Reason for a New Age

Words – Agnosticism and Atheism

Posted by publius2point0 on 2011/01/15


There is often a lot of confusion over the words “agnostic” and “atheist”. That issue is that people believe them to be mutually exclusive. You are either religious, agnostic, or you are an atheist.

This is not true.

An atheist is a person who does not believe in any particular deity. Unless you subscribe to a religion, you are an atheist. The “a” at the start of atheist means “without” and, of course, “theism” means religion. Without religion. That’s all it means, no more, no less.

An agnostic is a person who believes that we have no way of knowing which, if any, of all possibilities of deities or other explanations account for our existence. “A” = without, “gnosis” = knowledge. We don’t know.

Most agnostics are atheists. Most atheists are agnostic. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Now you might say that you do believe that there is a something. I.e. while you don’t subscribe to a particular religion, you do believe that we know enough to say that religious concepts are right, we just have no way of pinpointing which set of beliefs are accurate. Perhaps you’ve had religious experiences. You think that we’re all part of one all-pervasive great spirit or whatever else. You might not have pinned things down to a particular religion, but you do know something. You do believe in theistic concepts. Well this means that you are not agnostic and you are not an atheist. You are religious. I can’t tell you what the specific term is that you should use, since that comes down to the specifics of your belief, but I might suggest reading about animism, animatism, and shamanism (for instance, if you believe in mediums and exorcists, this fits the definition of “shamanism”). The catchall phrases would probably be “religious” and “spiritual”. If you feel you need a more concrete term, feel free to hit the encyclopedia or simply make something up.

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