http://www.wordinfo.info/words/index/info/view_unit/2838/:102q5ufq]here for more examples.) So, by that definition, even what you call an agnostic (who neither has a belief that gods exist or a belief that gods do not exist) would be an "atheist". And, at least according to my comparative religion professor in college, that's all that it means in the case of Buddhism. There are Buddhist sects that "do not advocate belief in gods", but they also do not advocate disbelief in gods! It is an "atheistic religion" in the sense that it has nothing to say about gods at all.

Anyway, I've said too much about this already. Use whatever definition for these words you like, but I think you're actually confusing yourself and misunderstanding things like Penn Jillette's quote. As most people use the word, "belief" does not imply claims of absolute knowledge or certainty.

JoeDSileo1988
Dec 11 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Oh that opens a whole new can of worms. Reason is not subjective. If an atheist and a theist come to different conclusions based on reason then one of two things is happening. Either A) Someone is missing some puzzle pieces, or B) Someone's brain is malfunctioning. The most likely explanation is both are missing some puzzle pieces. If that is the case neither can draw a certain conclusion. What do you call it when you draw a conclusion without all the evidence?

My point with Jillette was that he said that his belief in there being no god was AS STRONG AS a devout person's belief in a God. A Devout Theist by definition has faith in a God. The only reason I brought that up was because Bill and Ted said "...A problem with JoeDSileo1988's definition is that I don't think there is anyone like that... "

Where did I ever say Agnosticism is superior to Atheism??? Why does having faith inherently make one inferior???

And why would you view me as your enemy if we continued this argument??? My best friend of 8 years is an Evangelical Christian/Mac User/Conservative Independent. The core of our relationship is rooted in constant and never ending argument and debate. We argue about everything from floating vs. fixed currency to whether the Recycle Bin or Trash Can is a better representation for file deletion.

almonsky
Dec 11 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Penn Jillette... I must throw my 2cents in.

Joe most recently said:

"My point with Jillette was that he said that his belief in there being no god was AS STRONG AS a devout person's belief in a God. A Devout Theist by definition has faith in a God. The only reason I brought that up was because Bill and Ted said "...A problem with JoeDSileo1988's definition is that I don't think there is anyone like that... ""

in response to Bill and Ted's

"A problem with JoeDSileo1988's definition is that I don't think there is anyone like that."

The "anyone" that B&T was referring to was defined in the sentence before:

"JoeDSileo1988 says an atheist is a person who knows with absolute certainty that there is no God."

In other words, B&T said that he doesn't think there is any atheist who knows with absolute certainty that there is no God (just those who claim a belief). I agreed with B&T. Joe responds to this by pointing out that there are a whole school of thought of people who explicitly believe there is no god. Well... We (Joe, B&T, n-atheist and I) are in agreement. I explicitly BELIEVE there are no gods. But, just as B&T and I were trying to say, I would not say with absolute certainty that there is no god. So, pointing out Penn Jillette's beliefs (regardless of how strong they are) is just that - beliefs - and does nothing toward pointing out someone "like that" (claiming with certainty there is no god).

Thanks, Joe, for your posting. I don't agree with some of what you say, but I have enjoyed the discussion. Hope to meet you at one of the monthly meetings!

mccorquodale
Dec 11 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

What do you call it when you draw a conclusion without all the evidence?

I would call it "drawing a conclusion". When does anyone ever have all the evidence? I decide who to vote for, what food I think will be healthy to eat, how to raise my kids, etc. All of those decisions are made with all of the evidence I have now, but not all the evidence. I live and learn and hopefully make better informed decisions the older I get -- but there is always more to learn.

My point with Jillette was that he said that his belief in there being no god was AS STRONG AS a devout person's belief in a God.

Not quite. According to your quote, Penn did not say anything about how STRONG his belief was, he only talked about how important it was to him. (Here's the direct quote "His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout.") It could be that he is still an atheist in "n-atheist's" sense of the word, who believes there is no god without claiming to have any sort of absolute knowledge that this is "The Truth".

Rhett_Butler
Dec 13 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

I would like to thank you all for this thoughtful discussion. However, it saddens me that we, the non-theistic community, spend any time at all on such matters that serve only to create divisions in our already small community.

We are united in that we live our lives as if there is no God or gods. Whether we as individuals do this because of rational thought processes, blind faith, conviction that it is unknowable, or any of the myriad word combinations in the english language that could describe how we arrived at our worldview....frankly, my dears, we shouldn't give a damn.

almonsky
Dec 14 2009
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

So, does that make you an apathetic atheist? Sorry, I couldn't help myself. :)

itshurleytime
Jul 13 2010
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

I have heard and participated in this argument many times in the interwebz.

The way we colloquially use the term agnostic is, as previously stated, "on the fence". I used to call myself an agnostic, only because I could not ever have actual knowledge of something NOT existing. However, agnosticism only describes knowledge, atheism is something totally different.

Here's what it looks like to someone who doesn't know the definition of agnosticism.

Theist--------------Agnostic--------------Atheist

It's not that simple though. The word "gnostic" literally translates from Greek into "knowledge". Therefore, "agnostic" would mean not having knowledge. Instead of thinking of it as a line between theism and atheism, you have to think of it like a square graph.

[img:ftj946gp]http://api.ning.com/files/kvOHl9cTrw7tTohXFKjpEExwwz0hualrDsn0-6s1D4DjsRMe*PO7qlttW97WZji-XBcwFp*Xow8E56zaTjaZNfL0xbIoD9xr/gnosticism_graph.png[/img:ftj946gp]

Additionally, Dawkins puts this into a scale of knowledge from 1-7 as follows:

1.Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.

2.De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.

3.Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.

4.Pure Agnostic: Godís existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

5.Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but Iím inclined to be skeptical.

6.De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.

7.Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

It is fair to say that the majority of people fall neither in the categories of 1 or 7. Even Dawkins calls himself a 6.9 on the scale. He only knows that a god does not exist as much as unicorns of faeries do not exist. It's unprovable, but a claim of that magnitude is so spectacular that it requires spectacular evidence to be believed.

So I am an atheist. I assume, based on my knowledge and the evidence of the world, that nary a god exists. Since it is impossible to have absolute knowledge that something does not exist, I am agnostic. But then again, no Christian can prove that the FSM does not exist either.

mccorquodale
Jul 28 2010
Re: Differences and Similarities between Agnosticism & Atheism

Dear itshurleytime,

Thanks for your VERY useful post. I'm not sure how many other people are going to get down to it, because this thread is both OLD and LONG. But, I wanted you to know that at least one person (me) read it and found it enlightening.

Gratefully,

McCorquodale

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