Where Are You on the A/gnostic A/theist Grid?

Pablo Stanley created this helpful visual to explain the differences between a/gnostic a/theists:

For what it’s worth, I’ve never met anyone outside of atheist gatherings who actually uses any of these phrases. That’s not to say no one does, but this all seems like a philosopher’s distinction rather than anything people use in casual conversation.

Maybe that’s just me?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • David

    In the literal sense, no one is Gnostic. But I have found the majority of Christians claim to know there is a god, while the majority of atheist will claim god may exist, it’s just extremely unlikely.

  • new_atheist

    In the past, I would have immediately said that I was an Agnostic Atheist. But, after giving it more thought, I am comfortable classifying myself as a Gnostic Atheist. Here’s why.

    I “know” gods don’t exist in the same way I can say I “know” Santa doesn’t exist. Is this 100% certainty? No. Santa could have some magical ability to escape any and all forms of detection. You could define him in such a way that he is unfalsifiable, and having 100% certainty of his nonexistence is impossible. Des that really keep anyone from saying “Santa doesn’t exist.”? Of course not.

    We can “know” things without 100% certainty of their truth. In fact, practically everything we say we “know” falls short of absolute certainty. But, do we hem and haw about whether or not we can say we “know” these things. Do we try to pedantically bicker about whether or not we can say know Santa or magic, invisible dragons or fairies exist? Nope.

    The only reason we do it on the God question is because a huge majority of people don’t see it as the absurdity it is. But, I can safely say I “know” gods don’t exist without having to prove it beyond any doubt. If I can do this with regard to Santa, why not God?

  • Michael Harrison

    My situation is more that I don’t trust myself to answer the question of whether God or gods exist.

  • randomfactor

    Gnostic atheist. Willing to change if evidence is presented. But any evidence would upset so many established facts that the chance of it existing is non-credible.

  • Steve

    You can’t compare God to Santa, unicorns, tooth fairy because God is above all those and isn’t even in the same context, despite atheist efforts to try and simplify him. Santa and the tooth fairy were created by cultures, not everyone has them. The idea of a higher power has existed since the dawn of man, in all shapes and forms, and the more you try to simplify him and refer to him as “He, His, Him”, the more close-minded you become to the reality of a God.

    Even if you get rid of religion, people would still believe in God.

  • John

    I have never been exposed to an internally consistent definition of god. I am as gnostic about god as I am about 4 sided triangles. I am comfortable with this.

  • Damon Icke

    Saying “I don’t believe in any god-like entity” and “I don’t believe in the god of the bible” are 2 different viewpoints. Cthulhu is far more likely to exist and is harder to disprove than Yaweh because he’s not well defined. We don’t know Cthulhu’s views on contraception, or the menu, or which sexual positions he approves of. A god, especially some powerful creating entity wouldn’t be obsessed with such trivialities.

  • Bud

    I believe a God exists but I don’t think it’s the one we’ve made him/she/it out to be through religion

  • viaten

    The agnostic theist doesn’t seem right to me. They seem to have a spiritual certainty about their belief even while admitting they can’t or don’t know. They consider belief more important to have over knowing and would likely not refer to “silly stories” or say “I’m not really sure.” There are theists that take pride in their belief as they “admit” there is inconclusive evidence, no evidence, or even contradictory evidence for God. I think better would be, “I know I can’t know, that’s why I believe.” which seems is what they believe God wants.

  • SexyBitch69

    That doesn’t even come close to addressing his comment

  • stout_fellows

    It is also common in philosophy to consider the variety of stances on an issue as “soft” and “hard” positions.

    In relation to the illustration above, the “soft atheist” would be equivalent to the “agnostic atheist,” the “hard atheist” to the “gnostic atheist,” and so on for the “theist” positions.

    “Hard” and “soft” may work better as categories because being “agnostic” is a category of its on. One could have a “hard” or “soft” agnostic as well.

  • indorri

    Your ethnocentrism is showing. Most ancient religions were polytheistic. Each culture also has wildly varying ideas about gods. So to claim, somehow, that this is unifying while Santa Claus is merely a relic of culture is disingenuous.

  • indorri

    Agnostic atheist, in the sense that “gnosticism” isn’t a thing, but merely another model.

    If you’re talking about posture or relative certainty, you could call me gnostic, I suppose.

  • viaten

    Would babies be at the center, or not on the graph? I’m not sure which to believe, that I know.

  • Know

    Careful Indorri, Steve doesn’t know all those words, his mind just shut down!

  • indorri

    While I appreciate the difficulty of determining this, the main issues comes down to this: “given gods do/do not exist, what do you expect the world to look like?”

    When making claims about specific gods, it’s easy to determine whether or not they exist. If the test fails, you only come out of it still believing by twisting or making exceptions for your test.

    The world does not look like a world with the Christian God in it. If I had to predict a god that would go along with how the world is like, a god close to Enlightment-era Deism would be the closest I could get.

  • sara

    Where do you fall on the grid, Steve?

  • sara

    I would say I’m a mostly-gnostic atheist. I can’t rule out the very remote possibility of some force that might be described as godlike. As for any already defined gods, they’ve been disproved.

  • viaten

    That almost sounds like what a preacher would say as a first step towards faith, who would then go on to say where you need to put your trust.

  • WillBell

    Most agnostic theists I know rely on Pascal’s Wager (not that I think that is justifiable).

  • Michael Harrison

    Oh, I’m confident in saying any of the Abrahamic notions are more likely artifacts of cultural evolution than descriptions of reality. However, with the abstract notion of god, I have this voice in my head saying “There is such a being!,” while at the same time I’m well aware that many times these impulses are a result of how much we suck at intuiting statistics, and our tendency to see evidence of intelligent behavior where there is none. And I have no idea how to determine if any of these brain signals might be legitimate.

  • Thalfon

    Well, gnostic here means more “thinks they know for certain” rather than “actually knows for certain.”

  • Dean Hiler

    I may be agnostic atheist about a deity in general, but I’m gnostic atheist about Yahweh and Allah in particular because they are so obviously made by ancient old men!

  • Paul Reed

    This is why I’m a little confused about the whole gnostic/agnostic thing. In a normal everyday sense I’d say I’m certain there’s no god (gnostic), but philosophically you have to remain agnostic due to not having absolute knowledge.
    The label “gnostic” seems to relate to absolute knowledge (or the ability to know things?) rather than certainty. I’m not sure, though.

    So, in a nutshell, I’m not sure that “gnostic” is a good descriptor….

  • Mr. Pantaloons

    I’m an antagonistic atheist :P I don’t believe there are gods, that there’s any way to meaningfully prove their existence, and that the belief in them is one of the worst things to plague humanity.

    As per the grid, though, agnostic atheist is probably the most intellectually honest answer. If there IS a god, or pantheon, then the fact we’ve been consistently wrong in our current established means of finding and communing with it is not necessarily proof of anything other than that we are, as a species, terrible at hide and seek. Even disproving the existence of thousands of established gods throughout history can’t, in my opinion, be used to conclusively disprove the existence of ALL gods altogether without risking being guilty of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

  • Paul Reed

    Babies don’t know or believe anything, so I would think that that encompasses “agnostic atheist”

  • viaten

    They might in some implicit way. They’re probably afraid to stop believing in God’s hell for fear of going there. But I don’t think any theist would ever say their faith is, or even view their faith as being, based on Pascal’s Wager. Pascal’s Wager is just a last resort theist attempt to get an atheist turned around in a different direction.

  • viaten

    I won’t argue with you. I’ve seen enough of those arguments.

  • Lionel

    I have never encountered a theist, either in person or in “print,” identify as an “agnostic theist.” The closest is perhaps Martin Gardner’s philosophical theism (fideism). He conceded to atheists the best arguments from evidence and logic, but he still believed in God for purely emotional reasons, i.e., belief consoled him. His view of God was not from any traditional religion. His view doesn’t fit in any of the four quadrants on this graph.

  • Michael

    Where would you place “I think there’s probably something but I don’t think I’ll ever know what’s out there so I’ve stopped worrying and am enjoying my life”?

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    I’m not against the idea that God exists, so much as I’m against the flawed thinking that leads to that belief: Faith, pseudo-logic, pseudoscience, and the “believe or burn” doctrine.

    I also think it’s completely backwards to try and prove the existence of something without having seen it first. That would be like a biologist cataloging a purple three-headed giraffe, and then going out to look for it. Instead, the rational approach is to just keep an open mind and look to see what’s out there. I couldn’t care less what label you call me; I just wish people understood that simple concept.

  • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion


  • Alison

    I self-identify as an agnostic theist, FWIW. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I don’t hang out at atheist gatherings ;).

    Seriously though, perhaps it is just a philosophical distinction, but I think we could all stand to benefit if it became a bigger part of the general conversation.

  • C Peterson

    This is just wrong. Agnosticism doesn’t mean the same thing as skepticism.

    I’m a skeptical, slightly gnostic atheist. I don’t believe there are any gods, I lean towards the view that the question can be definitively answered, and I’m open to any evidence that there actually are gods.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Why do atheists get the beards?

    Where do ignostic aletheists fit?

  • Mario Strada

    Marxists. All of them!!! Or Nazi, or Socialists. Maybe fascists? I don’t know. The next time the Tea Party meets around my area I guess I’ll ask them. Since they always call everybody else one or all of those things they are probably very educated people with clear and reasonable ideas.

    Aren’t they?

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Among theists, I prefer to label myself as a nonreligious nontheist. Technically, I think theological noncognitivism is the proper place to begin, though I find it too wordy and unfamiliar to use as a personal label. I don’t even mention agnosticism unless someone else brings it to the discussion.

  • newavocation

    Want me to believe something? Give me some real evidence!!!

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Have you seen the trees?

  • Travis Myers

    You’re a meta-agnostic. You’re not sure whether or not you’re agnostic.

  • WallofSleep

    And yet again, no mention nor any shout-out to those of us who identify as “Drunken Atheist”. I’m beginning to sense a pattern here. :P

  • Rain

    Totally gnostic atheist, after having witnessed “Grown Ups 2″ . That would be enough to scare the hell out of anybody. There is no god for sure.

  • pRinzler

    I thought the agnostic position was that one could not, in principle know one way or the other, and a gnostic position claimed that one could know, one way or the other.

  • Dustin

    My default belief is simple, and it doesn’t really fit on the whole “agnostic” vs “gnostic” spectrum. I don’t believe in anything until science or personal experience tells me otherwise, and I see any human religion as little more than the adult version of Santa Claus. Someone wants me to believe their fairy tale? They need to prove it, and until they do I’ll give it as much credence as any other neolithic belief system.

    Could I be wrong? Sure, but I could also live in a world where I’ll spontaneously be transported into an alternate universe where Harry Potter really did defeat Voldemort on May 2nd, 1998.

  • randomfactor

    Even the Bible is explicitly polytheistic in places. The first commandment, for example. Parts of the Genesis myth.

    Atheists don’t believe in gods

  • randomfactor

    I still maintain that agnosticism is a philosophical position: “yeah, for the sake of argument there MAY be gods who are deliberately hiding their presence”–and atheism is a scientific one: “the nonexistence of god is the default null hypothesis…you got any evidence that disproves it?”

  • Kodie

    I believe the only reason this is a thing is because humans invented god. I would consider myself a gnostic atheist. If something exists beyond this universe, I would not say that it’s a god. I mean that I think the universe could be very small to a relatively large being, that doesn’t mean it has power over us. The best analogy I can come up with is a dirty kitchen. Religions describe us humans as unknowing, and I can think of living creatures that live while we manage them (in various ways) without any acknowledgment that we exist. Mold and fruit flies, for example, prosper in certain environments – on the same earth as we live. We can observe them but they cannot or seem not to observe us, while we have not made them in our image, but while we have the power to completely wipe out local populations.

    God always seems to have human qualities; as described, he’s someone who loves and knows each of us individually and cares that we find our purpose, gives us choices and rules and threats bearing on those rules, and I say that’s just bullshit. A “god” can have other qualities like procrastination and a high tolerance for filth. I don’t really believe that either. God’s mother would have been over millions of years ago with a sponge and a bucket. Lol. God as described arises from human emotion and imagination. It’s a myth. We’re just animals on a planet. I can’t really say “there is no god,” but there really isn’t one. He’s just made up.

  • advancedatheist

    “Apatheism” probably comes close to describing my position. The god debate bores me, and a god just doesn’t solve the problems theists want it to solve anyway.

    Specifically, a god could, without logical contradiction, have created human life without any meaning or purpose.

    Try getting a traditional theist to acknowledge this as a possibility. He or she won’t, because the theist imagines a god to address an emotional problem, not to resolve a theoretical issue about, say, origins.

  • randomfactor

    A Drunken Atheist believes in spirits, at least…

  • randomfactor

    Yes. And the forest as well.

  • allein

    I can tell you that there Absolut-ly are spirits in my freezer.

  • allein

    I suppose I’d go with agnostic atheist, if I have to pick an intersection from the chart. Though generally if someone were to ask my religion (which, honestly, has rarely happened), I would just say I’m not religious.

  • Anna

    Santa and the tooth fairy were created by cultures, not everyone has them.

    Not everyone has gods, either. You might want to do some research on the Piraha Indians of the Amazon rainforest.

  • Anna

    The more I read about agnosticism, the more confusing I find it. I always thought it meant taking the position that human beings can never know whether or not deities exist. Is that incorrect?

  • Kodie

    The idea of a higher power is simple – it’s imaginary and made up. It’s a superstition. You think it has control over your life. Everything after that is embellishment.

  • WallofSleep

    Now you’re just trying to gin up some kind of controversy.

  • cary_w

    One could argue that the idea of a God or Gods is created by cultures too. How else do you explain the tremendous variations of what God is and how He is perceived by different cultures?

    I just read an excellent book about the Aché people of Paraguay. They don’t believe in a God, or Gods, but they do believe in animal spirits. To you, animal spirits probably seem like Santa or fairies, you know they don’t really exist. So imagine what the Christian version of God would seem like to them. They would probably see it the same way, a rather absurd idea that is surely just a legend or myth and clearly doesn’t really exist.

  • allein

    What book is that?

  • Anna

    I’m curious, too. I’d love to add it to my to-read list!

  • allein

    You mentioned the Piraha…have you read Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel Everett? That one’s on my list, too. (*sigh*…I have a long list…)

  • HollowGolem

    “Santa an the tooth fairy were created by cultures, not everyone has them.”

    The same is true of your deity.

  • Anna

    Yup, I enjoyed Everett’s book. I wish he had gone a little more into his own deconversion, but his examination of the Piraha culture was fascinating.

  • Paul Lambert

    I agree with you and use the same logic. No one says, “Oh, there may be a Santa Claus (tooth fairy, Eater Bunny, etc) becausethere’s no proof there is not.” By agreeing you just don’t know because you can’t prove there’s no god/s you’re just giving deference to their oasis claims.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    What, no love for the polytheists?

    I’m a polytheist because no single entity could possibly create a universe this fucked up — that takes a group effort!

  • Frank Mitchell

    I have problems with this four-quadrant chart, for a number of reasons:

    1. “Gnosticism” is something else. It’s confusing to call somebody a “gnostic atheist” when Gnosticism implies not one but two “gods”, the true Supreme Being and a Demiurge.

    2. Nobody can explain to my satisfaction how “knowledge” and “belief” can be orthogonal to each other. If I “know” vampires aren’t real, then I “believe” they aren’t real, and vice versa. I can potentially believe something I don’t know, but how can I “know” something I don’t believe? It’s more correct to regard certainty as a continuum from “no proof” to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

    3. Colloquially, people say they “know” things without proof, and “believe” things they have ample proof for. “I know God exists” and “I believe God exists” are functionally equivalent statements; the speaker is, if anything, conveying the depth of his conviction.

    4. Classically, theism, atheism, and agnosticism are three distinct positions, namely “there (probably) is”, “there (probably) isn’t”, and “there’s no telling”. Dividing the third position into “theist” and “atheist” wings makes very little sense.

    5. I’ve heard proponents of this scheme insist on telling OTHER people what their beliefs are, which is the height of arrogance. ” You can’t judge a theory by its proponents”, you may cry, but don’t we routinely judge Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. by the behavior of their adherents?

    6. Long years in business have made me extremely suspicious of any four-quadrant “theory”.

    My number of reasons is, apparently, six.

  • cary_w
  • cary_w

    It’s work of fiction written by an archeologist who lived with them for while in the 80′s.


  • Ryan Hite

    I don’t think that the chart is accurate in the portrayal of A/gnostic and A/theist. These spectrums are very different and there are problems with them being together.

  • UWIR

    It seems to me that this is more of a one-dimensional spectrum than a two-dimensional grid. It’s like dividing real numbers into four categories: positive large absolute value, positive small AV, negative large AV, and negative small AV.

  • Anna

    Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Where’s option for “Who gives a shit…just try to have a good time and don’t be a dick?” I’m an agnostic dontbeadickist.”

  • Nancy Shrew

    As far as I know that’s pretty much the position in a nutshell. I’ve seen it range from “I’m keeping my options open, but not really counting on a definite answer” to “don’t know, don’t really care”.

  • Pofarmer

    You got really, really close there.

  • NateW

    This scale assumes that people in each quadrant share a common definition of “God.” In my experience, this is far from a safe assumption. I’m a Christian, but when atheists talk about the God that they don’t believe in, Almost invariably my response is to think to myself that I don’t believe in that God either. So, if we’re working with their definition then I would also be an atheist?

    I wont claim to be able to define “god,” but if I were to take a general stab I would say that a “god” is simply a conceptual personification of whatever road a person thinks will enable him/her to be happy and fulfilled.

  • NateW

    Sorry, Diquss is screwed up on iOS…

    Anyway, if god is whatever we think is the path to happiness, then we could say that some people “believe in” the god of money and will make great sacrifices to appease him. Others want fame or power and will likewise give up much to attain then. Many of us believe that reason and logic are the highest good of man and I would argue that even this could be talked of as a “god.”

    Christianity is a different thing in a way though because rather than saying (as many accuse) that God is that thing that will make us happy in exchange for our sacrifices, in Christ we say that God, that which will make men most happy, is wrapped up in the idea of unconditional self-sacrificial love. In other words, the god of Christianity isn’t a route to happiness, but is the claim that happiness “rises” from the ashes of those who give their own lives (literally or figuratively) in service and love for people who are different.

    I know that this isn’t the popular way I understanding Christianity or The idea if “god” but I just wanted to throw it out there. There are more ways of conceiving of god than “really powerful/omniscient divine being that lives in heaven.”

  • compl3x

    Uhh, where is “Angry atheist”, “Militant atheist” & “Strident atheist”? This grid is incomplete!

    I am fine with atheist. I cannot 100% disprove god’s existence but as far as I am concerned that isn’t my job. People who make the claim should provide the evidence. The “evidence” in the form of books, personal experience and anecdote simply don’t cut it.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    This annoys me as there are too few options and 3/4 of them are magic based and the other wishiwashie.

  • Derek Vandivere

    FWIW, I’ve only seen the whole gnostic / agnositc split discussed on atheist blogs and Fark posts. Practically speaking, I think it’s a distinction without a difference. Pretty much all atheists I know recognize there’s a small but non-zero chance that we’re wrong, and doubt is pretty much written into at least one of the world’s major religions.

  • Anna

    Your explanation doesn’t make any sense at all to me. I would define a god as a supernatural entity. It’s not a “road” or a “concept.” It’s supposed to be a sentient force that actually exists. IMO, straying so far from the accepted definition is just a recipe for confusion.

  • Michael W Busch

    I personally have used the phrase “functionally-atheist agnostic” – since while I technically do not know that no gods exist, in the absence of evidence for any gods’ existence we should act as though they do not. But it also happens that of currently-popular god beliefs _are_ provably false.

    So this grid is either incomplete or deliberately collapsing down additional dimensions.

  • 3lemenope

    Dan Fincke over at Camels with Hammers articulated his position as “agnostic adeist, gnostic atheist”, which sums up my position very well as well. I cannot be sure, or claim to possess knowledge, that there is no being or force whatsoever beyond the apparent material of the universe, but I can be reasonably sure enough to claim knowledge that no particular posited deity could possibly exist as described due to the specific claims made on behalf of specific deities which are clearly falsifiable and false (either such gods massively lack knowledge about the mechanics of the physical world or are gigantic lying dicks, and so either way do not properly match their own descriptions as good and completely knowledgeable).

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I personally like the grid. Remember that it isn’t just four possibilities but a continuum in two dimensions where there could be an infinite number of positions in the space. As such, it is just a vehicle that considers belief and knowledge as two separate things represented orthogonally in two dimensions. To add other things like happiness or degree of caring would require adding additional dimensions. I like separating out belief from knowledge because I think it is useful in finding some common ground with religious people. I would also like to see belief teased out and separated from other things as much as possible. Then maybe people could agree that differences in belief is just one distinction among many in which to understand people. In applying these definitions, I also don’t think anyone would be at a static point. If you lit-up a point representing any one person, the dot would probably dance around quite a bit dependent on what they were talking about or who they were talking with.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Ignostic (Atheist) Absurdist Is there even a question here? The word g-o-d is meaningless and incomprehensible. Attempting to derive meaning from a incomprehensible word is just Absurd! I believe that colorless green ideas sleep furiously!!

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Look up apatheism.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    How do you resolve your compelling feelings to post a comment?

  • Danny Klopovic

    Agnostic anatheist works for me I think :P

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Look up Verificationism.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    And shall we all hold our Bloody Mary’s high and exclaim, “Down With the Protestants!!

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Yea a convert!

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    “Even if you get rid of religion, people would still believe in God.” You do understand that this line of reasoning can be deconstructed down even further. i.e. If you get rid of god people would still believe in the supernatural, if you get rid of the supernatural people will still believe in animism, ad nauseum.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    I think we know Cthulhu’s views on the menu. We’re on it.

  • ejoty

    What about those of us who believe that an evil god might exist (though there’s no reason to believe that it does); but that a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and good contradicts experience and therefore could not exist?

  • Larry Meredith

    all I get from this is that atheists have beards and theists do not

  • Mick

    You know how sure you are that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist?

    That’s how sure I am that god doesn’t exist.

  • allein

    Thanks! I just added the ebook sample to my nook. :)

  • GCT

    Agnosticism doesn’t mean the same thing as skepticism.

    Who said it did?

  • GCT

    1. “Gnosticism” is something else.

    “Gnosticism” is different from “gnosticism.” Sorry that the English language can be confusing.

    2. Nobody can explain to my satisfaction how “knowledge” and “belief” can be orthogonal to each other. If I “know” vampires aren’t real, then I “believe” they aren’t real, and vice versa.

    You can believe that vampires are not real without professing to have knowledge they are not real.

    3. Colloquially, people say they “know” things without proof, and “believe” things they have ample proof for.

    That’s an objection to those people who are misusing words.

    4. Classically, theism, atheism, and agnosticism are three distinct positions, namely “there (probably) is”, “there (probably) isn’t”, and “there’s no telling”. Dividing the third position into “theist” and “atheist” wings makes very little sense.

    That’s how most understand those three, but it doesn’t make sense to put them in a linear line going from atheist to agnostic to theist. Lack of a belief in gods is all that is required for atheism, regardless of whether one professes to know they have the correct position or not.

    5. I’ve heard proponents of this scheme insist on telling OTHER people what their beliefs are, which is the height of arrogance.

    Cite please, because I’ve yet to see anyone claim to know the beliefs of others. You are probably referring to people like me who point out cases where someone erroneously claims that they aren’t an atheist even though they don’t believe in god because those atheists are so icky.

    6. Long years in business have made me extremely suspicious of any four-quadrant “theory”.

    Argument from personal incredulity.

  • GCT

    That’s because you don’t understand the words being used.

  • allein

    I think that was Huxley’s original conception of it, but definitions have shifted a bit so that it can mean either “I don’t know” or “We can’t know.” And then a lot of people seem to think it is some middle ground on the spectrum between theism and atheism, which it really isn’t, since the latter category is about belief and not knowledge. But then you just have to look at the comments on blogs like this to see how confused people get over that.

  • allein

    well, gnostic theists have mustaches…

  • Frank Mitchell

    5. I’ve heard proponents of this scheme insist on telling OTHER people what their beliefs are, which is the height of arrogance.

    Cite please, because I’ve yet to see anyone claim to know the beliefs of others.

    This is the example I had in mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bkN8tV-Gcc

    BTW, statements like “Sorry that the English language can be confusing” tend not to win people over.

  • Major Nav

    When ever I hear someone talking about “God’s/Bible’s Truth”, I ask them if they have faith and believe. Of course, they vehemently reply “Yes!”. So, why are you preaching faith and belief? If it’s the truth, there should be no reason to ask me to believe or have faith in anything.

    I have never received a response.

    Atheist: Not, just not.
    Deist: Politically correct term for Atheist.
    Agnostic: Not…yet, maybe…why, what have you heard?
    Average church goer: Don’t care, when can we get to the donuts?
    Theist: Something
    Evangelical Theist: Whatever the Pastor tells me.
    Batshit Nutty Theist: My God, My religion. All the rest must convert or GTFO.

  • Frank Mitchell

    Thanks for saying in a few sentences what I was trying to say with random numbered points.

    There’s three primary positions — Yes, No, and I Don’t Know — and degrees of certainty in those positions and in the bases of those positions. Four quadrants are both too many and too few.

  • sane37

    Premise: Santa is way better than God.

    God may(or may not) answer your prayers. Santa always shows up.
    God will burn you in hell for non belief. Santa will give you flammable rocks (coal) that is at least useful for heat, and he give it to you in winter when you may need it.
    There is a “Santa tracker”. None for gods.
    In conclusion, Santa is above god.
    If you believe in either, otherwise its a ridiculous discussion to have.

    I wonder what tinkerbell wears nowadays?

  • sane37

    I bet he lives “off the grid”.

  • Tainda


  • sane37

    Until there’s evidence for the blue teapot. There is no blue teapot.


  • GCT

    I’ll have to watch your video later when I have the ability to do so. But, from the description it looks a lot like trying to apply definitions correctly. If someone claims to be an atheist and also claims to believe in Yahweh, am I being arrogant for pointing out that they are not actually an atheist if they believe in a god?

    BTW, statements like “Sorry that the English language can be confusing” tend not to win people over.

    Well, you seem to be unaware that there are times in the English language where proper nouns refer to specific things even when they have the same letters in the same arrangement as non-proper nouns.

  • C Peterson

    Who said it did?
    The cartoon, and a significant number of responders in this discussion.

    Agnosticism isn’t about being uncertain or open to doubt. That is skepticism.

  • C Peterson

    Exactly. That is a statement based on skepticism, not agnosticism.

  • sane37

    agreed. I was reinforcing his point with a parallel philosophical argument to help the superstitious along.

  • aaa

    But the gnostic theist has a mustache. For the mustache rides perhaps?

  • UWIR

    You’ve already shown yourself completely unwilling to engage in civil discussion. Go away.

  • UWIR

    “You can believe that vampires are not real without professing to have knowledge they are not real.”

    You clearly don’t know what “orthogonal” means.

  • John

    I am just an atheist. No more, no less.
    But in my personal opinion, I consider myself as gnostic atheist.

  • GCT

    You’re conflating.

    Skepticism is about being open to doubt (until a case is proven). That’s not what anyone is describing agnosticism as.

  • GCT

    This is even more stupid that normal for you.

    Do I have to have knowledge that god doesn’t exist in order to disbelieve in a god? No. You’re wrong.

  • GCT

    Which is why you engaged me up above. C’mon. Just because you don’t understand the terms being used doesn’t mean that the terms are in error. A bad worker blames his tools.

  • C Peterson

    Skepticism is about being open to doubt (until a case is proven). That’s not what anyone is describing agnosticism as.

    I don’t know what cartoon you’re looking at! That’s exactly what it is calling agnosticism, and that’s exactly what a significant number of posters here are calling agnosticism.

  • frankbellamy

    Label your axes, Hemant! Not just with four categories, but with what is represented by being higher or lower or farther left or farther right within a box. I don’t think there are two conceptually distinct axes at all, I think there just just one axis of confidence/probability that god exists, and these different words just pick out very blurily defined and overlapping sections of that one axis.

  • GCT

    No, it’s about knowledge. (A)theism is about belief. (A)gnosticism is about knowledge.

  • UWIR

    And yet again, you resort to personal attacks. Did I claim that you have to have knowledge that god doesn’t exist in order to disbelieve in a god? No.

    Your argument appears to be “If A and B are orthogonal, then you can have A without having B, You can have A without having B. Therefore, they are orthogonal.” That’s called “affirming the consequent”, and it’s a fallacy.

    Personal attacks, lies, and fallacies. Business as usual for you.

  • C Peterson

    I know the difference. And so, apparently, do you. But the cartoonist doesn’t, and apparently neither do many of the commenters here.

  • almufasa

    Try substituting Santa or the Tooth Fairy instead of God in this and you will know where you really stand. The agnostic theist is the small child who has been told these things exist but is growing up and realising it’s actually nonsense. The agnostic theist is just a pedant who is sitting on the fence so as not to offend anyone. The gnostic theist is either mad, brainwashed or both.

  • GCT

    Only if you are hell-bent on interpreting it in the most uncharitable light.

  • GCT

    Did I claim that you have to have knowledge that god doesn’t exist in order to disbelieve in a god? No.

    ??? I can go back and look at your dishonesty just 2 comments up (including mine). I don’t even know why I’m talking to a known racist like you.

    Your argument appears to be,,,

    It’s not, but you’re just as stupid as ever to claim it is.

  • UWIR

    ??? I can go back and look at your dishonesty just 2 comments up (including mine).

    Really? Go ahead and quote me where I said that.

    I don’t even know why I’m talking to a known racist like you.

    That’s completely over the line. Are you counting on Hemant being as much of a jerk as Libby Anne is?

    Oh, and BTW, when someone challenges you to support your claim that they’ve said racist things, saying “You’ve said racist things because the things you’ve said are racist” is not a valid defense.

    It’s not, but you’re just as stupid as ever to claim it is.

    Nice little MO you have here: don’t bother presenting an argument, and when someone infers an argument from what little you do present, declare that’s not your argument and call them names.

  • GCT

    You’re not worth my time. You’re a racist, a liar, and an obvious troll. Obvious troll is obvious.

  • UWIR

    So, can I get your promise to not talk to me any more? Or by “not worth my time”, do you just mean that you aren’t going to bother supporting your personal attacks, rather than that you aren’t going to post them in the first place?

  • GCT

    Racist troll is a racist troll.

  • CottonBlimp

    I think more importantly, there’s no such thing as absolute knowledge.

    That’s why the agnostic position is bullshit from the very start. The whole thing is an exercise in special pleading – no one has absolute proof that *anything* exists, it’s just a reasonable thing to assume given the evidence available. To say you’re agnostic about god more than anything else in the universe is not the neutral position they think it is – it’s a tacit validation of the theist position as being as valid as the position founded on physical evidence.

  • Paul Reed

    I agree. But, to me, saying you’re agnostic is more about acknowledging that no-one knows everything, and being open to any new evidence that arises.
    Do we think there’ll ever be any evidence to convince us a god exists? No. That’s the ‘atheist’ part of it (belief)
    Maybe there should be another word for this; “reasonable to assume (something) given the evidence available”. Skeptical, maybe?

    That’s another thing that always bothered me about the a/gnostic label. No-one is *actually* gnostic about anything. So the whole right-hand side of that chart makes no sense, unless you take it that gnostic refers to what they *think* they know. Or what they’re highly convinced of…? In which case, (again) gnostic seems to be the wrong word.
    Maybe it’s just as simple as: Gnostics think it’s possible to know things absolutely, whereas agnostics don’t. So then it’s not about what a person knows, it’s more about what they think about knowledge…

    This is why there’re so many arguments about this kind of thing; the definitions are far too fuzzy!

  • CottonBlimp

    It’s especially confusing when there are Gnostic Christians, who act in just about the opposite way of the “Gnostic theists” in this chart.

  • UWIR

    So, it’s the latter, then. I’m worth your time enough to post personal attacks, but not enough to actually defend any of your claims. I have, again and again, presented legitimate critiques of your posts, and you have responded again and again with insults. You have called me a liar,a racist, and a troll, but you refuse to provide any support for those claims. Clearly, you are the troll. So I guess from now on, I’ll just post a link to this post as response to your posts, rather than making futile attempts to engage you in civil discussion. This exchange proves that your response to being challenged is to engage in childish temper tantrums, so linking to it constitutes a valid rebuttal to any further claims you may make.

  • Nameless one

    There’s one thing I don’t understand. I hope people can explain to me.

    People always said that there is no absolute knowledge, or no absolute certainty and some say no absolute truth.

    Yet again, how is that the above statements can be absolutely true when there is no absolute truth/knowledge/certainty.

    For me it seems a paradox.

    Enlighten me.

    Thank you..=)

  • CottonBlimp

    Sorry if I’m rambling here, because the answer is pretty simple.

    Basically, no person can perfectly understand the universe. It’s literally impossible; knowledge has to be stored somewhere, like in hard-drives or neurons. To have a perfect knowledge of the universe, down to the subatomic particles, you would need a brain the size of the universe.

    So every living thing in the universe has an imperfect understanding of the universe. However, the universe is a perfect representation of itself. We can make mistakes trying to understand the universe (and we can’t NOT make mistakes) but the universe can’t make a mistake being itself.

    This is why REALITY can be absolute while knowledge can’t.

  • Jill

    I think I fall somewhere on the “Agnostic Atheist” dude’s beard.