"Atheist/Agnostic" as a religious category

Sometimes when they categorize religions (in charts, on forms, et cetera) they include “Atheist/Agnostic” or “Agnostic/Atheist”. This threatens to explode my head. I pit them for this.

I see it like these categories:
“I believe in Santa Claus, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid et cetera.”
“I believe in Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
“I believe in Santa Claus but am not sure who the reindeer are.”
“I believe in Santa Claus but not the part about the reindeer.”
“I think there might be a Santa Claus/I don’t believe in Santa Claus.”

“Agnostic” is much more like any of the religions than it is like atheism. If you imagine that gods are even remotely plausible, it’s almost nothing to go right ahead and believe in them.

Better categories might be:
“I think there could be gods”
“I think there couldn’t be gods”

I’ve always considered agnostics to be believers, just not in a widely accepted version of beliefs. Hey, there might be a person who’s considered milkshakes as a possible giver of life. :smiley:

It is to me. I’m fine with your point that they should be separate categories, just not that it’s necessarily a small step from believing something supernatural is possible to having faith that it IS. Similar to how it’s not a small step from believing that it’s remotely possible that I could win the Lotto tomorrow if I buy a ticket vs. having faith that I WILL, and with a specific set of numbers because those are the correct ones.

I know it’s not a perfect analogy but I’m just saying there’s a big difference between considering something possible vs. considering something definite.

Militant Agnostic: “I don’t know, and neither do you!”

I think you’re ascribing the term “agnostic” more credulity than it implies. At its core, it means the agnostic considers the existence of a deity or deities to be untestable. I would say that it is possible to be both atheist and agnostic–“I don’t believe in gods, but I can’t disprove their existence any more than you can prove it. As far as I’m concerned, the question is meaningless.”

That said, I have no objection to separate categories for the two. I just don’t see it as headsplosionworthy.

Locrian, what you’re talking about is a different phenomenon, I think. A fair number of people–more atheists than believers, I would guess–use “agnostic” as a dodge. They identify as “agnostic” because they catch less social flak that way. For the atheists, it avoids the god-botherers’ reflexive reach for the pitchforks when they hear “atheist”, and for people with outré beliefs, it avoids mockery. It’s harder to argue with someone who says, “I don’t know” than with someone who says that you’re wrong.

Exactly. I go with the latter for myself (atheist). Seems like most of the believers are insistent about giving some kind of human qualities/fallacies to their god, analyzing it/him/her from a human standpoint. This may make the concept more believable to them, especially kids. To me, a human standpoint makes it even more impossible to believe. Maybe it’s that whole “in his own image” thing it extends from.

They should differentiate between agnostics who believe you can’t know and those who just don’t give a shit.

I wouldn’t say agnostics are believers. They think that, no matter how much debating, questioning, prayers, etc, we’ll never really know 100% whether there’s a god. That’s it. Sure, we can lean strongly one way or the other, but in the end, there is no way to be completely certain. Once you see this as fact, why not fully accept it? What’s the point of trying to decipher religion’s truth if there is no way of being successful?
Plus, for atheists who have small doubts, calling yourself an agnostic is something to rely on if it turns out you’re wrong and St. Peter is glaring at you as you awkwardly stand outside the pearly gates . . . :smiley:

By my definition, it’s clear. Atheism/theism is the continuity of whether you disbelieve or believe in god (or whatever higher power). Agnostic/gnostic is whether you believe it can be known or not. I consider myself an atheistic agnostic. I don’t believe in god, but I don’t believe it’s something that can be known. Others mileages may vary.

They do. You can call it the apathetic agnostics or just apatheists. I guess if you want to get really granular, I’m an apathetic atheistic agnostic. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?

This agnostic says religion is bullshit because it attempts to understand something that is unknowable. So rather than waste my Sunday mornings pretending and play-acting, I’d rather eat pancakes in my pajamas and concern myself only with worldly matters.

That I can allow for the possibility of Mystery doesn’t mean I’m about to sign up for a religion. If Mystery wants to enlighten me personally, it is free to do so. I won’t stop it. But I’m not going to waste my time looking for it nor take the word of people who claim they’ve met it. I’m absolutely not in the market for any received wisdom. At least in this point in my life.

If you want to call this position a “religion” you can. It would be kind of stupid and crazy, though.

Need to add another category - gnostic. A gnostic believes that all great religions are but different pathways to the same place.

I meant in the OP’s survey :slight_smile:

I see agnostics the other way, as people who can’t believe in a god but also can’t quite bring themselves to reject what they’ve grown up with.

I don’t even understand the second sentence. But as for the first: if you think of religions as organizations to join or be part of, atheists and agnostics look a lot alike: they’re the unaffiliated.

And if you think of religions as (sets of) practices, atheists and agnostics look a lot alike: they’re the ones that don’t do anything (of a religious nature or from religious motivations, that is).

And if you think (as you apparently do) of religions as (sets of) beliefs, it gets so complicated that any way you try to sort people into categories is going to be imperfect at best.

So, unless I’m missing your point and you can explain yourself better, I give this pitting a Fail.

By the way, there was a while here on the SDMB when it seemed like any thread remotely about religion would eventually devolve into a debate over the nature of agnosticism vis a vis atheism.

These threads are endlessly tedious because they inevitably comprise a bunch of people talking past one another due to differing definitions of theist/atheist/agnostic. And it gets worse: there is not only insufficient consensus about what the words used to describe one’s beliefs with respect to the existence of gods mean, there is also just about no clear definition or consensus about what gods are anyway.

My two cents:

  • Hard Atheists know for sure that the things that Theists believe to exist actually don’t exist. This is in spite of the fact that Theists can’t even define what these things are anyway.

  • Soft Atheists don’t have any belief in the existence of the things Theists believe to exist. Soft Atheists don’t have such beliefs because, amongst other reasons, Theists can’t even define what these things are anyway;

  • Agnostics are people who make a point of stating their belief that you can’t know whether the things Theists believe to exist actually exist or not. Agnostics have this belief because, amongst other reasons, Theists can’t even define what these things are anyway;

  • Theists are people who define themselves by their belief in the existence of things they can’t even define;

Personally, I think it’s all the Theists’ fault.

Agnostic means “don;t have a belief one way or the other” - literally ‘without knowledge’ to form a belief.

An atheist does not believe in god(s). Generally will quote the lack of evidence as one of the many reasons.

An Agnostic atheist is not simply an atheist with ‘wiggle room’ - its more so one that says that “I don’t believe in god(s) - if there is evidence for god(s) - it is currently unknown or unknowable in fact” - while it seems like some wiggle room, its really still holding a distinct position, but adding on a belief about the evidence for the possibility. The atheist will simply say “show me the evidence” - the agnostic atheist has added a belief about the evidence.

A theist believes in god(s). No evidence is required

An agnostic theist believes in god(s) - but states that evidence for the existence is unknown or unknowable - its ‘beyond us’ to understand the evidence.

So, if I pit anything - its the misuse of “agnostic” as it pertains to belief one way or the other. Most people are not truly ‘agnostic’ when it comes to god(s) - they generally fall on one side or the other.

Apatheist! I love it.

Atheist/agnostic works for me because I don’t give a hoot what the difference is and what the words really mean. I’m just not at all interested in the question of whether god exists or not. I think that’s true of more people than you might expect.

I always saw it as more of a “personal vs rational” idea. With agonist theists, they say that emotionally speaking, they believe there is a god - but they fully acknowledge that it is not rational to do so and that they have no evidence to back them up. With agnostic atheists, they emotionally believe there is no god - but they also admit that they have no real proof and that god could exist. Either way, what you get is a person who not only wouldn’t force their beliefs on others, but who would be reluctant to even debate their beliefs.

There are, by the way, agnostic theists. The general category they fit in is a philosophical school called Fideism. That’s really the core of Kierkegaard’s philosophy . . .that belief in God is ultimately an absurdity because God is by his nature, unknowable, but that regardless, we need to make the choice to believe.