Atheists v.s. Agnostics

This is a very important topic and one that often goes misunderstood. So, let’s start with the basic definitions. This video is the best explanation I have so far found on the subject.

So, to be clear gnosticism is a sliding scale of certainty based on evidence and theism is a sliding scale based on belief. Where do you fall? Have you changed? I know I have. Let me explain…

Gnosticism is about the knowing and the certainty of knowledge. I don’t know anyone that claims to be a GNOSTIC ATHEIST and are “certain” there is no god. But, I lean that way. Why? Well, my belief in anything seems to lie in direct correlation to the evidence for it. So, while I could say I am agnostic about one eye one horned flying purple people eaters because I can’t prove they don’t exist, I think it’s reasonable to say that a lack of evidence for their existence is pretty good evidence for the contrary. And, since the amount of evidence for god is on about the same level… I pose the same logic. If this were not an amicable solution to non-proven things, then we would be agnostic to a myriad (millions) of made up stories.

At some point you have to draw the line. I don’t think it’s right to say you are agnostic or gnostic when all belief is built on a sliding scale. I am more “gnostic” for some things and less for others. It isn’t black and white. It’s based on verifiable, accepted, proven evidence and fact… not stories, irrational consensus, and tradition.

  • Paul Murray

    Well… how about this. There are several branches of metaphysics.

    Atheism is a theological position. It is about gods.

    Agnosticism is an epistemological position. It is about what it means to "know" something.

    There are heaps of "gnostic" atheists if you go asking hippies about their beliefs. They know perfectly for sure that there's some sort of mystic spirituality embedded in the universe – not the same thing as a god – because, well – because they know it.

    Atheism ≠ Skepticism.

  • Adam

    You are right, not all atheists are good skeptics when it comes to other subjects. So, although atheism ≠ skepticism, skepticism should = atheism. The only gnostic atheists I have ever met are people like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, John Corvino, and James Randi… who only claim to be gnostic (knowing)about the non-existence of the god we all know from the bible. There is plenty of evidence that HE doesn't exist… we just can't prove the non-existence of EVERY god – nor should we (it's impossible to prove a negative!).

    And, not to correct you, but, hippies that believe that way (and you are right, they do exist) are GNOSTIC DEIST – they believe in a a non-intervening higher power… not a "god" which would make them theist.

  • Paul Wright

    Dawkins is not a gnostic atheist. He’s a 6.99 on the Dawkins scale, meaning he’s so close to being certain it doesn’t matter, but could be convinced if the evidence changed. PZ Myers claims to be a 7 though, he posted that there’s no possible evidence that could convince him of Christianity.