Tract #15: Are Agnostics Atheists?

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Are Agnostics Atheists?

So far as deities are concerned, agnostics believe that the existence of deities cannot be proven or disproven. That’s it. Despite what some people think, just knowing that someone is an agnostic does not tell you whether or not they are also an atheist.

One may be an agnostic theist (believing in a deity though proof is impossible), an agnostic atheist (not believing in deities although — or because — proof is impossible), or simply an agnostic (neither believing nor disbelieving in deities because it’s impossible to discover the truth). Any of these people might be correctly referred to as agnostic.

Some people like to call themselves agnostic because, although they are atheists, they feel that “atheist” is either socially loaded or misrepresents their position (because they incorrectly assume all atheist think there definitely are not deities, which conflicts with agnosticism).

A pure agnostic — someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in deities — might be tempted to take Pascal’s wager (the argument that when in doubt it’s better to believe in God and hedge your bets than disbelieve in God and perhaps be punished). Pure agnostics who do not find this argument compelling may be acting as if there is no God while attempting to maintain some element of neutrality on the subject, and in many cases these supposedly pure agnostics are indistinguishable from agnostic atheists.

Moral atheism is not agnostic in that it does not hold that compelling proof for the existence of deities, however unlikely, is impossible. For example, a personal religious revelation might be compelling proof to the individual who received it (although it would not be compelling at all to anyone else). If nothing else, the moral atheist is not willing to rule out the possibility that some proof for a creator’s existence that we currently cannot conceive of might be discovered in the future.

Agnostics and moral atheists would agree that it is in principle impossible to prove that no possible deities exist. There is no way to absolutely prove a negative statement of this sort without absolute knowledge of the universe.

Posted on June 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Agnosticism, Tract

One Response

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  1. Written by ShaggyTheClown17
    on July 4, 2011 at 2:16 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Hmmm,I’m a 21 year old Christian. Recently and not too long ago I’ve come across more and more of these “agnostic atheists” on this chat-room I go to.
    By experience it has lead me to formulate my own recognition of these people, when I see them I say “they’re using the neutral defense,” Because, well lets start from the beginning, there are few types of atheism i know of, weak,medium and strong, strong is a very annoying type because these kinds of people will do nothing but speak their opinion and bash everyone else’s, anyway, the neutral defense starts out a strong atheist, and eventually dwindles down to weak depending on the person talking to them, and once every other attack and defense fails them, they presume to call themselves agnostic, which by my own experience and as I have explained is the kind of defense that atheists I’ve seen like to use in order to drag themselves out of a convo or debate (tucking their tail between their legs), but the funny thing about what happens next, eventually could be 10 mins, could be a few days, but these people almost always come back with a vengeance, as if the person who drove them into falling back had done something horrible to them.

    Anyway ‘d like to make something very clear, we christians like to talk to other groups and nonbelievers about christianity and how it is the truth, and we may be gentle or harsh, and that is because we care, we care about where you and others will spend their eternity, it means nothing if you don’t believe in an afterlife, I could believe I wont be inured if I step in front of a speeding garbage truck, doesn’t mean I wont be horribly injured or killed. But of course not I or anyone else can change your mind, only you can choose to be saved.

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