I have heard many an atheist claim that is the case. Indeed I am sometimes guilty of using that word to describe myself in place of atheist. Occasionally one wants to minimize the impact of their beliefs in a religious world. Agnostic means without knowledge. Atheism means without a god or religion.
I do know that I don't believe in an Abrahamic god, heaven, hell, original sin or supernatural miracles. However, I do not know that death means the end of consciousness. In that sense I am agnostic. It may well be the end of consciousness and I am OK with that. However, I look around at a universe that recycles itself. The body of a dead animal feeds a myriad of other organisms and is thus recycled. Our solar system was born from the death of a star. Our universe may have spawned off of another universe ( Multiverse Theory). It seems like an endless cycle. Ultimately none of us knows as we have not returned from the dead. I suppose it comes down to semantics and how you interpret the word.
I do not believe in gods for the same reason that I do not believe in Santa Claus. It took a period of time in my life for me to come to this conclusion. When I did so it seemed perfectly natural to me. The truly religious understand discarding Santa but argue for hanging onto their god.Why?
The following language is from Einstein and it seems to have validity as his POV as it was in a a letter and in response to a philosopher.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.”
Einstein clearly did not believe in a personal, interventionist god but we can not legitimately claim him as an atheist.
The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.
- Albert Einstein, quoted in: Einstein's God - Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God (1997)
Based on what I have read about Einstein's beliefs Agnostic seems like the best word to describe him.
A theist may argue with you that you are not an atheist. He will do this because his book tells him that "everybody believes in god." This is why they often say to you, "something must have happened" meaning you are now "angry with god" over something.
Not an atheist? These very facts are why I will always say that I am an atheist. Nobody has a right to tell me what I believe in or answer that question for me.
David Silverman describes this type of person whom uses euphemisms as a diplomat or nice atheist. Though there are those whom are simply hiding for fear of repercussions. I once was in that category myself. It can be difficult for people whom come from very religious families or cultures to brazenly come out. For a number of years I lied to everyone including myself about not believing there is a God. I am embarrassed to admit it was not until my son was sent to the principles office for being an atheist that I finally told the truth. After the very unpleasant experience of admitting it to my wife it was very easy to be honest with everyone else. I had been a dishonest liar. Now I empathize with those whom have not yet made that choice for very good reasons. Though as I look back on it they were not as good of reasons for me as I believed. I simply have not gotten into "arguments" as for what ever reason those whom the subject has been breached actually listen to my position. I do not avoid the subject at all. I am the guy who when I go out into town wear atheist t shirts to start the conversations.
Here's an extended commentary on this question. ComicSkeptic recently had a discussion with David Silverman and was swayed.
Go Ahead and Embrace the Word “Atheist” (Even If You Prefer a Different Label)
[Hemant Mehta, Patheos]
Should you use the word “atheist” to describe yourself even if “Humanist” describes you more thoroughly or “Agnostic” seems more philosophically honest?
David Silverman, President of American Atheists, (obviously) says yes. But it’s not just for self-serving reasons.
YouTuber Alex J. O’Connor (a.k.a. CosmicSkeptic) recently met Silverman and describes the conversation they had on this very topic. He also talks about how Silverman managed to convince him that the “atheist” label should be embraced even if people who fit the description would rather use another term.
The bottom line:
. . . I love the point at the end: “Call yourself an atheist today, so you won’t have to tomorrow.”
There's a great story about Bertrand Russell, who was jailed for protesting against more than one war. At one point his jailor asked him about his religious beliefs. Russell informed the fellow that he was an agnostic. I don't remember the exact words, but the guy replied something like that's nice, at least we all believe in the same god.
Christians have it in their book (that old Buybull) that everyone believes in god. This means "their god" and they firmly believe that a day will come when we all believe in the same god. Which god? Their god.
I've probably said this before; I tend to repeat myself.
I'm an agnostic on there being some being, force, mind, behind it all. Seems unlikely, but what do I know?
But on the god of Abraham and Isaac, I'm an atheist.
You know the one: "Hey, Abe. You and Ike meet me at Sacrifice Rock.
And bring the knife."
No way. Any being able to create butterflies wouldn't behave like that. Ridiculous.