Is there a difference between atheists and agnostics?

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Q
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Is there a difference between atheists and agnostics?

Post #1

Post by Q »

An interviewer said to Richard Dawkins, "In your book, it says 'God almost certainly doesn't exist'. You're leaving open the possibility that he does?" To which Dawkins replied, "Of course, as any scientist would. You can't absolutely disprove anything."

A long this train of thought, what is the difference between atheism and agnosticism. I have long considered myself an agnostic. If someone were to ask me what I actually believe in regards to a God I would respond, "All of the evidence seems to indicate there probably is no god, at least certainly not in the sense of one depicted by any major organized religion."

So how exactly are these different? Isn't all that really matters, as far as distinctions go, is whether or not you believe in an organized religion?

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Post #2

Post by McCulloch »

Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91 wrote:As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
I suppose that it all depends on how you define your terms. And I won't get into an argument over which definition is correct.

If you define atheism as not having a belief that there is a God, then agnosticism is a subset of atheism.

If you define atheism as having a belief that there is not a God, then agnosticism opposes that.
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Post #3

Post by TheMessage »

They are actually unrelated, though they often go hand in hand. Agnosticism is a lack of knowledge as to whether or not there is a God or gods. Atheism is a lack of belief in any god or gods.

A hardcore (And probably irrational) atheist could proclaim that not only does he not believe in a god, but knows that there are none. Thus, he would be atheist but not agnostic.

A liberal Christian could hold a belief in God but acknowledge that they cannot know for sure. Thus they would be an Agnostic Christian.

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Re: Is there a difference between atheists and agnostics?

Post #4

Post by catalyst »

Q wrote:An interviewer said to Richard Dawkins, "In your book, it says 'God almost certainly doesn't exist'. You're leaving open the possibility that he does?" To which Dawkins replied, "Of course, as any scientist would. You can't absolutely disprove anything."

A long this train of thought, what is the difference between atheism and agnosticism. I have long considered myself an agnostic. If someone were to ask me what I actually believe in regards to a God I would respond, "All of the evidence seems to indicate there probably is no god, at least certainly not in the sense of one depicted by any major organized religion."

So how exactly are these different? Isn't all that really matters, as far as distinctions go, is whether or not you believe in an organized religion?
As an atheist, I pesonally don't believe in any of the God models presented to me as being anything more than folklore or mythological writings. Certainly these writings have their place in history as much fiction work does, but that is about the extent of it.

Hence, as no one HAS conjured up some actually believable "almightly" figure in their theological writings, as far as I am concerned and as such I will remain ATHEIST.

To me at least an agnostic is one whom does not rule out the stuff presented to them as "fact" or... "TRUTH"... just-in-case. I am probably mistaken.
That is a :-k though as to me, so perhaps it is better that an agnostic clarify their stance as to their agnosticism. :D I cannot answer for them.

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Post #5

Post by Grumpy »

I don't think a person can choose what they believe. Since I matured to the point where my thoughts were clear on the subject I find I CANNOT accept the concept of a god(or any other supernatural concept). I think this is more common in the population than not, though many continue to give "lip service" to a belief they don't really have for cultural reasons.

One of the main reasons I came to that point was the sheer number of things religions claim that we KNOW are simply not true, for instance, teaching that the book of Genesis was literally true, talking snakes and all. Not to get into a detailed discussion of each point, let's just say that the Garden of Eden is no more real than the tales of Mount Olympus or Asgard are.

So, I think my atheism is more a state of mind than a "belief", and I think those who are prostelizing the most are really trying desperately to convince themselves most of all.

Grumpy 8-)
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Re: Is there a difference between atheists and agnostics?

Post #6

Post by byofrcs »

Q wrote:An interviewer said to Richard Dawkins, "In your book, it says 'God almost certainly doesn't exist'. You're leaving open the possibility that he does?" To which Dawkins replied, "Of course, as any scientist would. You can't absolutely disprove anything."

A long this train of thought, what is the difference between atheism and agnosticism. I have long considered myself an agnostic. If someone were to ask me what I actually believe in regards to a God I would respond, "All of the evidence seems to indicate there probably is no god, at least certainly not in the sense of one depicted by any major organized religion."

So how exactly are these different? Isn't all that really matters, as far as distinctions go, is whether or not you believe in an organized religion?
I have other beliefs e.g. methodical naturalism and materialism and the side effect of those is that I can say that I don't think there are god/s.

I don't have a "no-god" belief so not a strong stance of atheism but on the other hand I do think the question regarding god/s can be answered based on what I do believe and so I am not an agnostic.

As to whether an agnostic is like an atheist then you really have to compare what positive beliefs these two believe in. If they have materialism and naturalism then it is a safe bet that they are really atheist in all but name. If they don't but have some other worldview then they are not easily comparable.

Personally I don't like grouping Agnostics and Atheists unless I can see what they positively believe in.

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Post #7

Post by Zzyzx »

.
For myself I use the term "Non-Theist" to avoid the connotations of atheist and agnostic.

The most rational position might be that of "Ignostic" (meaning: the theological position that every other theological position, including agnosticism, assumes too much about the concept of God and many other theological concepts.)
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Non-Theist

ANY of the thousands of "gods" proposed, imagined, worshiped, loved, feared, and/or fought over by humans MAY exist -- awaiting verifiable evidence

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Re: Is there a difference between atheists and agnostics?

Post #8

Post by Angel »

Q wrote:An interviewer said to Richard Dawkins, "In your book, it says 'God almost certainly doesn't exist'. You're leaving open the possibility that he does?" To which Dawkins replied, "Of course, as any scientist would. You can't absolutely disprove anything."

A long this train of thought, what is the difference between atheism and agnosticism. I have long considered myself an agnostic. If someone were to ask me what I actually believe in regards to a God I would respond, "All of the evidence seems to indicate there probably is no god, at least certainly not in the sense of one depicted by any major organized religion."

So how exactly are these different? Isn't all that really matters, as far as distinctions go, is whether or not you believe in an organized religion?
I agree with what most others have answered here already. Agnosticism deals with knowledge and atheism relates to belief. Belief and knowledge are two different concepts. Agnosticism and atheism can be the same just as long as you're not claiming to know that no god exist. This is basically the position of an agnostic atheist, someone who believes no god exists but doesn't know if god doesn't exist.

Angel

Post #9

Post by Angel »

Q,

I think we have adequate explanation for the difference between agnosticism and atheism. We also know that agnosticism and atheism can be joined together as one position and so can agnosticism and theism (agnostic atheist or agnostic theist). What's not covered is someone who is only an agnostic when it comes to the issue of God's existence. I fit that, you fit that based on your usergroup descriptions, and I've seen others on this forum as well.

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Post #10

Post by ThatGirlAgain »

Angel wrote:Q,

I think we have adequate explanation for the difference between agnosticism and atheism. We also know that agnosticism and atheism can be joined together as one position and so can agnosticism and theism (agnostic atheist or agnostic theist). What's not covered is someone who is only an agnostic when it comes to the issue of God's existence. I fit that, you fit that based on your usergroup descriptions, and I've seen others on this forum as well.
The whole theist/agnostic/atheist spectrum thing strikes me as not all that informative. Intellectually I have come to the conclusion that the existence of a creator deity is an unanswerable question. Nonetheless there are days I still suspect that there needs to be some originating principle beyond the merely physical. And some days I do not. What am I really?

But regardless of that, even if the existence of a creator deity is postulated, consideration of the vast age, extent and complexity of the universe and the miniscule part of it that even allows us to exist, the notion of any creator deity giving a hoot about what we do or how we do it is just unsupportable. I think it is a more important statement about myself that I am non-religious.
Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.
- Bertrand Russell

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