Atheism
The Difference Between
Agnosticism

What is the difference between an agnostic and an atheist?

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January 13, 2018 12:58PM

Answer 1

An agnostic believes there is not enough evidence to decide the existence of God, an atheist believes there is no god or gods. In practice, philosophers describe 5 levels:

strong theist - certain there is a god

weak theist - an agnostic who believes there's not enough evidence to prove existence, nevertheless, believes there is a god.

agnostic - believes there is not enough evidence to decide the existence of God and has no opinion one way or another.

weak atheist - an agnostic who nevertheless believes there is no god.

strong atheist - certain there is no god.

Answer 2

Agnostic comes from the Greek "A" - meaning "no/against" and "Gnosis" - meaning "knowing". Agnostic, therefore, is someone who does not know whether or not a God or many gods exist. Atheist means someone who either does not believe that God/god-claims have met their burden of proof OR actively disbelieves in all God/god-claims. A person can be both an Agnostic and an Atheist at the same time.

In colloquial usage, though, people refer to themselves as Agnostics if they are unsure whether or not to believe religious claims and Atheists if they do not believe them, even though this is an incorrect use of the terms.

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November 05, 2015 3:01PM

It depends on whether you are using laymen's definitions or theological/philosophical definitions.

According to a layman understanding, an Agnostic is a person who is unsure whether or not a God exists and, therefore, are not hedging a bet either way and an Atheist is a person who believes that God does not exist.

According to a theological/philosophical definition, the terms Agnostic and Atheist refer to two distinct characteristics. Gnosticism refers to having definitive knowledge of whether God exists and Theism refers to what people believe about God's existence. You could have a Gnostic Theist, which is someone who knows that God exists and believes God exists. You could have an Agnostic Theist, which is someone who is unsure about whether a God exists, but feels that sufficient evidence exists to warrant belief. You could have an Agnostic Atheist, which is someone who is unsure about whether a God exists and feels that insufficient evidence has been presented to warrant belief. Finally, you could have a Gnostic Atheist, which is someone who knows that God does not exist and believes that God does not exist.

Public Atheists today are trying to popularize the latter set of definitions over the layman's understanding in order to avoid the burden of proving that God does not exist, which would be necessary if they were Atheists under the layman's definition.

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November 05, 2015 1:14AM

An atheist is a person who does not believe in god or gods.

An agnostic is a person who believes that whether or not gods exist is unknowable. Although skeptical about the existence of gods an agnostic is not a true atheist. An agnostic believes it isn't possible to decide if there is a god.