Atheist vs agnostic definition?
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10-11-2014, 02:33 PM (This post was last modified: 10-11-2014 02:36 PM by LadyWallFlower.)
Atheist vs agnostic definition?
I've recently been confused about the definitions of atheist and agnostic. I thought I knew the definitions, but a recent YouTube video and a personal conversation has me all confused.

To me, an atheist is someone who thinks it's highly improbable that there are any gods.

An agnostic is someone who isn't sure.

Are these definitions correct?

Edit: I think the definition of agnostic is confusing me most.

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10-11-2014, 02:37 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/def...sh/atheist
Atheist:
A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods:


http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/def...h/agnostic
agnostic:
A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

That is it.

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10-11-2014, 02:41 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
That's easy!

Agnostic = Lazy atheist.

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10-11-2014, 02:42 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
Not exactly, but many think this (I used to think so too). Agnostic is indeed commonly used to refer to someone in the middle, so to speak. But from what I've learned they refer to two different "planes".

Theist/Atheist refer to Faith.
Gnostic/Agnostic refer to Knowledge.

So you can combine any of those, but not two from the same category. I think this chart might simplify it a bit better:

[Image: beliefchart1_large.png]

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10-11-2014, 02:42 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
(10-11-2014 02:37 PM)Metazoa Zeke Wrote:  http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/def...sh/atheist
Atheist:
A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods:


http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/def...h/agnostic
agnostic:
A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

That is it.

Ok, that's what I thought. I was watching a video, and someone said that we are all agnostics in some way.

"Most people are other people.
Their thoughts are someone else's opinions,
their lives a mimicry,
their passions a quotation."
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10-11-2014, 02:59 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
Ugh, definitions again.

The first thing to realize is that there are multiple different definitions in common usage, and it is difficult to say that one or the other is "correct" in any objective sense. The best you can hope for is to understand what other people mean when they use the words, and to use the words yourself in a way that will be clear.

That said, here's some common definitions.

Theist: (1) Someone who believes that one or more gods exist.

Atheist: (1) A person who is not a Theist, ie, has no belief in the existence of any gods. This includes people who have no belief either way, regarding whether gods exist. (2) More narrowly, a person who fully believes that gods do not exist, aka "strong atheist". Contrast with "weak atheist". (3) Someone who does not believe in or does not show appropriate worship of or obedience to a particular god or gods, in the judgement of the speaker. Usually derogatory, and carries no assumptions about whether the subject actually believes the god(s) exist(s).

Agnostic: (1) A person who claims no knowledge of whether any god exists. Not contradictory with theism or atheism(1), and allows "agnostic theists" and "agnostic atheists". (2) A person who claims that such existence is impossible to know, aka "strong agnostic". Contrast "weak agnostic". Still does not contradict with theism or atheism(1). (3) A person who ranks themselves undecided or uncertain on the question. (4) Someone who is neither a theist nor an atheist(2). Note large potential for confusion if this definition is used in contrast with a definition of atheism other than atheist(2).
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10-11-2014, 03:03 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
(10-11-2014 02:42 PM)LadyWallFlower Wrote:  Ok, that's what I thought. I was watching a video, and someone said that we are all agnostics in some way.

There are multiple definitions so the important thing is to clarify which you mean with whomever you are talking to.

I normally use the definitions as given here by The Polyglot Atheist since I've found that to be the most useful. In that sense, if somebody believes in a god but says that they are not certain (or as certain as practicable) then they are an agnostic theist.

The definition for agnostic as given by Metazoa Zeke is more along the lines of what I heard growing up and implies a sort of middle ground between believing and not believing. That's fair enough, but even people claiming to be in that position usually either think that there probably is or probably isn't a god. I don't think I've ever met anybody who holds to the strict "we can't know so I take no position" stance. Anybody that does obviously doesn't have a belief that a god exists which fits the atheist definition anyway.

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10-11-2014, 03:07 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
(10-11-2014 02:59 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  Ugh, definitions again.

The first thing to realize is that there are multiple different definitions in common usage, and it is difficult to say that one or the other is "correct" in any objective sense. The best you can hope for is to understand what other people mean when they use the words, and to use the words yourself in a way that will be clear.

Awesome. I like that answer. Thumbsup

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Their thoughts are someone else's opinions,
their lives a mimicry,
their passions a quotation."
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10-11-2014, 03:26 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
(10-11-2014 02:42 PM)The Polyglot Atheist Wrote:  Not exactly, but many think this (I used to think so too). Agnostic is indeed commonly used to refer to someone in the middle, so to speak. But from what I've learned they refer to two different "planes".

Theist/Atheist refer to Faith.
Gnostic/Agnostic refer to Knowledge.

So you can combine any of those, but not two from the same category. I think this chart might simplify it a bit better:

[Image: beliefchart1_large.png]

With how frequently this is misunderstood, that chart should be front page stuff, or added to the quick emoticons.
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10-11-2014, 03:30 PM
RE: Atheist vs agnostic definition?
@Reltzik True, defining the meaning before a debate should be a must (and I like when debaters do it). Ambiguity should be put outside of any serious discussion that aims at be constructive, even if the two parts keep disagreeing.

@WeAreTheCosmos yeah, I think it really helps to have it. Big Grin

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