Please define "agnostic" to me...

From Merriam-Webster online.

Ok, so I’ve been struggling with various definitions of this word at times.

Is this basically saying someone who is “open to the possibility” of God, but will NOT say so for sure?

Or is it someone who says we will never know at all… regardless of whether there is a God or not?

Let’s say that we found out (for sure) that there is a God. Does this go against what an agnostic believes in?

I mean is it like the ultimate fence-sit, where they accept that there may or may not be a God, but that we will definately not know for sure?

Someone told me that all agnostics believe that the likelihood of God existing is low (otherwise they wouldn’t be agnostics - his words not mine), but that they won’t expressedly deny it’s existence. Or is it that they just will not comment?

I’m sorry if the exact question seems a bit elusive, it’s just that I’m grappling with the exact concept of agnostic here.

I mean, if someone asks you, “do you or do you not believe in God?” the standard answers will be “YES, NO, and MAYBE”. Am I right in assuming that all the MAYBE’s are agnostics? Or do they just refuse to comment (which I also find pretty odd - I mean surely you have an opinion on the matter)?

If it is MAYBE then the agnostic brush paints a very broad range of people, no?

I mean everyone that has thier doubts is surely an agnostic?
–If not, please explain.


Good link, x-ray.

An agnostic can be described as an atheist, in that an agnostic does not profess to believe in a god. My understanding is that if one self describes as an agnostic, one is saying that it is impossible to know whether there is or isn’t a god.

But the common usage I’m familiar with would also include an agnostic allowing for the possibility that there is a god, but that the proof just isn’t in, yet.

An atheist does not believe a god’s existence is established. That definition can include agnostics, but it can also those who believe that there is no god.

So, it depends. I tend to think of them as sets with an overlap subset that could meet both descriptions.

There’s also agnostics who add the corrolary that the existence or non-existence of a deity should be irrelevant as well - in other words, it has no bearing on my ethical choices.

The Sceptic’s Dictionary (see the cites thread) more or less (I’m paraphrasing) defines these:

Agnostic - The scientific (or at least non-religious) acknowledgement that statements about the supernatural (including God) can’t be answered with certainty using scientific (et. al) methods. I.e. that you can’t prove a religious system externally.

Athiesm - The (religious) belief that there is no God (and often that there is no supernatural at all).

I like these definitions because they’re orthogonal: You can have an agnostic theist (“We can’t prove the [non]existence of God, and I think there is one”) and an agnostic athiest (“We can’t prove the [non]existence of God, and I think there isn’t one”).

Having one word for the religious statement of belief and another for the simple acknowledgement that we can’t know for sure seems like a good idea.

All that having been said, I think that this definition of agnostic is a little non-mainstream.

Well, Barry Longyear described an agnostic as “an atheist who doesn’t want to talk about it.”

I think he was kidding.

The only answer to the dichotomy set forth in the OP is “Yes” or “Both.”

An agnostic can be someone who considers that he or she does not have adequate evidence to settle the question of the existence of God, a god, or gods, and hence declines to take a stance on the question.

Or an agnostic can be someone who holds that the question of the existence of God is something that cannot be proven or disproven.

In other words, a Type 1 agnostic might feel that my belief in God is quite legitimate, since I have evidence satisfactory to me, while at the same time holding that he (or she) does not have evidence satisfactory to him (her). A Type 2 agnostic would consider that I am deluded by my own desire to believe, since my evidence is not objectively adequate to convince another.

An Agnostic is one who believes the position of Theist and Atheist are equally unsupportable and reached by faith alone.

Describing an agnostic as a kind of atheist is like describing a non-voter as a kind of Republican because they don’t vote Democrat.

That is not true.

Theist: Believes that God exists. Eligible for eternity.
Agnostic: Suspends their judgement. Will go to hell.
Atheist: Believes that God does not exist. Will go to hell.

You left out a few. Allow me to clarify:

Theist: Believes that God exists. Eligible for eternity.
Infidel: Believes that a false god exists. Will fo to hell.
Heretic: Believes that God exists, but worships Him wrongly. Will go to hell.
Agnostic: Suspends their judgement. Will go to hell.
Atheist: Believes that God does not exist. Will go to hell.

Given the lack of consensus on which god we should be worshipping, I’m surprised there aren’t more agnostics.


Or are you offering us opinions rather than facts?

The Bible (NT & OT), Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Torah, etc.

Of course, they aren’t unbiased. :smiley:

As one who labels himself as “agnostic,” I have to totally agree with you.

I object to the term “fence sitter”. To me, “fence sitter” that implies that someone is making a choice to have the best of both worlds by committing to neither. I think agnostics simply believe that it is a question with no answer, and don’t fully commit either way because each possibility is as likely (or unlikely) as the other. Perhaps they lack the arrogance to assume that they know all the answers, especially when they don’t have all the information.

I waiver. Sometimes I’m sure that there’s no God, and other times I get it in my head that there must be an intelligence behind it all. I accept that I’ll never be able to know for sure in my lifetime, and I so I try to keep an open mind.

When one speaks of a theistic god in accordance with eternity and hell, I feel it is apparant the religions they are referring to for their example, as brane damaj picked up on. And it is a matter of fact for those religions. There are circumstances, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, whereas the Catholic Church has said that certain moral peoples are still eligible for salvation, but as a general rule of thumb my list sticks.

For me personally, I accept that description.

Agnostic chiming in here - though I will variously refer to myself as a pagan, or an heretic.

I fully believe that there is a god, but I can not tell you exactly who or what it is, nor will I decry any as a false god because for all I know every god is actually the same god just seen through different eyes…or perhaps godhead is in every god because every living thing is a part of god. I will not discuss my beliefs, though if people want to pray for me, I will thank them because everybody needs all the help they can get. I will admit that I am sort of dubious about some forms of satanism because a few I have read about sound sort of like scientology to me…but if you want to believe that god is a frisbe stuck on your roof, all I can say is go for it=) just dont expect me to worship it…

Therefore - atheist…not a believer in a single god, though I do believe in godhead. If you can come up with a reasonable scientific proof that a specific diety is in fact the one and only true god [other than just because you say it is…] you might get a convert. Am I going to hell? Not a clue. I live my life as honestly and kindly as I possibly can. I do my best to harm none, and I pretty much follow the laws accepted in modern american society and the world court [ok, I like to drive real fast, but I am also a safe driver…the only accident I ever had was when someone hit my car in a parking lot…] I don’t think that I am hell-worthy, but YMMV. I know my friend Matthew considers that I am hellbound.

Can you provide a specific cite in the Bible that says agnostics “will go to Hell”?

I’d be doubly interested in such a cite in the New Testament.

Have you heard about the United Atheist Assocation? They are a Non Profit group :rolleyes:

The problem with this definition is that it puts someone like me (who is a theist, and a very specific kind of theist) in the category of agnostic, which is inaccurate and misleading as I’m not what most people who are agnostic would consider agnostic.

However, if you add “and has therefore chosen not to answer” there’s a more accurate definition.