Agnostic Atheism and the Existence of God

god

So I wrote a post about atheist writing yesterday and I’ve received a few comments about it. One in particular caught my eye so instead of replying to the comment, I thought I would address it here. This comment could probably use at least 2 posts to adequately respond, but I’m going to try and keep my thoughts linear and hopefully be able to logically respond in just one.

The first part of the comment is about those that call themselves agnostic atheists and that it’s just a disguise. Here’s the text:

I claim that the self-description of “agnostic atheist” is logically meaningless.
And anyway, it’s just a trick to try to disguise their agnosticism by stapling it to the word “atheist.”

I’ve never referred to myself as an agnostic atheist although I know many atheists that do. There are also plenty of people that call themselves agnostic, although I’m not sure they know what that really means.

Well, why do people refer to themselves that way would be a good starting point I think.  An agnostic is a person that thinks the existence of God not able to be known one way or the other. It’s a non-committal stance. God may or may not exist. Simply put: they have no opinion one way or the other.

An atheist is someone that does not believe in the existence of any god(s). That’s it and is simple to understand.

So when someone describes themselves as an agnostic atheist, what are they really saying about themselves? I have no opinion one way or the other but I don’t believe in the existence of any god(s). Huh?

I looks to me the commenter is spot on here in that it is absolutely logically meaningless. A person cannot not hold an opinion and have an opinion at the same time.   

The second part of the comment is something I had to stop and think about for a while because I really haven’t given it a lot of consideration in the past:

Also, I can demonstrate irrefutably that god does not exist in fact and cannot exist even in principle.

Want to shoot some holes in this bulletproof logical demonstration?

An atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of any god, but if asked to show that there cannot be any god or gods, would any of us be able to prove it? This is an interesting problem for me because as most other atheists, I’m on the other side of the argument wherein those that claim there is a god are asked to prove its existence. Of course they’re unable to without referring to some holy text, or the writings of apologists that use the same text for their justification.

An irrefutable demonstration would be shattering to those of any religion and I would really like to see this demonstrated. I’m not saying it can’t be shown, I’ve just never seen anyone make an absolute claim like this. So yes, I’d like to see it demonstrated and then be able to shoot some holes in it if I’m able. As I’m writing this, I’m trying to think of where this demonstration would even begin. I’d be happy to publish it here as a guest post. 

So, lets get with it. There might be a Nobel Prize or two here or even better, some nasty comments including death threats from some believers.

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14 thoughts on “Agnostic Atheism and the Existence of God

  1. Hi, Jim ~

    I really liked this post, and I found it preternaturally intelligent, I must say. ; )
    ———–

    For some reason, I find it hard to express the logical meaningless of “agnostic atheist.”
    Do you think this is a further clarification of the problem?

    So-called “agnostic atheists” say that they don’t have enough evidence to be sure, and
    > that is the reason they do not believe in gods — making them atheists
    > It is also the reason they do not disbelieve in gods — making them theists

    So instead of saying that they are “agnostic atheists,” they should call themselves “theist atheists.”
    It would make as much sense.
    —————-

    What they do say is that there is a difference between
    DISBELIEVING in gods (atheism)
    – vs. –
    NOT BELIEVING in gods
    The difference is supposed to be in the amount of assertiveness, I think, or the amount of evidence-based certainty..

    If you DISbelieve in gods (like I do), then you are a “strong atheist” or an “atheist atheist” maybe.
    And if you BELIEVE in gods, then you are a theist.

    But if you only fail to believe, if you simply “don’t believe,” you are an agnostic atheist.

    I repeat that there is no coherent difference between actively DISbelieving and passively NOT believing.
    ——————-

    How do I zoop my iron-clad logical demonstration to you?
    It’s short and sweet, and an irrefutable demonstration that no gods exist in fact or can exist even in principle..

    I’d love to see it as a guest post.
    So how do I do that?

    ~ Ann

    • Agnosticism doesn’t say anything one way or the other about belief. That’s why I agreed with your statement about it being logically meaningless. It’s like saying you have no opinion when asked about any topic. That’s why I wrote that on the one hand you cannot say you have no opinion and then immediately after say you don’t believe. It’s a meaningless tag. I’ve thought about it before when people tagged themselves as “agnostic atheist” as a “huh?” moment, but when you brought it up in the comment, it made me sit down and easily show how dumb that seems (to me, anyway).

      As to the other, are you on Twitter? If so, follow me there (@jeh7041), I’ll follow you back and then DM you my email address where you can send your demonstration. Very happy to post it. And yes, I’ll be looking carefully for any “holes” in your argument. Whoops, edit here: I think I can add you as a “person” here where you could log in and post it yourself.

  2. I posted this on your previous blog:
    “If you are an Agnostic and you don’t accept the theistic claims then you are, by common usage an Atheist”
    …and as I mentioned, I am quoting it because it was said by someone else but I am too lazy to look up the author of that quote 🙂

    While many people use the words “atheist” and “agnostic” in their terms. An atheist is just rejecting the theist claim of a god. I have never been provided any credible proof or credible evidence from a theist that would change my mind and thus, I reject the god claim.

    But I do not know everything. I am always willing to evaluate evidence, even though I’m tired of hearing the same old arguments retooled and rehashed. 🙂

    Based on my thoughts, there really is no logical issue with claiming to be an agnostic atheist.

    Enjoy your day!

    • Hi, David ~

      EVERYONE is willing to evaluate new evidence. That doesn’t distinguish between any two positions.

      But can you say again what you mean when you say you’re an “agnostic” atheist?

      What’s the difference between “agnostic atheist” and “atheist”?
      Or between “agnostic atheist” and “agnostic,” for that matter?

      Just being willing to evaluate evidence does not make you drop from “atheist” into “agnostic.”
      Everyone would evaluate new evidence.

      Well, not everyone.
      I mentioned in class one time that I had some fossil seashells that I was planning to bring the next day as a demonstration of evolution. I told one student (who was an ardent Creationist) that I would place them right in her hand so she could evaluate them for herself.

      She exclaimed, “I’ll close my eyes!”

      • Hi Ann,
        I didn’t say I was an agnostic atheist but as the quote points out, if you are agnostic and are rejecting the theist claim, you are by definition an atheist.

        In philosophy, an Agnostic Atheist is one who claims that they cannot know the existence or non-existence of a god but does not have a belief in a god themselves.

        I guess if one is Agnostic Atheist, If someone claimed there was a rainbow god on Planet X… they cannot prove or disprove it (agnosticism) but they don’t believe it (atheism).

        It sounds pretty logical to me (err… not a rainbow god, lol) but how is Agnostic Atheist not logical to you?

  3. Hi, David ~

    Thanks for your genltemanly reply.
    I’d dearly love you to answer these questions:

    1) You don’t know one way or the other, but you still have formed an opinion?

    2) Is “not knowing one way or the other” the reason for not believing in gods?

    3) If it’s not the reason for not believing in gods, what is the reason?

    4) Does an agnostic atheist consider that they have less reason to believe in gods than a real atheist has?
    In what way, or to what degree, does “what an atheist knows” exceed “what an agnostic atheist knows”?

    5) Because of an insufficiency of evidence to come to a conclusion, the agnostic atheist notices that he does not believe in gods.
    And for the same reason, he also doesn’t disbelieve in gods.

    Because of the information shortfall, he does not believe in gods –> atheist
    Because of the information shortfall, he does not disbelieve in gods –> theist
    So he is really a “theist atheist” — or as they are more commonly called, an agnostic.

    6) What is your word for a person who can’t settle on a conclusion, who doesn’t know if there’s a god or not?

    • Good Morning Ann,

      You have given me a great deal to think about and I’m going through the motions to see if my thoughts are flawed or not. a few notes: If I say “I” below, it does not neccesarily mean that is my belief.

      Atheist: Rejects the claim of the theist.

      Agnostic: “agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist.” -William L Rowe.

      Agnostic Atheist: I don’t have sufficient rational grounds to justify either the existence or non-existence of god… but I reject the claims made by theists.

      1) You don’t know one way or the other, but you still have formed an opinion?

      One could say they do not have knowledge of a god, or that a god is unknowable but why bother wasting time entertaining the thought of a gods existence.

      2) Is “not knowing one way or the other” the reason for not believing in gods?

      It can. Someone offers me their definition of a god and I have no way of knowing whether their story is true or not, It’s a great story, I mean, the guy turns water into wine! but I’m skeptical and reject his definition of god.

      3) If it’s not the reason for not believing in gods, what is the reason?

      I covered this above. One may not know one way or the other but can still reject the god concepts they are given.

      4) Does an agnostic atheist consider that they have less reason to believe in gods than a real atheist has?
      In what way, or to what degree, does “what an atheist knows” exceed “what an agnostic atheist knows”?

      Personally, I’d like an agnostic atheist to chime in with their thoughts 🙂 My thought on this is there are varying degrees and definitions of atheism. My definition of atheism is just the rejection of the theist claim. That’s it! If we are going to discuss what the atheist knows or doesn’t know, we are now shifting into the various types of atheism (Philosophy). Both atheist and agnostic atheists can have the same knowledge. Maybe the best way to say it is the Agnostic atheist does not believe in a god (or rejects the theist claim) but doesn’t make a claim there are no gods.

      5) Because of an insufficiency of evidence to come to a conclusion, the agnostic atheist notices that he does not believe in gods.
      And for the same reason, he also doesn’t disbelieve in gods. Because of the information shortfall, he does not believe in gods –> atheist
      Because of the information shortfall, he does not disbelieve in gods –> theist
      So he is really a “theist atheist” — or as they are more commonly called, an agnostic.

      I think I covered this in #4. I would agree with this somewhat but would add my last line in #4. The agnostic atheist has insufficient evidence but comes to the conclusion that they don’t believe in a god but does not make a claim that there are no gods. (There is a difference between “not disbelieve in gods” and not making a claim there are no gods)

      6) What is your word for a person who can’t settle on a conclusion, who doesn’t know if there’s a god or not?

      Agnotic.
      and an agnostic atheist is one who doesn’t have the knowledge to conclude the existence of god or not but errs on the side of not.

  4. Always agreeing that any new evidence will be examined with an open mind:

    > If the evidence that is available to you (which falls short of omniscience) is sufficient to cause you to conclude that there are no gods, then you are an atheist.
    > If the available evidence is not sufficient to cause you to conclude that there are no gods, you are a theist.
    > If the available evidence leaves you undecided and unable to come to a conclusion, then you are an agnostic.

    You can’t be two at once.
    The evidence cannot be both sufficient and not sufficient.
    You can’t simultaneously “not know one way or the other” AND conclude that there are no gods too.

    If not on “the information presently available,” on what do you base your idea that there are no gods?
    Do you base it on — “Nothing. There us utterly no foundation for my conclusions.” ?

    • “> If the available evidence is not sufficient to cause you to conclude that there are no gods, you are a theist.”

      but also applies to an agnostic.

      If we add to that thought: “if available evidence is not sufficient to cause you to conclude there is a god” …then you have an agnostic.

      The theists who claim that in order to know a god, we must be omniscient is actually a pretty nifty claim but it fails them when it is used in reverse, one must be omniscient to know there is a god. 🙂

      This is a good topic, It’s actually debated a great deal. Most times people just angry at each other by the end of it. I do see your point, it is probably -an “agnostic atheist” should just be an atheist.

  5. Pingback: A Logical Demonstration that God Does Not Exist - Conservative Skeptic

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