Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive

On more than a few occasions, I have been told that I am not really an atheist, that I’m an agnostic. When I respond that I am both an atheist and an agnostic, I’m told that I cannot be both, which is incorrect.

There is a common but mistaken belief that the labels “agnostic” and “atheist” are mutually exclusive, that an agnostic is someone who isn’t entirely sure about the existence of a god, who is on the fence theologically speaking. There is even an amusing saying that an agnostic is an atheist who lacks conviction. But that’s not what the term “agnostic” actually means.

The word “atheist” means, literally, “without god(s)”; this is an accurate term for anyone who does not accept the existence of any deity, which I do not. I am not undecided about this, I am not on the fence, I am entirely certain that there are no deities, no spirits, no life after death, no Heaven, no Hell, none of that. The very concept is just plain silly. I am an atheist.

An agnostic is, by definition, someone who contends that the existence of a god cannot be proven or disproven. Belief or disbelief in god is irrelevant to that definition. In the strictest scientific sense, it is impossible to disprove anything; assertions, no matter how ridiculous, can be proven but not disproven. I do not believe that the existence of a god can be disproven, so I am an agnostic.


Thats interesting. I didnt know that - thanks for the clarification!


All that is good sense.

I add this: An agnostic is not a believer in deity. Regardless of his reasons for not believing in deity, he does not believe in it. So: an agnostic is an atheist.

If an agnostic prefers to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist, it may be because he does not want to seem aggressive. That is polite, but it is also cowardly.