Okay, first things first. We all know that atheism is basically a lack of belief in God or gods. Have you ever met someone who says, "But I'm an agnostic, not an atheist!"? Being agnostic, as coined by Thomas Huxley, means that you don't know either way if God or gods exist. So, yes, that tells me about what you know. But what do you believe?
Ask a Christian what it means to believe in God. He or she will most likely tell you that it's an all or nothing type of deal. You can't sort of believe in God. You either do, or you don't. So when someone says he/she is not an atheist, I have to ask if he/she worships any deities. When the response is "no", I reply with, "Then by default you are an atheist. You lack a belief in God or gods." Am I right with this thinking? I can't help but be a definition-Nazi. In my mind, if you don't truly believe in any gods, you are an atheist. Plah! Help me out here.

This brings me to my second point. Do you consider agnostics closet atheists? This probably sounds pretty rude to all self-proclaimed agnostics out there. I'm not trying to make you all out to be a group of fence-sitters. I consider myself an agnostic atheist. I don't know if any gods exist, therefore I'm not going to waste my time believing in any. [Regarding my being an atheist, there are of course more reasons to it than that. But you know what I mean.]

What do you think?

Tags: agnosticism, atheism, atheists, closet, definition, of

Views: 15

Replies to This Discussion

Huxley's definition is dumb because nobody "knows".

IMO:

Actively disbelieve--believe there is no god (atheist).

Actively believe--believe there is god(s) (theist, deist, other irrational).

Neither actively believe nor disbelieve: think the question is meaningless, or never thought about it one way or the other, or think there is not enough information, etc. (agnostic)

I think if you make it a yes or no question: Do you believe in god? An atheist will answer no (or no, but...), a theist will answer yes (or yes, but...), and an agnostic will not have an answer.
Yes, I agree that Huxley's word "Agnostic" is stupid because no one actually knows either way. We're ALL agnostic, so the word is superfluous.

I think it is a yes or no question, really. "Do you believe in god?" Someone who claims to be an agnostic would, by default, be an atheist when asked this question. If you don't know, you don't believe.

I just think people who say they don't know so they can't say yes or no are just spineless. They should just admit it.
I believe that the difference between agnosticism and rational atheism (the only kind I can think of anyway...) is that an agnostic states, that since he doesn't know he assumes an hypothesis of equiprobability a 50-50 chance between existence and non existence... (answering you more directly it would be like a "I cant really decide in which I believe"). An atheist on the other side (I enfasise that this is just my humble version of the definitions) says that the question is far from having a a 50-50 chance on each side... (since there originally are only basically two options to a yes or no question), and states that the chance of there being a god is so tiny that can in practice be taken as zero (as with many things in math or physics.. just to give an example...)
My physicist brother bounces between theism, agnosticism, and atheism about every six months (it used to really depress me when I was a xtian, but now I don't worship a fuck-head god that would send him to hell, so it's okay!) He jokingly calls himself a "militant agnostic" and now says "i'm an atheist, but not passionate about it". I think passion may be the deciding factor in what label a person chooses. Personally, I think you're either a deist/theist, or you're an atheist. Now how you label your atheism may be as "agnostic" "secular humanist" or "spiritual" (my least favorite word EVER, because it is so meaningless). Personally, I jumped straight from creationist-charismatic-christian to angry-atheist, with no stopover with agnosticism. I had zero desire to try out other gods or to leave open the possibility of "maybe". Frankly I'm relieved it's not true.
I always thought agnosticism meant your approach to your theism/atheism. (A = without, gnostic = knowledge)
So an agnostic atheist would mean they didn't know and didn't believe.
Agnostic theist would be someone that believed, but didn't claim to know.
Gnostic atheist claims to know there is no god for whatever reason. (Hard/Strong atheism)
Gnostic theist claims to know god exists.
It isn't the actual knowledge, it's claiming to know that makes the difference.

I've always considered myself an agnostic atheist. Which seems to make people angry. Mostly people that claim to be agnostic and insist I can't be both.
I agree 100%. That's kinda what I was getting at too.
With the gnostic atheist thing, it's usually not a belief there is no god at all...Typically atheists that claim to know about the lack of existenc e for a certain god are basing it on some reason the god can't exist...If, by existing, the god would contradict itself, usually.

I've never been a huge fan of "lack of belief" for the same reason you don't like it.
I absolutely loathe the phrase "belief in no god" because it's blatantly biased and completely untrue.
I kinda like the phrase "rationalist" for a variety of reasons. No more worrying about the atheist vs agnostic labels. Plus it implies something beyond merely not believing in a god/gods/etc. It's a much more accurate term for most of us.
When I'm asked to define "atheism" I usually spout off the dictionary definition, "one who does not believe in a god or gods." Theists often turn this into "so, you believe there is no God," which is a subtle difference but enough to get annoying when they insist that that is what I'm trying to say. This is how I follow it up; "No, I don't believe in (insert any supernatural being/event), which is what you believe, correct?" Not having a belief in something is not the same as believing that it isn't a real something. But if they continue to push the point I will eventually tell them, "Look, the overwhelming lack of evidence for a creator god ('cause it's always creationists that take it this far), coupled with the overwhelming amount of evidence for a natural cause, then multiplied by the evidence that your religion is man made, and multiplied again by my BS detector is enough for me to say that the probability of a creator god is so close to zero that I can assert that God does not exist."

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