Is Agnosticism the same as Atheism?

(35 Posts)
DioneTheDiabolist Thu 18-Oct-12 23:43:40

Well, that's it really.

I think that they are different but what do agnostic/Athiest MNetters think? Do you identify as either or both?

No.

Atheism is the rejection of the ludicrous notion of a deity.

Agnosticism is splinters in arse, fence-sitting

Spot the atheist wink

WinklyFriedChicken Thu 18-Oct-12 23:48:13

Atheism = without god, ie believing no god exists. Agnosticism = without knowledge, the belief we can never have true.knowledge about god(s). It is possible (even common?) to believe in God/a god/gods as an agnostic, so its not at all the same as being an.atheist

CrikeyOHare Thu 18-Oct-12 23:54:23

No - but they are not mutually exclusive. They answer different questions.

Theism = to believe in a god or gods
A-theism = to lack belief in a god or gods

Gnosticism = to know
A-gnosticism = to lack knowledge

So theism/atheism speaks to what you believe & gnosticism/agnosticism speaks to what you know.

Every honest person on Earth should be agnostic - because none of us know.

I am an agnostic atheist - I don't know but I really, really, really, really don't believe.

Anyone who identifies as an agnostic tends to mean that they're not sure or can't make up their minds. Technically, they are atheists because they lack belief in a god.

defineme Thu 18-Oct-12 23:56:20

No.
I'm an atheist and wouldn't consider agnosticism.

ps I was a Brownie, kids are scouts and Brownies. My Mum just said it's respectful to say it( Brownie promise) doesn't mean we actually believe in god or the Queen is actually important. I said the same to dd and dss, and of course it's entirely up to them if they attends.

MummysHappyPills Thu 18-Oct-12 23:56:32

I consider myself an agnostic. I am open to the idea that there may be a god, but I do not consider myself to have "faith" or follow a religion.

JudeFawley Thu 18-Oct-12 23:56:47

No.

My dh is agnostic but definitely not atheist, if that makes any sense at all.

CrikeyOHare Fri 19-Oct-12 00:04:56

Most people don't really understand what atheism means. That's why Richard Dawkins made headlines when he said he was agnostic about God. People thought that meant he wasn't an atheist. Of course he is!

If your answer to the question "Do you believe in a god?" is anything other than "yes" (don't know, not sure, haven't thought about it etc) then you are, by definition an atheist - because you don't actually have a belief in a god.

EdithWeston Fri 19-Oct-12 00:05:06

I suppose agnosticism is the rational stance, as one cannot know.

Pascal's wager however puts theism as the better's certainty. Though the snag in that is the underlying question of whether the decision to play the odds that way can actually bring theistic faith into being.

I think (but don't know!) that I'm an agnostic christian theist... so they MUST be different - I'm definitely not an atheist.

NosFarlotu Fri 19-Oct-12 00:16:39

Isn't agnosticism the belief that it is impossible to know if there exists, or prove in any way the existence of, deities of any kind, and atheism lack of belief that there are gods, or at least the belief that as no evidence exists, that one may as well act as though there are none. I am both, but if I have to identify as something I would identify as a humanist.

Pascal's wager. Pfft.

Otherwise known as hedging your bets. Just in case the deluded turn out to be right.

As a hardcore atheist, I'll consider rethinking my beliefs at the exact moment I come to, lounging on a cloud surrounded by my dead relatives as my beardy "maker" approaches hmm

TheDarkestNight Fri 19-Oct-12 00:24:17

I used to be very assertive in my agnosticism, and the idea that 'nothing can be known about God and/or its existence'... then I realised how contradictory it was for me to assert that as if it were fact! So now I stick to 'I don't know whether I believe in God/s, and I don't follow a faith'. I consider myself to be agnostic, but not atheist: again, I don't really like anything that presents 'facts' about the unknowable.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 19-Oct-12 00:32:15

So, is the difference that atheists know there is no god and agnostics acknowledge the existence of a spirituality outside of strictly religious confines?

ravenAK Fri 19-Oct-12 00:34:49

As Crikey says.

I am an atheist (I don't believe in any gods & believe that there aren't any gods to believe in), but, technically, I'm an agnostic, because I admit the possibility that someone might discover one.

I'm also a non-believer in tooth fairies (tooth fairy atheist), but if you told me you had one in a jar, I wouldn't stick my fingers in my ears & la-la-la, I'd ask you to show me the jar (tooth fairy agnostic).

CrikeyOHare Fri 19-Oct-12 00:51:22

So, is the difference that atheists know there is no god and agnostics acknowledge the existence of a spirituality outside of strictly religious confines?

Nope. No atheist I have ever known has ever claimed to know that there's no god.

You know there's no Father Christmas, right, Dione? But do you actually know? Have you been everywhere in the universe to see? No, you don't know but I bet you disbelieve to such a degree that it comes close to knowledge in your head? How about the Easter Bunny?

That's where I'm at with God. I can't know and would never say I did, but I really don't believe it.

NosFarlotu Fri 19-Oct-12 01:03:56

So, is the difference that atheists know there is no god and agnostics acknowledge the existence of a spirituality outside of strictly religious confines?

I would say agnostics are open to the possibility of some spirituality, however unlikely or unprovable they may feel it to be, however I think anyone who would go so far as to acknowledge the existence of a form of spirituality with any certainty could not call themselves agnostic, no. Atheists do not necessarily have 100% conviction that anything supernatural would be completely impossible, they may indeed feel that way, but only need have no beliefs in any deity themselves to fit the label.

Superabound Fri 19-Oct-12 01:06:37

"I am an agnostic atheist - I don't know but I really, really, really, really don't believe."

I would go with this from crikey, I don't believe in any God, especially how it has been presented by religions.

However I think we do not know enough about the nature of reality, things like "how the big bang started" "what was before the big bang" "are there universes outside our universe" etc, we haven't actually got to the nitty gritty of reality
,so for all we know, there may be higher beings etc, unlikely, but obviously possible.

Superabound Fri 19-Oct-12 01:17:41

It actually blows my mind thinking about this stuff, 13.7 billion years actually seems like a small amount of time to go from exploding young universe, to such complex people posting on Mn/twitter about all this, higgs boson etc.

If the big bang occurred once, then it would have happened before, are there other universes in far flung places, universes that died before ours occurred? I don't think we will ever know things like this, it all makes me a bit queasy.

EdithWeston Fri 19-Oct-12 11:07:05

BunnyLeBOOwski - under Pascal's wager, you don't get that option: you'll be roasting in hell (could do with a Hallowe'en little devil emoticon here).

CrikeyOHare Fri 19-Oct-12 14:31:20

Pascal's Wager has to be the stupidest argument in favour of theism ever devised.

In a nutshell - you may as well spend your life believing in God because you have nothing to lose if you're wrong & everything to gain if you're right.

It presupposes that

* It's possible to force yourself to believe in something. I don't think this is actually possible. I could live the life of a model Christian - say the prayers, go to church, sing hymns, do everything right. But this wouldn't make me believe something if I just didn't.

* That God is stupid and doesn't realise that you're just faking your belief in him in the hope of getting into his magic kingdom. Or that he does, but doesn't care - which doesn't say a lot for his regard for intellectual honesty

* That you're banking on the the God YOU personally believe in being the correct one. Given that human beings have worshipped tens of thousands of different gods through the ages then the odds are not in your favour. How are you going to explain to Ba'al/Odin/Zeus/Allah/Lord Vishnu etc that Ooops, you thought he was going to be Yahweh?

*And you do have something to lose by spending your life trying to believe something that turns out not to be true. We only get one life and our time is precious - I don't want to waste a single moment believing nonsense. A life spent praying to a God who doesn't exist would be a tremendous waste of time - a big loss for me.

EdithWeston Fri 19-Oct-12 14:38:25

You will note that the first time I mentioned it, I pointed out that the nature of belief was relevant, and by that I meant that forced faith isn't possible.

And of course the question about whether you have the "right" deity goes without saying.

But it's logic shows that theism is a rational choice: and the formulation of the Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism.

CrikeyOHare Fri 19-Oct-12 15:56:31

But it's logic shows that theism is a rational choice: and the formulation of the Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism.

I beg to differ. Pascal's Wager isn't remotely "logical". It begins with the most common logical fallacy of all - begging the question. It assumes certain characteristics about this god - namely that he'll punish non-believers & reward believers. This is not an established fact & is therefore a flawed premise. No logical argument can be launched from a flawed premise.

It's for this reason that Pascal's Wager only makes sense to people who already believe in God, and absolutely none to people who don't.

It also only works if you make the assumption that believing costs nothing and that not believing provides no benefit. This is not true. So, again, a deeply flawed premise.

It sets up a false dichotomy in suggesting that there are only two options - Christianity (or Islam, Hinduism, whoever is making the argument) or atheism and, as I've already pointed out, this is not the case AT ALL. It's atheism vs thousands upon thousands of Gods.

Whatever PW is - logic it ain't.

EdithWeston Fri 19-Oct-12 16:00:37

Interesting: and so much in contradiction of the generally accepted view of Pascal's great contribution to philosophy.

seeker Fri 19-Oct-12 16:04:29

Technically, as it is impossible to prove a negative, it would be precisely correct for atheists to call themselves agnostics. But for atheists, the likelihood of there actually being a god is so vanishingly small that atheist is accurate. They have a sort of homeopathic dose of agnosticism!

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