Question for “non-atheist agnostics”: Why do you think you aren’t already an atheist? (Part 1)

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Comment by Asa Watcher on November 16, 2011 at 8:52pm



Well, denbutsu, I’m inclined to agree with all that you say, like:  "labeling is, in our 2011 social reality, important",  but I find it frustrating when atheists on a site titled “Atheists Nexus” can’t even agree on what an atheist is;  and who refuse to distinguish between “faith” and “belief”, and who claim to be so open minded, yet take offense when someone tries to focus on the meaning of words in order to eliminate most of the disagreements. 

As far as messaging to the rest of the world is concerned, when confronted with the implicit challenge from a theist:  “Don’t you believe in God?” the answer should not be “No”.  The answer should be something like:  “I do not share your faith”.  This answer avoids the argument about god’s existence, and, instead, turns attention to the real issue:  the theist’s faith, and ultimately to the topic of faith in general.  “Why do you hold to this faith?  What is the nature of your faith?”The theist is forced to examine himself, to do a bit of introspection instead of taking the easy path of simply attacking atheists. 

Either that or they have to deny having faith and admit to “knowing” there is a god.  At which point they admit to denying their own faith.  And we all know that  “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

What happens instead?  Atheists claim they “know” there is no god.

How silly.


Comment by Earther on November 16, 2011 at 8:21pm

I agree that atheist do not believe in gods, I also agree that agnostics, to atheist, seem unprepared to take a stance.  As in the ability to live together we must focus on civil rights and separation of church and state.  We must also continue to know the difference between self defense and violent behavior.  The word bully takes on the inference of violent, disrespectful behavior.  Competition, however, can actually have a healthy vigorous meaning.  Is a hunter violent or competitive?  Obviously it depends on the hunter's purpose and self discription of what he or she is doing.  It is easy to judge and condemn but without caution any self described group can be the abusers we hope to stop.

Comment by denbutsu on November 16, 2011 at 10:21am


Seems to me your take boils down my same thoughts to a clearer, more consice point. I like that, and I agree (where possible) with keeping it simple).


Earther --

On a substantive level, I totally agree with you. Both those who self-identify as "atheists" and "agnostics" share nearly indistinguishable common interests when it comes to keeping religion out of government.


However, whether we like it or not, whether we wish to participate in the system that perpetuates it or not, labeling is, in our 2011 social reality, important.And it's not important because of the label itself. It's important because people organize around the labels which represent their beliefs, and then enact those beliefs in tangible ways. They form voting blocs. They form community associations that get mayors elected. The impact the real world (even as their beliefs are pure fantasy).


Here's what's important: Creationists are trying to sneak their shit into science classrooms. Parents (including in the U.S.) are mutilating the genitalia of their children. People are engaging in violence for their gods. Fundamentalists are funding massive, organized campaigns to discriminate against homosexuals, perpetuate the spread of AIDS in Africa (and elsewhere) by opposing condoms and other forms of birth control, fighting against the rights of women to control their own bodies... and all of this is happening in the name of... gods.

So, excuse me if I'm overstepping my boundaries, but I do in fact think that those "agnostics" who are quite vocal about their (quote unquote) "not knowing whether gods exist" but who are, at the same time, opposed to every single offense to human liberties I just named in the above paragraph (almost all of which are perpetuated soley in the name of religion) are, in most cases, actually atheists who are afraid to be labeled as such, be it for whatever reason.

Atheists have gotten a bad name. It's "cooler" now to be like, "well I don't believe in this but I also don't believe in that". Well, fuck that.

The question is simple: Do you believe that gods, any kinds of gods, any higher powers, any superior or higher beings, any of those entities, really do exist?


If your answer is, "No", you are an atheist.

Comment by Earther on November 16, 2011 at 12:53am

Isn't the importance of the question from the stance a person is taking on an issue?  The religious group and the atheist group are equally butt headed.  If we have a true separation of church and state we can have both groups on one society with out injustice to either party.

Comment by Asa Watcher on November 15, 2011 at 11:25am

I’ve often wondered about the semantics.

God is an object of faith, not of "knowledge", or of "knowing".

An atheist is simply a person who does not have faith in the existence of god(s).


You can say that you don’t “know” whether there is a god(s) or not. . . fine,  but you CAN’T say that you don’t know whether or not you have faith in the existence of god(s).

Everybody KNOWS whether or not they possess faith in the existence of god(s).

If you do, you are a theist.

If you don’t, you are an atheist.

Keep it simple.



Comment by denbutsu on November 14, 2011 at 8:39pm

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, John. I would have to say that we have some disagreement about definitions.

My understanding (and I suppose the matter is up for debate to some extent) is that "theism" is the positive belief that one or more gods must exist, while "atheism" is simply not being convinced of that claim, ie. "not believing in gods" as opposed to "believing positively that there must be no gods".But nobody on this theist-atheist spectrum must necessarily claim to have certain knowledge that gods do or don't exist.

Which is where agnosticsm comes into play, as the "gno" in "gnostic pertains not to belief but to knowledge. So I'd argue that all four of these combinations are possible:

gnostic theist: one who believes in gods and who also claims to have knowledge this belief is true

agnostic atheist: one who doesn't believe gods exist, but who also acknowledges not having absolute knowledge they don't exist

agnostic theist: one who believes in gods, but who also acknowledges not having absolute knowledge they do exist (they believe on faith alone, without claiming to "know" for sure)

gnostic theist: one who doesn't believe gods exist, and who also claims to have knowledge this belief is true

Now admittedly, I think if we could survey the population and put a Venn diagram together, we'd find probably the vast majority of atheists are also agnostics, primarily for the reason you describe, that if you don't claim to know whether gods exist or not, the logical conclusion is not to believe in any until sufficient evidence is put forward. And likewise, I'd suppose a majority of theists are gnostic, and would claim to "know" god exists based on personal experience, accounts of miracles, the power of prayer, etc. Although perhaps a less significant majority than the amount of atheists who are agnostic, due to their embrace of the concept of faith, which allows them to reject rational conclusions.

Comment by John Camilli on November 11, 2011 at 3:52pm

This article is refreshingly informed, and poses a question that I think many of our members have not yet resolved for themselves. I have participated in many semantical discussions regarding the meanings of these two words, and have generally found that people simply do not have any understanding of etymology. This has allowed for the rise of terms like "agnostic atheist" and "agnostic theist," which are silly, self-contradictory terms.


To be a theist or an atheist, one must have belief: either the belief that a God or gods do exist, or a belief that a God or gods do not exist. Either way, one is accepting a truth without proof (a nice little rhyme). Agnosticism is simply a position of indecision; a lack of belief either way, due to the lack of knowledge. Some people, lacking knowledge, are compelled to make a decision regardless: those are theists and atheists. Some people do not feel compelled to decide: those are agnostics. One cannot be both decided and undecided with regards to the same topic, so one cannot be an "agnostic atheist" or an "agnostic theist." Still, those terms persist (on wikipedia), and contribute to people's confusion.


Personally, I think it's silly to make a decision either way about a God or gods because...what does it matter? It could never be proven either way that God could or could not exist. Never, ever, ever, because the very nature of considering the existence of something non-physical defies analysis; defies logic. It is a question which cannot be subjected to proof or disproof because those terms apply only to empirical (physical) entities.



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