Is agnosticism “atheism lite”?

This question was posed on a friend’s page on Facebook this morning. My response to the question, “Is agnosticism ‘atheism lite’?” is this:

Most atheists also claim to be agnostic meaning they don’t know if there is a god or not. No one knows for certain if there is a god or not, including the most devout Christian (or any religious group) despite how much they will lie and claim that they know their god is real.

Everyone, atheist or theist, is agnostic. The thing is, though, the atheist goes one step further and takes the definitive stance that, based on the lack of evidence and the improbability of the existence of any deities, we do not believe in any of the thousands of deities that mankind has worshipped over the course of time. The problem is some people, of both atheist and theist persuasion, have falsely defined atheism as “Knowing there are no gods that exist.”

So, when someone claims to be just an agnostic, they are basically sitting on the fence and refusing to really take a position on whether they believe in a deity or not. Saying you are agnostic really means nothing. When someone tells me they are an agnostic, the follow-up question should always be, “But do you believe any gods exist?” If no, then you are an agnostic atheist. If yes, then you are an agnostic theist.

What I think a lot of self-described agnostics are trying to do is take a position where they feel superior to both groups. I’ve seen it a lot. Agnostics who show up on an internet site talking about, “I’m an agnostic but I think hardcore atheists are just as bad as hardcore Christians.” or some variation thereof.

So, to answer the original question, no, agnosticism is not “atheism lite.”



Filed under Atheism, Religion

2 responses to “Is agnosticism “atheism lite”?

  1. loudoun2

    Whoa. I understand your point, but that seems a little harsh, given that in the second paragraph you explain that all of us are, in fact, agnostic. (I can’t ever *know* that there are no wood nymphs living in the tree in my back yard, but all evidence points to “no”). I identify as an atheist, but we are all sort of agnostics because we are all saddled with our inability to prove a negative. It seems like a technically accurate thing to call us (as you pointed out), but I also haven’t met a lot of smug or superior people who identify as agnostic.

  2. I’m anti-theist. I cannot tell you definitively that there is no god. I can definitively tell you that there is no good or sound reason for anyone to have made the claim that a god exists in the first place. That being the case, I’m very comfortable saying there is no god.

    Think of it like this: there was no sound or good reason to claim there is an invisible pink unicorn, so you and everyone else is happy to say that no invisible pink unicorns exist.

    Everything after the claim of the existence of a creator god is codswallop that should be thrown out. Yes, throw the baby out with that bathwater. All of it. Save nothing of it. The conceptual premise is wrong, unsupported, and everything surrounding it or resulting from it should simply be trashed.

    Agnostics ignore this point and by default give credence to the original claim. Technically they should admit they are invisible pink unicorn agnostics too, and that they are agnostic about the existence of Russell’s flying tea pot, invisible fire breathing dragons, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the tooth fairy. That is not a tenable position in my view.


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