An agnostic is best defined as somebody who doubts the existence of God or other supernatural beings. In fact, many agnostics strongly identify with atheist beliefs, writers, and speakers. However, the two schools of thought are a bit different from each other.
In fact, one of the most common questions I see in my inbox is, “Are atheists agnostic?” Atheists are not agnostic. The most important factor that differentiates an atheist from an agnostic is that atheists have firm disbelief in God, while agnostics are merely doubting.
In a similar vein, doubting that Santa Claus exists is a lot different from saying that Santa Claus doesn’t exist at all. While it may seem like a trivial difference for some, others may take personally to being confused or misrepresented.
So, to help you avoid any awkward conversations, I decided to make a quick post breaking down the difference between atheism and agnosticism.
Atheists Vs. Agnostics: Key Differences
If you took my Atheist Quiz, then you probably remember that each question has three possible answers. One answer implies religious belief, the next implies agnostic belief, and the last implies atheistic belief. If you haven’t taken it yet, I definitely encourage you to check it out, as it will help you figure out your own beliefs on the subject!
Today’s post is about comparing agnostics and atheists, though, so we’ll stick to those two for now. As I mentioned above, the two are often confused due to the fact that they’re similar in nature (and both equally despised by religious zealots). So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between agnostics and atheists.
1) Belief In God and The Supernatural
I alluded to this at the beginning of the post, but the most common difference between agnostics and atheists is their belief in the supernatural. Atheists are strongly convicted that the supernatural isn’t real, while agnostics are open to the possibility that it could exist.
Your average atheist will tell anybody willing to listen that God is a myth, magic isn’t real, and there is no such thing as a miracle. While it doesn’t make for an interesting story, at least atheists are being honest about their beliefs. Atheists don’t have a God or a “higher power” they report to, and their basic human morality is just the result of programmed survival instinct.
Conversely, most agnostics will admit that God and the supernatural might exist. Many agnostics would describe that they are simply waiting for the compelling evidence they need to truly believe in God and/or spirituality.
2) Outspoken Ideology
One of the biggest surface differences between atheism and agnosticism is that atheists tend to be more outspoken. Their outspoken nature is mostly due to the fact that they have more conviction in their set of beliefs. For this reason, you’ll find that atheists tend to make bolder, more provoking statements about God and religion.
Most agnostics, on the other hand, aren’t so quick to make bold claims about the existence (or non-existence) of God and spirituality. While many agnostics may identify with atheist beliefs, they will often admit things like, “I’m not 100% sure…” or, “I just don’t have enough evidence to believe in a God yet.”
Agnostics tend to be more open to listening to others’ ideas. They’ll converse cordially with both atheists and Christians about God and religion in an attempt to better understand both arguments. Like many atheists, many agnostics also grew up in a religious environment that they are beginning to question, but aren’t quite ready to write off.
Are Agnostics More Atheists Or More Religious?
Ultimately, the answer to this question really depends on the person you’re talking about. I’ve met some agnostics who lean heavier towards atheistic beliefs, while I’ve met others who lean more towards Christianity, Islam, or other religions.
I always try my best not to assume anything about a person’s beliefs until I’ve had a chance to question them first. Whether you’re an atheist, Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, or anything in between, you’ll find no judgment from me.
We’re all on this journey called “life” together. Some agnostics are looking for a reason to be atheists, while others are looking for a reason to believe in something greater.
Whether you’re arguing for atheism or theism, there are no stupid questions (which is why I decided to write this post in the first place). While many agnostics identify with atheist ideology, you can’t make a blanket statement.
One thing that is for certain, though, is that atheists are not agnostic. True atheists are individuals who have put their foot down and are firmly opposed to the idea of a God or anything supernatural.