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Are You “Atheist” or “Agnostic”?

I recently heard the word “agnostic” on a radio talk show, which made me remember discussions I had in school over the difference between agnostic and atheist.

I remember us agreeing that agnostic meant a person believed in a God but wasn’t sure about the details. An atheist, meanwhile, believed there was no God.

Just to make sure, I checked the dictionary.

Agnostic means “one who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.” Atheist means “one who denies the existence of God.”

So, I got one word right.

Now, to answer the title question, I’m guessing that most people are neither. Most probably identify as theists or believers.

Until next time! Use the right words!


April 3, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Technically, “atheist” is “theist” as well. Theism is a broad category distinction – it simply means of or pertaining to God, based on the Greek theos, meaning God. Underneath this there are subcategories: polytheism affirms many gods, monotheism affirms one god, atheism affirms no gods. (It is broader than this, including pantheism and panentheism, but the simplification is for the point).

    Underneath these subcategories, then, we have different religions. Under polytheism we have things like Hinduism, forms of Paganism, and numerous ancient religions. Under monotheism we have Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, etc. Under atheism we have Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Secular Humanism, etc.

    Theism is popularly used to refer to polytheists or monotheists, but the term actually encompasses any stance pertaining to god.


    Comment by T. E. Hanna | April 3, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you for the lesson. You no doubt are a man of the cloth.


      Comment by usingtherightwords | April 3, 2013 | Reply

      • I’m also a deep lover of words 😉


        Comment by T. E. Hanna | April 3, 2013

  2. […] Are You “Atheist” or “Agnostic”? ( […]


    Pingback by The girl with the letter A | Yankee Skeptic | April 11, 2013 | Reply

  3. I would have to disagree with this post. It seems like simply “looking in the dictionary” doesn’t cut it for a proper understanding of these words. Theism and Gnosticism are two different topics, they’re not about the same thing.


    Comment by patricktheatheist | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  4. […] Are You “Atheist” or “Agnostic”? […]


    Pingback by The Grim Reaper - Go Ask Amy | June 16, 2014 | Reply

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