Back in April, I brought up the topic of Agnosticism and the differences between it and Atheism. I said that Agnostics have no idea which side is correct and don't take any side or hold any position. After many debates and lots of researching, I have learned that this is false. As it is a fairly large topic and is visited quite often in debates across the internet, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit this topic and offer a better explanation.
So let's jump right into this and get to me pulling my foot out of my mouth.
"What is the difference between Agnosticism and Atheism?"
While it is accurate to say that Atheists are those who do not believe in gods, let's try to refine the categories a little more.
Theism can be loosely defined as:
The belief that a god or gods exist.
Being the opposite of that, Atheism can be loosely defined as:
NOT the belief that a god or gods exist.
The "NOT" is capitalized to add emphasis on the "A" in Atheism. Using the same logic, we can define agnosticism.
A strongly held belief that the truth is known of a certain subject.
NOT a strongly held belief that the truth is known of a certain subject.
The belief that no one knows for sure, regardless of beliefs.
Using the above definitions, it is possible to create four different categories.
The belief in a god or gods and the belief that it is the absolute truth.
The belief in a god or gods and the belief that it could be wrong.
The disbelief of known gods and the belief that there are none.
The disbelief of known gods and the belief that they could exist.
Typically, Atheists fall under the last category. We believe that it is the most open minded position. We also believe that Agnostic Theists are just as open minded. It's when Gnosticism is introduced that we tend to become militant and agressive. When one closes their mind to other options. To settle the question, what the difference is between Atheism and Agnosticism, it is the same as asking what the difference is between "walking" and "fast." They are not in the same category, one modifies the other. Anyone can be agnostic, whether Theist or Atheist.
Which are you?