What is the big difference between atheism and agnosticism?

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atheister's picture
What is the big difference between atheism and agnosticism?

What are the big differences that separate the two. My understanding has always been along the lines agnostics don't really care either way and atheist have a LACK of belief in god or gods. Then there is different levels of atheism . Can you be atheist and agnostic at the same time?

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Serjaydee's picture
I suppose.

I suppose. But agnostics are just bliss about the existence of any god at all. For me they're like just happy that they are living and that there's nothing at all that matters. While atheist are the people who thinks that the belief of many people is destroying our joyful lives at some point and that there are other religions who are just exploiting their followes and that it is in the hands now of atheist to give a reason for people to think for themselves if they should really believe in such things or not.

Rob's picture
An agnostic still has doubts

An agnostic still has doubts about everything and questions things. While an atheist is completely certain in his mind that there is no god. But according to many, there are only a few true atheists, because once they are gretted by their death bed, many of them give into the fear of god. But just like in anything, there are true atheists and there are posers.

yostrich's picture
The word agnostic/gnostic

The word agnostic/gnostic has to do with knowledge or the ability to know something. If you are gnostic, you believe that the truth of your claim can be known with 100% certainty. If you are agnostic, you may believe that something is true, but that we as humans do not have the capability to know for sure. Theism/atheism are terms that have more to do with belief. I believe that there are no gods, theists believe that there is a god.

I think most atheists are also agnostic, my personal position is that while it is impossible to know for sure that gods do not exist, the evidence makes it seem highly improbable. So, while I am extremely confident in my atheism, I would admit that there are limitations to knowing with absolute certainty. In this way, it is also possible to be an agnostic theist, to admit it is not possible to know for sure, but to believe that a god exists.

I wish we had another word to describe people who doubt god exists, thinks we can't know for sure, and doesn't really care or spend much time thinking about it. Maybe we should invent something like that.
Rob:I would disagree with your use of the word posers. I think that everyone is on their own personal journey to truth, and that we cannot judge those who are in a different place then we are. I also think that there is such a negative connotation associated with the word "atheist' that some may hesitate to adopt it, to make it a part of their identity even in their own minds. I won't even address your gross generalizations about "true atheists" since they are so unsubstantiated. I will say though that you hit the nail on the head about fear of god: that's the basis of belief for far too many people.

Zarathustra's picture
This guy gets it^ You have to

This guy gets it^ You have to look at the meaning of the words. An atheist is often agnostic, and almost always, an agnostic is an atheist. I don't want to say to much repeating what Yostrich says, but basically an atheist is someone who does not believe in Gods. To be agnostic is not necessarily just religious. You could be agnostic about quantum mechanics, or agnostic about what shirt to wear. Equally, you can be gnostic. And I don't think many atheists are gnostic, because it implies that you know in your heart of hearts that God does not exist. I don't know that, but I can say with near certainty that I'm quite sure he does not exist. Basically, read Yostrich's points, he makes them well, props chum.

damanar's picture
"I wish we had another word

"I wish we had another word to describe people who doubt god exists, thinks we can't know for sure, and doesn't really care or spend much time thinking about it. Maybe we should invent something like that."

I believe this term is apatheist. I have heard it kicked around.

gladoscc's picture
Don't agnostics believe that

Don't agnostics believe that there is no definite proof that there is or is not god, while atheists believe there is definitely no god?

Zarathustra's picture
Read above. You can be

Read above. You can be gnostic atheist or theist, or agnostic atheist or theist. Atheists do not believe in God. But if you don't know there is a good, do you necessarily believe their is one? Agnostics aren't a middle ground, it's a state concerning knowledge of a subject. I am an agnostic atheist (as should most be) because I can never prove that God does not exist. However, it seems awful unlikely, so I can say with near certainty that he does not. There will never be true certainty, however.

damanar's picture
It is not possible to prove

It is not possible to prove there is no god. The concept is an ever raising goalpost. We used to think the animals were gods, then we figured out they were dumber than us. We then thought the sun, moon and winds were gods, when we figured out they weren't sentient, we invented gods to be intelligent forces behind them. When we figured out Apollo wasn't pulling the sun behind his chariot, we then said god created the natural laws behind how it all works.

Look to Bertrand Russel's teapot for more.

Most people who identify as agnostic do not believe in a god, they don't know and therefore have no reason to believe that there is a god. If someone is an agnostic theist they will generally use that terminology. Few atheists will say they are gnostic atheists, at least if they are intellectually honest. If they do they are as worthwhile to talk to as a gnostic theist.

Samson's picture
It's not a level of the same

It's not a level of the same thing. Yes-can be both and technically we all are.

I find the term useless & confusing. One is about belief the other is about knowledge (gnosis) They are not mutualy exclusive ! So most atheists are techically agnostic atheist and believers are agnostic-theist or gnostic-theist.I don't think there are many non-believers claiming to be gnostic-atheist.

Most strong,militant,angry...etc. atheists have no problem saying ''I don't know'' to the mysteries of the universe...and I've seen many debates when breaking down some question to the point when non-believer sais ''I don't know''...theist goes:''so you're agnostic'' Smug & victorious claiming '' so You're not an atheist''

In america it often used becouse of misconceptions & demonisation of ''atheism'' and many activist will use the famos quote:''Agnostic is just an atheist with no balls'' It was invented by Huxley ( ''Darwin's buldog'') over a century ago....all in all the term is confusing & utterly useless. If you are agnostic-you don't know.If you don't know-you can't believe-you don't have a belief -you are without a...A-theos.

Amishka's picture
Atheism and agnosticism are

Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. One can be atheist and agnostic at the same time. Anyone who does not believe in a god is an atheist. If you do not believe in a god but don’t go as far as saying that you are certain that there is no god, you are an agnostic atheist. That does not mean that an agnostic atheist finds the existence of god any more credible than the existence of Santa Cause. S/he just refuses to believe in something that there is no evidence for. S/he understands that lack of evidence is not evidence for absence but also realizes that the same thing can be said for the existence of Peter Pan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Russell's teapot or any other of billions of entities that there is no evidence for. Most atheists are agnostic atheists.

James's picture
I believe many people are

I believe many people are chosing to go with the word agnostic when asked what they believe in. But for all intents and purposes they are actually atheists. It just seems like the wor atheist has always been more of a tabu than agnosticism ever has. But they are indeed very different things.

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