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Austin Cline

Forum Discussion: Agnostics vs. Rude Atheists?

By February 6, 2013

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Not all agnostics are atheists and not all atheists are agnostics; nevertheless, the two coincide more often than not. Despite this, quite a few agnostics tend to attack atheists and atheism -- more often than they attack theists and theism. What do they have against atheists, many of whom are agnostics?

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Some criticism of atheists may be justified because some atheists are probably inappropriately critical of agnosticism. For the most part, though, the criticism I've seen has been completely dependent upon false definitions of both atheism and agnosticism. The purpose appears to be nothing more than to create a context in which someone can feel superior to atheists.

A forum member writes:

I have read or heard the same lame argument against agnosticism many, many times from some rude, obnoxious atheists, and, frankly, I am fed up with such militant, loudmouthed louts. Basically, I consider myself a pure agnostic: I honestly don't think it's possible to determine by empirical means whether or not a deity or deities exist.

I do not consider myself an "agnostic atheist," because I think gnosis, or knowledge, is the primary prerequisite before one can arrive at an opinion as to the existence or nonexistence of deities or other transcendent supernatural powers in the universe. To my mind, the opinion of "yes" or "no" follows from this perceived knowledge. I have never arrived at gnosis, one way or the other. The theist believes he or she knows that there is a deity or there are deities or transcendent powers.

The atheist has concluded through their own logic that they think it's so unlikely that such exist, that the answer might as well be "no." The burden of proof has never been met from their vantage point. What I, as a pure agnostic, adopt as my position would be neither: I deny knowledge or that I can arrive at likely knowledge through proofs. ...

I think it's time for agnostics to form their own social groups, if our position can't be respected. I fully expect many snide, obnoxious responses from that same type to this post, but I could care less. This is intended for other agnostics to read only, and I will only respond to their replies on this subject rather than rehashing the same arguments counter to the crap objections from certain atheists.

What is a "pure" agnostic? Who knows, 'Uncle Silas' doesn't bother to define it. I don't see any point to the term except to denigrate those who aren't as "pure" as they are, which is ironic given how the title of the thread is 'Agnostics are Tired of Rude Atheists.'

Why is knowledge about whether gods exist or not necessary in order to form an opinion about whether gods exist or not? If you know that something is true or not true, why continue calling it an opinion? Uncle Silas doesn't provide any sort of justification for this requirement and I see no reason to take it seriously.

Maybe he doesn't either because he implicitly admits that atheists don't necessarily claim to "know" whether any gods exist or not -- they may simply find the possibility of a god so unlikely that it might as well not exist. Yet he doesn't explain what's wrong with such reasoning. Why? Well, that might require admitting that he is himself an atheist since he doesn't happen to believe in any gods. In that case, he wouldn't be able to complain about and look down on atheists anymore.

Add your thoughts to the comments here or join the ongoing discussion in the forum.

February 10, 2013 at 12:16 am
(1) DigitalAtheist says:

Sigh, having been a theist, and an atheist, all I can say is that Agnostics are people standing on a fence post with both eyes closed hoping that one side or the other will offer “proof”.

I believe that agnosticism can be a step toward Theism or Atheism, but at the end of the day someone who picks only it is trying to have their cake and eat it too. There is either a “god/gods” or there isn’t. If there is, as an Agnostic, you would be doomed to the same punishment as an atheist. If there are no “gods”, Agnosticsm will not grant you a step up in the world Theists believe in nor allow you to escape their bigotry: YOU ARE STILL AN ATHEIST! At least where they are concerned.

Gods do not exist. Look at the thousands we have tossed into the gutter over Human history. Did we cease to exist because we gave up on Zeus or Odin? Tossing Yahweh into the ditch doesn’t kill you either. Slice Allah from crotch to chin and gain freedom… it won’t kill you…. just piss off some people who are still upset that Santa and the Easter Bunny are also myths.. mind you Santa is about giving, and the Bunny brings good stuff to munch on! ;-)

February 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm
(2) John Thomson says:

Pot meet kettle. how is being a rude “pure” agnostic better than being an atheist? Why is this person so angry? To me claiming you’re an agnostic is the same as saying you breathe air.

Agnostic: lacks knowledge of any gods.
Atheist: doesn’t believe in any gods.

Why is this so hard for some people to understand? Saying I don’t know is, to me, the beginning of the learning process. Once a person says IDK then the next question is do I believe it or not.

August 3, 2013 at 11:41 am
(3) Alex says:

Pure agnosticism to me is a nonsense, you can not be 50/50 on this. All agnostics lean one way or another as far as Im concerned.

August 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm
(4) Jerry says:

Agnosticism has absolutely NOTHING to do with faith or belief.

Agnosticism has to do with knowledge/facts. Agnostics are merely saying we are without or lack the knowledge to assert, as a fact, that there is a god(s) or not with absolute certainty.

Agnostics can believe or lack the belief in god(s).

Example of questions to an agnostic:

Q: Is there a god(s)? (This question asks for facts)

A: I don’t know. (States that they do not know, as a fact, that there is or is not a god(s)

Q: Do you believe that there is a god(s)? (This questions asks what you believe based on the evidence you have acquired.)

A: Yes, I “believe” there is a god(s) or No, I lack the belief that there is a god(s).

An agnostic can be a Theist, an atheist or neither.

Unfortunately many atheist embraced the “gang mentality”, that you are either with us or against us. Many Theists embrace the “religious mentality” that you are either hot or cold, no lukewarm.

Atheism is the absence of belief in god(s) not the belief in the absence of god(s).

Atheism and agnosticism is the stance that Theists cannot substantiate their claim.

Many agnostics do not label themselves atheists because of the baggage it carries with it in that many atheists will assert, as a fact, that there is no god(s). An agnostic would never make that assertion unless they had empirical proof.

Concersely agnostics that are Theists will most likely say that they are an agnostic Theist because of the baggage that comes with the word Theist in that many Theists will assert, as a fact, that there is a god(s) without giving empirical proof of such a claim.

Evidence is NOT proof, it can lead to proof but with only evidence one cannot be 100% certain.

The problem is that the words “atheism” and “agnosticism” have a dictionary meaning that does not reflect the true meaning of the words as intended by the coiners.

August 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm
(5) Grandpa In The East says:

But being a “so-called” agnostic makes you feel so superior to other human beings. Kinda like looking down on them from the fence-post above. You know kinda godly an all. (When, in fact, you are to big a coward to face any truth at all.)


Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898)

The careful student of history will discover that Christianity has been of very little value in advancing civilization, but has done a great deal toward retarding it.– Woman, Church and State, 1893 BORROWED from positiveatheism.org

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