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Atheist vs. Agnostic: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
An atheist lacks belief in any gods, while an agnostic maintains that the existence of gods is unknown or unknowable.
Atheist vs. Agnostic

Key Differences

Atheism is the absence of belief in deities or gods, rooted in skepticism about religious claims. Agnosticism, however, deals with knowledge rather than belief, where one acknowledges the lack of definitive evidence for or against the existence of gods.
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Atheists often reject religious dogma and divine beings, basing their understanding on empirical evidence and reason. Agnostics, on the other hand, might accept the possibility of a higher power but remain undecided due to the lack of empirical proof.
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An atheist's stance is typically more definitive, concluding that gods do not exist based on the lack of evidence. In contrast, agnostics suspend judgment, arguing that the existence or non-existence of gods is currently unknown or inherently unknowable.
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While atheism is often viewed as a categorical denial of god(s), agnosticism is seen as a position of uncertainty or open-mindedness about the divine or metaphysical.
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Atheism can be proactive, with some atheists actively disbelieving in gods, while others simply lack belief. Agnosticism, however, always maintains a position of skepticism or non-commitment regarding the existence of deities.
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Comparison Chart

Belief

Lack of belief in gods
Uncertainty about the existence of gods
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Stance on Deities

Typically denies gods' existence
Considers gods' existence unknown/unknowable
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Basis

Often empirical evidence and reason
Skepticism and lack of definitive proof
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Approach

Can be proactive or passive
Inherently skeptical or non-committal
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Relation to Religion

Usually rejects religious dogma
May be open to religious ideas but undecided
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Atheist and Agnostic Definitions

Atheist

An individual not adhering to any form of theism.
The atheist community held a debate on ethics without religion.
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Agnostic

An individual undecided about religious beliefs.
His agnostic views made him question both religious and atheist perspectives.
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Atheist

One who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of gods.
The atheist argued for a secular approach to governance.
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Agnostic

A person who believes that the existence of a god is unknown or unknowable.
As an agnostic, she was open to religious ideas but unconvinced.
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Atheist

A person who rejects religious beliefs and deities.
Being an atheist, she did not attend religious ceremonies.
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Agnostic

One who suspends judgment on higher powers due to lack of evidence.
Being agnostic, he avoided claiming certainty about the divine.
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Atheist

Someone who bases understanding on empirical evidence, not divine existence.
As an atheist, he valued scientific explanations over religious ones.
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Agnostic

Someone who is skeptical about the knowledge of deities.
The agnostic philosopher questioned the existence of a divine being.
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Atheist

Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
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Agnostic

One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
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Atheist

(religion) A person who does not believe in deities.
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Agnostic

One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
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Atheist

(narrowly) A person who believes that no deities exist one who has no other religious belief.
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Agnostic

One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
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Atheist

(broadly) A person who rejects belief that any deities exist (whether or not that person believes that deities do not exist).
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Agnostic

Relating to or being an agnostic.
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Atheist

(loosely) A person who has no belief in any deities, such as a person who has no concept of deities.
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Agnostic

Doubtful or noncommittal
"Though I am agnostic on what terms to use, I have no doubt that human infants come with an enormous 'acquisitiveness' for discovering patterns" (William H. Calvin).
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Atheist

(uncommon) A person who does not believe in a particular deity (or any deity in a particular pantheon), notwithstanding that they may believe in another deity.
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Agnostic

(Computers) Operable or functioning using any operating system or other digital technology. Often used in combination
Software that is platform agnostic.
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Atheist

(proscribed) A person who does not believe in any religion (not even a religion without gods)
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Agnostic

Of or relating to agnosticism or its adherents.
His agnostic viewpoint is summarized in his book.
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Atheist

Of or relating to atheists or atheism; atheistic.
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Agnostic

Doubtful or uncertain about the existence or demonstrability of God or other deity.
She left the church when she had become agnostic.
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Atheist

To make someone an atheist.
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Agnostic

Having no firmly held opinions on something.
I'm agnostic on whether ethanol is a green fuel.
He says he's agnostic concerning the Secretary's claims.
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Atheist

One who disbelieves or denies the existence of a God, or supreme intelligent Being.
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Agnostic

Unaware or noncommittal regarding the specific nature of the components or input with which it interacts.
The socket communications layer is agnostic with regard to its underlying transport mechanism—it is “transport-agnostic”.
The software's registration key is platform agnostic and will work on both x86 and ARM processors.
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Atheist

A godless person.
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Agnostic

A person who holds to a form of agnosticism, especially uncertainty of the existence of a deity.
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Atheist

Someone who denies the existence of god
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Agnostic

Professing ignorance; involving no dogmatic; pertaining to or involving agnosticism.
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Atheist

Related to or characterized by or given to atheism;
Atheist leanings
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Agnostic

One who professes ignorance, or denies that we have any knowledge, save of phenomena; one who supports agnosticism, neither affirming nor denying the existence of a personal Deity, a future life, etc.
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Atheist

A skeptic of religious claims and supernatural entities.
The atheist found the concept of an afterlife implausible.
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Agnostic

A person who doubts truth of religion
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Agnostic

Uncertain of all claims to knowledge
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Agnostic

A person who holds neither belief nor disbelief in gods.
The agnostic attended various religious services out of curiosity.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What does agnostic mean?

Agnostic refers to a person who views the existence of gods as unknown or unknowable.
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Can an agnostic believe in a higher power?

Yes, an agnostic might consider the possibility of a higher power but without firm belief.
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Is agnosticism a middle ground between atheism and theism?

Agnosticism is often seen as a middle position, focusing on the uncertainty of divine existence rather than outright belief or disbelief.
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Can atheists be spiritual?

Yes, some atheists may engage in spiritual practices without believing in gods.
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Do agnostics practice religion?

Agnostics might practice religion, but they do so with a mindset of uncertainty about divine truths.
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Is agnosticism a belief system?

Agnosticism is more of a stance on knowledge rather than a belief system.
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What is an atheist?

An atheist is someone who lacks belief in any gods.
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Are all atheists against religion?

No, not all atheists are against religion; some simply lack belief in gods.
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Can someone be both atheist and agnostic?

Yes, one can be agnostic atheist, lacking belief in gods while also believing their existence is unknowable.
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Do atheists celebrate religious festivals?

Some atheists may participate in cultural aspects of religious festivals without religious belief.
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What leads someone to agnosticism?

People may turn to agnosticism due to uncertainty or skepticism about the knowledge of divine existence.
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Do atheists belong to atheist organizations?

Some atheists may join organizations for community and discussion, but it's not a requirement.
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Do agnostics pray?

Some agnostics might engage in prayer as a meditative practice or cultural ritual rather than an expression of faith.
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Can agnosticism lead to spiritual exploration?

Yes, agnosticism can open pathways to exploring various spiritual and philosophical ideas.
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How do atheists view the afterlife?

Most atheists do not believe in an afterlife due to the lack of empirical evidence.
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Are there different types of atheists?

Yes, there are various types, including those who actively deny gods and those who simply lack belief.
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How do agnostics approach religious texts?

Agnostics may study religious texts with an open yet critical mindset.
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Why do people choose atheism?

People choose atheism for various reasons, including skepticism of religious claims or reliance on scientific understanding.
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Can atheists have moral values?

Yes, atheists often derive their moral values from secular philosophies and humanistic principles.
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Are children born atheists?

Some argue that children are born without belief in gods, which aligns with atheism.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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