I have on more than one occasion come across the topic of being agnostic versus atheist. Many theists claim that you cannot be both agnostic and atheist. It seems to be hard for many theists to distinguish the difference between belief and knowledge. Below is one such conversation I have come across on twitter.

In this instance the theist understood, but more often particularly with creationists, they deny it is possible to be both atheist and agnostic.



Many atheists and agnostics are having to correct peoples assumptions when it comes to their knowledge and belief.

The word gnostic is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as follows.

Definition of gnostic in English:
1.Relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.

Clearly it is referring to knowledge. The definition of agnostic again refers to knowledge of god.

Definition of agnostic in English:
A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.

So now we have cleared up how the words gnostic and agnostic refer to knowledge, lets explore belief.

The word theism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as follows.

Definition of theism in English:
Belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe

Note that the definition refers to belief and does not refer to knowledge.
Following is the definition of atheism as defined by the Oxford Dictionary.

Definition of atheism in English:
Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

As you can see, the atheism definition refers to lack of belief. It does not refer to knowledge.
There are of course more belief systems but these are the ones we most commonly see. Deism would be one such example but I will not go into for the purposes of defining the differences between the main belief systems. (or lack of)

So as you can see, when you take into account the fact that the first two definitions refer to knowledge and the second two refer to belief or lack thereof, you can have beliefs (or lack of) independent of or in addition to knowledge. This is why you can be both an agnostic and agnostic and an atheist, or an agnostic and a theist. You can also be gnostic and an atheist, or gnostic and a theist. I have created a handy graphic to make it easier to explain. Feel free to use the graphic (please don’t alter) to help your conversations and debates on twitter, facebook or other social media. If you need it altered for any reason, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Atheist vs Agnostic vs Theist vs Agnostic Theist by Pink Heretic
I would love to hear your thoughts on the various definitions. Click on comments at the top of this article, to comment.