Atheist: I'm an atheist.

Closeted Atheist: Oh, well, I think you're going a bit too far. I mean, you can't conclusively prove that gods don't exist.

Atheist: So, you are a theist?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm agnostic; I don't claim that gods don't exist because that's a non-falsifiable claim. It's not possible to prove a negative.

Atheist: I agree and take the same position. So, why do you call yourself agnostic but not an atheist?

Closeted Atheist: Agnostic refers to a lack of certitude with regard to some question. It means, "without knowledge."

Atheist: So, your agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge: you don't know whether gods exist. Is that correct?

Closeted Atheist: Yes. What's your point?

Atheist: Well, I don't know whether gods exist either.

Closeted Atheist: There. That settles it. You really should be calling yourself an agnostic instead of an atheist.

Atheist: Oh, but I do call myself an agnostic.

Closeted Atheist: Didn't you say you were an atheist?

Atheist: I didn't realize the two distinctions were mutually exclusive.

Closeted Atheist: What do you mean?

Atheist: Well, we already established that our agnosticism addresses the question of knowledge. But what about belief? Does agnosticism really say anything about what one believes?

Closeted Atheist: Of course it does! An agnostic person does not believe one way or the other!

Atheist: I thought you said an agnostic person does not know one way or the other.

Closeted Atheist: It's the same thing!

Atheist: Really? Interesting! Does a theist know that gods exist?

Closeted Atheist: I suppose not...

Atheist: So a theist is really just agnostic--someone who doesn't know one way or the other!

Closeted Atheist: But a theist believes that gods exist!

Atheist: And yet the theist does not know that gods exist. So what distinguishes you from the theist? Do you share the belief of the theist as well as his/her ignorance?

Closeted Atheist: Of course not! I'm not a theist, I'm an...

Atheist: Atheist--without belief in gods--"not a theist." Am I right?

Closeted Atheist: Oh, I suppose you are. I never thought of it that way. I'm an a-theist...huh, sounds terrible.

Atheist: That's okay, you'll get over the taboo.

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Comment by Casey Wollberg on April 25, 2009 at 7:22am
A person could be a gnostic atheist with regard to specific falsifiable god concepts. Victor Stenger tries to make a case against the existence of the Judeo-Christian god I think (I haven't read the book yet) in God: The Failed Hypothesis. I consider myself a gnostic atheist toward the god I used to believe in. Gods in general I can't say for sure, since "god" could mean almost anything. In fact to be really technical I am actually an ignostic atheist generally. I like to say I have apatheist ambitions. ^_^
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on April 25, 2009 at 1:32am
Casey, it might have been the wrong word, semantically, but there was no other which really did the job back then. My answer to the question "Do you believe in god?" would have been "I am not sure".
Comment by Lynn M. on April 24, 2009 at 11:19pm
gnostic theist- person who says a god is knowable and believes in a god
agnostic theist- person who says a god is not knowable but believes in a god
agnostic atheist- person who says a god is not knowable, and does not believe in a god
gnostic atheist- person who says a god is knowable, yet does not believe in a god (this one is the most difficult to wrap your brain around- can't say I've ever met/talked with someone who is gnostic atheist)
Comment by Casey Wollberg on April 24, 2009 at 10:44pm
Well, that's simply not what the word means. Confusion is not agnosticism, it is confusion. I am an agnostic atheist, because I don't claim to know that gods don't exist. People who aren't sure what to believe, or who are confused, or who are afraid of the atheist label, all rush to recruit this word "agnostic" as a description for their condition...and then often go on to develop a self-righteous position out of their uncertainty/confusion/fear based on the mistaken notion that the philosophy of agnosticism somehow supports this. It doesn't.

I'm not redefining anything. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in gods. If you're not sure what you believe, that doesn't make you an agnostic (unless you happen to subscribe to the agnostic view that knowledge of the supernatural is not attainable, in which case that would make you agnostic). Uncertainty or confusion about what to believe is called wavering faith, not agnosticism. The "agnostic" who does not believe in gods whatsoever is by definition an atheist, regardless of protestations to the contrary.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on April 24, 2009 at 8:32pm
@Casey, I don't think it is quite as simple as that. I went through a stage of "agnosticism" before I was ready to declare myself as a full blown atheist. It could best be described as "I really don't know what to think at this stage". If someone had presented the above scenario to me I would simply have dug my heels in or, more likely, tuned them out.

For many people who become atheists by "giving up" previous beliefs, there is an interim stage of confusion. I do not think we should try to redefine this as "closet atheism".
Comment by Casey Wollberg on April 24, 2009 at 7:19pm
By "confused" do you mean not knowing what "agnostic" means? If so, most people who self-identify as "agnostic" but not atheist or theist are indeed so confused. This was the point of my fictional dialogue. Agnosticism, strictly speaking, is not a compromise between belief and non-belief. It is a philosophy about what one can know regarding supernatural claims; it is not a statement of non-belief but not non-belief. Besides not being the definition of agnosticism, to state "I don't believe, but I don't not believe," is to contradict oneself.
Comment by Taylor Smith on April 24, 2009 at 12:40pm
was this a real converstion? because i don't think an agnostic would talk like that. and few people are so easily confused, whether they are christians, agnostics, atheists, or purple people eaters.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 23, 2009 at 6:11pm
ROTFLMAO!!! O.K. You win.
Comment by Lorien on March 23, 2009 at 4:41pm
OK Rosamary Wamm, B5 was also in the past.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on March 23, 2009 at 4:38pm
Lorian with an E: As you just said: Details, Details

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