A lot of people argue that agnosticism is the only logically sound and infallible religious choice, since 'we cannot ever really know if God exists or not.'

Directly relating to this is some theists' belief that we must be just as irrational as they are because we too do not have solid evidence for our beliefs.

I also recently heard the phrase 'agnostic in theory, atheist in practice.'

What say you guys?

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Could you post that reading list? No doubt I could find their works myself, but I also don't doubt that there are particular works which make better starting points, or those which provide a better summary, etc., etc...
Incidentally I tend to agree; the words themselves are often a distraction from the meaning behind them, and especially a distraction from that fact that any one word can't convey an understanding of the associated beliefs to a sufficient degree to enable a serious discussion.
What about those who become atheists not through empirical analysis, but through exposure to convincing rhetoric. If they believe what they hear because it feels convincing, and not because they look for empirical support for the propositions, can't they be said to hold that belief on faith?
What about those who become atheists not through empirical analysis, but through exposure to convincing rhetoric. If they believe what they hear because it feels convincing, and not because they look for empirical support for the propositions, can't they be said to hold that belief on faith?

Then they came to atheism irrationally...I would encourage such a person to spend the time to examine the evidence with a skeptical mind.
I like Dawkins' way of looking at it: seeing belief and non-belief on a linear scale. If 1 means "I'm certain god does not exist" and 7 means "I'm certain god exists," I characterize myself as a 2.

In everyday usage, "agnostic" often implies a fence-sitting, almost apathetic position on the existence of god. Kind of like a 4 on the scale.
Precisely what I believe.
I think the scale is not very useful and potentially misleading, except as an estimate of how probable you consider the possibility. But such estimates can only be made/given in the context of ignorance. The scale conflates belief & knowledge, and you'd need a separate scale for every definition of "God."
If you think logical and rationally than the only conclusion would be atheism. I am almost positive (without saying I know it all) that there is no such thing as gods and other supernatural beings, heaven and hell and life after death. On Dawkins scale 7 is knowing for sure there is no god. I would put myself at 6.9999999.....
Is it just me or doesn't it seem so obvious?
Obviously not to believers...
But a god who doesn't require any sort of recognition from humanity is a possibility, because we as of yet lack the ability to study such a force. Is this openness to a cosmic force going to change my life in any practical way whatsoever? No.

I agree completely - a Deist god is of no use and is unknowable.
Lets examine the words.

Theist: A person that believes in god or gods.

Atheist: Based on the word theist combined with the prefix 'a' which means 'not' or 'without'. Thus the word atheist at its simplest means someone that is without a belief in god or gods or simply stated is not a theist.

Gnostic: This is the term people often forget to consider in the mix. It is based on the ancient Greek word gnosis which means knowledge. In this particular case it refers to someone that claims to have direct knowledge of god or gods.

Agnostic: Coined by Aldous Huxley to label his position that knowledge of god was not possible. Formed from the word Gnostic and again combined with the prefix 'a' the word agnostic means someone that is without knowledge of god or gods.

I bolded a couple of terms up there. Belief and Knowledge. I did so because these are the terms that these words revolve around (aside from gods). Theism/Atheism refer to whether a person believes in the existence of god(s). Gnostic/Agnostic refer to whether a person knows there are god(s) or not. Belief and knowledge are different things.

When someone asks you if you believe in god(s) and you reply you are an agnostic you have not answered the question asked. You can not have knowledge of god(s) and still believe/not believe in god(s). Thus by stating you are an agnostic you have side stepped the question asked.

A person can be both an agnostic and an atheist. A person can be both an agnostic and a theist. In theory a person can also be a gnostic and atheist or theist as well but they run afoul of numerous logical problems. Thus most people tend to default to agnostic and split on atheist or theist.

It should be noted that the terms atheist and theist are binary in nature. That is if you are not one then you are by definition the other. If you do not currently believe in existence of god(s) then are an atheist.
Az,

Thanks for this, you've put this across very well, and you've essentially made, very clearly, the points I wanted to make.

It is interesting to note that with this understanding, 'agnosticism' actually becomes a very trivial concept indeed, barely worth mentioning.

One minor point of disagreement..... I don't think that Huxley (and I'm pretty sure it was T.H., not Aldous) meant agnosticism to be defined as the belief that knowledge of god was not possible. I think it was more intended to mean an attitude that we might call scepticism today.....simply to not believe or claim to believe in things for which sufficient evidence has not been presented (and therefore not a position targeted at god specifically). I could be wrong about this, it's been a while since I read his 'In defence of Agnosticism'.

Let's think, for a moment, about this idea that some 'agnostics' hold, that knowledge of god is not possible. On what basis do they make this claim? There is no evidence that knowledge of God is not possible. Indeed, if god(s) were to exist, then it is very likely that some knowledge of them would be possible. What I am saying is, that anyone who claims that knowledge of god(s) is impossible, is making a definite claim with no evidence to back it up, and is therefore being a poor 'agnostic'.

And why apply this special treatment only to god(s)? People don't claim to be 'agnostic' about other ridiculous claims.

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